Germany learning difficulty of self-imposed nuclear energy abandonment

One of my sources posted a link to this brief video clip from Russia Today titled Fukushima Legacy: Nuclear phase-out hits Germans with high energy prices regarding Germany’s Energiewende, a well-publicized effort sold to the German public as a replacement of nuclear energy with renewable energy. According to this and many other stories, the reality is that nuclear energy from German plants is being replaced by coal, natural gas and imported energy, often from nuclear plants located in countries that are Germany’s neighbors.

Part of the reason that the transition is not going very well is that the renewable system pushers have exaggerated their overall capacity factors. As the above video declares, the actual output of German wind farms has been roughly half of what the wind system marketers told their customers it would be, averaging about 16% of the nameplate capacity during the past ten years instead of the 30% that was projected in the sales literature.

Admittedly, early nuclear power plants often had the same issue with capacity factors in the range of 45-50% compared to an advertised 75%, but the underlying technology was not the problem. Improving capacity factors was a matter of learning how to better operate the plants and schedule the required maintenance.

In the US, our installed fleet of nuclear plants demonstrated an ability to maintain average fleet capacity factors in excess of 89% for a ten year period. It is not easy to imagine ways to improve the capacity factor of mechanically reliable wind turbines that can only produce as much energy as the weather will allow.

It is entirely possible to operate a modern economy without any nuclear energy. The question worth asking, however, is why would anyone want to do that. Nuclear energy has a demonstrated record of being safe, reliable and economic to operate. Even the dreaded Fukushima nuclear plant accident, where three nuclear reactors experienced fuel melting, has not resulted in a single injury more serious than a mild sunburn.

In contrast, a single natural gas explosion in San Bruno killed eight people in a residential neighborhood in December 2010. Though the “authorities” have not yet conclusively stated the cause, a similar explosion occurred at about 11:00 pm on Saturday, November 10, 2012 in Indianapolis, IN, obliterating 2 homes, catastrophically damaging at least two more, and making another 29 homes temporarily uninhabitable.

Nuclear energy’s primary disadvantage is that the opposition has worked diligently to make it as difficult as possible — you can translate “difficult” into “expensive and time consuming” if you desire — to build new stations. Reluctance to spend the time and money required to build new nuclear power plants under current conditions is almost rational if your horizon is short; a decision to prematurely shut down 17 well-maintained and properly designed facilities is completely irrational.

There is an excellent, relevant post at Yes Vermont Yankee titled Phobias Should Not Determine Policy: Guest Post by Peter Roth.

Irrational fear of nuclear energy is a costly phobia for everyone but the people who are collecting large quantities of money from selling inferior energy products. Here is a thought provoking quote from a June 2012 article in Spiegel Online International titled Germany’s Nuclear Phaseout Brings Unexpected Costs (and undeserved wealth).

New Class of Millionaires

Cash-strapped energy consumers find themselves pitted against profit-hungry entrepreneurs who have been spoiled by subsidies. They are businesspeople such as Frank Asbeck, a photovoltaics manufacturer who has become a multimillionaire — with his own private castle, hunting grounds and a Maserati — thanks to the EEG.

Asbeck received an appointment with Altmaier, the new environment minister, right away last Tuesday, to express his views on the issue. The energy transition will also prove profitable for investors in the project to expand Germany’s power grid. The return on such investments is guaranteed by the government to be around 9 percent, an interest rate of which mere mortals with standard retirement plans can only dream.

About Rod Adams

41 Responses to “Germany learning difficulty of self-imposed nuclear energy abandonment”

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  1. James Greenidge says:

    Thanks for that video clip. Amused me from the get-go when the woman news anchor states “environmental issues seem to be valid” to close the nukes, yet the flick closes with coal plants belching CO2 and particulates. The clip doesn’t address WHY it’s necessary to even close the plants, like it’s a given. THAT would’ve been the more gutsy report; Why are they driving the country into a hole shutting down perfectly good plants because of irrational fears of MIGHT happen if an earthquake or tsunami or asteroid hit them due a scare by a rare non-catastrophe thousands of miles away??

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  2. Daniel says:

    Why would anyone anywhere in the western world learn anything ?

    Spain and Greece have tried solar years ago. They bet big on it and they lost. But California and Germany are kicking the solar can again. But who cares. It is only public funds being used.

    In Europe, 2/3 of the countries are net importers of electricity. What an industrial model.

    France, with nuclear, is the world leader in exported electricity. Nuclear rocks.

    Coal and Germany must make a comeback so that the electricity prices come down. This will kill the radical green movement come next election. It has to.

    • James Greenidge says:

      Re: “This will kill the radical green movement come next election. It has to.”

      Yea, should, but then they’re royal public health concern hypocrites, aren’t they? Fossil fuel by-products malign the environment and cause millions of aliments and their occasional accidents actually kill people — lots of people for generations. But we’ll let all that slide because we all know zit-environmental/health/footprint impact nuclear’s evil and it was a super-fluke that no one got killed at the worst nuclear accident where three reactors (3 chances for Doomsday) cracked like eggs just because of a little once-a-blue moon earth tremor. That’d be laughable except so many greens and media actually think that way.

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

      • Curtis says:

        James… whats worse than them milking Japan for all the Fear it’s worth…

        Now they are claiming that it’s only by the Grace Of God, and the Skin of our teeth that Sandy did not turn all of the USA in to a Glowing wasteland.

        In the days after the storm, all of the news (about the plants) was about how well they fared, and how good their plans were, but as time passes, the stories are becoming more and more fear mongering, about what might have happened if only………

        Makes me nuts

  3. Tony Austin says:

    “By ten wind and solar power
    Will compete with gas and coal.
    Atomic stations will be much fewer
    Tears for trees and short dole”

    Mother Shipton: the missing prophecies
    Written 1990. Anniversary Edition available soon.
    Black Rabbit Press, Findon.

  4. EL says:

    Some better facts on German renewables are needed.

    In 2011, Germany had installed wind capacity of 29,060 MW, and generation of 48,000 GW/h, for CF of 18.9%. Over half of this capacity was built prior to 2003 (or 9 years ago). Germany is looking to more than double it’s wind contribution with offshore turbines (some 26 GW capacity by 2030).

    Transmission adequacy is a major hurdle, and expansion is underway in Germany (consequence of market liberalization, expanded renewables, nuclear phase out, and more). They have 10 year investment plan, and you can track its progress here.

    Germany remains a net exporter of electricity. I’m not sure why this issue gets overlooked by those focusing on nuclear phase out. Yes, they are building new coal plants. But these are not planned to cover energy shortfalls. In fact, they are replacement plants for older and less efficient plants. They are subsidized in part by German Climate Funds, and will result in lower carbon emissions (by 14%), and lower coal consumption.

    Germany appears to be dealing comprehensively with it’s many current and long term energy goals. They met their Kyoto targets early, and are on pace to meet them again in 2020. Renewables are contributing to lower energy costs (not higher costs). They are pioneering new approaches to energy storage, large scale T&D and smart grid technologies, and offshore. They are holding consumption in check with strong measures on conservation and efficiency. Their economy remains robust and one of the most competitive in the EU. And the Germany public seems to be on board with Energiewende (at 72% approval). For now, they seem well equipped to deal with current and future long term challenges. While nothing is perfect, and a lot more will be needed, I’d say many are watching to see how well they do, and what kinds of other investments, innovations, and reforms will be needed in the future. While nuclear may likely have a role to play, turning back the clock appears to no longer be an option. Many of these reforms are likely here to stay (and consumers appear to be welcoming them … at least in one country where higher electricity rates have been accepted … and along with it a local boost to GDP, jobs, a sustainable environment, lower long term costs, training and innovation, and new market and business competitiveness).

    • Podargus says:

      Germany has a recent (last 100 years) history of enthusiastically proceeding down dead end roads. The current enthusiasm for renewables is the latest example.
      This can only result in more greenhouse gas emissions from domestic coal and Russian gas.I guess they can also buy some clean energy from France.

      It is not a good outlook for a highly industrialized nation which presumably would prefer to maintain some energy independence.Like the current insanity regarding the European Monetary Union it is all downhill from go to woe.

      • EL says:

        Did you read the following article.

        http://www.thelocal.de/society/20121109-46079.html

        Natural Gas plants are powering down in the Netherlands to buy cheap electricity from Germany. German electricity exports are the highest they have ever been (12.3 TWh at the end of the 3rd quarter in 2012). And consumption and emissions from coal are projected to go down over the long run. Germany economic performance continues to be robust, and among the most competitive in the region.

        • John Tucker says:

          What do you mean here by price and exports? Im not sure if what people think this would mean is reality accurate:

          Windmills Overload East Europe’s Grid Risking Blackout: Energy

          Renewable energy around the world is causing problems because unlike oil it can’t be stored, so when generated it must be consumed or risk causing a grid collapse. At times, the glut can be so great that utilities pay consumers to take the power and get rid of it. ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-25/windmills-overload-east-europe-s-grid-risking-blackout-energy.html )

        • Rod Adams says:

          @EL

          There is a reason that companies that produce and distribute electricity used to be commonly called “power companies” and not “energy companies.”

          You cannot measure total energy supplied and believe that customers are getting the energy/unit time (aka power) that they want. Electricity supplied when there is little demand is not worth anywhere near as much as power supplied at the time and place where the customer wants or needs it.

          Germany may be exporting a larger amount of “energy” over its electricity grid, but its neighbors are getting tired of accepting delivery at the wrong time.

          • David says:

            Clouds occasionally supply electricity to homes straight from cloud to ground for free. This electricity is enough to power the home for ten years if you average out the supply vs demand. Lightening is totally free and why people are not eager to use it I just don’t understand. Why all you have to do is hook up your breaker box to a small poll attached to the top of your house. Then you can have your own personal smart grid and run your home on lightening strikes!

          • Rod Adams says:

            @David

            That is what I call sublime satire. Thanks for sharing a smile to start my Saturday.

        • SteveK9 says:

          Recent news article on German energy exports. Also there are increasing complaints from Germany’s neighbors that the fluctuating output from their unreliables is destabilizing their electrical grids and that Germany is abusing the grid arrangements. I can’t find the article I was reading, but here is a study which also discusses this:

          http://www.eike-klima-energie.eu/uploads/media/2012_01_09_EIKE_Germa_energy_turnaround_english.pdf

          The serious effects that destabilizing the grid has on industrial operations has been noted in Der Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/instability-in-power-grid-comes-at-high-cost-for-german-industry-a-850419.html
          Interruptions in power are damaging industrial equipment… they are looking to purchase backup systems, etc.

          From WNA article: (I didn’t look for the original)
          In a statement, the Federation of Industrial Energy and Power Industry (VIK) said that the intermittent nature of solar and wind power is undermining the conventional thermal plants needed to provide stability of supply. Although Germany is able to export its renewable energy at times of peak renewable production and low demand, it faces paying high prices to ensure its own demand is met at peak times, the organisation noted.
          “Although Germany still remains a net exporter of electricity through its expensive renewables, it would be very misleading to evaluate this outcome as a success in itself,” VIK director general Annete Loske noted. Loske called for further emphasis on network expansion, storage technologies and load management capabilities as Germany continues its so-called energy transition.

          Forbes: The weather-dependent, sporadic nature of those “renewable” energy sources has already begun to wreak havoc on Germany’s power grid, and threatens to destabilize others all across Europe. After tens of billions of euros have been spent on these systems, raising consumer electricity prices in the process, not a single coal or gas-fired power plant has been taken off line. Ironically, Germany, once a net power exporter, now imports electricity from French nuclear facilities and fossil-powered plants in neighboring countries. They became an importer after their government closed 8 of the older 18 nuclear reactors in the fearful aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

          Recent news article:
          In a statement, the Federation of Industrial Energy and Power Industry (VIK) said that the intermittent nature of solar and wind power is undermining the conventional thermal plants needed to provide stability of supply. Although Germany is able to export its renewable energy at times of peak renewable production and low demand, it faces paying high prices to ensure its own demand is met at peak times, the organisation noted.
          “Although Germany still remains a net exporter of electricity through its expensive renewables, it would be very misleading to evaluate this outcome as a success in itself,” VIK director general Annete Loske noted. Loske called for further emphasis on network expansion, storage technologies and load management capabilities as Germany continues its so-called energy transition.

          • EZ says:

            No one wants there electric grid to be treated like someone else’s battery, or at least not without adequate compensation. The intermittency of wind and solar have costs, and those costs needs to be accounted for instead of swept under the rug by those energy source’s supporters. The costs are going to be paid regardless of weather or not they are recorded properly, but if they are not recorded properly people won’t know how the true cost of solar/wind and also some people will unjustly be forced to pay for services used by other people.

            One example of people being forced to pay for services they don’t use can be seen with how Germany uses Poland and the Czech Republic grids to balance their load without compensating them. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are planning to install so-called phase-shifter transformers in the trans-border area with Germany to regulate power flows and protect their transmission networks.

            http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-25/windmills-overload-east-europe-s-grid-risking-blackout-energy#p1

            It’s past time for solar/wind advocates to be honest about the true costs of there technologies.

      • H. Horeis says:

        Some rectifications

        The overall capacity factor for German wind mills of around 16% has been true for most of the time. The number can be calculated from EU data. The same data give a European average of 20%; windmills in the UK and Spain are doing better with a capacity factor of 23 to 24%, about 50% more than what German facilities provide. There are not many sites worldwide where electricity from wind can be harvested economically. Germany for sure is not among them.

        The situation is worse for solar. German greens are bragging about 30,000 GW of PV being installed now. However, their overall capacity factor is just 8%. PV in Spain, at least, has a capacity factor of 20%, more than 50% better. Again, solar is definitely not something which will ever be economically viable in Germany.
        This brings me to EL’s remark that Germany is still an exporter of electricity. This is true, but, as one would suspect from the post above, it is only half true. Reality is that Germany has been paying much more for electricity imports (several hundred billion last year) than it has earned from exports. There is a simple reason: Germany exports electricity during the few periods when solar and/or wind peak and produce amounts of electricity which cannot be absorbed within the country. This surplus can only be sold at very low prices (sometimes even at negative prices). On the other hand when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, then the country has to buy electricity, produced by French or Czech nuclear plants or Austrian coal plants, at high rates. Not really a good bargain.

        The largest obscenity is, however, that the owners of wind mills and PV receive the high fees as guaranteed by the Feed-in tariffs, even if the electricity produced is sold at low price or given away for free.

        Electricity prices in Germany are today the second highest in Europe. Neither German consumers welcome this as El claims nor does industry.
        Concerning millionaires: Alois Wobben, the owner and boss of Germany’s largest wind mill producer ENERCON, was recently featured by Forbes among the 20 richest Germans. His assets are estimated to be about $3 billion.

    • Pete51 says:

      “In 2011, Germany had installed wind capacity of 29,060 MW…”

      Nuclear capacity in Germany is only 12,000 MW, but nuclear still produces more power than wind, solar, geothermal and other renewables combined.

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf43.html

      For the first seven months of 2012, nuclear generated 51,975 GWh.
      Geothermal + Wind + Solar + Other generated 46,812 GWh.

      http://www.iea.org/stats/surveys/mes.pdf

    • quokka says:

      Whatever renewables may or may not be doing in Germany, they are not lowering electricity prices. The Bloomberg piece suggests a wholesale price in 2013 as much as EUR 1.25/MWh lower than in 2012. This must be seen in the context of a retail levy to support renewables of around EUR 53/MWh (EUR 0.053/kWh). A bit of a difference.

      • jmdesp says:

        Actually the levy consumers must pay for each kWh they consume (to fund the renewable subsidies for the FIT) has know became higher than the average cost for the utilities of buying 1 kWh of power on the spot market.

    • John Tucker says:

      What are the carbon costs here? Estimates used in determining footprints were based on European and US manufacture. Not manufacturing in Asia. What about the carbon costs and efficiency losses of these storage technologies – what about grid updates and in some cases complete redesign of the delivery system and infrastructure?

      For the last two years CO2 from electricity generation has increased and it will likely be way up this year as coal use has increased, CO2 reductions have effectively flat-lined for the last decade:

      Merkel’s Green Shift Forces Germany to Burn More Coal ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-19/merkel-s-green-shift-forces-germany-to-burn-more-coal-energy.html )

      Germany is the third largest consumer of natural gas in the world. Germany is the fourth largest consumer of coal.

      How is that success?

    • Brian Mays says:

      Some better facts on German renewables are needed.

      And yet, you deliver only kool-aid.

      Germany remains a net exporter of electricity. I m not sure why this issue gets overlooked by those focusing on nuclear phase out.

      Bad German planning results in temporary gluts in electricity production by so-called “renewables” at inconvenient times of low demand, so Germany dumps this excess electricity on the European market at a loss. While the Dutch must feel fortunate to take advantage of the stupidity of their German neighbors, I fail to see why this is anything for Germany to brag about.

      Yes, they are building new coal plants. … They are subsidized in part by German Climate Funds, …

      Well, I’m sure that every hard-core environmentalist wants his or her climate funds used to build new coal plants. Yay Germany!!

      Germany appears to be dealing comprehensively with it’s many current and long term energy goals. They met their Kyoto targets early, and are on pace to meet them again in 2020.

      The Kyoto targets are based on emission levels in 1990. This year was chosen on purpose, and Germany lobbied heavily for this particular baseline. It was the year before German reunification, when East Germany had a lot of old, dirty, Soviet-built power plants, which were shut down in the early nineties. Because the baseline is 1990, Germany gets credit for all of these plants, even though they were going to be shut down anyway, because they were inefficient and obsolete by Western standards. There’s nothing like gaming the system to ensure that you meet your targets early.

      Renewables are contributing to lower energy costs (not higher costs).

      The cost of electricity for industrial customers is about 40% higher in Germany than it is in France (which is mostly nuclear). Residential electricity is about 80% higher in Germany than it is in France. (source)

      I’d hate to think how expensive electricity in Germany would be if it weren’t for the contributions from those “renewables.” ;-)

      • jmdesp says:

        Actually it’s not in times of low demand.

        It’s most of the time at 12 when there’s a lot of demand, but still the market price are only in the 5/6 €c/kWh range and they become lower when Germany exports a lot of solar power, so that Germans are losing a lot of money in the operation.

        But it also means that the operator of gas plants providing the capacity reserve are also making a lot less profit, which means that it is tempting for them to just actually close the plant, and if that’s the case there will be a lot less capacity available in winter.

        It might also happen that in winter when their capacity is really needed, they will ask for a price that also covers their summer expenses when they could not sell power. We’ll see.

    • H. Horeis says:

      More facts on Germany

      The overall capacity factor for German wind mills of around 16% has been true for most of the time. The number can be calculated from EU data. The same data give a European average of 20%; windmills in the UK and Spain are doing better with a capacity factor of 23 to 24%, about 50% more than what German facilities provide. There are not many sites worldwide where electricity from wind can be harvested economically. Germany for sure is not among them.

      The situation is worse for solar. German greens are bragging about 30,000 GW of PV being installed now. However, their overall capacity factor is just 8%. PV in Spain, at least, has a capacity factor of 20%, more than 50% better. Again, solar is definitely not something which will ever be economically viable in Germany.

      This brings me to EL’s remark that Germany is still an exporter of electricity. This is true, but, as one would suspect from the post above, it is only half true. Reality is that Germany has been paying much more for electricity imports (several hundred billion last year) than it has earned from exports. There is a simple reason: Germany exports electricity during the few periods when solar and/or wind peak and produce amounts of electricity which cannot be absorbed within the country. This surplus can only be sold at very low prices (sometimes even at negative prices). On the other hand when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, then the country has to buy electricity, produced by French or Czech nuclear plants or Austrian coal plants, at high rates. Not really a good bargain.

      The largest obscenity is, however, that the owners of wind mills and PV receive the high fees as guaranteed by the feed-in tariffs, even if the electricity produced is sold at low price or is just dumped.

      Electricity prices in Germany are today the second highest in Europe. Neither German consumers welcome nor does industry.

      Concerning millionaires: Alois Wobben, the owner and boss of Germany’s largest wind mill producer ENERCON, was recently featured by Forbes among the 20 richest Germans. His assets are estimated to be about $3 billion.

    • Soylent says:

      Because there is such a thing as being starved for electricity while at the still time having a surplus and being a net exporter.

      They’re a net exporter because they generate a lot of worthless renewable electricity when nobody actually wants it. They can’t store it for when they get an actual shortfall, so they just sell it at any price(sometimes negative price).

    • James Greenidge says:

      “EL”;

      I’m a simple man, so I’d just like to ask you just why a country is so smugly hell-bent on going through this trauma and expense to rid itself of a proven safe reliable source of power that isn’t ravaging or spoiling the countrysides or scenery or causing pollution. It kind of defies logic if not common sense and prudent economics at the least just to make a PC green statement, doesn’t it?

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

    • Rod Adams says:

      @EL

      I wonder if you are interested in commenting on the interview that Spiegel recently conducted with Stephan Kohler, the head of the German Energy Agency?

      You can find it here:
      http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-energy-expert-argues-against-subsidies-for-solar-power-a-866996.html

      There are some thought provoking interactions in that article. I especially like the following:

      Kohler: I support the expansion of solar and wind energy, but only when it makes economic and technical sense. The operator of a solar plant should be getting a message, namely that it’s up to him to market the electricity he produces. He should come up with his own ideas to sell the electricity, and he shouldn’t be subsidized.

      SPIEGEL: You would get rid of Germany’s Renewable Energy Act?

      Kohler: It is pure insanity! You put a solar panel system on your roof and, thanks to government guarantees, you don’t have to do anything more except make sure that you clean the snow off the panels in the winter. We now have to say to everyone who benefits from this feel-good law: Listen, people, it can’t go on this way!”

      • EL says:

        <blockquoteI wonder if you are interested in commenting on the interview that Spiegel recently conducted with Stephan Kohler, the head of the German Energy Agency?

        He seems to be arguing most specifically against a lack of planning that he has seen in German renewables expansion: “We can make sure that the expansion of renewable energy is managed in a sensible way,” Kohler says. He’s most concerned with rapid expansion of solar where grid capacities are lacking (i.e., the countryside). He seems to be trying to prepare renewable energy activists and independent developers for a policy shift and for taking their energy production more seriously … looking less at subsidies for the expansion of rooftop capacity alone (and independent of grid capacities), and more at other policies and infrastructure investments for better securing this electricity for consumers (and taking a more comprehensive approach). He talks about bottlenecks in transmission (and market trends), which are well known, and the need to address these soon and with a comprehensive approach. Which is exactly what has been planned for the region, and at a significant cost. As I see it, the interview is not an indictment of renewables or Energiewende, but of poor planning. His comments appear sensible and logical, and hopefully, an incitement to action to better address long standing issues in grid expansion and subsidy design to better meet policy goals in the country.

        • Brian Mays says:

          Bill Tucker has managed to sum up the situation with German “renewables” quite well. (article)

          The problem is that “renewables” have fundamental flaws that cause problems when a country tries to roll them out without any consideration of reality — as Germany is trying to do and as Spain tried to do and failed. Painting lipstick on this pig isn’t going to get you anywhere, and no, this is not a problem of “grid capacities.” Frankly, you have no idea what you’re talking about. The only “poor planning” that Germany is guilty of is subsidizing “renewables” to the extent that it has already done, while remaining in denial of the consequences that this plan is having on its industrial base.

          And by the way, please don’t try to lecture us again on the politics of Quebec — something else you know nothing about.

          • EL says:

            The only “poor planning” that Germany is guilty of is subsidizing “renewables” to the extent that it has already done, while remaining in denial of the consequences that this plan is having on its industrial base.

            How so? In Germany, industry is currently exempt from Energiewende taxes and surcharges, and have seen their retail rates for electricity drop by 18% over the last year.

            http://www.renewablesinternational.net/what-does-the-energiewende-cost-industry/150/537/58681

            Consumers seem willing to pay for a great deal: electricity that is desired (by 80% public approval), and subsidizing energy rates for industry (contributing to strong economic performance and the lowest unemployment rate in Germany since reunification in 1990). And with a 10 year commitment to grid expansion, Germany may also likely keep it’s high rating for network reliability as well. This doesn’t mean all challenges are solved, far from it, but it’s a pretty good start (and with more cost sharing by industry needed in the long run).

  5. EL says:

    “I’m a simple man …”

    I don’t think it’s that complicated either. They seem to be doing it just because they want to.

    “A whopping 65 percent of the country’s total renewable power capacity is now owned by individuals, cooperatives and communities, leaving Germany’s once all-powerful utilities with just a sliver (6.5 percent) of this burgeoning sector.”

    Together with widespread public opposition to nuclear (according to article), it’s not hard to see where this is coming from. And by all accounts, low prices are making it difficult for the large companies to compete. Keeping it simple … when you can do it yourself, why not go ahead and try. And if you appear to be winning (or at least holding your own at 80% public support) … focusing on higher energy prices, $28 billion on transmission (while becoming a leader in enabling smart grid technologies), and future long term investments in energy storage and research (with the potential of becoming a global leader) seems to be a small price to pay.

    It’s a risky bet … like any other, but not particularly illogical. Perhaps the French (who also export a great deal of surplus energy that they are unable to absorb on their own) understand these stakes very well?

    • John Tucker says:

      EL I dont really know if the anti corporate line fits here. Sure some power companies are complaining – but what is bad for them isnt necessarily good for the consumer. You brought up the Green economic boom and I think its worth discussing. Ill be broad and vague to start off here.

      There is no minimum wage in Germany. The German federal government subsidizes employment as well in some fields. The German workforce structure to a large extent has been molded and pushed by the same people driving the heavy renewable emphasis. Its a large scale banking, media and corporate effort.

      The real cost of German labour reforms
      ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/oct/26/real-cost-labour-reforms-germany?newsfeed=true )

      Technically we probably would call such a system “Fascism” here in the US.

      Also id like to mention and remind everyone that the US recently enacted penalties against the Chinese basically for unfair subsidies to their solar industry. Why has Germany not been at least discussed? Special provisions and exceptions were even added to and written into the Recovery act in the US to allow for foreign venders. Why ?

      Im not in the Renewables can do everything camp but I do believe they have a place and I certainly dont like seeing American companies suffer and go out of business in favor of foreign ones operating on unfair terms.

      Looking at Siemens Corp contributions to federal candidates you can see this goes beyond a discussion of the German economy and fair competition as well ( http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.php?cycle=2012&cmte=C00353797 )

    • DV82XL says:

      The bottom line with wind and solar is that they will never be able to supply more than a fraction of the required power for a nation like Germany and no amount of smart grid technology will ever change that. One way or the other the difference will have to be made up with something that can supply baseload and if it isn’t nuclear it will be by burning something. This is the tragedy of intermittent renewables and is unavoidable.

  6. quokka says:

    As DV82XL says, it is not technically feasible to decarbonize electricity supply at this time using just non-hydro renewables. If this were not true, then Germany could just build more renewable capacity instead of new fossil fuel burners. It couldn’t be more obvious.

    Anybody claiming to have climate objectives needs to take this onboard. The UK Climate Change Committee in the “Renewable Energy Review” set a limit of technical feasibility of 65% of supply from renewables by 2030, and to get that high they had to assume significant contribution from marine generators including the very expensive and environmentally damaging proposed Severn Barrage. The UK certainly has better wind resources than Germany where wind capacity factor is a miserable 18%.

    One can argue this figure is too high and quite possibly be right, but there surely is a limit. The immediate conclusion is that a low carbon electricity supply by the early 2030s (eg 50-80 g CO2/kWh) is impossible without nuclear power. It is time for some “environmentalists” to face reality.

    • DV82XL says:

      I avoided mentioning hydro in my last post on purpose. Unlike thermal (or hair-brained schemes to mount solar collectors on every roof and windmills on every utility pole) hydro cannot contribute if the resource is not there in the first place. And it is ether there or it isn’t, it cannot be created out of nothing, at least not cost effectively.

      Hydro is (at least from a technical standpoint) an ideal way of generating electric power and as a consequence the argument for nuclear energy is a very difficult one to make in places rich in hydro potential. That is not to say hydro is free of serious environmental impacts, but those are more difficult to leverage at this time than those of combustion derived generation.

      However in places without hydro potential, or where it has been maxed out, as in the case of most of Europe, the argument is between wind/solar and thermal and only thermal can supply baseload reliably and thus must be the backbone of generation on the grid. The issue then is one of selecting fossil-fuel or nuclear for this roll.

      • James Greenidge says:

        Just a point of wonder; has a major hydro facility ever been “decommissioned”? I wonder whether a nation that built enough nukes to afford such a process taking its hydros off-line and out would get much value in the land reclamation that such would incur. Maybe for smaller countries perhaps.

        James Greenidge
        Queens NY

      • jmdesp says:

        They are very few places in the world that have enough hydro resources to sustain a fully industrialized country. Sweden and Austria have both hit that wall, and decided for one to solve it with nuclear, for the other to solve it with coal.

        Actually Austria had decided to solve it with nuclear until “green” campaigning successfully got the nuclear plant project stopped and replaced with coal units instead (together with a ban on nuclear).

        In a way, it’s also the case with France that had a lot of hydro for electricity before WWII, and still actually has the largest hydro capacity of the EU (as long as Finland doesn’t join it)

        • DV82XL says:

          Quebec and British Columbia can supply all of their electric generation from hydro and both are fully industrialized, that is they have industries that rely on vast amounts of inexpensive power to thrive, but yes this is not the general case.

          Smaller hydro facilities have been decommissioned on occasion here in Quebec but mostly these have been abandoned private installations that had fallen into disrepair and where deemed a potential hazard.

          • jmdesp says:

            Quebec and British Columbia’s population density : 4,8 hab./km2

            The average population density in Europe is around a 100 hab./km2, but above that in many countries.

  7. Barry Sheridan says:

    Gents, World Nuclear News sheds a little extra light on the conditions Germany imposes to crook the renewables results. See:

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C_Coping_with_energy_transition_1411121.html

    Elsewhere I have read about concerns expressed by German business about the cost of energy, can’t for the life of me remember where I saw that. Sorry, I read so much stuff that my mind keeps flashing overload.

    Regards Barry

  8. Florian Bamberg says:

    What is also making Germany’s phase-out questionable: The country is now forced to import nuclear energy from its neighbours, and thereby exporting the risk.

    I just blogged on that: http://energyingermany.com/2012/11/17/germanys-dirty-nuclear-imports-secret/

  9. James Greenidge says:

    Re: Florian Bamberg — “What is also making Germany’s phase-out questionable: The country is now forced to import nuclear energy from its neighbours, and thereby exporting the risk.”

    It’s not you, just that you brought up a tired old chestnut tacit in anti-nuclear lore and commentary; That nuclear energy is a constant inherent “risk”. The hypocrisy drives me up a wall. Nuclear plants aren’t bloating eggshells that just can’t wait to blow, as anti-nukers are fond of espousing. Didn’t just last year 11 workers die and dozens injured and half the Gulf coast rendered unusable for months from the BP spill? Wasn’t there recently an oil rig accident that claimed at least one life? Yet I don’t hear too many people spouting off with knee-quaking trepidation about how much a “risk” oil and gas production is. After a rare superquake and tsunami that would’ve laid havoc on oil and gas facilities and their local neighborhoods, Fukushima iced no lives and damaged squat beyond its gates, yet people still see nuclear as a constant “risk”. Geese, how much safer can you get amidst destruction?? People BADLY need some deep balanced nuclear education — and I don’t mean served by the media either.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY