There was a time when Germany’s power was mostly generated by the traditional sources of coal, nuclear, oil, natural gas and hydro. These sources were reliable and keeping the power grid under control was a routine matter. Germany’s power grid was among the most stable worldwide. But then came Germany’s renewable energy feed-in act, and with it the very volatile sources of sun and wind.
As a result, today’s German power grid has become a precarious balancing act, and keeping it from collapsing under the load of wild fluctuations has become a real challenge. At the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) here, Dr. Klaus Peter Krause writes a piece titled: Always on the brink of a widespread blackouts, where he writes how and why Germany’s power grid has become extremely vulnerable:
Already 3500 emergency grid interventions per year – According to the TAB report of 2011: More than a couple days of blackout would be a national catastrophe – Germany sacrifices its uniquely reliable power supply for the ‘transition to renewable energy’.”
One example Krause cites is a recent incident at the Trimet aluminum plant in the industrial city of Essen:
In the last 12 months the German power grid barely averted a collapse twice by shutting down production. The Westfälische Rundschau (here) on 17 September quoted Trimet Chairman Martin Iffert: ‘We are prepared that something like that would happen as a consequence of the transition to renewable energy, however we were surprised that we had to slam on the brakes already two times.’ According to Iffert the power grid had been on the ‘brink of collapse’ shortly after a drop in wind energy.”
Krause writes that the frequency of emergency grid intervention by grid operators has skyrocketed since renewable energies started coming on line, see the chart here depicting the number of times emergency interventions in the German power grid have been taken each year. Before 2006 grid operators rarely had to take action to keep the grid stable. The number of interventions took off in 2008, and has since spiraled uncontrollably.
Thus the power supply in Germany is no longer secure enough. It is even highly vulnerable. A blackout could occur on any given day. Up to now they have been successful at averting grid collapses by taking lightning speed action, but the number of emergencies has increased massively and is still rising.”
The instability of the German power grid was even confirmed by Jochen Homann, President of the Bundesnetzagentur, as quoted by German national daily FAZ on 25 June 2014:
Due to the shutdown of the nuclear power plants [in the wake of Fukushima] and the installation of renewable energy generation, the existing power grid is however under considerably more stress. The transmission network operators, who are responsible for the functioning grid operation, must intervene in the use of the grid far more often in order to ensure the stable operation of the grid.”
Krause then explains that the power-consumer protection agency NAEB wrote in a recent member newsletter of volatile power, and how Germany had once acted as a pillar of stability for the overall European-wide power network. “This stability is being sacrificed for no urgent reason and irresponsibly for the sake of the transition to renewable energy, whereby the damage will impact even all of Europe.”
Just how serious the implications of Germany’s unstable power grid are is poignantly described by a German government-commissioned report (TAB, no. 17/5672) of 27 April 2011, where the chance of a massive blackout can no longer be excluded. The summary of the report writes:
Because of the complete proliferation of electrically powered devices in the living and working world, the consequences of a widespread and long-lasting power outage would accumulate to a level of damage of considerable quality. Impacted would be critical infrastructure, and a collapse of the entire society would hardly be preventable.“
Krause writes that just how precarious the situation has become is almost unknown to citizens, and so many are ill-prepared.
He adds that even a power outage of even several hours or a day would cause massive disruptions and paralyze the public transportation of persons and goods, stranding tens of thousands, and blocking fire and medical rescue services, especially in urban areas. Gas stations would be out of order and fuel would thus be lacking. And because of today’s just-in-time supply chains, food at supermarkets would disappear very quickly.
Granted, Krause writes, that the chances of a big blackout are small, but warns the chances are growing and becoming a real threat. “Because of the ‘increase in decentralized and stochiastic power feed-in’, the risk of a grid failure and higher outage rates in on the rise. Here wind and solar energy are meant“.
Moreover, experts say that the German power grid is more vulnerable than ever to storms, snow, ice, criminal activity, terrorism, or just plain human error. All the vulnerability is due to a recklessly applied disorganized renewable energy policy. Krause summarizes:
Germany, like all modern industrial countries is highly vulnerable to possible power outages. But with its energy policy, Germany’s leadership is increasing the risk, without any urgent reason, in a wanton irresponsible manner.”
Finally, Steffen Hentrich, of the Liberalen Institute of the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation for Liberty wrote one year ago (here):
It’s no longer a secret that the almost unbridled expansion of so-called renewable energies in the context of a technically and economically overloaded power grid will become a risk for the power supply stability in Germany, and increasingly for our European neighbors.”