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Blackout in Germany: Horror scenario or genuine possibility?

September 1, 2023

The energy transition is one of the biggest challenges for politics and society in Germany. Germany wants green power from solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric generation to account for 80 percent of its energy mix by 2030. Is this a realistic target?


Germany wants out of fossil fuels: no coal, no gas, no nuclear power plants. Instead, the country wants to commit fully to renewables. But does this bring with it the threat of a major power blackout? Germany is gradually realizing where the sticking points are. Take grid security: This is much easier to guarantee in a power network with just a few dozen large power stations than in a decentralized network with multiple small-scale electricity producers such as rooftops with solar panels or wind turbines. "It’s now a matter of having to intervene several times almost every day to guarantee grid security,” says the spokesperson for one major network operator. If grid security can no longer be maintained, the threat of a nationwide blackout suddenly becomes very real. Another problem is reliability. Because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, there might be too little power available on particular days and at particular times of the year. This also raises the possibility of unforeseen power failures. One potential remedy could be power storage. There are many different ideas about how to securely store energy in order to bridge power gaps in the renewables’ supply: pumped-storage power plants, hydrogen storage, gigantic batteries. But, if these technologies exist at all, they do so only on a very small scale: Current storage capacity in Germany is 40 gigawatt hours - enough to supply the country for up to 60 minutes. And if there’s still no wind and the sun still isn’t shining? Does politics have a plan to provide Germany with sufficient energy to avert a potential blackout? These are some of the key questions explored by this documentary.

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