We need more nuclear plants to avoid blackouts, say German power chiefs

26 March 2008 - Senior German energy executives warned that Europe's biggest economy faces growing blackouts unless it follows the Franco-British lead in promoting new nuclear power stations.

As commentators said Germany risked being left behind, Wulf Bernotat, E.ON chief executive, said the country could face an electricity shortage of 12 to 21 GW according to official estimates from the German energy agency (Dena).

"The conclusion arises: we still need nuclear power and we need modern gas and coal fired power stations that emit significantly less CO2," he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

His comments echo similar warnings from Jürgen Grossmann, his opposite number at RWE, Germany's second-biggest energy group.

Grossmann said that blackouts could occur as early as this summer because of problems with wind power and cooling difficulties in other power plants. RWE estimates Germany could face a 30 GW power gap by 2015.

Bernotat, head of Germany's biggest power group, warned that prices were bound to rise if demand outstripped supply and said the easiest way to overcome the gap was to prolong the life of Germany's existing 17 nuclear power plants.

Under an agreement between the ruling grand coalition partners, Germany will close all of its plants by 2021 and build no new ones.

Germany's nuclear plants account for 21 GW of capacity, a quarter of its power production. Chancellor Angela Merkel favours prolonging their lives and building new nuclear plants, but is bound by the agreement - which could fall by the wayside if she forms a different government after next year's general election.

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