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Grid integration

Swiss utilities complain about German solar power

The utilities claim that solar power on the German grid is spilling over into neighboring countries and offsetting peak power demand there as well. A spokesperson says Swiss utilities are now losing "a hundred millions francs" a year.

 - Seven years ago, power prices in Switzerland used to peak around noon (read line), but prices on the exchange now remain relatively stable throughout the day (green line).
Seven years ago, power prices in Switzerland used to peak around noon (read line), but prices on the exchange now remain relatively stable throughout the day (green line).

Add Switzerland to the list of Germany's neighbors (Poland and the Czech Republic) that are complaining about uncontrolled power surges from Germany. Last week, Kurt Rohrbach, spokesperson for Swiss power providers, stated on Swiss television that power surges from Germany brought about by solar power are bringing down power prices "throughout Europe" and leading to losses totaling "a hundred millions francs" (the Swiss franc is currently worth roughly 1 dollar) for Swiss firms this year alone. The news moderator on Swiss TV station SF1 did not beat around the bush: "The German solar sector is ruining business for Swiss power companies."

While Rohrbach was quick to point out that the figure of 100 million francs is just an estimate, he said he was certain that we are talking about "a lot of money" that Swiss firms are losing because of "heavily subsidized competition."

The reaction from Switzerland puts a highly touted option into a different light. Because it Germany has little potential to expand its own hydropower, German proponents of renewables have talked about hydropower from Norway and Switzerland as a dispatchable option to complement intermittent wind and solar power. In June, a new 1.4 gigawatt power cable was indeed approved between Germany and Norway to provide the first grid connection between the two countries.

But it now seems that the Swiss are less excited about their connection to Germany. Rohrbach told Swiss television that investments in new hydropower are now uncertain because the Swiss firms are no longer able to post such profits at midday.

The German, Austrian, and Swiss power grids are closely interconnected, and all three countries have had markedly lower wholesale power prices this year. In Germany, the lower prices on the power exchange have not, however, been passed on to consumers, who continue to face rising retail rates. But while Swiss power firms complain about forgone the profits, the question is whether Swiss consumers will at least benefit from the lower prices. (Craig Morris)

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1 Comment on "Swiss utilities complain about German solar power "

  1. jmdesp - 23.04.2013, 16:37 Uhr (Report comment)

    Well quite opposite this is likely to raise the prices for Swiss consumers, because it strongly reduces the benefits Swiss producers were making in the mid day. They use to import a lot of nuclear electricity from France in the night, deliberately lowering the use of hydro electricity in favor of imports, that they were reselling at mi-day.
    So this doesn't reduce their cost at all, hydro power has no variable cost, but reduces their profit, which is likely to require a price increase to balance the budget. In theory they could import cheap german renewable power to resell it at a higher price when needed, but actually this doesn't work because Germany has built so much cheap coal that it is able most of the year to also produce at a cheap price when renewable production is low.
    The situation could be saved only with a higher carbon tax that would make German coal uneconomic in front of Swiss hydro, but this is not what has been voted recently in the parlment.

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