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The Coming German Energy Crisis

An overcommitment to renewables has already had negative consequences.

Recently, I came across a report by Fritz Vahrenholt, Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Hamburg, entitled Germany's Energiewende: a disaster in the making. It made for interesting reading.

In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the German government decided to shut down its 19 nuclear power stations, which supply nearly 30 percent of the country's electrical power, by 2022. Driven by social pressure, the German government now plans to get rid of all fossil fuels, thus increasing the share of renewable energy to 95 percent of total energy supply by 2050.

To accomplish its goal, the government has introduced a "renewable" levy on power bills, thus doubling the price of electricity. This additional cost amounts to €25 billion ($26.8 billion) annually. In a nod to rationality, the government has exempted energy-intensive industries (steel, copper and chemicals) from the renewable levy, thus maintaining their competitiveness.

There have been no blackouts so far, Vahrenholt argues, because of "typical German over-engineering of its grid, which was set up with a very wide safety margin. Even if a power line or a power station fails, the power supply remains secure, at least for now."

Moreover, Germany has nine neighbors with whom power can be exchanged. Surplus can be sold to the neighbors' electricity grids on sunny or windy days. In return, Austrian oil-fired power stations, Polish coal plants, and French and Czech nuclear power stations, provide stability when German renewables fall short.

This is a situation unique to Germany. If the Energiewende were to happen in the UK, for example, the electricity system would have imploded already. As things stand, there is currently no political party in Germany that opposes the Energiewende in parliament.

Nevertheless, the report argues, a crisis is coming. The problem with German drive toward renewable energy is not capacity, but intermittency. If for example the capacity for wind energy were to triple, then there would be a huge oversupply of wind energy on windy days and an energy shortage when there is no wind.

One way to cope with this volatility is to establish a backup system based on fossil fuels with dramatic economic and environmental consequences. Alternatively, the government could dramatically expand the nation's energy storage capacity, but the needed technologies are still prohibitively expensive.

Furthermore, wind parks and other renewables sometimes oversupply energy so much that they have to be temporarily taken off the grid. Yet the producers still get paid under German law—even if they produce no energy whatsoever. The cost of this particular scheme amounts to €1 billion per year.

Even so, the oversupply sometimes becomes so large that the price for energy turns negative and Germany has to release its excess power onto the grids of neighboring countries and pay for them to take it!

Also, wind is more abundant in the north of Germany than in the south. As such, according to the report, a "total of 6100 km of cable will have to be built by the time the last nuclear power stations shut in 2022. 400 km have been given the go-ahead and 80 km have been built, just 1.3% of the intended total. The government underestimated the opposition that their plans would meet. Building power lines on this scale has brought protests like those against nuclear power in the past."

Renewables are also the most land-demanding form of energy generation, threatening biodiversity in Germany. Transforming grassland into corn monocultures to produce bio fuel and the increase of wind turbines has led to an appalling reduction of songbirds and bats in Germany.

If Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, wins this year's election, she might wish to continue on the current course towards economic disaster, because a serious move away from the Energiewende would be seen as an admission of a mistake. If she is defeated, the new government might find it convenient to opt for a policy correction. In either case, it will take a long time to repair the serious damage caused by the current German energy policy.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...Austrian oil-fired power stations, Polish coal plants, and French and Czech nuclear power stations, provide stability when German renewables fall short.

    Well, that doesn't seem very green.

  • timbo||

    I know right? All this stability stuff does is allow for prosperity in developed economies and the aggregated wealth to expend of the environment.

    What we should have is no cheap energy or progress, then we can have clean streets and booming investment like all of those third world countries that are so clean and without rife corruption.

    Just like the failures of communism, the examples are many that show that cheap energy and wealth through sound investment(capitalism) is the only way you are going to see clean environments.
    All of the sjw douches and green morons need to be stuck in a third world country for a week to understand how great fossil fuels are for mankind.

  • Ron||

    How many wind mills and solar panels will be needed to run one steel mill. I'm thinking every single one on the planet.

  • timbo||

    Read this guy's stuff about the viability of fossil fuels vs everything else. Of course he is a shill for the oil industry but I cannot find any proof that he is wrong.

    Robert Bryce at the Manhattan Institute.

  • Ron||

    thanks for the info just read one

  • Snort||

    Somewhere there is a article that says (not an exact quote): If you cover the entire state of Arizona with solar cells, you will generate enough electricity to supply the entire needs of the United States. Obviously this is not practical, since a large storm could cover the state during the day. Night would be a problem as well. So yes, it is possible to run a steel mill on wind and/or solar.

  • JayWye||

    it's not really possible (nor practical),because steel furnaces require power for long periods of time,they don't shut down at night,they would cool off too much. And by the time there were just getting to steelmaking temperatures,the sun or wind would go down and they'd begin cooling. Solar and wind are only practical for limited,special applications.

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    Certainly explains why incumbent German politicians are scared shitless of the EU collapsing.

  • Jerryskids||

    The government underestimated the opposition that their plans would meet. Building power lines on this scale has brought protests like those against nuclear power in the past."

    That ought to give you a hint that the real objection isn't to a particular form of energy use, it's a general objection to Mankind altogether. You can't appease or bargain with somebody who won't settle for anything less than your extermination.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    You know who else wouldn't settle for anything less than extermination?

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Reverend Jim Jones?

  • NealAppeal||

    Delbert McClintock?

  • Diane Merriam||

    The FBI?

  • Longtobefree||

    The DNC?

  • BYODB||

    The Dalek's?

  • Robbzilla||

    The Orkin Man?

  • mtrueman||

    "You can't appease or bargain with somebody who won't settle for anything less than your extermination."

    If you are not willing to adapt, then why expect to survive? You may be frightened at the prospect of living without power lines, but survival is possible. Our cave-dwelling ancestors managed it since coming down from trees and walking upright.

  • Unable2Reason||

    But who would watch my TV?

  • Nuwanda||

    What a bizarre reply. Are you suggesting we should give a non-industrial society a serious try? That Man used to live a primitive existence has nothing to do with desiring a more advanced, industrial civilisation.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It's worth remembering that one of the reasons Germany can afford to do this is because they only pay about half of their NATO security commitment. Germany spends about 1.2% of its GDP on defense, but as with all NATO countries, they're committed to spending 2% of their GDP on defense.

    They'd rather spend money on asylum seekers, bailing out Greece, and renewable energy, so why should Germany spend their own money on defense when they can effectively take that money out of Americans' paychecks instead? We're going to defend them regardless of whether they pay up, anyway, right?

  • Karen24||

    Germany's lack of defense spending was a feature of NATO and in no way a bug. Things may have changed enough in the last sixty years so that the rest of Europe accepts a larger German military under exclusive German control, but then again, they may not.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Germany is by no means unique in this regard. The only NATO countries that are in compliance with their NATO spending commitments are Greece, Poland, Estonia, and the UK.

    We're not afraid of Canada, France, or the Netherlands invading the rest of Europe, are we? And yet none of them are paying their fair share in compliance with their NATO commitments either.

    Germany's failure to live up to their spending commitments has nothing to do with what happened 60 years ago and everything to do with moral hazard. Why spend our own money when the U.S. taxpayer will carry us for free?

  • Conchfritters||

    I agree - - put yourself in Germany's shoes - Would you let the US taxpayer bankrupt themselves to defend every piece of dirt on the planet? You bet.

  • jack sprat||

    Defend them from what?
    (despite best efforts from Mainstream, I think the Cold War ended).

  • Gadfly||

    Even if we dropped our defense of them, it would be rather meaningless, as who would attack them? The only nation in Europe with the belligerence and the military strength to go invading neighbors is Russia, and Poland, who is meeting their obligations to NATO, stands in the way of Russia getting to Germany. I still think we should declare that we won't defend anyone who isn't meeting their obligations, but such a move would be more symbolic than practical, as we'd still be spending the same amount on European defenses to cover the responsible NATO members and run our forward operating bases that support our Mideast forays.

  • Longtobefree||

    "Poland, who is meeting their obligations to NATO, stands in the way of Russia getting to Germany"
    You want to think that one through? How did it work out the last time?

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Even if we dropped our defense of them, it would be rather meaningless, as who would attack them? The only nation in Europe with the belligerence and the military strength to go invading neighbors is Russia, and Poland, who is meeting their obligations to NATO, stands in the way of Russia getting to Germany.

    Germany is a valuable prize. Of course, countries wouldn't directly attack it, since that would destroy its value. But they can far more meaningfully threaten Germany: "Nice economy/country you have there, shame if something happened to it. Now, how about some trade concessions?"

    Just as likely: "How about ganging up on those evil Americans together, don't you hate them too?"

  • granite state destroyer||

    The sensible thing would be to reduce the NATO commitment to 1% of GDP.

  • Conchfritters||

    And reduce our defense spending to 1% of GDP - - we would still outspend every country on earth by a large margin.

  • Careless||

    Only slightly above China's nominally, actually, and well below in PPP,

  • Paloma||

    So screw 'em. Or is schadenfreude cultural appropriation?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Germany's Energiewende: a disaster in the making. ...

    In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the German government decided to shut down its 19 nuclear power stations, which supply nearly 30 percent of the country's electrical power, by 2022. Driven by social pressure, the German government now plans to get rid of all fossil fuels, thus increasing the share of renewable energy to 95 percent of total energy supply by 2050.

    A disaster of their own making, IOW. Hoisted by their own retard.

    a "total of 6100 km of cable will have to be built by the time the last nuclear power stations shut in 2022. 400 km have been given the go-ahead and 80 km have been built, just 1.3% of the intended total. The government underestimated the opposition that their plans would meet. Building power lines on this scale has brought protests like those against nuclear power in the past."

    They're protesting fucking power lines? Really? What the fuck is wrong with German people? Have they always been this stupid, or is this a new development?

  • Gadfly||

    Well, land is at a premium in Germany, so I could see how building power lines, wind farms, and solar arrays at a massive scale would not go over well with whoever will be losing their ancestral home as a sacrifice on the altar of Gaia. The power lines in question would have to be transmission lines, which usually have a large ROW (~50ft wide in the US), so I'd approximate that the 6100 km of power lines would require the taking of over 22,600 acres (9,000 hectares) of land.

  • Garth Bigelow||

    Plus the farm land for the biofuel and the land for wind farms and solar arrays on a massive scale. And no one is talking about the dumping sights for the failed solar cells (seriously dangerous materials and MTBF of 3-5 years) which is already becoming a problem in the US and we barely use solar energy. And then there are the failed storage batteries which I know less about but I doubt last longer and have some fairly toxic chemicals as well. And I see to remember articles about materials needed that the planet just doesn't have enough of. But technology may have progressed around that.

  • Nuwanda||

    Hoisted by their own retard.

    Nice.

    They're protesting fucking power lines? Really? What the fuck is wrong with German people? Have they always been this stupid, or is this a new development?

    The Volk movement. Communing with nature. Teutonic mythology. Look it up. The Nazis tapped into it, co-opted it, actually. It's a huge force in the German psyche. Green movements are strong in Germany and always have been. When the Iron Curtain fell and Green ideology replaced it, the Germans were ripe for the picking. The wonderful industrial expansion they enjoyed is now on the chopping block. But like all such peoples (which includes most of the West) they have no idea that their chosen philosophy and their material comfort are at odds with each other. They'll learn. Slowly. Painfully. We all will.

  • magellannh||

    This article gets everything wrong about the Germans. Their culture is very different from ours and the fact that paying double for electricity isn't opposed by any of the major political parties should tell you something.

    This article completely misses a key point. The German culture thrives on solving tough engineering challenges. IMO, that's a major driver behind this crazy seeming push toward renewables.

    Germany's embrace of these impossible seeming goals is more about national pride in their engineering prowess than environmentalism.

    When everyone said it's impossible to run a grid with more than 20% intermittent sources, the Germans took the bet. Within a few years they engineered a reliable grid that could run on 50% renewables.

    I'd put the odds of failure for Germanany solving this challenge at 0%. The smart money doesn't bet on German engineering failure.

  • Terr||

    You may be right about this. And the Germans will pay through the nose for it.

  • steve walsh||

    As long as they don't go poking around in my nose for payment then I won't object.

  • Sevo||

    "When everyone said it's impossible to run a grid with more than 20% intermittent sources, the Germans took the bet. Within a few years they engineered a reliable grid that could run on 50% renewables."

    From the article:
    " In return, Austrian oil-fired power stations, Polish coal plants, and French and Czech nuclear power stations, provide stability when German renewables fall short."
    Reality isn't optional.

  • Terr||

    My interpretation of that bit was "fall short" referred to when the wind died down and the clouds blocked the sun, significantly reducing the amount of energy produced by renewables and requiring supply from elsewhere.

    magellannh's statement seems to refer to the grid's capability to handle the intermittency without failure. Which, according to the original article, seems to be true so far... at significant cost.

  • magellannh||

    A significant portion of Germany's imports are a result of the inflexibility of coal and nuclear generation.

    Base load plants incur high shut down and curtail costs. So when demand slacks, say in the early morning, wholesale prices often go negative because base load plant operators are willing to pay someone to take their output to avoid shutdown and restart costs.

    Wind generation is flexible and output can easily be curtailed during periods of over supply and negative prices.

    So what happens when there's an oversupply of base load is that wind generation owners in Germany curtail output to avoid paying the negative prices, which increases imports.

  • JWatts||

    "Wind generation is flexible and output can easily be curtailed during periods of over supply and negative prices."

    That's laughably wrong.

  • timbo||

    Or maybe its because Germans, like all other Europeans, are mostly brainwashed socialists and they bought this scheme hook, line, and sinker.

    All of this crap sounded cute and nice when debt to GDP was not over 100% for most of Europe and the US for that matter.

    Debt fueled expansions of social programs always run out of steam and result in massive bankruptcies.

    Whether that is for Social Security in the US, bloated pension schemes in Greece, or 100% subsidized green energy schemes every where else. There is no return on investment for this crap which means it always fails.

    Capital investment must make positive returns in the real world. The profit motive is the only thing that the energy world should be focusing on. So should go every other industry.

  • Brandybuck||

    Sounds nice on paper, but in reality they will just import coal and petroleum based energy. The lights of the Bundestag must stay lit!

  • GILMORE™||

    I'd put the odds of failure for Germanany solving this challenge at 0%. The smart money doesn't bet on German engineering failure.

    What does "Success" look like? Making minor reductions in growth of carbon-emissions *super expensive* and inefficient?

    Most German emissions-reduction so far has come from Natural Gas. And if they'd simply kept their nuclear capacity online, they could have reduced their emissions vastly more than they have, with far lower costs.

    Relying on 'renewables' just so you can say you've met some arbitrary target isn't a challenge worth succeeding at. If the ostensible goal is to become less polluting, nuclear and nat-gas are vastly superior solutions, and come with the added benefit of not draining huge amounts of capital in the process.

  • magellannh||

    You're joking right?

    While ng is often an economically viable and much cleaner alternative to coal, especially in the US, nuclear isn't even in the running as far as its economics goes.

    Google "Lazard LCOE 10.0" and look at the first chart in the report to see how nuclear does in term of its levelized cost of energy.

    Nuclear is so expensive that in the US, plant operators can't even cover their opEx on fully paid for plants. Many are choosing to shut the plants down early because it's uneconomic to keep them open and they don't see any improvement on the horizon. Sure, this is mostly due to cheap ng, but now even unsubsidized wind is seriously undercutting nuclear, often coming in at under $40 per MWh.

  • GILMORE™||

    You're dodging the point

    if the goal of the Energiewende was to reduce emissions, its a terrible + idiotic approach.

    You seem to think that the reason nuclear was/is being phased out is because of cost. That's complete bullshit. Its because of political demands.

  • magellannh||

    Nuclear is dead because of the fatal combination of having a high base cost and having a high tail risk.

    Markets and people are terrible at pricing tail risk and tend to oscillate between underpricing it and overpricing it. Today I'd say Germans are over-pricing that risk.
    However, even if the cost of the tail risk is completely ignored, nuclear just can't make the cut economically.

    I'd contend that if nuclear generation was highly cost competitive, say coming in around the cost of coal, it would undoubtedly be part of the next-gen mix despite the Fukushima freak out.

  • GILMORE™||

    More handwaving.

    No one decided to phase out nuclear because of any cost-analysis. The decisions were entirely political, and you're pretending post-facto that it had some reasonable basis.

    The point which you keep pretending doesn't exist is that the Energiewende was a gigantic waste of money that has produced scant reductions in emissions. and that if the goal was to reduce emissions in a cost-effective way, the way they have so-far done it has served mostly as a lesson in "what not to do"

    Everything you say is just an attempt to paper-over a shitty boondoggle

  • GILMORE™||

    unsubsidized wind

    In germany there is no such thing as "unsubsidized" anything.

    Half the price of electricity in Germany is taxes and surcharges to pay for their green boondoggle.

    And that huge social-cost imposed on the economy, money stripped from industry and from consumers, is yielding almost zero actual reduction in their net-emissions, because of the inefficiencies/unreliability of the new capacity they've added.

    If the goal was to reduce emissions effectively, and get 'greener'.... shutting down nuclear plants and increasing coal demand (which is what has happened), while using hundreds of billions of other-people's-money to engage in some Green-Tech experiment.... has been the worst possible way of going about that goal.

    Which goes back to my first point = "Success" here is basically a big fat nothing. They've spent enormous sums of money transitioning to a less-reliable and complex system with very little real tangible environmental benefit. Its effectively been a lesson to everyone else in "what NOT to do".

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    Many are choosing to shut the plants down early because it's uneconomic to keep them open

    ... at the government-forced rates they can charge. It's cheaper to use fossil fuels and pay whatever pollution fines are levied than to deliver nuclear power at politicized rates.

    The only area where Germans excel is in arrogance.

  • magellannh||

    Actually, that part of my comment is about what's happening in the US and it doesn't have anything to do wiht government-forced rates. The nukes just can't compete with ultra-cheap fracked ng.

  • ||

    The only area where Germans excel is in arrogance.

    Yeah, Germany isn't known for solving tough engineering problems nearly as much as spending top dollar on engineering problems that don't exactly need top dollar to be solved (if they need solved at all). It literally cost them the war. Twice.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    This article completely misses a key point. The German culture thrives on solving tough engineering challenges. [...] When everyone said it's impossible to run a grid with more than 20% intermittent sources, the Germans took the bet. Within a few years they engineered a reliable grid that could run on 50% renewables.

    Engineering is about achieving the best results under given constraints. Building something that performs moderately better than what others build at several times the cost isn't good engineering.

    I'd put the odds of failure for Germanany solving this challenge at 0%. The smart money doesn't bet on German engineering failure.

    You aren't betting on "German engineering", you are betting on the average German's willingness to sacrifice personal wealth and happiness for the glory of the German state. It's probably a good bet that Germans continue to act stupid like that, but that's no reason that we should follow suit.

  • magellannh||

    Maybe it was their Apollo program, who knows.

    Anyhow, it doesn't much matter now that the cost of wind and solar have dropped so much so fast.

    The role of renewables in thwarting climate change is a side show, while the stunning drop in cost is the main event.

    Grids everywhere are at the beginning of a full out transformation to account for the new economics of new ultra low-cost generation. The old model of cheap base-load with more expensive but flexible generation layered on top is being turned upside down because these renewable sources are now cheaper than the base load.

    Check out the Lazard LCOE 10.0 report that I mentioned down thread.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Anyhow, it doesn't much matter now that the cost of wind and solar have dropped so much so fast. ... Grids everywhere are at the beginning of a full out transformation to account for the new economics of new ultra low-cost generation.

    If you look at the cost of, say, solar PV, it has been following a steady price decline since 1980. The idea that anything has "dropped fast" or that there are "new economics" are ludicrous. Other alternative energy sources are similar.

    At the current rate, alternative energy sources may become competitive in some areas in the 2020s. Even then, they have significant environmental impact, including carbon emissions.

    Check out the Lazard LCOE 10.0 report that I mentioned down thread.

    I suggest checking out the actual scientific literature, instead of going by Bermuda investment firms.

  • magellannh||

    Lazard's annual LCOE report is a respected resource used by everyone in the business.

    Here's what another widely followed industry publication had to say about the report:

    "On an unsubsidized basis, Lazard estimated the LCOE of land-based wind to be between $32/MWh and $62/MWh, lower than that of a combined cycle natural gas plant, which came in at between $48/MWh and $78/MWh."

    Link: https://goo.gl/0aKxs7

  • magellannh||

    btw, that 2011 report you cited mentioned that a possibility that cost decline trend could be picking up significantly. The article said that First Solar surprised everyone with a very aggressive production cost estimate of $.50 per watt by 2016.

    They actually hit $.40 per watt in 2016 and are now estimating $.25 per watt within 3 or so years.

    I'll say it again. The drop in the costs of renewables is truly staggering and well outside the range of even the most optimistic projections from a few years ago.

  • JayWye||

    it doesn't matter how cheap solar panels are,if they can't produce power when it's actually needed. and they can't.
    the same goes for wind power.

  • Nuwanda||

    The German culture thrives on solving tough engineering challenges. IMO, that's a major driver behind this crazy seeming push toward renewables.

    Rubbish.

    If something is desired by the people, and the culture of those people "thrives on solving tough engineering challenges", why does the state need to be involved with its mandates, regulations, disincentives, subsidies, etc?

    The problem isn't an engineering one, the Germans have made that clear. They believe--and their actions prove it--that it's a regulatory one.

  • Sevo||

    Prediction:
    The 2020 Benz automobiles will be built in Poland.

  • ||

  • Sevo||

    I knew it wasn't going to be Germany.

  • Apostate Jew||

    This article is remarkably stupid and the comments more so.

    Bet against the Germans if you like, I merely note that my electricity service in Germany was completely reliable, unlike that in the United States. The only place I have had worse service than the United States is Bangladesh.

  • Terr||

    I have only experienced a few power outages living in Texas (North and Central). All were due to extreme weather damaging local equipment. I'll take that considering how cheap it is.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "All were due to extreme weather damaging local equipment. I'll take that considering how cheap it is."

    And weather differences show that a direct comparison between Germany and the United States is on an apples and oranges basis unless you adjust for weather.

    Germany has no tornado alley as the the U.S, does nor is it subject to hurricanes.

  • ScientistLibertarian||

    Germany does have severe storms with hurricane force winds, however, within the cities the power lines are underground, and the new power lines across country will be underground as well, incurring higher costs initially.

  • JWatts||

    "incurring higher costs initially."

    Actually it incurs higher cost for maintenance also. It's expensive any time any kind of upgrade has to occur.

  • Diane Merriam||

    I don't know about Germany, but in the US, construction for generation, distribution, and prices are set at the state level, not a national one.

    It's not unusual to go years without a power outage aside from really bad weather (like a lightning strike directly on a local distribution point or tornadoes and the like) in many states and yet in California, they quite often have to resort to rolling blackouts because the not-so-great State of California wouldn't allow construction of additional generation stations.

  • timbo||

    Have to protect the owls and snail darters.

    Humans are secondary to animals until the wars start; then the proggies need their brainwashers.

  • Sevo||

    "Bet against the Germans if you like, I merely note that my electricity service in Germany was completely reliable, unlike that in the United States. The only place I have had worse service than the United States is Bangladesh."

    Yep, anonymous, anecdotal post beats reality every time.
    Did you hear that Japan won WWII because of the Yamato spirit?

  • magellannh||

    Not anecdotal. The average total outage time per year in Germany is 12 minutes, in France and the UK, it's around 50 minutes, and in the US it's around 200 minutes.

  • JWatts||

    "Not anecdotal. The average total outage time per year in Germany is 12 minutes, in France and the UK, it's around 50 minutes, and in the US it's around 200 minutes."

    So, the Germans pay 3x the per kWh electric rate to get 525,948 minutes of electricity per year whereas Americans only get 525,760 minutes per year.

    525,948 vs 525,760 for 3 times the cost. Freaking geniuses aren't they.

  • Apostate Jew||

    I am sitting in Dhaka as I write this and am quite familiar with the cited report having read it. Even if Germans continue to subsidize wind and solar ...

    (1) That's their business.
    (2) It reduces their CO2 emissions.
    (3) It helps their neighbors.
    (4) It is hardly an "economic disaster."

    As for my observations ...

    (5) Everyone knows the American grid is crap.
    (6) Some know the Bangladeshi grid is crappier.

    It was dumb of the author to blame the lack of blackouts on "German over-engineering of its grid, which was set up with a very wide safety margin. Even if a power line or a power station fails, the power supply remains secure, at least for now." That was so stupid of the Germans.

    Still, if he wants to be a tool and work for the GWPF, that's his business. He can publish his articles and I can think they're crap.

    I don't understand why you mentioned the Japanese and the Second World War. Please explain.

  • BYODB||

    It isn't that comparable on sheer geography alone, and it also makes the comparison of total outage time almost meaningless since bum-fuck nowhere United States will undoubtedly skew the average.

    Unless, of course, those comparisons are somehow adjusted; but without knowing for sure I imagine it was not.

    The U.S. grid is undoubtedly shoddy but that tends to happen when you're stretching across an entire continent instead of focusing on what amounts to one state.

  • Sevo||

    "I don't understand why you mentioned the Japanese and the Second World War. Please explain."

    Because stupid people presume "intent" can overcome reality.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "This article is remarkably stupid and the comments more so."

    Perhaps you could demonstrate what exactly is "remarkably stupid" about it.

    It appears to me that a knee jerk decision to shut down operating nuclear power plants because of what happened in Japan was remarkably stupid.

    The proximate cause of the problem in Japan was getting hit by tsunami from the Pacific ocean.

    That's something that is rather unlikely to happen in Germany.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    Indeed, why not make the engineering challenge that they feel they have to solve be the safety of nuclear power plants? Why go with such an expensive option, especially one that has a greater impact the environment?

  • magellannh||

    For nuclear power, it's not about safety it's about cost. While the Fukishima disaster freaked many people out, equally important was its impact on the finance side.

    Even before Fukishima, free market financiers wouldn't touch nuclear power without a government guarantee. The reason is that the economics of nuclear are very tenuous and the risk is high. Couple that with the recently highlighted financial tail risk of a meltdown, and nuclear is now completely locked out of free market finance. The only way to get a nuke plant built is for a government to force taxpayers to pay for it. That's a sharp contrast to new ng plants, wind, solar, and hydro projects, where private investors are tripping over each other to get in on the action. That's because the economics are proven to work and the risks are low.

    In the US, nuclear power is so expensive that even fully paid for plants are shutting down because they can't compete in wholesale energy markets. That's mostly due to low cost ng from fracking, but in addition to ng, even unsubsidized wind is now cheaper than just the opEx of nuclear power.

    It's a remarkable transformation of the landscape that no one expected. IMO, nuclear is dead. It's all over but the crying ...and the stranded cost recovery charges.

  • BYODB||

    My only retort is that part of what makes Nuclear so damn expensive, especially in the United States, is regulatory. The question is, for me, what does 'unsubsidized' (I.E. relatively unregulated) nuclear look like when put side-by-side with so-called 'Renewables' but that seems to be a question no one can answer.

  • mtrueman||

    "My only retort is that part of what makes Nuclear so damn expensive, especially in the United States, is regulatory. "

    The Chinese nuclear industry, along with North Korea and a few other such places are the only ones growing these days. And they don't suffer from public hearings and input, due to the lack of the regulations which only add to their cost, as you point out. Still they are subsidized up to their eyebrows with public money.

    With the USA, regulations are written and enforced by the industry itself. It's known generally as 'regulatory capture.' If the America nuclear generating industry is regulating itself out of business, they have only themselves to blame. It's hard to imagine a regulatory system that is more favourable.

  • magellannh||

    I posted this elsewhere, but for a respected take on this, google 'Lazard LCOE 10.0' and look at the first chart in the full pdf report.

    Also, nuclear gets more than its fair share of subsidies. For example, without the Price-Anderson Act, which transfers nuclear power's risk onto taxpayers, the industry would not exist.

    Here are some snippets from a cato.org paper from the 80s:

    "There are many forms of government subsidization of the nuclear power industry. These subsidies include the sponsorship of research, enrichment of fuels, and disposal of nuclear wastes.

    ...As Richard Holwill of the Heritage Foundation writes, the Reagan administration "gives the appearance of being for a free market in all things conventional, but virtually socialist on nuclear power.

    .. the one government-furnished privilege that the nuclear industry could find it hardest to live without is the Price-Anderson Act's limitation on a nuclear power plant's liability in case of an accident."

    Link from cato.org: https://goo.gl/0KgssE

  • JWatts||

    "Also, nuclear gets more than its fair share of subsidies. For example, without the Price-Anderson Act, which transfers nuclear power's risk onto taxpayers, the industry would not exist."

    The value of the "subsidies" of the Price-Anderson act is pretty intangible since it's never actually been subject to a payout. On the other hand, payments to solar and wind are billions per year.

  • magellannh||

    I posted this elsewhere, but for a respected take on this, google "Lazard LCOE 10.0" and look at the first chart in the full pdf report.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Bet against the Germans if you like, I merely note that my electricity service in Germany was completely reliable, unlike that in the United States.

    And you also paid some of the highest electricity prices in the world for that. That's the kind of stupid tradeoff Germans make and progressives advocate for the US.

    Of course, in this case, Germans didn't even make that tradeoff, since the quality of their electrical supply is actually
    slightly worse.

    In different words, you are advocating bad policy, and you don't even get your basic facts straight.

  • brokencycle||

    The idea of negative power prices still blows my mind. Someone is producing energy and then paying someone else to consume it which means if they weren't paid to consume the energy they otherwise wouldn't, so these renewable sources are causing more energy to be consumed (in some cases) than otherwise would.

  • magellannh||

    The fault here lies with inflexible generation sources like coal and nuclear that can't respond fast enough to market price signals. Owners of wind generation never have to accept negative power prices because wind can be curtailed on a moment's notice in response to excess supply. That makes wind more flexible in helping grid operators deal with supply/demand imbalances compared to coal and nuclear.

    The inflexibility of coal and nuclear generation has always been a headache that grid designers had to work around. The entire concept of base-load is an unnatural fallout of this limitation. But the concept of base load generation is nearing its sell-by date. Grids of the future will demand flexibility and will price for it.

    When coal and nuclear power were much cheaper than more flexible power sources, grid designers were willing to deal with the headaches of incorporating them. In the near future though, it's likely that the inflexibility of nuclear and coal will cause them to shed market share to cheaper and more flexible alternatives.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    What powers the factories that build windmills and their component parts?

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Chinese coal.

    Windmills and solar cells are basically just batteries charged with Chinese fossil fuel.

  • magellannh||

    China's coal fleet now operates at an astoundingly low 50% utilization thanks to lower cost alternatives.

    Sure, coal will be a diminishing part of the mix for the next 20-30 years, but after renewables, it'll mostly be ng filling in the gaps, unless something drastic changes.

    Oh, and Nuclear is dead. It just can't compete, even in China where the regulatory environment has been very accommodating and they pushed very hard to make it work.

  • Brandybuck||

    Germany has chosen to be an energy importer. They'll run power lines out east and pay the Poles and Czechs for coal based power. David Ricardo would be proud.

  • Sevo||

    Agreed.
    Germany will crow about 'being green' while importing energy from whatever source if can find.

  • magellannh||

    Much of the time, Germany gets paid to accept these imports because market prices are negative.

    When electricity supply exceeds demand, inflexible base load plants can't curtail output in response to the negative price signal. It's cheaper for their owners to pay someone to take their output than to incur the cost of a shutdown/restart cycle.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Hey dumb fuck, coal and nuclear plants can avoid shutting down and avoid negative pricing at the same time. They just keep running while distribution is isolated from them, which is only necessary in extreme cases of low demand. Cheaper than paying power customers. You've invalidated all the shit you posted on this article.

  • magellannh||

    It's not so simple.

    "...Certain generation technologies such as older nuclear power plants in some countries are not designed for short-term output variations (referred to as inflexible base load). Furthermore, part of the conventional power plants has to remain on-line for security reasons, such as providing reserve capacity, paid for by the TSO (referred to as must-run generation) (See Figure 2, left). This issue becomes even more important with the increasing share of RES-E facing prediction errors and additional reserve capacity requirements. This may result in negative price bids, in order to guarantee the acceptance of this bid. "

    More here: https://goo.gl/Vl4ZJp

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    You can let a boiler keep burning and let a turbine keep spinning as much as you want without it affecting anything. The electrons aren't even going to flow through the wires unless some power user closes some circuit somewhere. The idea of paying people to close circuits is retarded.

  • magellannh||

    This is a complicated topic, but here's one simplified example of how prices can go negative:

    Base load plants earn a multi-part revenue stream. The familiar source of revenue comes from selling their output in competitive markets. Another significant part of their revenue stream comes from 'capacity' payments that are made by grid operators. These payments are in exchange for a promise by plant owners to always be ready to provide power to the grid when needed. Any time a plant owner takes their plant offline, they forfeit part of this capacity payment revenue stream.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I don't know what kind of bullshit regulated utility markets they have in fascist Europe, but where I come from you can leave a coal plant running full blast and connected to the grid even when present demand isn't using it, and the only parties who get paid for it are some plant engineers and the companies supplying the fuel. If this happens too much then someone is going to go bankrupt, but having to pay someone to turn on lights when nobody needs them on sounds like an even faster way to go bankrupt.

  • magellannh||

    The capacity payment system I described is used in the US.

    You might try doing some reading about how the grid works before you post next time.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I know how the grid works. Nothing about physics requires plants to go offline. What you describe is pure economic bullshit that wouldn't happen in a truly deregulated market. They can stuff that "common carrier" shit too.

  • Sevo||

    magellannh|3.21.17 @ 5:47PM|#
    "This is a complicated topic, but here's one simplified example of how prices can go negative:"

    So the price to party A can go negative since the government is coercing party B to pay exorbitant rates, all so they and twits like you can claim 'green energy works'?

  • magellannh||

    Capacity payments have nothing to do with green energy.

    They're part of a market-based incentive mechanism that grid operators in much of the country have used for decades to ensure there's always enough generation capacity available to handle expected demand.

  • Sevo||

    "They're part of a market-based incentive mechanism that grid operators in much of the country have used for decades to ensure there's always enough generation capacity available to handle expected demand."

    If they are "market-based", I guess the operators came up with them without any government intervention whatsoever, right?
    Someone decided a new product would be desirable, offered it, and buyers flocked to it.
    You'll forgive my skepticism. I live in CA and saw the result of the supposed 'market-based' sourcing of energy here.

  • GlobalTrvlr||

    As someone who has worked in the Electrical Energy (Generation, transmission, distribution, software) business for the last 37 years, including several in Europe, I can say that Magellann knows her/ his shit, and although I might quibble with a few things, everything so far has been accurate, and those arguing with her/him are not very knowledgable.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    Hey but they Fucking Love Science.

  • trig||

    Why haven't they developed a system to produce hydrogen via hydrolysis during peak production. Then use the hydrogen to generate electricity during periods of low production. Excess hydrogen could also potentially fuel vehicles or heat homes.

  • And you believe that why?||

    The short answer is that storing and transporting hydrogen is very expensive. What we need is a new wonder material that doesn't leak and is cheap.

    We could use the energy to create methane from water and carbon dioxide using the Sabatier reaction. Methane is the primary component of natural gas so we can use the millions of miles of existing pipelines. With the rate at which battery prices have been dropping I'm not willing to invest my own money but if you want to fund the pilot program I'll build it for you.

  • mtrueman||

    "Transforming grassland into corn monocultures to produce bio fuel and the increase of wind turbines has led to an appalling reduction of songbirds and bats in Germany."

    In fact the toxins released by burning fossil fuels are much deadlier to bird, bat or human life than any number of wind turbines. What makes this appalling loss all the more appalling is the lack of recognition it receives from Reason's crack team of environmentalists.

  • Sevo||

    "In fact the toxins released by burning fossil fuels are much deadlier to bird, bat or human life than any number of wind turbines. What makes this appalling loss all the more appalling is the lack of recognition it receives from Reason's crack team of environmentalists."

    Given the fact that you are a proven and admitted liar who is incapable of providing cites, it's both easy and accurate to point out that you are full of shit.

  • mtrueman||

    Shouldn't need me to provide you with cites, same goes for footnotes. If you doubt the ill effects on the respiratory system of the burning of fossil fuels, take a trip to Beijing, China. Revel in the black snottiness of it all. You'll love it! In the meanwhile, you can rest assured that wind turbine energy generation is less harmful to bird, bat and human health than burning fossil fuels. The author here, though clearly a shill and a hack, doubtless knows this already.

  • Sevo||

    Given the fact that you are a proven and admitted liar who is incapable of providing cites, it's both easy and accurate to point out that you are full of shit.

  • mtrueman||

    Thanks for your timely response.

  • Sevo||

    You're welcome:
    Sevo|3.21.17 @ 7:57PM|#
    mtrueman|3.21.17 @ 10:47PM|#
    Fuck off.

  • JayWye||

    China is notably lax on pollution controls. Even when they do install them,they stop working and operation continues. Besides,coal is not the sole fossil fuel. Natural gas is very clean burning.

  • BreakthroughEnergyGuy||

    24/7 solar powered engines are in development and will end the intermittent solar and wind energy problem.

    See aesopinstitute.org

  • Sevo||

    BreakthroughEnergyGuy|3.21.17 @ 4:47PM|#
    "24/7 solar powered engines are in development and will end the intermittent solar and wind energy problem."

    So is fusion.

  • mtrueman||

    They claim that one of their engines can (or will) be 3D printed out using plastics that don't need to withstand the intense heat of a fossil fuel burning engine. (not to mention a fusion reactor)

  • renewableguy||

    Marian L. Tupy | Cato Institute
    https://www.cato.org/people/marian-tupy

    Cato Institute likes fossil fuels over renewable energy. This is no secret. I am apalled just the same at this naked attempt to denigrate renewable energy. 100% renewable is a necessity rather just a luxury. The future of energy has to be as clean as possible.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Cato institute likes logical economics.

  • JayWye||

    nuclear power is very clean,reliable,and mankind will be extinct before we run out of fissionables,if we haven't figured out fusion by then.
    "renewables" are a joke,NOT practical or capable of supplying our full energy needs. Not without a drastic reduction in lifestyle,and not accounting for world birthrates.

  • renewableguy||

    http://thesolutionsproject.org/

    There are a great deal of many savings by going renewable energy. This guy just did not tell the truth on German renewable energy. It has not at all doubled the cost of electricity. In the future the savings will be generated in health costs being lowered and electricity costs also being lowered.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Bull shit.

  • renewableguy||

    When you are ready to act intelligently lets talk.

  • Sevo||

    renewableguy|3.22.17 @ 11:01PM|#
    "When you are ready to act intelligently lets talk."

    Now, THAT'S funny.

  • JayWye||

    you make a lot of claims with nothing to support them. "health costs and electric costs lowered"? it's going the opposite direction. Germany's nuclear power industry had no ill effect on German citizens health. their coal burning probably did,but a switch to natural gas fixes that.

  • JB Say||

    Shame on Germany for not contributing its fair share of life giving CO2 to our atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, CO2 is giving us about all the warmth it can. Why? Because the IR wavelengths that interact with CO2 are fully absorbed. But plants need a much higher concentration CO2 to really thrive.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Where'd all these watermelon greentards come from......moveoff or think regress.

  • George from Oz||

    To get a pretty clear picture of where Germany is heading look at South Australia over the past 6 months and keep an eye on it and its neighbouring state, Victoria, over the next 12 months.

    A deliberate strategy to walk away from fossil fuels and an over reliance on renewables have led to overwhelming power price increases, business failures and trashed economies.

  • Elwar||

    My landlord in Germany heats his home mainly with wood and oil. And this is a house that's not out in middle of nowhere.
    When you have to buy stuff to burn because your electricity costs too much because they don't want to create electricity by burning stuff your system is not working.

  • JayWye||

    the inescapable fact is,that wind and solar both require external backup/load managing sources or they're not reliable.
    It means -somebody else- has to have nuclear or fossil fuel generators supplying a base load plus extra to sell to the "green grid" when their solar and wind are not producing enough. it's just passing the buck.

    What Germany needs to do is to build inherently-safe nuclear reactors,that cannot melt down. Develop thorium reactors that produce no weapons-grade materials,much less hot nuclear wastes,and also much shorter-lived wastes,that don't stay hot for many centuries. Also to reprocess the spent fuel,like France and Japan. THAT is building for the future,the smart way. Energy independence,not relying on some other nation for their power. Germans are such disciplined,orderly people,running a safe,clean nuclear operation ought to be easy for them.

  • GlobalTrvlr||

    As bad as all that sounds, it is even worse. That 6000Km of cable is not just cable. That is HV transmission system, either AC or DC, which will require substations every few hundred km, and stabilization mechanisms - StatVar, Synchronous condensers, etc rated at whatever the transmission line is rated, roughly costing $75-100MM each. Then you have to build up the software systems that control all of this wildly unruly power. Then you also have to understand that those heavy industries cannot start their 5000-30,000 HP motors against a bunch of windmills. You need the heavy iron of nuc/ coal/ large gas turbines or even more large synchronous condensers to provide the inertia and frequency control in the system. They already have runaway inflation on the cost of electricity due to the insane decisions to close all nuc & coal (by the way, they are actually actively building coal plants as we speak), now they are doubling it, and that is still not going to cover all the costs. If they decide to start investing in storage, it will be another doubling or tripling. They are going to bankrupt their country with this nonsense. And for what? The US is the only country who's CO2 has been going down (due to the shift to natural gas).

  • Sevo||

    GlobalTrvlr|3.23.17 @ 4:17PM|#
    "As someone who has worked in the Electrical Energy (Generation, transmission, distribution, software) business for the last 37 years, including several in Europe, I can say that Magellann knows her/ his shit, and although I might quibble with a few things, everything so far has been accurate, and those arguing with her/him are not very knowledgable."

    Which begs the question regarding magellannh's implied assertion that green energy can, within reasonable economic limits, replace fossil- or nuke-fueled energy sources.
    I have no doubt the energy market can be gamed by either the governments or (through the governments) the participants to both fake the 'green' claim by exporting other sources and/or forcing the consumers to pay what the 'geenies' desire to signal their 'virtue'.

  • docdemort||

    confusion do to a lack of a proper solution.
    1. energy storage.
    2. energy dissipation.
    3. unfair price gouging by german govt.

    1. tesla builds lithium plant, to support the mass production of batteries.
    germany doesnt do the same?? why?? surely it cost less than 1 billion to build one of these plants.
    so if each home has a bank of state of the art batteries, and solar panels, i think really there is no issues there.
    2. if you have to pay other countries to give them free power, this is not a viable solution to dissipate it.
    nikola teslas tesla coil does the exact thing, of power dissipation, this is only one example of dissipation.
    if you have giga factories, storing large amounts of power, you turn all the power generating devices off, period, so they dont make extra power.
    then you find a way to return the power to either 1 the sky, or 2 the earth, since this is the definition of lightning itself, if nature can do it, perhaps we can do something similar, yet not so dangerous. im 100% sure of it.
    paying to give away your product is rediculous.
    3. the german people should uprise against this ridiculous taxation, and over-throw the government, if they disagree with their bills. They wont however because, because of their smartly designed economy, even the lowly pencil maker gets plenty of money, vacation, and a good life, so honestly they really dont have many problems.

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