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Electricity generation and electricity trading in February 2021

10 March 2021 - Electricity generation and electricity consumption in Germany were down 9.2% and 7.3% respectively compared with the same month of the previous year. The wholesale price averaged 48.70 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), which was well above the previous year's average. Overall, Germany was a net exporter.

Total electricity generation was down from 45.1 TWh last February, which had an extra day because of the leap year, to 41 TWh. While generation from conventional sources was 28% higher than in the same month last year, generation from renewable sources was 34.8% lower.

Total electricity consumption in February was lower at 39.6 TWh (leap year 2020: 42.6 TWh), but was largely unchanged over the course of the month despite the cold spell.

The chart illustrates actual electricity generation and electricity consumption in Germany in February 2021.

Electricity generation from renewable energy sources

Electricity generation from renewable energy sources reached its highest level of 47.3 GWh on Wednesday 24 February between 12pm and 1pm. This was the equivalent of about 65.9% of total generation (71.8 GWh) during this hour.
During this time solar photovoltaic (PV) generation was high at 24.2 GWh, the equivalent of 33.7% of total generation. Onshore wind generated 10.9 GWh (15.2% of total generation) and offshore wind 6.3 GWh (8.8%). Biomass generated 4.2 GWh or 5.9%. The remaining 1.7 GWh was generated by hydropower and other renewables. Electricity consumption totalled 67.4 GWh during this time. Renewables therefore covered 70.2% of the electricity consumption, or grid load, during this hour.

Overall, electricity generation from renewables in February was 34.8% lower than in the same month of the previous year. In particular, onshore wind generation at 8.5 TWh was significantly lower than the previous year's level (down 50.9%). It should be noted, however, that wind generation in February 2020 was particularly high because of several storms. This February, by contrast, was characterised by a mix of wintry temperatures and spring-like weather conditions and was one of the sunniest on record (Deutscher Wetterdienst (national meteorological service) – DWD). This is also reflected by the level of generation from solar PV, which was 19.3% higher than in the previous year.

Wholesale electricity prices in Germany

Wholesale prices for electricity were higher compared to a year earlier. In February, the hourly products on the EPEX Spot day-ahead market were traded at between negative 3.84 and 136.71 euros per megawatt hour (€/MWh) and averaged at €48.70/MWh. This was more than twice the average in February 2020 (€21.92/MWh). In February 2020, the high level of wind generation due to the storms had contributed to a large number of negative wholesale prices, which brought down the average wholesale price.

On the day-ahead market exchange, the highest price of the past month of €136.71/MWh was recorded on Friday 11 February between 8am and 9am. The high price was due in particular to the electricity consumption of 71.1 GWh coinciding in that hour with a low level of renewable generation (12.3 GWh) and a high level of conventional generation (51.7 GWh).

On 7 February, negative wholesale electricity prices were recorded in nine consecutive hours between midnight and 9am. This was, however, the only time in the month that negative prices were recorded. In February 2020, negative prices were recorded in 84 hours.
The lowest exchange price was recorded between 6am and 7am on that day and was negative €3.84/MWh. During this hour, the majority of electricity consumption (grid load) of 45.7 GWh was met by renewables with a generation of 39.4 GWh.

Wholesale prices in germany

February 2021

February 2020

Average [€/MWh]

48.70

21.92

Minimum [€/MWh]

-3.84

-32.14

Maximum [€/MWh]

136.71

59.98

Number of hours with negative prices

9

84

Data basis: smard.de

If the day-ahead price on the electricity exchange is negative for a period of at least four consecutive hours, the operators of larger new installations receiving payments under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) do not receive the market premium as from the first hour in the period with negative prices.

Commercial foreign trade

Overall, Germany exported 2,082.3 GWh* more electricity than it imported in February, making it a net exporter. Germany had also been a net exporter in February 2020, exporting 3,686 GWh. Net exports were therefore 41.2% down on the same month in the previous year.

Changes in imports and exports are the result of price fluctuations and are part of normal market activity. They reflect the interaction of supply and demand throughout the whole of Europe. At what point in time electricity is imported or exported does not depend solely on supply and demand in the country in question, but also on the electricity prices in the other countries. Wholesale prices determined as a part of market coupling result from what are known as the relative generation costs, which vary over time. Wholesale prices are influenced by various factors, including the fluctuating wind and sun conditions, the cost of fuels and the cost of emission allowances. Available transmission capacity at the national borders also plays a role.

The chart gives an overview of Germany's commercial electricity trade. (Gross) exports are shown above the zero line and (gross) imports below the zero line.

The relatively low level of generation from renewable energy sources resulted in a higher wholesale price this month. This led to imports and in some cases to a shift from net exporter to net importer in trading with other countries.
Germany was a net importer from various countries including the Netherlands, with net imports totalling 306.3 GWh (2020: net exports of 62.6 GWh), and France, with net imports totalling 201.1 GWh (2020: net exports of 288.8 GWh). Germany was also a net importer from Denmark, with net imports totalling 80.2 GWh (2020: 443.9 GWh).

The shift from net exporter to net importer in trading with the Netherlands could be due to the wholesale prices. In February 2020, when Germany was a net exporter in trading with the Netherlands, the German wholesale price was lower in 325 hours, compared to only 106 hours this February.

One possible reason for the large decrease in net imports from Denmark is the wholesale prices in the two countries. Wind generation this February was also lower in Denmark, with the level about 25% lower than in the same month of the previous year. This also has an effect on the Danish wholesale price. The wholesale price in the Denmark 1 zone was lower than in Germany in 334 of the 672 hours of trading in February 2020, but in only 110 hours this February. The wholesale price in the Denmark 2 zone was also lower in more than half of the hours of trading (342 hours) last February, but in only 94 hours this February.

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* The net exports referred to in the text also include commercial foreign trade with Belgium, which is not reflected in the chart. The net exports figure in the text may thus deviate from the net exports figure shown in the chart.

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