Dr. Philipp Prein
Expert Communications
T: 030 726 165 641
F: 030 726 165 699

Home Press releases In 2050 fossil fuel-fired power stations will supply 60 percent of secured capacity.

In 2050 fossil fuel-fired power stations will supply 60 percent of secured capacity.

dena study shows that integration of wind and solar electricity requires long-term conversion of the power system.

  • Without a new market design, renewable energy sources will not even be marketable for power generation in 2050
  • Capacity markets and fundamental amendment of EEG required
  • Integration of fluctuating supply only possible in a European framework
  • Germany will change from net electricity exporter to net electricity importer
  • 2050: 240 GW installed total power output, thereof 170 GW renewable and 61 fossil

Germany’s future electricity generation will focus on a substantial expansion of renewable energy sources. A balanced technology mix between renewable energy sources and conventional power stations will be required in the longer term to allow for the integration of renewable energy into the power system and guarantee a steady supply given substantial fluctuations in wind and solar power generation. In 2050, efficient gas and coal-fired power stations will have to supply an estimated 60 percent of secured capacity – i.e. capacity available to cover demand at all times. This is the result of a study carried out by the Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH – the German Energy Agency. The study focuses on the consequences, limits and necessary measures associated with the integration of renewable energy sources into the electricity supply system.
According to the dena study, aside from the required modernisation of the fossil fuel-powered plants, the planned expansion of renewable energy sources will also involve a number of challenges. If, for example, the uncontrolled expansion of renewable energy sources continues, an increasing percentage of the resulting energy will not be usable. Domestic plants are not capable of fully covering secured capacity demand. Furthermore, by 2050, Germany will have become a net electricity importer, requiring a significant expansion of cross-border grids. A further challenge consists of the domestic expansion of grids and storage facilities as well as flexible control of generation and demand.

“The nuclear phase-out and the expansion of renewable energy sources are only the first steps,” emphasised dena’s Chief Executive Stephan Kohler, on presenting the study results in Berlin. “Energy turnaround also means new efficient fossil fuel-powered plants, more grids, more storage facilities, more flexibility in power generation and demand – and energy savings wherever economically viable. The framework conditions for this development must be created now. Our study has identified the fundamental challenges we are facing.” In the context of the study, dena has researched the development of the German power system until 2050 assuming the continuation of current framework conditions and an expansion of the share of renewable energy sources to over 80 percent of gross electricity consumption according to the 2009 guideline scenario drawn up by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Significant numbers of conventional power stations still required in 2050

Supply can only be secured if the installed capacity supplied by conventional power stations declines by no more than approximately 14 percent to 83 gigawatts by 2030 and by 37 percent to 61 gigawatts in 2050 (compared to 2010 figures). Although renewable energy sources will supply over 80 percent of our electricity in 2050, they will only generate just below 24 percent of secured capacity while storage technologies will guarantee around 9 percent of secured capacity. According to the scenario dena calculated, 8 percent of the required secured capacity will have to be supplied by further power stations, through modernisation of older facilities or through binding agreements with suppliers abroad.

By 2050, not only the nuclear power stations but also most of the current active coal, gas and oil-fired power stations will be out of commission. According to the model result, most of the required new fossil fuel-fired power stations with a total capacity of 49 gigawatts would have to be built by 2020 and no later than 2030. Also required are 12 gigawatts generated by conventional combined heat and power plants (CHP). It remains to be seen whether these capacities will actually be built since, due to the priority given to renewable energy sources, power stations, with the exception of CHP facilities, are left with a declining number of operating hours and are barely cost-efficient in the present conditions.

Temporary excess capacities will proliferate as of 2020

In the future, the expansion of renewable energy sources will require both more control and closer synchronisation with the grid expansion process. From 2020 onwards, we will increasingly face situations in which electricity generation exceeds demand, for example at times when strong winds coincide with high solar irradiation and low consumption. By 2050, around 66 terawatt hours, or 15 percent of the German electricity generated from renewable sources, will not be usable either domestically or abroad. The study investigated three measures suitable to reduce the loss while avoiding a reduction of operations during such times: flexible feed-in from CHP facilities, construction of additional storage capacities and closer alignment between demand and generation (demand side management).

Despite such temporary surpluses, in the long run Germany will change from net electricity exporter to net importer. In 2050, unless additional domestic power stations are built, Germany will have to import around 134 terawatt hours, or 22 percent of domestic electricity consumption, per year. In order to handle the imports, especially of electricity generated from renewable sources, a so-called overlay grid will be needed for the long-distance transportation of large volumes of electricity in addition to the current integrated European grid. Furthermore, transfer and distribution grids in Germany will have to be developed further and expanded significantly.

Without a new market design, renewable energy sources will not even be marketable for power generation in 2050

According to the scenario, our electricity supply in 2050 will be much more expensive than today. This is due to the high costs associated with substantially larger electricity generation capacities, the expansion and conversion of the grid infrastructure, reserve and balancing energy, connection of offshore wind farms and measures increasing flexible supply, such as electricity storage facilities. In current market conditions, renewable energy sources would not even be marketable in 2050. Consequently, the electricity generation costs associated with renewable energy sources will not be entirely covered by the selling price at the power exchange and that the difference will still be passed on to the end consumer.

“We need a new electricity market design,” stated Mr. Kohler. “This includes both a European capacity market which ensures that the stand-by provision of guaranteed power plant capacity pays off and a fundamentally amended Renewable Energy Sources Act that ensures better integration of renewables into the market and the electricity system. However, Germany as an industrial nation must consider the question to what extent it wants to become dependent on electricity imports and how willing other countries will be to supply capacities at all times. It is quite astonishing how many people take it for granted that capacity deficits in the German energy system can be covered by power stations abroad. It should be our aim to guarantee Germany’s electricity supply on our own steam and at acceptable costs, even throughout the imminent transformation process. This requires a balanced mix of renewable energy sources, conventional power stations, storage facilities, grid expansion, demand side management and a significant rise in energy efficiency.”

Energy efficiency and the Single European Market

The scenario was calculated on the assumption that the percentage of renewable energy sources in Germany’s gross electricity consumption will expand to more than 80 percent in 2050 as set out in the 2009 guideline scenario of the Federal Ministry for the Environment. Electricity demand was assumed to remain stable. This is in line with the previous trend. A reduction in electricity demand would also reduce the demand for power plant capacities. Measures reducing electricity demand are therefore of crucial importance.
The study furthermore assumes an intact European electricity market with barrier-free grids. This aim requires substantial political support and the europeanisation of energy policies. Hence, in designing its future electricity market, creating secured conventional power plant capacities and integrating renewable energy sources in the market, Germany must always consider the Single European Market.

The study entitled “Integration of Renewable Energy Sources into the German-European Electricity Market” was carried out by dena on behalf of RWE AG and in co-operation with the Institute of Power Systems and Power Economics at RWTH Aachen University. A summary and the final report are available at

Press material

  • Integration of Renewable Energy Sources into the German-European Electricity Market. (in german)

    Final report.

     (2.9 M, PDF)