The most instructive problems happened in France. France has a lot of poorly-built housing stock that relies on electric space heaters to ward off an occasional winter chill. They are not equipped to handle real cold. And here is where the story gets interesting.
(From a German version of Der Spiegel—Google machine translation—my grammar cleanup)
The French need German electricity
German green power is helping France out of trouble. Despite the nuclear phaseout, German power plants are still producing more electricity than is consumed within the country—France is lucky, because her consumption is rising due to the record level cold, it is dependent on German support—which will be supplied with solar power.
Hamburg: Germany has eight nuclear power plants, France produces most of its electricity in 59 reactors—and yet the French are dependent on German power assistance. The reason: According to information provided by the power grid operator, by 7:00 pm on Tuesday evening, the consumption in France had climbed to more than 100 gigawatts.
This power consumption is the equivalent of more than 80 nuclear power plants and is currently almost twice as high as in Germany. In this country there are 15 million more people, yet Tuesday night consumption was just 51 gigawatts. The main reason for this is that in France there are a lot of electric heaters.
Some of France has recently reported that is has to import more than 7,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity per hour to maintain supply. At times German net export was more than 3000 MW per hour.
Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) claimed the predictions of serious blackouts in the winter as a result of the energy transition had now been refuted. "The current days of bitter cold show that renewable energy contributes to security of supply and network stability."
It is interesting, said the federal environment minister, that Germany, especially in these days with a very high demand, can even export power—thanks to photovoltaic and wind energy. "We had in the last days a capacity of up to 10,000 megawatts of solar power, which corresponds to the output of ten nuclear power plants, and up to 11,000 megawatts of wind power," said Röttgen.I am not so sure I would be as cocky as Norbert Röttgen, but this really IS a milestone in renewable energy. There is a LONG way to go before even the Germans can claim to be running on solar power, but in February of 2012, solar power bailed out nuclear power during a record cold snap. And that folks, is an achievement to celebrate.
Energy experts warn, however, that the failure of multiple power plants because of high demand such as in France could lead to significant problems. "France with its nuclear-heavy electricity supply threatens European energy security," says the Green Party politician Hans-Josef Fell. more
The Germans build another solar park. This was assembled on an old military airfield. Swords into plowshares indeed.