More competition in electricity generation required | Decentralized energy production gives municipalities greater independence
Munich. The Chairman of WINGAS, Dr. Gerhard König, has called for natural gas to play a greater role in Germany's energy mix in future, particularly in electricity production, at the 5th Energy Congress in Munich. "In addition to a climate-friendly and secure energy supply, we also need adequate competition on the energy market, for effective competition must be in place to ensure reasonable prices," König explained. "But instead the market in Germany is dominated by a handful of electricity producers." Yet it is only possible to have effective competition when there are many market participants, the WINGAS Chairman said. "With investments in decentralized electricity generation, municipal suppliers, for example, could generate electricity themselves and gain independence from the few producers. "And they should be supported in this process," Dr. König explained, adding that policy-makers should pay much greater attention to this in future when determining the regulatory framework. König sees decentralized energy generation as one of the greatest potential growth areas for natural gas.
Decentralized energy generation allows the increased use of renewable energies as well as the construction and operation of the most efficient systems for heat and electricity generation: environmentally-friendly combined heat and power units that are powered by more than three-quarters natural gas. Direct consumption at the place of production and the energy-efficient use of electricity and waste heat offer enormous savings potential in terms of CO2 emissions as well as the costs for consumers. The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy has emphasized that flexible natural gas power stations are increasingly required as back-up systems for the fluctuating supply of renewable energies. But it has also said that "increasing the use of natural gas at the expense of coal-fired power plants would bring significant benefits for climate protection".
Natural gas power stations are versatile, flexible and have the highest efficiency out of all the power plant technologies. Even when operated at low capacity, combined cycle gas turbines can still be run efficiently. "All these factors make them so attractive and the ideal partner to complement renewable energies." In contrast to other forms of energy, decentralized electricity generation is possible with natural gas.
From consumer to producer
Dr. König also sees considerable potential for decentralized electricity generation in German households. Every second cubic meter of natural gas used in Germany is consumed by households and small consumers such as retail and service enterprises - so far almost exclusively for heat generation. "But that can all change. Small combined heat and power (CHP) systems used together with solar energy will turn consumers into providers of their own green electricity in future." In contrast to conventional heating systems, micro-CHP systems also generate electricity in addition to heat. "If we want to meet the climate protection targets set by the government, energy consumption must be designed more efficiently," König said: "And particularly in the household sector, there are good possibilities for increasing energy efficiency substantially through the use of new gas technologies such as micro-CHP systems." Micro-CHP systems reach efficiency levels of up to 90% by utilizing the heat usually lost by power stations in electricity generation. "Such systems make natural gas all the more valuable for the energy supply for households," Dr. König firmly believes. WINGAS is cooperating in practical trials of micro-CHP systems with several municipal utility companies across Germany.
European energy provider WINGAS GmbH & Co. KG is active in natural gas trading and distribution in Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Austria, the Czech Republic and Denmark. Its customers include municipal utilities, regional gas suppliers, industrial firms and power plants. In Rehden in North Germany, WINGAS has the largest natural gas storage facility in Western Europe - with a working gas volume of over four billion cubic meters, and the company also participates in Central Europe's second largest storage facility in Haidach, Austria. Additional natural gas storage facilities are currently being built in Great Britain and Germany in order to secure the supply of natural gas in Europe.