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Clean Power Schleswig-Holstein (dark green) – by David Liuzzo, CC by SA 2.0, en Wikipedia

Published on May 29th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales

33

Germany’s Energiewende Is Very Much Alive & On Track

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May 29th, 2014 by
 

Originally published in the ECOreport.

 Wind Power Generators: “Looking at these generators makes me wonder why people would rather have coal-fired power plants than wind power. They are located all around the place where I’m staying, at a typical distance of 2 km. and make little to no noise.” – photo by thskyt, CC by SA 2.0

Wind Power Generators: “Looking at these generators makes me wonder why people would rather have coal-fired power plants than wind power. They are located all around the place where I’m staying, at a typical distance of 2 km. and make little to no noise.” Photo by thskyt, CC BY-SA 2.0

Renewable sources contributed 27% of Germany’s domestic electricity in the first quarter of 2014. In windy Schleswig-Holstein, which obtained 90% of its energy from renewable sources in 2013, residents hope to reach 100% this year. The role played by fossil fuels and the nuclear sectors is shrinking. Contrary to what naysayers have been predicting, Germany’s Energiewende is very much alive and on track.

Schleswig-Holstein (dark green) – by David Liuzzo, CC by SA 2.0, en Wikipedia

Schleswig-Holstein (dark green) – by David Liuzzo, CC BY-SA 2.0

The biggest “winners” in the first quarter were solar power, whose overall production was up 82.5%, and offshore wind, up 33%.

Natural gas production was down 19.7%, hard coal down 17.4%, and nuclear energy down 4.6%.

The biggest story is from Schleswig-Holstein, where the addition of 1.1 GW of wind capacity has made it possible to achieve 100% renewable electricity. Robert Habek, the little state’s Minister of Energy, said that will happen if this year’s wind yields are at least average.

“Over the next 10 years Schleswig-Holstein expects to increase the share of renewable energy sources in the gross electricity consumption to 300%, meeting 8% of the total German electricity needs,” wrote Matthias Laing on the German Energy Blog.

This would be triple the installed wind capacity from 2012.

Schleswig-Holstein intends to double its solar capacity during the same period.

Robert Habeck, Landwirtschafts- und Umweltminister von Schleswig-Holstein - Photo by GrüneSH, CC by SA 3.0, en Wikipedia

Robert Habeck, Landwirtschafts- und Umweltminister von Schleswig-Holstein. Photo by GrüneSH, CC BY-SA 3.0

Meanwhile the first draft of bill amending Germany’s Renewable Energy Source’s Act has been introduced to the German Parliament. Schleswig-Holstein has asked that it be amended so that wind facilities installed in 2014 still receive subsidies. A “breathing cap” is to be introduced whereby financial support for wind power will be reduced quarterly as of 2016. The amount is to be adjusted up or down, according to need.

Germany is one of the few Western European nations whose fossil fuel reserves are not close to exhaustion. It may have enough coal to last another century.

Nevertheless the installation of 4,000 solar-plus-battery systems would seem to herald the beginning of a new era. Germany may meet its goal of deriving 100% of its energy from renewable sources, without a fossil fuel back-up, by 2050.

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About the Author

is the editor of the ECOreport (www.theecoreport.com), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America and writes for both Clean Techncia and PlanetSave. He is a research junkie who has written hundreds of articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.



  • Todd

    “In the real world, wind and solar combined delivered about 23 per cent of German electricity sent out in 2013, but the actual daily output varied between 10 per cent and 50 per cent.” http://www.coolibahconsulting.com.au/TiP/2014/05/25/the-german-question-2/

    • Bob_Wallace

      So what we would need to do is to invent some way to move some of the production from times of high output to times of low output, eh? Wonder how that might be done?

      Perhaps we could pump some water up high when there’s extra electricity and then let it flow back through turbines when we need more. Like we now do with nuclear.

      Or perhaps someone could invent a pot of chemicals that would store up energy and spit it back when we want some.

      We could even use extra electricity to crack water into hydrogen and then use the hydrogen to generate when needed.

      I’ll bet some clever person can figure out how to pull it off….

      • Hans

        Or someone might come up with the idea of variable pricing that could stimulate flexible users to shift their demand to low price periods.

        Or someone might come up with the idea to build cables to other countries where demand and weather are different.

      • 42apples

        That is something that should have been thought of before deploying expensive offshore wind turbines that are paid to sit idle.

        And a clever person would not propose using electricity to generate hydrogen to generate electricity. We have something called a battery that is a whole lot cheaper and more efficient.

        • Bob_Wallace

          How to deal with storage has been under discussion for some time. It doesn’t make sense to install storage until there’s enough surplus generation to make the storage pay for itself. When surpluses are low it’s cheapest to curtail, to pay wind turbines to shut down.

          It may be cheaper to store hydrogen for long term/deep backup than to store in batteries. Storage probably won’t be “one size fits all”.

          • 42apples

            Just another additional cost of wind. Why exactly is Germany deploying incredibly expensive offshore wind that they can’t even use? (US figures here, I doubt the picture is much different in Germany: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm)

            Storage may not be one-size fits all, but water, batteries, flywheels, and capacitors are far cheaper and more efficient than hydrogen will ever be.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Germany got a bit ahead with offshore turbine installation. They need to ramp up transmission.

            Not everything is smoothly coordinated, even in Germany.

            It may well be that other storage systems will be cheaper than hydrogen. Time will tell. But do remember that if you’re wanting to store energy for months hydrogen might be cheaper to store than other technologies. Long term storage is different than short term storage.

  • Todd

    “For now, as the contribution of renewables grows, so, perversely, does that of lignite” http://e360.yale.edu/feature/on_the_road_to_green_energy_germany_detours_on_dirty_coal/2769/

    • Bob_Wallace

      From your link -

      “They point out that, since the announcement of energiewende, a long, slow decline in carbon emissions of 27 percent between 1990 and 2009 has gone into reverse, with a 4 percent rise in emissions since 2009.”

      Oh, my! A little 4% blip in a 27%, 5 year drop. I guess the sky is falling.

      Our boy Fred did a crappy bit of journalism with that piece, didn’t he? Failed to point out that Germany is in the process of closing its least efficient coal plants and replacing them with much more efficient plants. Once the replacement plants are in place there will be a further, very significant drop in coal use.

      And Fred doesn’t point out that the high cost of retail electricity in Germany is due to taxes, not the cost of electricity. The wholesale cost of electricity has been plummeting since Germany decided to move to renewables and close nuclear plants. (Graph below.)

      Pretty amazing that Germany managed to hold the (temporary) CO2 emission increase to only 4% while closing nuclear plants. Guess they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

      • 42apples

        Why are taxes so high in Germany? Yes, the wholesale price is going down because renewables are zero marginal cost, but that doesn’t mean they are free. And great, Germany is upgrading its coal plants, locking in 20-30 more years of production. And shutting down nuclear plants for $25 billion and absolutely no benefit.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Let’s start at the bottom.

          “shutting down nuclear plants for $25 billion and absolutely no benefit.”

          The citizens of Germany view is as a large benefit to not have nuclear reactors in their midst. Remember, Chernobyl happened next door and they watched one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world screw up and allow a nuclear disaster.

          Germany is upgrading its coal plants.

          Germany’s new coal burning plants are replacing (not adding to) the older plants that either have been or will soon be decommissioned. These new plants were planned and construction was started prior to the decision to close nuclear plants.

          The initial plan was that by 2020, 18.5 gigawatts of coal power capacity will be decommissioned, whereas only 11.3 gigawatts would be newly installed. Due to the success of renewables it appears that the 11.3 gigawatt number will be lowered.

          Furthermore those plants will be more efficient, releasing less CO2 per unit electricity produced than are the ones they are replacing. And the new coal plants are partially load-following.

          As of November 2013 some 28 power plants with a collective capacity of 7,000 MW – roughly equivalent to the capacity shut down in Chancellor Merkel’s sudden nuclear phase out in March 2011 – have been submitted for decommissioning. This would be an 8% decrease in Germany’s coal burning capacity.

          Germany does not have a large supply of natural gas. They get most of their NG from Russia. Have you perhaps noticed why Germany would not want to be too reliant on Tzar Putin?

          Finally, why are taxes so high? Because Germany wants them to be would be the simple answer. Germany likes what those taxes buy them. As a democracy they could vote their way to lower taxes, but they’d have to give up some of the benefits they enjoy.

          IMO Germany needs to move some of the non-utility taxes off the price of retail electricity and ask industry to carry a bit fairer share of the load. Industry is enjoying dropping electricity while doing nothing to assist.

          Germany has let things get a bit out of balance and needs to make adjustments that are, in the greater view, fairly minor.

          • 42apples

            “The citizens of Germany view is as a large benefit to not have nuclear reactors in their midst.”

            There’s a difference between fear-mongering and reality.

            “Germany’s new coal burning plants are replacing (not adding to) the older plants that either have been or will soon be decommissioned. These new plants were planned and construction was started prior to the decision to close nuclear plants.”

            You cannot seriously believe that Germany would burn just as much coal if not for their idiotic crusade to shut down nuclear? You can make a case that deploying new nuclear plants is incredibly expensive, but keeping existing plants running is far cheaper and cleaner than any alternatives.

            “Finally, why are taxes so high? Because Germany wants them to be would be the simple answer. Germany likes what those taxes buy them”

            Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of higher energy prices to encourage conservation. However, Germany’s energy policy is bad economics, technology-specific instead of promoting lowest-cost carbon reduction.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You think Germans are idiots for not wanting to live next to nuclear reactors.

            Germans think you’re an idiot for being willing to do so.

            Having lived downwind of Rancho Seco I tend to agree with the Germans.

            Obviously Germany would burn less coal had they not decided to close their nuclear plants. But they decided to close their nuclear plants. And Germany is still one of the most successful countries when it comes to lowering GHG emission levels.

            Germany’s energy policy is bad economic policy in your book because you are comfortable with nuclear energy. Other people are not.

            Let’s take a look at how the wholesale price of electricity is fairing under Germany’s “bad economic policy”. See the graph at the bottom of the page? That’s a graph showing how the price of electricity is dropping.

            In May 2012 the wholesale price of electricity was 3.89 euro cents. By May 2013 the price was down to 3.20c. By May 2014 the price had dropped again to 3.06c. That’s a 21% drop over two years.

            http://www.renewablesinternational.net/german-wholesale-prices-down-again-in-may/150/537/79199/

            It might be possible that had Germany kept their reactors on line the price would have dropped faster, but a 21% drop over only two years is not indicative of failure.

          • Bob_Wallace

            And let’s take a look at how much coal Germany is burning.

            Per capita coal use might have dropped lower by keeping nuclear reactors on line but shutting them down did not cause a rebound in coal use. Most likely a short term plateau until renewables catch up and allow more coal reduction.

  • No way

    Coal down 17,4% natural gas down 19,7%. I love that. That is exactly what I want to see. Any news on coal/gas power plants closed? Or coal mines closed? That would be even greater news. :)

    • Jan Veselý

      A big lignite (brown coal) mine in southern Germany size was “by 15 years”. It literarelly saved few villages from destruction and 30 milion tons of coal wil not be burned. http://www.aachener-zeitung.de/lokales/region/tagebau-garzweiler-ii-wird-verkleinert-1.794557

      • No way

        It’s a small start. But overall that article is very depressing reading. A coal mine with the planes of digging up massive amounts of coal for many decades to come. Where are the demonstrations that should be outside this mine everyday all the time?

        • Todd

          “The 10 new units will boost German hard coal generation capacity by 33 percent to 32,432 megawatts from 24,447 megawatts as of Oct. 16″ http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-15/steag-starts-germany-s-first-coal-fired-power-plant-in-8-years.html

          • Bob_Wallace

            Germany’s new coal burning plants are replacing (not adding to) the older plants that either have been or will soon be decommissioned. These new plants were planned and construction was started prior to the decision to close nuclear plants.

            The initial plan was that by 2020, 18.5 gigawatts of coal power capacity will be decommissioned, whereas only 11.3 gigawatts would be newly installed. Due to the success of renewables it appears that the 11.3 gigawatt number will be lowered.

            Furthermore those plants will be more efficient, releasing less CO2 per unit electricity produced than are the ones they are replacing. And the new coal plants are partially load-following.

            As of November 2013 some 28 power plants with a collective capacity of 7,000 MW – roughly equivalent to the capacity shut down in Chancellor Merkel’s sudden nuclear phase out in March 2011 – have been submitted for decommissioning. This would be an 8% decrease in Germany’s coal burning capacity.

  • JamesWimberley

    Schleswig-Holstein is flat as a pancake and more or less treeless. So are Norfolk and Lincolnshire in England: but without the wind farms. I don’t claim to understand my English compatriots’ opposition to onshore wind. English not British – the Scots love it.

    • Hans

      The English seem to have a somewhat religious relationship with their landscape. Their landscape, that was formed by the agricultural and industrial practices of the Victorian age, is declared holy and shall forever be frozen in time.*

      *Unless to build roads, nuclear power stations, military installations, airports and golf courses.

  • Alaa

    I think if they use electric cars then they can store the energy that these wind turbines produce during the night. Thus less use of gas for cars. This will make Germany accelerate even faster towards its 100% target.

  • Kyle Field

    In addition to the crazy fairy tales stemming from Germany, now we have added 100% renewable energy production as another wonderland fairy tale metric. :D It does feel a bit surreal to see how they are barreling forward as a nation, paving the way for the rest of us. Freaking exciting. I can’t help but wonder what will fill the gap (or if there will be a gap) as the easy renewables are tapped. My hope is that coal would completely phase out, old nuclear would phase out with natural gas being the gap filler for the time being. As many have commented here, next gen nuclear seems to be the obvious, required gap technology (at least for the time being). I’m super excited to see what Germany looks like in 5yrs. Great stuff and thanks tons for sharing.

    • Ross

      More rapid deployment of wind and solar is the obvious gap filler as fossil and nuke is mothballed.

    • patb2009

      Germany hasn’t begun to tap their resources in the north sea.
      Once they get that on line, they will have plenty of electricity.

      If Germany keeps up with Solar PV they need to add small storage.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      All renewables are easy since it is free energy.

      The technology to extract it will only get cheaper and better, so renewables will only get easier over time. Your fear of ‘the easy renewables are tapped’ is unnecessary.

      • Kyle Field

        Not fear, just economics. Your point about renewables getting cheaper should pay out as newer tech comes in to improve on the old. It’s an exciting time in renewables :)

    • LookingForward

      I think by 2020 all the provinces in Germany that use less then average electricity (provinces with little high energy industry and few large cities) will be 100% renewable.
      ps Germany doesn’t have states, it has provinces, like Holland (my country)
      countries with provinces instead of states have more political influence over those areas then countries with states. I notice the big difference between my country and the US, since I started reading (alot) more about renewables.

      • nakedChimp

        funny that you mention that,cause in German ‘Provinz’ is a snob word for backwards countyside ;-)

      • Abendland

        Sorry mate, Germany has States, not provinces – has education in the Netherlands sunk that low now???

        • LookingForward

          Officially maybe, but the national government has allmost as much influence over state governments as a country with provinces.
          For example:
          US state governments can make all the laws they want (to an extent) unless it’s in violation with federal law or the constitution.
          In Germany, state governments can also make there own laws, but they need consenses from the national government to inact that law.

          • zeta

            >In Germany, state governments can also make there own laws, but they
            need consenses from the national government to inact that law.

            While you looked up the province vs. states difference in Germany (they are in fact states) why didn’t you also check your other weird ideas about the German political system? State government/parliaments are very much entitled to pass their own law and they certainly do not need to consult the national government. Most states even have their own constitution in addition to the German constitution. It’s based on the subsidiarity principle. Many fields of policy – for example education – are entirely under the authority of the states.

    • one.second

      All nuclear will be phased out by 2022. That is current law in Germany.

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