Dhe green part of the federal government is not only against a real extension of the service life of nuclear power plants because of the radiation risks, but also because continued operation will not really alleviate the energy crisis. According to Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), the reactors do not make a significant contribution to security of supply, nor do they depress electricity prices to any great extent. In fact, the most expensive of the power plants just needed to cover the demand for electricity set the tariff for all others. These are currently the expensive gas power plants. Even nuclear power would not change much in terms of their price dominance, argue Habeck and others.
But there are more and more scientific findings that contradict this assessment. In mid-September, the Ifo Institute found out that continuing to use the last three nuclear power plants would reduce the price of electricity by 4 percent in 2023. After all, the piles could generate 4 percent of Germany’s electricity. The Ifo is skeptical about the “operational reserve” made possible by Habeck for only the two southern German nuclear power plants until the spring: The systems are unsuitable for compensating for fluctuations in demand and renewable energies, “the cost structure requires continuous operation”. The quintessence of the researchers is: “It may make sense to keep the option of nuclear power open beyond a crisis-related, short-term extension in the coming year.”
A new study by economists at the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg points in the same direction. The paper considers different scenarios depending on German and international conditions regarding supply, demand, price or weather conditions. Namely in the short term until 2024 and in the medium term until 2027, with an emissions price of 80 and 100 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide being used as a basis for the key years.
In the optimistic scenario, the model assumes electricity demand falling by a tenth, a European gas wholesale price of 120 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), production by French nuclear power plants of 370 terawatt hours (TWh), an ambitious expansion of renewables in neighboring countries and a “weather year “ as in 2020. For the pessimistic perspective, unchanged demand and prices of 180 euros are assumed, as well as 330 TWh, a delayed expansion of green electricity and 10 percent less favorable weather than in 2020.
The study makes it clear that the largest increase in capacity can be expected from renewable energies. Depending on the pace, German expansion alone will reach a minimum of 38 gigawatts (GW) by 2024 and a maximum of 139 gigawatts (GW) by 2027. But traditional forms of production can also make a contribution if they are allowed to. For example, if the coal plants from the third and fourth decommissioning tenders stay online, the expansion is 2.7 GW. If the nuclear power plants continue to run – all three – they can be expected to generate 4.1 GW.
Very high price effects
Even if the increase in supply from nuclear fission is limited, the price effects are high, especially in the short term. Even in a pessimistic scenario, nuclear energy will lower the electricity price in 2024 by 8.5 percent to 223 euros per megawatt hour compared to the otherwise expected level. In the optimistic case, it is minus 12.1 percent to 106 euros. The contribution to the price reduction of the coal-fired power plants that continue to run and the ambitious expansion of renewables is much lower at a maximum of 5 percent. If you combine all performance increases, the average electricity price in 2024 will be 102 euros at best and 208 euros at worst. Without these steps it would be 120 and 244 euros.
In the optimistic scenario, the continuation of nuclear power with new fuel rods would displace emission-intensive lignite and would therefore have the greatest reduction effect on greenhouse gas emissions. With a pessimistic assumption, the emission effect would be smaller, but still significant, because the combustion of natural gas, hard coal and oil would decrease.
For 2027, the scientists around Veronika Grimm expect an electricity price of between 87 and 137 euros per MWh without additional capacity expansion. With more renewables, the price could then be pushed down the most, optimistically by 13 percent and pessimistically by 4 percent. But even then, nuclear power could still achieve a price reduction of 2 to 10 percent. In the optimistic scenario, nuclear energy would still be ahead in reducing emissions, but in the event of a negative development of the conditions, the contribution of green electricity to climate protection would be greater.