Natural gas accounts for a quarter of primary energy supply in Germany and therefore plays an important role in Germany's energy mix. Despite the low domestic gas production, Germany’s supply is considered to be highly secure and reliable, thanks to natural gas transportation and supply companies as well as traders and storage operators. The final responsibility for security of supply lies with the responsible authorities, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy and the Federal Network Agency. The Federal Network Agency calculates the annual average value for gas supply interruptions to all end users in Germany (SAIDI: System Average Interruption Duration Index). This index is used to measure unplanned interruptions caused by third parties, faults and failures in the network operator's area, repercussions from other networks or other disturbances. In 2018 it was 30 seconds. This is the lowest index recorded by the Federal Network Agency to date.
Further information on SAIDI can be found on the Federal Network Agency website.
Since Germany's demand for natural gas can only be met to a very small extent from domestic sources – 6.5 percent of annual consumption in 2018 – it is important to minimise the dependence on individual foreign suppliers by guaranteeing access to as many gas sources as possible. This diversification strategy for natural gas imports applies both to infrastructure aspects and to international business ties, with gas transmission system operators (TSOs) being responsible for the provision of the infrastructure needed to receive and transport the imported gas quantities.
The gas TSOs operate a well-developed and secure high-pressure natural gas transmission system. With their network expansion projects, the TSOs help to continuously increase supply security in Germany – among other things by boosting transmission capacities at border crossing points or converting the L-gas market area to H-gas.
The Gas Network Development Plan (Gas NDP), which has been jointly drawn up by the TSOs every year since 2012 and every two years since 2016, ensures a coordinated approach to network expansion. In order to coordinate and support the NDP process, the gas TSOs set up the Association of Gas Transmission System Operators (Vereinigung der Fernleitungsnetzbetreiber Gas e.V. – FNB Gas) in 2012.
Also important for secure natural gas supplies are the country’s gas storage capacities. At present, there are underground storage facilities at 49 locations in Germany (17 porous rock and 32 cavern storage facilities), which can hold some 24.3 billion m³ of working gas. Germany thus has by far the highest storage capacity in the EU. The storage sites cover almost the whole of Germany, with regional concentrations in the northwest, central Germany and the southeast due to geological conditions.
The high liquidity of the German gas trading market also has a positive effect on supply security. Natural gas volumes can be procured at competitive prices at any time, even at short notice.
Natural gas also plays an important role in securing the supply of electricity, and gas-fired power plants currently account for around 13 percent of Germany’s electricity generation. According to the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen), some 211 TWh of gas were converted into electricity in power plants in 2017, and this share is expected to increase over the coming years given the agreed phase-out of nuclear energy and coal. Germany’s gas-fired power plants are already extremely important for system stability, especially in southern Germany, when there is little or no wind or solar power or there are bottlenecks in the electricity grid. Due to their flexibility, gas-fired power plants are an ideal supplement to weather-dependent, intermittent electricity generation from renewable sources. Without gas-fired generation, the further expansion of wind turbines and photovoltaic plants will not have any impact on Germany's energy supply.