Germany’s Energiewende policies have targeted a shift towards renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and a phasing-out of nuclear energy.
The majority of the country’s hydropower resources are located in the mountainous southern provinces, with 50 per cent of all projects located in Bavaria and 20per cent in Baden-Württemberg. These two states account for over 80 per cent of annual German hydropower production. Of an estimated 7,300 hydropower stations, about 6,900 have less than 1 MW capacity, while nearly 6,000 have less than 100kW.
As deployment of wind and solar continues to grow, flexibility will become a key criterion for the next phase of Germany’s energy transition. Hydropower, despite occupying only a small proportion of the energy mix, will remain a system cornerstone due to its relative reliability and predictability. German flexibility services, whether coming from interconnections to neighbouring grids, energy storage, flexible generation or demand-side management all depend on hydropower resources in some fashion.
Germany has twelve ‘electrical neighbours’ with interconnectors totalling roughly 20 GW. To the north, Germany can tap into Nordic hydropower reservoirs. The 1,400 MW HVDC subsea cable with Norway, Nordlink, commissioned in 2021 and allows Norwegian hydropower reservoirs to absorb excess German wind and supply hydropower. To the south, hydropower-rich Austria and Switzerland contribute over 3.5 GW of hydropower to Germany’s system.
Germany itself has over 6,000 MW of installed pumped storage capacity, but the German grid is serviced by a further 3 GW sourced from Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria. These pumped storage projects still provide the lion’s share of utility-scale power storage, storing around 8 TWh of power. Policy makers are aware that reforms are needed to continue to support storage facilities.