In the nine months to September 2014, the renewable sector had replaced lignite as the main source of Germany’s power. They supplied 27.7% of the country’s electricity demand, as compared to lignite’s 26.3%. By the end of the year, the offshore wind sector broke through the 1 GW barrier. Another 1.3 GW was waiting to be connected, which makes it virtually certain there will be 3 GW of offshore wind capacity by the end of this year. Is Hermann Albers, president of the German Wind Energy Association, right? Is 2015 the year of the Energiewende?
In a recent press release, he explained:
The Energiewende is truly a technological revolution. The new market design therefore cannot be built on the old foundations; it has to be reinvented from scratch. The new energy world will include communications, analysis, smart grids, and virtual power plants, all of which require IT platforms. At present, there is no point in talking about capacity markets because massive surplus fossil capacity is distorting wholesale prices and skewing the market. If we want to talk about a future power market design, we have to find out how the market can rid itself of surplus fossil capacity – and how binding plans can be adopted for the decommissioning of old, inefficient coal plants.
E.ON, Europe’s largest utility, has already started divesting itself of fossil fuel assets. The company’s CEO, Dr. Johannes Teyssen, recently announced the decision to concentrate on renewables, technological innovation and individualized customer expectations. Then E.ON sold its Italian gas and coal plants.
One of its main competitors,Vattenfall, is selling of its German lignite operations.
So what will this new energy world look like?
There have been times when mass influxes of renewable energy have driven electricity prices below zero. This happened for 64 hours in 2013 and, despite an increase in renewable generation, this number did not rise in 2014. According to Agora, “That is because fewer conventional power plants had to incorporate electricity from more renewable energy installations compared to two years before.”
CO2 emissions are dropping as because renewable energy is crowding out conventional generation. “Hard coal and gas are the losers in the power mix. Lignite-fired power plants, on the other hand, are still producing at a high level,” said Dr. Patrick Graichen, Director of Agora Energiewende.
The transition will not take place overnight, but it is coming. As of October 29, 2013, Germany possessed 89 GW of conventional capacity and 88 GW capacity of renewable energy. There will be more than 4.5 GW of wind capacity added this year. Half of this will be offshore, where stronger winds allow turbines produce to produce twice as much power as turbines on land.
Images above, in descending order:
- Photo Credit: A 2012 photo of Hermann Albers by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via Flickr (CC By SA, 2.0 License)
- Contrary to what many believe, some of Germany’s transmission lines are also above ground. Taken from a train window (Roy L Hales photo)
- Photo Credit: WIND-projekt – RH2