Let’s be good neighbours

Germany wants to engage in dialogue with its neighbours and closely coordinate its efforts to phase out of coal-fired power. The 'electricity neighbours' convened in Berlin to discuss the recommendations presented by the German Commission on Coal.

Multiple socket with several white plugs and a green one© Adobe Stock/Elenathewise

In many ways, the meeting of the electricity neighbours was like a typical conversation between neighbours: it was about leaning over the hedge, talking to one another and preventing misunderstandings before they arise. If you feel respected and taken seriously by your neighbours, you will worry less about the future and recognise joint opportunities more easily.

Germany, which plays a key role for the European electricity market, has decided to phase out coal. What does this mean for its electricity supply? How can affordability and security be ensured? That’s something Germany’s neighbours would like to know.

"Today, a very important political signal has been sent", Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier said at the meeting of the electricity neighbours in April. "Germany is phasing out coal, but we are not doing this unilaterally, we are closely coordinating with our neighbours. And we are in good company: nine out of our eleven electricity neighbours also want to phase out of coal-fired power or have done so already. That makes it all the more important to discuss in detail the consequences of these efforts so as to ensure that our electricity supply continues to be affordable and secure."

Germany’s phase out of coal-fired power and the phase-out-plans that have been announced by other EU Member States mean that two-thirds of all coal-fired power plants will soon leave the market.

A common safety net to prevent bottlenecks

Addressing the energy ministers of Germany’s neighbouring countries, Minister Altmaier set out the details of the recommendations on the phase out of coal-fired power that have been presented by the Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment. The energy ministers were particularly interested in the subject of energy security. Minister Altmaier underlined the role played by synergies in the European Single Market. With markets becoming increasingly interconnected and the possibility to balance electricity supply across regions, the combined capacity needed will be less compared with the capacity that would be needed if each country tried to deliver its own peak load. Peak load is the load placed on the grid at the time of the highest demand for electrical power. The more interconnected our markets become and the larger the interconnected regions, the more powerful the synergies will be, said Minister Altmaier. So exchanging electricity between neighbours, including at times when electricity is scarce, is a good example for neighbours helping each other out.

The group of 'electricity neighbours' was set up to give neighbouring countries the opportunity to engage in high-level regular dialogue with one another and discuss national measures. The group includes all of Germany’s neighbours plus Norway and Sweden, which are connected to Germany via undersea cables. The European Commission also attends the meetings on a regular basis. The conference was the first of what will be a series of talks.