E.ON says it has no alternative but to close Irsching 4 and 5 gas-fired power units in Bavaria, Germany, citing mounting losses.

What is one of Europe’s newest such gas-fired power plants is scheduled for a 2016 shutdown as conventional power continue to be relegated to the sidelines as Europe continues to replace them with solar and wind energy which has priority access to the grid.

Germany’s network regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BnetzA) as well as grid operator TenneT have been notified of plans to shut down the plant’s units, which have a total capacity of about 1400 MW.

E.ON spokesperson Markus Nitschke told Power Engineering International, “We cannot speculate whether we will be requested to keep these units open. To run the Irsching plants beyond March 2015 would be agreeable to us if there was a proper market design in place.”

“Irsching 3 remains and the grid operator would like us to keep this plant open. Talks are ongoing.”Irsching 4 gas-fired power plant

The operators also added that if the closure plans were blocked they would have to consider legal action, adding that was a “last resort”.

The statement, which puts pressure on the German government to come up with a solution for modern but loss-making power plants, did not say what impact the decision would have on jobs.

Irsching 4 is fully owned by E.ON, Germany’s biggest utility, while Irsching 5 is also part-owned by local utilities Mainova, N-Ergie and HSE.

They cost a total of around $1.08bn to build and have only been in service since the beginning of the decade.

“To avoid operating the (units) at a loss, their owners see no alternative but to notify the relevant parties of their plans to shut them down,” the four operators said.

In April 2013 a deal was struck between E.ON and grid operator TenneT, approved by the regulator, under which it kept open the Irsching 4 and 5 gas-fired blocks in return for an annual double-digit million euro payment for each block for keeping them available for power.

The two blocks were put under a so-called redispatch agreement between April 2013 and March 2016. That agreement has since been called a one-off.

Under German state rules, operators cannot unilaterally close plants as they may be deemed necessary to secure network operations, and must notify the regulator 12 months in advance if they wish to shut down a unit.

“Preliminary idled power plants can be requested to resume operation by the network operator to fend off threats to the power grid’s stability,” said Jochen Homann, president of the BnetzA, adding supply security was guaranteed as a result.

Unit 4 was commissioned in 2011. Unit 5 was then added, consisting of two smaller gas turbines and one steam turbine. This unit has capacity of 860 MW of electricity with an efficiency of 58 per cent. It was commissioned in 2010.