Energy transition: start-up costs of power plants increase only moderately

While start-up costs of thermal power plants increase due to the energy transition, they remain on a rather low level. This is shown in a new study published in Nature Energy by researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin). Before power plants fueled by coal, gas or oil are able to generate electricity, they have to be started up to a minimum load level. This incurs costs related to additional fuel consumption as well as wear and tear.

“Energy production from renewables can be volatile, this also has implications for conventional power plants. We investigated how the start-up costs might develop in Germany until 2030”, Michael Pahle from PIK explains. The study shows that start-up costs increase because of more volatile electricity supply from wind power and solar photovoltaics, but they remain on a rather low level. Different drivers can be separated: start-up costs not only increase because of renewable expansion, but also because of increasing fuel and carbon prices, for example. Other factors have an opposite effect: “Additional storage and flexible electricity generation from biomass both decrease start-up costs” says lead author Wolf-Peter Schill from DIW Berlin.

The joint project of DIW Berlin and PIK was supported by Stiftung Mercator and Agora Energiewende. Model code and input parameters of the open-source power market model are available at

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