With the highest annual electricity demand and generation, Germany has the largest power system in Europe. Furthermore, its energy system is interconnected with ten countries with a total transfer capacity of more than 20 GW. German and European energy systems are heavily intertwined, and the sheer size of the German power system has undoubtable influence on its European neighbours.
Under the German Energiewende (energy transition), the country aims to generate 35 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050. In order to integrate the increasing amount of variable renewable energy from wind and solar, the country is now looking towards increasing capacity in north–south transmission lines as well as an intensified electricity trade with other EU countries and with better demand-side and energy storage management, interlinked with battery storage and pumped-storage hydropower.
Hydropower installations (including pumped storage) account for a share of around 6 per cent of installed capacity in Germany at roughly 11,300 MW (including 1,244 MW of shared storage hydropower with Austria), and with approximately 22,000 GWh for about 3 per cent of the net electricity generation.
Germany has a highly developed and saturated hydropower market. Investment is primarily focused on refurbishment and modernisation to increase the lifespan and efficiency of existing plants and to minimise ecological impacts. The historical influence of German hydropower technology is far-reaching, as a substantial share of hydropower plants worldwide are based on technology and expertise from Germany; from project development, to the delivery of components and complete systems right through to business management and maintenance.
Currently, several new hydropower projects totalling approximately 2,770 MW are under development, and were expected to come online by 2020. However, due to current market and policy conditions, some projects have been postponed or cancelled, such as Waldeck II (extension of 300 MW) and Atdorf (1,398 MW). Nevertheless, notable needs in modernisations and large overhauls may be performed in the next years in several other stations.
The use of pumped storage plants in Germany and in neighbouring countries, such as Vianden (1,296 MW) in Luxembourg and COO I and II (1,164 MW) in Belgium, already support the German energy transition by storing excess electricity from variable renewables sources, while providing back-up electricity for Germany. Pumped-storage hydropower provides peak load capability, storage capability, grid stabilisation and further ancillary services to a power system. It also remains the only form of electricity storage that is available on a large scale and at a competitive cost, therefore providing strong potential to play a significant role in the German energy transition.
Nevertheless, improved prediction of wind power and implementation of intelligent energy management systems may reduce the need for further large-scale pumped- storage plants, ensuring relatively low feed-in tariffs.
A notable innovative project under development is the Naturstromspeicher project, a hybrid wind and pumped-storage plant consisting of a 13.6 MW wind farm and a 16 MW pumped-storage system, where the bases of the wind turbines act as the upper reservoirs. The hybrid system is designed to guarantee a firm power output and balance short-term fluctuations.
Geographically, Germany lies close to countries with large hydropower storage facilities. With interconnections to these countries, such as Norway and Sweden to the north, and Switzerland and Austria in the Alpine region to the south, this external hydropower supply provides balancing opportunities and additional flexibility to the German power system, particularly by facilitating the increased penetration of other renewable and highly volatile energy sources such as solar and wind.
This profile was last updated in May 2017.
This country profile is featured in the 2017 Hydropower Status Report. You can download the full report here.