Clean Power

Published on February 1st, 2015 | by Giles Parkinson

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Analysis Shows That Germany’s Energiewende Is Right On Track

February 1st, 2015 by  

Originally published on RenewEconomy.

There is a great debate about the success or otherwise of Germany’s Energiewende, or Energy Transition. Most of it is uninformed, and much of it is fuelled by the nuclear and coal industries, which have most to lose from the push into renewables by Europe’s most successful economy.

This series of graphs shows how the renewable targets are on track, have lowered emissions, decoupled energy consumption from economic growth, pushed wholesale prices down to record lows, and are now pushing retail prices down. And it has done some interesting things to the energy mix.

The graphs were prepared in a report by Agora Energiewende, a Berlin-based think tank whose former head Rainer Bakke is now the chief advisor to Germany’s energy and economics minister on the future of the Energiewende.

The first graph shows that the renewable target is still on track. This graph shows the target for 2025, and that will continue to a target of 55-60 per cent by 2035, and 80 per cent by 2050.

agora re target

This next one shows that renewable energy is now the biggest source of energy, ahead of lignite (brown coal).

gora power mix

Over the last two decades, Germany has successfully broken the nexus between electricity demand and economic growth. As this graph shows, economic growth is up 40 per cent since 1990, but electricity demand has fallen significantly in recent years.

agora pwoer economy

And it has also decoupled the rise in emissions that usually accompanies economic growth. Emissions are now at their second lowest level since 1990, after resuming their fall after a brief rise following the post-Fukushima closure of several large nuclear power plants.

agora emissions

The increase in renewable energy and the fall in demand has brought about a fall in power prices – to their lowest levels in decades …

agora prices wholesale

And this is expected to be finally reflected in  retail prices. It was always anticipated that retail electricity prices would rise initially due to the renewable energy surcharge, but that this would eventually be reversed as the level of subsidy was reduced and finally removed.

agora prices retail

This graph shows the changes in the energy mix, with renewables growing strongly, mostly at the expense of nuclear in recent years, although coal and lignite are down from their 1990 levels.

agora power growth

Black coal is also at its second lowest level since 1990 …

agora hard coal

Contrary to expectations of the nay-sayers, Germany has increased its energy exports after the nuclear phase out ….

agora energy mix 2010-14

Here is some more information on the changes in renewable energy mix …

agora renewables

 

Which has led to some interesting days of generation. These two landmark days show record renewable contribution and record solar contribution.

agora maximums

This is what the renewables contribution looks like over the autumn/winter period, with an increasing contribution from wind as the weather turns cold …

agora autumn generation

And this is what it looks like in spring, as solar increases its contribution ….

agora generation spring

Despite all this, and the predictions that this would herald a “golden age” of gas, because of its flexibility and ability to fill in the gaps, the use of gas in power production is now heading towards record lows, partly due to its high cost, and because other plants have learned to be more flexible.

agora gas


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About the Author

is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.



  • Christian Abel

    The root of environmentalism is in Germany, just like nazism.
    Environmentalism just takes longer to die.

  • Christian Abel

    This craziness will bankrupt Germany unless it’s stopped soon.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ‘splain that to us, Christian.

      How will cheaper electricity work to bankrupt Germany?

      • Christian Abel

        Electricity cost has doubled in Germany.

        • Bob_Wallace

          As you can clearly see in the above graph the cost of electricity has fallen in Germany.

          The cost of retail electricity has risen due to taxes placed on top of the cost of generating and distributing electricity.

          Retail electricity costs have risen 23% since 2010. Far from doubling.

  • spec9

    Germany needs to do more to cut down on that coal usage though. That’s the worst part. I’d rather them use nukes instead of coal but I guess that doesn’t work politically there. :-/

    • Ronald Brakels

      Nuclear power also doesn’t work in an accounting sense due to the extremely high potential costs of a nuclear disaster. Although the chance of a disaster is only very small in any given year, the high cost of dealing with one combined with the current low carbon price makes nuclear power Germany’s most expensive source of electricity.

      • Martin

        Also nuclear power is not wanted (anymore) in Germany due to the two meltdowns ,Russia and Japan.

        • sjc_1

          Use fast neutron reactors, no melt downs, use depleted uranium as fuel and no long term waste.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Not wanted. You no understand?

            Plus priced out of the game.

          • sjc_1

            Maybe you don’t want it, but you don’t understand that China, India and Russia DO.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “No more nuclear” rumblings are happening in India. The press is regularly printing discussions about how renewables make more sense. And the recent US/India liability agreement puts most of the costs of a major disaster back on the Indian taxpayer rather than the “foreign supplier”. That is not going to help nuclear.

            I expect to see China back off on their nuclear push as they get more experience with solar and wind and as storage matures.

            Russia? Who knows what the tsar wants? Whatever, Russia isn’t doing all that well with their nuclear dreams.

            “ Russia has 10 reactors listed as under construction. But three of these were started in the 1980s, while all of the others are either currently suspended or running at least two years late. Two are, in fact, “floating reactors”, small 32-megawatt units. Ordered in February 2009, they were expected to be delivered to the customer at the end of 2012, but are now forecast to start up in late 2016. At the most recent new project, the Baltic-1 unit, where construction started in February 2012, work has now stopped.”

            evee

          • sjc_1

            You criticize EP’s bullying.

          • Bob_Wallace

            So? The guy has serious anger management issues.

          • Neptune

            Read Alvin Weinberg – Can the Sun replace uranium?

            A realistic opinion of the inventor of PWR design.

  • Todd

    Too bad Germany didn’t instead set targets to reduce carbon emissions. According to the IEA at the end of 2013, it was 477grams/kwh, they should have set the goal to be less than 100gms/kwh. Reviewing the data in this article, 61.2% of electricity is generated from high carbon emitting sources (lignite, black coal, gas and biomass). page 110 of IEA report http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/co2emissionsfromfuelcombustionhighlights2013.pdf

  • Martin

    I wonder what politicians in other counties will say when the German economy keeps going strong and the country becomes more independent from imported fuels.
    I hope for our sake. humans, that the rest of the world is willing to lean fast.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      That is good point that actually renewable subsidies are hidden subsidies for german industry. Free trade agreements do not allow direct subsidies for industry, but as renewable subsidies are pushing the price of electricity down into record lows, this acts as indirect subsidy for domestic manufacturing. And this is the reason why heavy industry, that is generating real economic growth, is migrating E. G. From France to Germany.

      • Dan Hue

        Please explain how a country can subsidize its entire industry. That is nonsensical. Only individual companies or sectors can be subsidized, at the expense of others (and competitors), but never as a whole. Otherwise, it would be like saying that lowering taxes for all corporations is a subsidy, which clearly it’s not.

        • Jouni Valkonen

          Uh. international trade? does that ring any bells?

          • Dan Hue

            You don’t get it. Technically, when everybody is subsidized, nobody is.

          • Jouni Valkonen

            French manufacturing is not subsidized but German manufacturing is subsidized. Therefore German products have competitive advantage over French products… This is what international trade is.

          • Dan Hue

            I guess we differ on the definition of subsidy. By your standard, it seems that any measure that lowers the cost of doing business in a country (compared to another one) is a subsidy. It presupposes a natural order of things that the government messes with by enacting laws, or at least a duty to harmonize rules between countries (which is not necessarily a bad idea). No doubt that Germany is structuring its system in order to help industry, but isn’t that a good thing? Don’t advanced nations complain that they are losing industry to developing ones?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’ve been wondering about the French industrial subsidy thing.

            French industry pays 6.6 euro cents/kWh before taxes and fees. But we’ve recently heard that it’s costing France 6 cents per kWh to produce electricity from their reactors.

            Sounds to me that the government might be eating some costs. 0.6 cents would not seem to cover distribution costs.

  • No way

    This was a depressing article to read. Barely no reduction of coal. Coal is going almost as strong as ever and there is no real reduction in sight.

    So far the energiwende is nothing but a scam. And the germans and their neighbors pays with their health and lifes from all the pollution and emissions.

    It seems like the plan is to burn every piece of domestic coal before phasing out coal power plants.

    • Martin

      Except that CO 2 emissions keep dropping, which is a good thing!

      • sjc_1

        Germany has coal and wind, so that is what they use. Do wind with LOTS of pumped hydro.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Batteries are likely to beat out PuHS.

          We need to toss out the idea that national boundaries mean anything when it comes to renewable energy. Lots of solar in southern Europe and North Africa. Lots of wind in Northern Europe. Geothermal in Iceland. Hydro where is can be had. Mix and match.

          Many countries now import their oil. Other import their coal. And others import their natural gas. With some doing all of the above. If it works for fossil fuels why are we fighting for each country to be renewable energy independent?

      • mustery

        I suspect some of that can be credited to the population decline.

    • JamesWimberley

      No, it’s to replace nuclear first, then start seriously on coal after 2022. (I know, I know, but that’s what the electorate wants.) However, coal burning already dropped a little in 2014 (link). With all the new wind being installed and continued efficiency gains, this trend will continue. Faster than Gabriel, his fossil generator buddies, and the coal miners would like.

    • Numerbers

      As already said, Germany is going first after nuclear. Just look at the 7th chart. Nuclear was their biggest energy producer.
      So reducing nuclear by this amount, while keeping coal in place and reducing Gas, is actually quite impressive.
      We can ask, if they rather should go after brown coal, but this is their first target.

      • Bob_Wallace

        How about a couple of graphs?

  • zn

    I’m for renewables as much as the next guy, but counting black coal (hard coal) and brown coal as two different energy sources, while combining all renewables into one source, seems to me to be stretching the truth just a little bit too far. While I would love for renewables to be number one, there’s still a whole lot of coal being burned and selectively tweaking the numbers doesn’t really do anything to stop that.

    Just sayin’.

    • Jan Veselý

      This is a German tradition – not mixing black and brown together. They never did that.

      • spec9

        I’m assuming this is a joke. . . . ?

        • Jan Veselý

          Nope.

    • spec9

      Well, it is done because black and brown coal have different pollution output profiles, so this provides a little more information. It is not done to obscure their coal usage (which is what they should be focusing on to reduce).

      • zn

        Well, so does solar and biogas.

  • JamesWimberley

    Giles: “.. and because other plants have learned to be more flexible.” It took a lot of investment. Germany took a lot of stick for building new coal plants, but these were replacements, not net additions, and were more flexible as well as efficient.

    Agora are more or less an arm of the government, so everything is bound to be fine for them.

    If you look at the first chart, you will see that the government corridor for the growth or renewables is linear, while the past is clearly an exponential curve. Fit an exponential trend to this, project it ahead, and renewables bust the corridor in 2016.

    The government’s technocratic problem is that as renewable prices fall, it runs out of instruments to control growth. When residential solar FITs were twice retail electricity prices, cutting the FITs could control the rate of installations. Current residential and commercial FITs are under a half of retail. They have slumped, for no very clear reason. But some day soon they will start rising, as the self-consumption deal looks better and better, especially with a little behind-the-meter storage, How can Gabriel stop the boom? Cutting the FIT to zero will only have a limited effect: rooftop owners will always be able to get a spot wholesale price at worst. The only effective measures would be very drastic ones like penal solar connection charges, which are probably politically infeasible.

    German wind installations in 2014 are well above the corridor: 4.4 GW net onshore, against a corridor target of 2.5 GW (source: Renewables International). Plus a gigawatt of offshore (link). Gabriel must be getting worried.

    • Neptune

      Even if there are penalties for solar connection you can bypass it: just switch between off-grid solar+batteries and grid when you need it.

      This way you’re never directly connected to the grid, but you still use it as a backup.

      Utilities will have to face this problem one way or another. Charges on solar connection won’t help.

      • Steve_R

        Trying to figure out the solution you’re proposing here. I think you are saying install your own solar and batteries to power the house, and have a switch to go to the grid to power your house as needed? But doesn’t this mean you are physically connected to the grid even if drawing no power? I like the solution, but I don’t believe code and regulations will let me do this. As far as I know, I am only permitted to be totally off-grid, or permanently connected, but not switch back and forth. Wouldn’t it be very easy for the utilities to monitor usage and see who is doing this, with large fines and other penalties to follow?

        • Neptune

          “I think you are saying install your own solar and batteries to power the house, and have a switch to go to the grid to power your house as needed?”

          Yes, that’s what I had in mind. I’m not aware of any regulations at the moment that forbid switching between on and off-grid.

          “Wouldn’t it be very easy for the utilities to monitor usage and see who is doing this, with large fines and other penalties to follow?”

          Yes, it would probably be easy to figure it out. But if they impose large fines, then you can just unplug from the grid completely. If solar is not enough 100% of the time (like on cloudy days or in winter), then if you have EV with a decent 50kWh battery, you can just fill it up in public charging stations and bring electricity back home. 😀

          As long as charging stations exist, security of supply is guaranteed. 😀

          • vensonata

            I wonder if they can outlaw an extension cord running to your neighbors house. Off grid with storage and then borrow a cup of electricity from your neighbor from time to time. But if not, then a tiny generator is not a problem, remember you drive in a generator all the time and nobody objects. And a car is a 20 kw generator… that is huge!

      • JamesWimberley

        This is Germany we are talking about, so a hypothetical solar connection charge would very hard to evade. Complete grid defection is always a possibility, and is the ultimate limit to the government’s leverage.

        However, I’m confident that the solar lobby will be strong enough to see off the danger. Remember that after all the fuss surrounding EEG 2, and a full-court press by the fossil fuel industries, residential solar installations entirely escaped the surcharge for self-consumption imposed on commercial and utility ones. In 10 years’ time, renewables will be bigger and politically even stronger, fossil fuels smaller and weaker.

        • Christian Abel

          The energiewende is patently ILLEGAL.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What law or group of laws makes the energiewende illegal?

          • Christian Abel

            Europe competition laws

          • Bob_Wallace

            BS

          • Christian Abel

            BS

          • Christian Abel

            You a pathetic moron

    • Jenny Sommer

      Repowering isn’t counted in as well because they are no new installations technically. That alone will push the growth well over the corridor next year.
      Biomass otoh was under corridor targets.

  • Will E

    Germany makes about 20 billion a year by production of solar and wind power. and more solar and wind will make more billions for Germany.
    when EV kicksin and and germany adaps EV powered by solar and wind many billions of profits will be added every year.
    German economy getting stonger by installing Solar and Wind.

    • onesecond

      I don’t know about the exact numer, but there are tons of studies that when you count all the externalites renewables save you a ton of money. Not deploying them is burning tax payer money in a furnace.

      • Christian Abel

        “all the externalites” = handwaving and crackpotism

        • Bob_Wallace

          US taxpayers fork out between $140 billion and $242 billion each year to cover the health damage caused by coal.

          http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/tallying-coals-hidden-cost/

          Coal-fired power stations cost the European Union up to €42.8 billion a year in health costs associated with coal-fired power stations. ‘The Unpaid Health Bill: How coal power plants make us sick’ — found that EU-wide impacts amount to more than 18,200 premature deaths, about 8,500 new cases of chronic bronchitis, and over four million lost working days each year.

          The total costs are up to €54.7 billion annually when emissions from coal power plants in Croatia, Serbia and Turkey are included.

          http://www.evwind.es/2013/05/03/coals-hidden-health-costs-40-billion-euros-a-year/32333

          What kind of crackpot would oppose installing renewables and shutting down coal?

          • Christian Abel

            NYTimes = socialist frausters

            “What kind of crackpot would oppose installing renewables and shutting down coal?”

            You mean installing costly unreliables and shutting down cheap reliables.

            This is CRA-ZY.

            (Unless by renewables you mean nuclear energy.)

          • Christian Abel

            By renewables, you mean unreliables like wind.

            These needs fossil “back up”. The “back up” runs all the time and produces most of the energy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, we can fill in around wind with solar, geothermal, biomass, biogas, hydro, tidal, storage and load-shifting.

            We do need “spinning reserve” to back up coal and nuclear because there is no way to predict with a large thermal plant will go off line without notice.

            Wind and solar are very predictable. There is no need to keep backup generation spinning on a sunny day or when the wind is predicted to blow for several hours.

            Spinning reserve produces no energy,. It simply uses enough energy to keep turbines spinning.

            Now, I need to tell you something. Spread much more FUD and you will be shown the door.

          • Christian Abel

            Bullshit

          • Christian Abel

            You are a full of shit

        • onesecond

          I have never heard of any scientist that denied the existence of external costs of coal fired plants.
          But go ahead, move next to a coal fired plant or a coal mine. Bring your children and take a deep breath, I won’t stop you.

          • Christian Abel

            Lame!

          • Christian Abel

            Just because these costs exist doesn’t mean we can get a reliable estimate.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’ve got a pretty good handle on the health costs

            In 2014 the US generated 1,585,697 million kWh of electricity from coal. That’s 1,585,697,000 MWh.

            Estimates of the cost of health damage caused by coal run from $140 billion to $242 billion per year.

            http://chge.med.harvard.edu/re

            $140 billion / 1,585,697,000 MWh = $88.3/MWh or $0.09/kWh.

            $242 billion / 1,585,697,000 MWh = $152.6/MWh or $0.15/kWh.

            So health costs of coal run between 9 cents and 15 cents per kWh.

            Environmental damage and climate change damage add in on top.

          • Christian Abel

            Estimates of the health benefits of cheap energy?

          • onesecond

            Certainly reliable enough to get it that coal and nuclear are an economically bad idea.

          • Christian Abel

            You are not making sense.

      • Christian Abel

        The externalities of wind and solar are huge.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Please spell out the external costs of wind and solar,

          • Christian Abel

            You have actually demonstrated one: depressed energy market prices.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Lower cost electricity is an “external cost”.

            That is totally idiotic. You have nothing of value to add to this site, just go away.

          • Christian Abel

            lol you are fucking retarded.

            You are the typical anti-human watermelon.

            You are too stupid to use the Internet.

        • onesecond

          Compared to coal fired plants, coal mining, nuclear plants, waste and mining they are totally neglectable.

          • Christian Abel

            Nuclear is the cleanest form of energy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Wrong.

            We’ve got 15,000 uranium mines in the US that we need to clean up. We have millions of gallons and millions of tons of radioactive waste.

            Nuclear doesn’t even have as low a lifetime carbon footprint as wind and solar.

          • Christian Abel

            BS
            What clean up is needed?

          • onesecond

            Not at all. Uran mining and nuclear waste cause horrendous pollution for millenia. And even when not accounting for that or accidents it is prohibitively expensive.

          • Christian Abel

            What pollution?

      • Christian Abel

        This is just fantasy.

        You cannot power a modern economy with only renewables.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Sorry. Just takes storage and some dispatchable generation to fill in around the gaps.

          BTW, powering a modern economy with nuclear requires storage and dispatchable generation.

          • Christian Abel

            Does not.

        • onesecond

          Of course you can, there is no reason to believe otherwise.

          • Christian Abel

            I see, it’s a matter of beliefs, of religion…

    • tibi stibi

      unbelievable that we, the dutch, have such a good example as a neighbour and still almost don’t have any renewable’s :'(

      • spec9

        Really? I know Demark has a lot of wind turbines . . . you don’t? I mean really . . . windmills are a stereotype Dutch thing.

        And you do have some solar PV.

        • Neptune

          Dutch = Netherlands’ people

          Danes = Denmark’s people

          Two different countries.

          • spec9

            Yes, that is why a contrasted nearby Denmark with a lot of wind turbines and the Dutch not.

        • tibi stibi

          yes really :'(

          i personally have solar but Holland has little

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