Financial Times Deutschland Talks Openly About “Germany’s Dirty Wind Energy Secret”

Horst von Buttlar writes at the online Financial Times Deutschland a piece called: Wind Energy: The Dirty Secret of the Energy Transformation.

In the aftermath of Fukushima and Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, Germany rushed madly, in a state of collective hysteria, to alternative energies, ignoring all warnings that it would cost a bundle and wouldn’t work. Now with the big bills rolling in, the country is beginning to show some signs of returning to a little sanity.

Von Buttlar in the Financial Times begins his piece:

Slowly it is beginning to dawn:  The energy transformation is not only stalling, but it is also is exposing the well-hidden secret that it has long been a huge redistribution program from the bottom up.”

He writes that it’s about large landowners and farmers parking Ferraris between their tractors, or a famous law firm investing an 8-digit sum in a solar park with the state guaranteeing a handsome profit. It’s about a Bavarian farmer with hundreds of solar panels on his barn’s roof laughing his way to the bank: “That’s 20,000 euros per month.”

The German socialist and green parties used to be about protecting the little guy, making sure that their money and assets don’t get transferred from the bottom to the top. Today, however, they’re making sure that it does get transferred to the top! It just happens many Greens and socialist honchos are at the top reaping the benefits of political sellout.

Slowly but surely, it is all coming out. Von Buttlar writes:

… a few days ago the Consumer Protection Agency complained about high electricity costs: In 2007 every household paid on average 35 euros for alternative energies. Beginning in 2013, when the share in the costs rises from 3.5 cents to 5 cents, that number will jump to 185 euros.”

Von Buttlar reminds us that many Germans still accept this and view it as a “good cause” – a position he calls naive.

We should at least be honest – these are times when armies of corporate representatives and “advisers” from Enercon, Repower, or the numerous obscure solar companies are invading the countryside. It is not about a lofty objective or a good cause. That’s the story that gets told at town meetings. No, it’s about money. More precisely said: it’s about lots of money for a very few – money that is being divided up between plant operators, investors, leasing companies and manufacturers. 16.4 billion euros was the energy feed-in allocation in 2011. In the coming year it is going to be 20 billion.”

This is the reality that I hope my friends in Vermont are going to wake the hell up to – soon. The whole thing is a financial scam. And it is not going to have a bit of impact on the weather.

Not only is it going to cost you lots of money, but, as you are now painfully witnessing in Vermont, it is wreaking environmental damage of catastrophic dimensions. Your mountains and landscape are being devoured by industry. How do you like the face of climate protection now?

Citizens are not only going to be paying a lot more for power, but they are paying an awful environmental price right now. Site for 1 of 21 turbines now being installed on Lowell Mountain in Vermont. Photo source: Mountain Talk

Rich landowners, says von Buttlar, are leasing their land to windpark operators for 2000 to 10,000 euros an acre. Farmers can now kick back and do nothing but watch the money roll in.

The alternative energy situation in Germany has skidded so much out of control that even one of the fathers of the environmental movement has switched sides. Enoch zu Guttenberg, symphony conductor and co-founder of leading environmental activist group BUND, left the group in protest in May. Von Buttlar writes:

‘BUND appears to have sold out’, and he no longer wanted to crane his hands ‘near every money barrel,’ that corrupts. ‘Unfortunately we are no longer talking about the responsible future of energy management in Germany,’ zu Guttenberg writes. “We are talking about making a really fast buck’.”

Hopefully Germany’s disastrous energy model will act to deter others from following on the same path, which clearly Vermont has already embarked on in a radical way. Von Buttlar concludes his Financial Times article:

The next time you see a wind turbine, don’t think about whether it is attractive or ugly, or whether it is clean or polluting. Just think: Great! Now there’s sombody that has gotten seriously rich!

And also ask: At who’s expense?


50 thoughts on “Financial Times Deutschland Talks Openly About “Germany’s Dirty Wind Energy Secret””

  1. I would be interested to know who owns the power companies in Germany.

    Here in Britain the electricity supply is all down to private companies. The politicians and the bulk of the media are quite happy to blame the nasty big energy suppliers for ever increasing energy prices.

    1. Most energy suppliers in Germany have publically traded shares or are part of a publically traded company. The two biggest are RWE and EON.

      The media in Germany constantly blames the rising electricity prices on the “billions” of profits of these companies. As economic literacy in Germany is non-existent and newspapers like Der Spiegel do their best to keep it that way, nobody mentions that the P/E ratio of the companies is not at all outrageous, and that they had to take massive hits due to the bizarre distortions created by renewable energy regulations.

        1. I know. Eon also owns that coal power plant in England that got invaded by those green luddites who later called James Hansen as expert witness.

  2. “In the coming year it is going to be 20 billion”.
    This in Germany alone and in one year only. Multiply those 20 billion to reflect the whole of the EU and for as many years as this has been going on and most probably we will arrive at the basic cause of the EURO zone meltdown.

  3. at whose expense? At our expense, and at the expense of our children. No body will bother removing the junk after 15, 20 or 25 years. Look in Ca, or Hawai… Scrap value much less than removal cost. And concrete in the mountain is not exactly recyclable. A major major fraud. These things do NOT replace the conventional fuel that corresponds to the subsidized electricity they get paid for.

    and my very favorite

    together with the ad designed for idiots:

    They were telling locals “40% savings”. They saved 4-8% of actual fuel used. A slight …difference.

    The US is being bombarded with propaganda to pass the wind production tax credit. Say goodbye to any hopes of competitiveness…

  4. von Buttlar, ironically, has an aristocratic name (the “von”); most rich landowners in Germany are the aristocrats. They’re all as gung ho about wind turbines as the catholic church, the biggest landowner on the planet.

  5. Jump to 185 euros? That’s twice my present energy bill and that as extra for alternative energy. Who does accept that? Is this amount paid by households directly or by tax-subsidy means?

    1. It is according to my numbers about 200 EUR now (16bn a year by 80mill Germans). By my calculation, per PERSON, not per HOUSEHOLD. The ftd’s von Buttlar can’t do math – he has special needs, he is a journalist.

      How did he miss this factor of three? Simple. Only a third of the electricity goes to households. One third goes to companies which will charge consumers via higher prices, another third goes to the public sector which will charge consumers with higher taxes.

      Remember: Never buy a newspaper. They’re junk. It took von Buttlar years to write this piece and it’s still off by a factor of three.

  6. The city of Espoo in Finland (200 000 population) sold its local electricity company to the German power company EON to get cash. Politicians rejoiced over how rich the city would be and how cheap electricity would be in the future. As was expected by critics of the affair, the new owners found they could let electricity prices skyrocket (without investing in any new power stations or power lines), the city and the poor people of Espoo are now bound to a tree just looking at prices running away beyond any kind of democratic control whatsoever. That’s creative energy politics! We poor bastards pay for it and the power tycoons laugh their heads off.

    1. Johan, here in Germany I can choose from hundreds of electricity providers. They give me a tariff, buy the energy at the electricity exchange, and do bookkeeping amongst each other because physically I always get the same electrons, of course.

      You don’t have such a system in Finland and made a bad contract with the company you gave the local monopoly? Too bad. But even in that case – my city once made a bad contract with a waste collector company – they city sued and had the contract renegotiated on grounds of racketeering. Can’t your city try the same?

      In the case of my hometown Braunschweig, it was an SPD government that made the bad long-running contract – probably some illegal kickbacks were flowing – and it took us a change of local government to CDU; the new mayor immediately sued, as he had promised before getting elected.

  7. It will be all Greek to you, but there are Greeks that are up in arms over the Lowell, Vt. matter… The anti-wind movement is global.


    There are converging reports that the wind power lobby grossly overstates fuel substitution. In Holland, for example, conventional fuel savings are of the order of 4% (!) of rated wind capacity, per annum, on average. If one thinks about the total cost of these contraptions, we are talking mega-money down a black hole.


    I wonder whether the 7% figure stated for Germany’s share of wind power in electricity supply is real, i.e., if it represents a 7% conventional fuel savings, or it is like Denmark’s figures of electrons road-tripping to Norway and back.

    1. The 7 % share of wind+solar+biomass in electricity is real – as electricity is 1/7th of German primary energy consumption, it represents only 1% of our total energy needs, though.

      BUT as wind + solar require a spinning reserve of open cycle gas power plants, it offsets super efficient combined cycle base load plants – a modern combined cycle coal power plant can reach 53% efficiency if I recall correctly. This cannot be reached by an open cycle plant – and the ramping up and down of the spinning reserve plant, and its idling, costs extra fuel as well.

      So, this explains why the fuel saved is lower than the percentage of electricity replaced.


    As of 2010, Wind power in Germany provides over 96,100 people with jobs and German wind energy systems are also exported.[4][8] The Fuhrländer Wind Turbine Laasow, built in 2006 near the village of Laasow, Brandenburg, is the tallest wind turbine in the world. Also most other of the tallest wind turbines in the world are situated in Germany, see List of wind turbines. At Germany, there are also most of the most powerful wind turbines in the world, the Enercon E-126.

    In Germany, hundreds of thousands of people have invested in citizens’ wind farms across the country and thousands of small and medium sized enterprises are running successful businesses in a new sector that in 2008 employed 90,000 people and generated 8 percent of Germany’s electricity.[9] Wind power has gained very high social acceptance in Germany.[10]


    Nearly 100,000 jobs looks good to me. The Germans are very proud of what they have acheived.

    1. A subsidized job kills several productive ones, as the money to subsidize it must be stolen from the productive sector.

      1. Utilities have always had a special dispensation due to the highly intense capital investment. That’s why they were given regulated monopoly status in the past.

        Or maybe the oil subsidies should be removed instead.

        Or possibly the fossil fuel industries should have to pay all external costs related to climate change and health.

        1. “Utilities have always had a special dispensation due to the highly intense capital investment. That’s why they were given regulated monopoly status in the past.”

          Except that it wasn’t “always”. They started as purely private enterprises, and only later managed to get themselves the cherished public sector status, and got privatized again in the 80ies.


    Climate change, pollution, and energy insecurity are significant problems and addressing them requires major changes to energy infrastructures.[23] Renewable energy technologies are essential contributors to the energy supply portfolio, as they contribute to world energy security, reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and provide opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gases.[2] Climate-disrupting fossil fuels are being replaced by clean, climate-stabilizing, non-depletable sources of energy:

    …the transition from coal, oil, and gas to wind, solar, and geothermal energy is well under way. In the old economy, energy was produced by burning something — oil, coal, or natural gas — leading to the carbon emissions that have come to define our economy. The new energy economy harnesses the energy in wind, the energy coming from the sun, and heat from within the earth itself.[24]

    Germany is forging ahead with their plans. Being the strongest economy in Europe they will reach energy security long before many other countries will. Plus being a leader in renewable energy, they are now one of the world’s exporter of their leadership.

    1. We already produce 1 % of our primary energy consumption with wind, solar and biomass. It costs us 16bn EUR a year in subsidies.

      For only 1600 bn EUR – slightly more than half our GDP – we could reach 100%.

      1. A new power source is given a contract to guarantee payment for power produced. This allows the system to pay for itself based in production. The whole power industry works this way. New nuclear power is given a contract over 20cents per kwhr for the first few years. Again the utility industry is a capital intensive industry. If we are going to have power from any source, there are rules of finance to help it grow and change with the times.

      2. And why would we subsidize an inferior technology with such sums if it can’t compete against what we already have? Obviously, the energy it contributes is negligible, and ramping it up far too expensive.

        The reason is simple: Symbolism and corruption.

        The energy produced doesn’t matter.


    Renewable energy technologies are getting cheaper, through technological change and through the benefits of mass production and market competition. A 2011 IEA report said: “A portfolio of renewable energy technologies is becoming cost-competitive in an increasingly broad range of circumstances, in some cases providing investment opportunities without the need for specific economic support,” and added that “cost reductions in critical technologies, such as wind and solar, are set to continue.”[38] As of 2011, there have been substantial reductions in the cost of solar and wind technologies:

    The price of PV modules per MW has fallen by 60 percent since the summer of 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates, putting solar power for the first time on a competitive footing with the retail price of electricity in a number of sunny countries. Wind turbine prices have also fallen – by 18 percent per MW in the last two years – reflecting, as with solar, fierce competition in the supply chain. Further improvements in the levelised cost of energy for solar, wind and other technologies lie ahead, posing a growing threat to the dominance of fossil fuel generation sources in the next few years.[33]


    Seeing fossil fuels go by the wayside is a good thing. Its time to clean up our environment of this dirty filth.

    1. They’re getting cheaper. PV might be competitive in 20 years, not counting the storage problem. That will take another 10 years to solve.

      In 30 years, it will be rational to use PV. In the 30 years before that, it is irrational.

      1. PV is competitive now as the article points out in the sunny regions of the world. Southern California and Arizona are perfect spots for solar in the United States to be competitive. When meeting renewable mandates solar is a very good choice by the untilities to choose. As solar comes down in price more within the next few years its cost competitiveness will improve further.


    Germany is said to have set a new world record for the amount of solar energy produced by a nation.

    According to the Institute of Renewable Energy (IWR), solar plants produced a record breaking 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour at midday on Friday and Saturday.

    This amount of electricity is equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity. It provided a third of the countries energy needs during a work day on Friday, and half of its needs on Saturday when offices and factories were closed.

    1. “This amount of electricity is equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity.” that produce for a moment, then fall into dysfunction.

      1. It is a predictable source of energy with distributed generation rather central generation. The utilities know from forecasts when the power is going to be produced and when it will decrease or stop producing for the day. Then the utility plans around that forecast.

        The beauty of solar is that it a peak generating source of power, that has more value that say night time production. This is helps to justify its cost compared to peak power plants. From my cousin who works in the power industry, diesel generators during peak cost 40cents per kilowatt hour. Solar can help to keep those plants off during peak utility usage.

        1. “The beauty of solar is that it a peak generating source of power, that has more value that say night time production. This is helps to justify its cost compared to peak power plants. ”

          Jeff Green, solar power only works when subsidized. As all PV modules produce at the same time (that is, IF they produce), they drive down the electricity price at the exchange (as you indeed recognized). A glut of PV electricity means ruinous prices.

          The solution? Eternal subsidies.

          Explain how you want to evade the consequences of supply & demand without subsidies.

          1. Fossil fuels are subsidized now. And at much higher numbers than renewables. Germany produced record amounts of solar during peak hours when the cost of electricty is the greatest. Giving solar a greater value and done cleanly without pollution. Plus it is distibuted power making it more reliable on a local basis. If designed properly this can be used to cut down on utility equipment such as transformers. If you produce power in the neighbor hood itself, extra transformers may not be needed.

    2. The problem is that it produces only a few hours a day, when it’s not needed. I have a PV system and on a clear day I get about 7 hours of noteworthy production in the summertime. I’m only going to maybe make money with it because the power companies are forced to buy the power from me at exhorbitant rates and then jack up the prices for electricity for the poor consumers. The power companies don’t want the power – they stonewalled 11 weeks before finally hooking it up.
      Germany has set up a win-lose situation where either you give the shaft, or you get it. There’s no win-win here. Reading the paper today, I see that Altmaier says that the brakes have to be put on wind energy in Germany, too. Better late than never I guess.


        In 2011, 20 per cent of electricity in Germany came from renewable sources BDEW breakdown of electricity production by source and 70 per cent of this was supported with feed-in tariffs. The Federal Environment Ministry estimates that this will save 87 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2012. The average level of feed-in tariff was €0.0953 per kWh in 2005 (compared to an average cost of displaced energy of €0.047 kWh). The total level of subsidy was €2.4 billion, at a cost per consumer of €0.0056 per kWh (3 per cent of household electricity costs).[3] The tariffs are lowered every year to encourage more efficient production of renewable energy. By 2012, the EEG surcharge – which pays for the additional costs through feed-in tariffs – had increased to 3.592 ct/kWh.[4] As of 2008, the annual reductions were 1.5% for electricity from wind, 5% for electricity from photovoltaics, and 1% for electricity from biomass. In the first quarter of 2011, 19.2% of Germany’s electricity was produced by renewable sources.[5] This is compared to 17.1% in the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 2.1%.

        There are about 340,000 people working in the renewable energy sector in Germany[6], which has an industry turnover of €8.7 billion.[3]


        3% of household cost of electricity.

        Germans are very efficient as a society economically. It appears they are doing very well at a minmal cost to the consumer. In return for their investment they are no 2 in the world for producing renewable energy and are a very competitive exporter. Germany is winning in the economic game of the future.

        I see out of this a minimal cost with a maximum benefit for their society and eventually the world society.

        1. “In 2011, 20 per cent of electricity in Germany came from renewable sources BDEW breakdown of electricity production by source and 70 per cent of this was supported with feed-in tariffs. ”

          There’s unsubsidized large scale hydro in that number, so you’re trying to mislead.

          “Germans are very efficient as a society economically. It appears they are doing very well at a minmal cost to the consumer.”

          If you think 200 EUR per year and person is minimal…

          As for the efficiency: We are used to total exploitation by the second greediest of the OECD states, so we are as thrifty as a polar explorer. If you want to live this lavish lifestyle, just be my guest and pay German taxes.

          Walk the walk instead of blathering empty words. Give up 50% of your income.

          1. I’m not sure how you got your numbers. Are you saying that 3% of their electric costs are 200 euros.

            If an American’s yearly electric bill were 1000 dollars per year, then 3% would be 30 dollars/year.

            The Germans spend very little on their military compared to the United States. They can afford more easily than we can to invest in thier country for clean energy.

            Just recalling, I believe they have about 300,000 jobs in the renewable energy industry. Which allows them to be a strong exporter.

          2. Oh Lord. Now I read your entire comment and I don’t even know how to start to address all the misconceptions. So I don’t. Please inform yourself about how the German FIT law works before pontificating about how great it works for us. It’s called the EEG in German and you find it in the German wikipedia.

          3. Well, you can deduct about 50,000 of those because of all the solar industry bankrupticies over the last year or so. Besides, when you consider the tens of billions in subsidies, a couple hundred thousand jobs and 0.002°C of avoided warming are not much at all.

  12. CO2 emissions from wind are worse than you might think. Their capacity factor is about 30%, so for each wind turbine there must be a source of quick-ramping electric power that can provide energy for 70% of the time. That source is natural gas combustion turbine generation (NGCT) because they can start up quickly, like airplane engines.

    Natural gas is clean relative to coal, in that it generates about twice the heat energy per kilogram of CO2 emitted. However, NCGTs have a electric/thermal efficiency of about 30%. The combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) that could replace baseload coal power use the gas turbine exhaust to boil water used in a steam turbine, generating power both from gas combustion turbines and steam turbines. The electric/thermal conversion efficiency is about 60%. But CCGTs can not back up wind turbines because they do not ramp power up and down fast enough.

    As a consequence, wind turbines with NGCTs for backup consume more natural gas than CCGTs alone. There is more on this in my new book…

      1. Knowing in advance when you need to ramp up and down your open cycle gas turbine does not remove the need to actually do it.

  13. Here is another ugly one:
    A rush to not lose the PTC

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