E.ON (FWB: EOAN) is seeking assistance from the German regulator to support what it calls the world’s most efficient combined-cycle gas power plant.

The Irsching 4 plant, which opened in 2011, is not yet being considered for closure as may be the fate of sister plant Irsching 5, but the 550 MW is having the same profitability issues as a result of market conditions.
Irsching 5 is struggling to compete with wind and solar generation that gets preferential access to the grid, and coal-fired stations that benefited from a slump in the cost of carbon permits needed to burn the fuel.

E.ON has been negotiating with grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur and network operator TenneT TSO GmbH over the future of the 845 MW Irsching 5 plant, which operated for less than a quarter of 2012.

“Even state-of-the-art gas-fired power plants cannot be operated profitably,” Daniel Seidenspinner, an analyst at B. Metzler Seel Sohn & Co. KGaA told Bloomberg. “That confirms how much renewable energies affect the profitability of conventional power plants. The runtime of the power plants declines and also the wholesale prices for electricity.”

Germany needs flexible gas plants to underpin renewable sources if the country’s exit from nuclear power is to succeed, German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said earlier this year, however EON Chief Executive Officer Johannes Teyssen made it clear that his company was not willing to persist with loss-making gas-fired power plants, when there is no evidence of recovery in sight.

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