The Chaos of German ‘Renewable’ Energy

I have been detailing the disaster of Germany’s dash for renewables, and the problem is now spilling over to Germany’s neighbours. I picked up this story from a translation of a Die Welt article at GWPF:

Germany considers itself the environmental conscience of the world: with its nuclear phase-out and its green energy transition, the federal government wanted to give the world a model to follow. However, blinded by its own halo Germany overlooked that others have to pay for this green image boost and are suffering as a result.

For example, Germany’s ‘eco-miracle’ simply used the power grids of neighboring countries not only without asking for permission but also without paying for it. Now Poland and the Czech Republic have pulled the plug and are building a huge switch-off at their borders to block the uninvited import of green energy from Germany which is destabalising their grids and is thus risking blackouts.

The problem is detailed further here, under the catchy title of ‘German Renewables Run Amuck’:

Germany allows any family to put a solar power unit on its roof and start feeding its output into its own house and thereby replace public power supply. Initially, the panels on the roofs fed cheap electricity into the grid and brought down the costs. But soon there were too many. On bright, sunny days, those families were generating anything up to 30 gigawatts of electricity and feeding it into the grid. The result was massive surges in the grid. There was not enough demand for the power, and Germany exported power to Poland at such times. That destabilised the Polish grid, and Poland is now installing equipment to stop power inflows from Germany. In Germany itself, the midday surge in power reduced the demand for power from conventional plants, which are no longer profitable, so no one is prepared to invest in conventional power plants.

And more detail again here:

One impact from rising intermittent German wind power generation in the north of the country is of electricity spilling into neighboring networks en route back into southern Germany or Austria, called loop flows.

Another is of rising exports of cheaper, intermittent power, undercutting the economics of baseload power in Germany’s neighbors.

The interesting point here is that the undercutting has been spun as being a result of cheaper German energy prices as a result of them shifting to renewables:

Moreover, by blocking the German access to their grid, they prevent Germany companies from selling their electricity, which is cheaper than that of the Central Europeans, to Austria.

“This is what it’s really all about,” says Rainer Baake, director of the think tank Agora Energiewende and former high-ranking official in the German environmental ministry. “Germany’s increase in clean energy has led to Germany’s wholesale electricity prices becoming cheaper and cheaper. Now it’s less expensive to import electricity from Germany than to produce it in coal fired power plants in Eastern Europe – let alone to build new nuclear power plants.”

I took a look at a translation of the Agora website, and they are a think tank dedicated to advocacy for renewable energy. This is the situation of German energy costs in relation to the rest of Europe:

The global average for the cost of one megawatt hour of electricity is around 23 euros ($31). In Germany, the same runs about 45 euros ($60) – making electricity here the second-most expensive in Europe (after Denmark).

As a note, Denmark has also rushed into wind energy. So it not that Germany is creating cheap electricity, but rather that intermittent energy leads Germany to simply dump their excess on their neighbours, as they absolutely have to remove it from their own grid, or risk a collapse of their own grid. This then exports the problem to other countries, who then have to deal with the consequences of power peaks from Germany, as well as the impact of their dumping on the economics of their own energy sector. It is no wonder that these neighbours are up in arms over the issue. It is a very simple issue; they are importing problems of intermittency that are not of their own making. It seems that if Germany wants to go down their own mad route to renewables, those who are following their own policy of generating reliable energy should not pay the price.

In addition to the fundamental problems of renewables again becoming evident, the reaction of renewable energy advocates is revealing. The claim that the reason for the problems being ‘cheap’ German renewable energy is simply laughable. Nevertheless, it appears in a report on the issue without any reference to the sky high energy prices within Germany. The high energy prices in Germany are now really starting to develop acute problems for the German economy. This is a passage from one of the articles cited earlier:

The path toward an energy policy that everyone can agree on is a bumpy one, which particularly economists are increasingly worrying about. The German industrial sector accounts for 24 percent of the gross domestic product; many of its businesses have high electricity consumption.

Every second one of these businesses associates the ongoing energy sector with a decline in competitiveness, according to Hans-Heinrich Driftman, a businessman and head of the Federation of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce.

Driftman said almost all businesses should expect higher electricity bills for 2013, compared to 2012. He said passing on to the consumers the costs for funding renewable energies his company’s bill will increase from 300,000 euros ($398,000) to 450,000 euros ($598,000).

“With these amounts of money, as a businessman I have to think about where I can make some cuts,” Driftman said.

Indeed, I have posted on this subject several times. In many of the posts, it is apparent that there is increasing alarm over the cost of Germany’s renewable energy policy by businesses in Germany. I recently posted on renewable cost exemptions being made to certain businesses, but this just hides the kind of business closures that garner headlines, rather than the gradual erosion of competitiveness that comes with renewable energy. For every Euro not paid by the exempted businesses, someone somewhere is making up the difference:

Since Spenner’s company is registered as an “energy-intensive business,” his electricity bill is exempt from the rollover costs of renewable energy production. These costs are made up of government-guaranteed reimbursements to the energy producers based on the amount of electricity they feed into the grid coming from renewable sources.

These extra costs, which shall be passed on to consumers, are estimated to amount to 23 billion euros ($31 billion) for 2013. This means that each electricity consumer will pay an extra 5.28 cent per kilowatt hour.

But Spenner wonders how long the government can afford sticking to its promise of exempting businesses such as his from the extra costs. “We’re worried when we see how private households are being maneuvered into opposing energy-intensive sectors. This should not be the case, because if we weren’t exempt, we’d be facing an existential problem.”

In addition to Germany facing problems, the problems are broader than Germany. The push towards renewable energy and the anti-fracking policies throughout Europe are now seeing interest from European companies to relocate to the US, where the fracking revolution has seen diving energy costs. This from the New York Times:

LONDON — On Dec. 19, Voestalpine, an Austrian maker of high-quality steel for the auto industry, announced that it would build a plant in North America that would employ natural gas to reduce iron ore to a kind of raw iron that would then be used in the company’s European blast furnaces.

Asked whether he had considered building the plant in Europe, Voestalpine’s chief executive, Wolfgang Eder, said that that “calculation does not make sense from the very beginning.” Gas in Europe is much more expensive, he said.

High energy costs are emerging as an issue in Europe that is prompting debate, including questioning of the Continent’s clean energy initiatives. Over the past few years, Europe has spent tens of billions of euros in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The bulk of the spending has gone into low-carbon energy sources like wind and solar power that have needed special tariffs or other subsidies to be commercially viable.

“We embarked on a big transition to a low-carbon economy without taking into account the cost and without factoring in the competitive impact,” says Fabien Roques, head of European power and carbon at the energy consulting firm IHS CERA in Paris. “I think there will be a critical review of some of these policies in the next few years.”

Both consumers and the industry are upset about high energy costs. Energy-intensive industries like chemicals and steel are, if not closing European plants outright, looking toward places like the United States that have lower energy costs as they pursue new investments.

Germany has now grabbed the lead in the transition to renewable energy. Unlike a country like New Zealand, they have been able to export their problems to their neighbours, at least for the moment. New Zealand has no such neighbours. However, in addition to Germany’s neighbours bearing the price of the intermittency of German energy, they have to deal with their own problems; an increasingly uncompetitive energy industry in Europe overall. This is down to the ‘green’ objections to fracking and renewables policies, and they will pay a price in jobs and their manufacturing output.

As I have said in previous posts, the ‘green’ renewables future is not now just in the future, but is becoming a reality. That reality is very straightforward. It is an increase in the cost of living and a declining economy. It is folly beyond belief, and New Zealand is endorsing this madness in its own dash for ‘renewable’ expensive, intermittent, and economically damaging energy. When is the New Zealand government going to wake up from its disastrous and politically correct dash for renewables? I simply despair.

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10 responses to “The Chaos of German ‘Renewable’ Energy

  1. There’s a few issues with NZ’s wind industry that are different to Europe, and some parts I am unclear on.

    You state correctly that NZ has no neighbours on which to dump excess energy. yet we do have an abundance of hydro power which I think can be ramped up and down to match wind output.
    The question I have here, is what benefit does this actually offer? Does it increase the actual generation capability of the grid, or does it just shift the load from hydro to wind and save some water in the process?
    Secondly, we keep hearing that NZ has no subsidies for wind. I find it a little hard to believe that wind can actually be profitable and therefore attract investment with this in mind. Furthermore, is this actually true? Are there hidden subsidies and incentives that we don’t hear about?
    I saw a Deloitte’s report on wind in NZ which suggested that wind here is a very marginal investment. Given that some new reports are suggesting that the lifetime of a wind turbine is much less than originally thought, this might suggest that wind will never be profitable in NZ.
    I am assuming that investment in wind relies on a fairly high price on CO2 via the ETS – thereby pushing up the cost of power across the board – to make it long term profitable. Either that, or fossil fuels become more expensive therefore making wind more attractive as an investment

    I can’t see either of these scenarios playing out in the near term, as the ETS carbon price has bottomed out to around $2 and shale gas makes gas generation relatively cheap

    • All good points and questions. As I understand the situation, it is the making more expensive answer that must be operating here, + the burying of hidden costs such as new transmission. Thanks for the link to the item in the Mail. I also picked that point up somewhere else, but forget where.

  2. The comment I made about wind turbines not lasting as long as previously thought is referenced in this Daily Mail article

    It was a report by Prof Gordon Hughes

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  4. John F. Hultquist

    Here is a link to the study about the wear and tear on turbines and their lifespan:

    http://www.ref.org.uk/press-releases/281-wearnandntearnhitsnwindnfarmnoutputnandneconomicnlifetime

    Also,

    http://notrickszone.com/

    . . . frequently covers EU wind farms (windparks) and the problems and often translates from German. The current article is one such.

    Happy New Year,
    John

  5. John F. Hultquist

    Just an off topic comment:
    I just noticed an interesting juxtaposition on the web site of the NZ Herald. There are 2 articles by Laura Mills:
    #1 Wednesday Jun 27, 2012
    Fifty-year snowfall on ‘temperate’ Coast
    #2 Monday Jul 9, 2012
    Franz Josef Glacier’s ‘rapid’ retreat (+photos)

    The 2nd one seems to appear because of a current story about “An advertisement for Franz Josef glacier on the back of a Queenstown bus and showed a builder’s bottom, has been removed after a complaint.”
    This is by the same writer, so apparently as one looks at the current one links are shown to the others. Another story is here:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8141825/Bum-ad-pulled-after-complaint

    This last story is funny but the odd heavy snow and retreat of the glacier might be worth investigation.

  6. Mark Lynas has an interesting post up on this topic

    http://www.marklynas.org/2013/01/germanys-energiewende-the-story-so-far/

    This statement of his stood out to me:

    My conclusion so far is that unfortunately Germany’s ‘renewables revolution’ is at best making no difference to the country’s carbon emissions, and at worst pushing them marginally upwards. Thus, tens (or even hundreds, depending on who you believe) of billions of euros are being spent on expensive solar PV and wind installations for no climatic benefit whatsoever.

  7. Pingback: German Firms Flee to U.S. to Avoid Staggering “Green” Energy Costs

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