Minister Slams German Government’s Green Energy Reform Plan: “Nonsense…Little To Do With Reality”!

As more wildly fluctuating solar and wind energy is fed into the German power grid, the question of how to prevent blackouts has been elevated to urgent.

Germany’s weekly Die Zeit recently published an interview with Franz Untersteller, Environment Minister of the state of Baden Wurttemberg. He claims “electrical power supply will be tight“. The reason is because of the federal government’s latest energy reform plan.

Untersteller believes that Germany is headed on the wrong path and is in the process of repeating California’s 1990s blunders, which led to widespread rolling blackouts and a crippling of the Golden State’s power grid.

Currently Germany’s federal Economics Minister, Sigmar Gabriel is planning a reform of Germany’s electricity market. The aim, Zeit writes, is “to allow growth of the share of fluctuating power generation without the occurrence of blackouts whenever green electricity is lacking due to the weather“.

Untersteller thinks the federal government’s plan will lead to power shortages in some areas, in part as a result of the coming shutdown and/or mothballing of non-fluctuating nuclear and conventional power plants – in combination with the lack of power transmission lines to feed power in from north German offshore windparks. There is now an immediate need for a stable baseload power supply in southern Germany.

However Untersteller sees few investors willing to invest in back-up conventional power plants that can be switched on and off as needed according to fluctuating supply because of their complete lack of profitability: “Why would investors want to build such plants? [..] Talk to the managers of the energy business. Many of them are saying that the investment decisions they made a few years ago would not be made today because of the falling price levels on the spot power exchanges.”

Untersteller calls the federal government’s latest plan for installing reserve capacity using old brown-coal plants “nonsense” because they are unable to switch on and off quickly enough in response to wind and solar power supply fluctuations. Untersteller tells Die Zeit: “Old brown coal plants viewed technically are the crass opposite of flexible power plants.”

Moreover Untersteller is puzzled as to why Germany has opted to use solutions that have already failed in other countries, recounting a meeting he had with managers of Cailfornia power company PG&E:

“When I told them what the German federal government was planning, their eyebrows went up. California had a similar system, but only until the year 2000. They had blackout situations.”

As a solution to Germany’s power grid needs, Untersteller proposes a “focused capacity market“, where in a complicated process certain flexible and environmentally friendly capacities would be bid on and auctioned off with the aim of fulfilling the requirements for a reliable power supply in a market-oriented manner. It would be costly, but Untersteller says, “Supply reliability has its price“, i.e. the consumer would get stuck with the tab.

On the government’s current plan to reform the power market, Untersteller says that it is based on “ideal conditions – on conditions that in my opinion have very little to do with the daily reality in the energy business.”

39 responses to “Minister Slams German Government’s Green Energy Reform Plan: “Nonsense…Little To Do With Reality”!”

  1. sod

    To understand this article, one has to know that Minister Untersteller is from the green party and of course pro renewables.

    His cost estimate for secure power is 1/10 of a cent per kwh.

    1. DirkH

      “His cost estimate for secure power is 1/10 of a cent per kwh.”

      What’s the Green definition of “secure power”? (Hint to little German green enthusiasts: There’s a difference between safety, security and certainty in English, even though all three translate to “Sicherheit” in German)

      I guess “secure power” is the power the little Green enthusiast can create with his own bicycle dynamo? Otherwise, 1/10th of a cent would indicate that Mr. Untersteller dreams of typical socialist price-finding: Tax what moves, subsidize what doesn’t.

  2. Bernd Felsche

    The failure of the State’s Finance Minister to not understand why brown coal plants are being “chosen” as spinning reserve for the unreliables is indicative of the tunnel vision or selective blindness in most politicians that allows them to see straight past the truth without becoming aware of its reality.

    The Federal Network Agency has all the numbers in front of it. Is the Minister beyond education?

    It’s simply substantially more expensive to keep the flexible gas-fired plants spinning than it is to burn coal very inefficiently to maintain a despatchable reserve of power. It’s how the economics of it works out in the real world. It’s why plants like Irsching are shutting down:

    The decisions were made because the two CCGTs have no prospect of operating profitably when the current contract with the network operator expires in March 2016.

    Reality always trumps theory. The Minister failed to see; or failed to think; or both. Such failure by a Minister responsible for the well-being of millions of inhabitants should not be excused; theoretically. The perverse reality is that failure seems to be a prerequisite for political success.

    Gas has to get much cheaper for reality to meet theory. If the Greens/Left were to support fracking in Germany, that might be the case. Theoretically. In reality, any development of especially a natural resource is sacrilegious to the Greens; and obscene to the Left as it would make energy much cheaper for everybody, especially the poor, removing much of the “reason” for the Left’s existence.

    BTW: The official web site of B-W represents Untersteller as an engineering graduate in its English-language pages. He appears to have studied landscape architecture at a technical college gaining a Diploma in Engineering before spending time in Colombia. (Obscure Wonkypedia page)

    The Greens’ page on him lists his qualifications as his profession (Greens don’t seem to understand the difference); though his biography fails to show where he actually applied those qualifications in a professional practice.

  3. Graeme No.3

    Am I the only one who thinks that the answer to “feeding a widely variable supply” into a steady state system is to NOT feed in a widely variable supply?

    1. DirkH

      …or to let the widely variable supply find its natural market price; which would be close to zero, as, when one solar panel produces, nearly all of them produce… Of course they would first have to find takers at all. Takers who are willing to agree to take a good that might or might not arrive, hmm, what would you be willing to pay for that?

      Adam Smith counts as the devil to German politicians (whether Greens, SPD or CDU). Because efficient markets mean no friction, and statist politicians feed off the friction.

      1. sod

        “…or to let the widely variable supply find its natural market price; which would be close to zero, as, when one solar panel produces, nearly all of them produce… ”

        That is just plain out false. Instead for a majority of people, power from solar panels on their roofs is simply cheaper than power from the grid.

        So in a pure market system, solar power would do massive damage to “baseload” plants, long before it would even start to hurt itself.

        The current problem is with the big power utilities, which simply missed the point where they should have entered the alternative power market and which now are in deep trouble.
        (to understand by how much they missed it, just imagine that you could produce your own car/computer/smartphone cheaper than the company producing it as a profession…)

        and now in most countries the government, which already gave tons of free money and law support to fossil fuels and nuclear (and completely ignored most environmental problems and the inability to provide safe storage for nuclear waste) are cutting support for renewables to protect the big utilities (which will simply go bankrupt if they get no help)

        in Britain, the cut will save the people only 50pence..

        http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/22/solar-power-subsidies-to-be-cut-under-plans-to-reduce-green-energy-costs

        at the same time, solar is developing in so many ways, that it will change the world significantly:

        http://phys.org/news/2015-07-solar-power.html

        1. AndyG55

          “Instead for a majority of people, power from solar panels on their roofs is simply cheaper than power from the grid.”

          So long as those panels are paid for by someone else. !!!

          1. sod

            “So long as those panels are paid for by someone else. ”

            your reply is just plain out false again. Power from your own roof is cheaper than power from the grid for nearly everyone.

            and you do not understand subsidies at all.

            The simple problem is, that if you add a small PV system to your roof (so that you use all of its output everyday), you are end up with a worse economic result, that when you use a slightly bigger system and the option to sell to the grid.

            as many opponents of solar power seem to be concerned about the poor people, just think about it: if solar PV is restricted (and economically most benefitting) only for those with a high energy consumption (basically companies and huge houses), then the redistribution effect would be much bigger than it is now.

        2. edmh

          Sod
          You forget that solar panels are only cheaper because of the subsidies and attractive feed-in tariffs they attract.

          In other words their use beggars the neighbours.

    2. sarastro

      The solution, of course, is to build a real power grid based on nuclear or fossil fuel and then run a fake green power grid, so that it triples or quadruples the cost of electricity. But at least the green gods are appeased.

  4. Mikky

    Renewable mania is not the only problem, it seems to me that privatisation is also a major part of the problem, the need to make everything attractive to investors. The privatisation problem would go away if the state bought power stations from private industry, but then owned and operated them itself on a not-for-profit-possibly-loss-making basis.

    1. DirkH

      Yeah right, the same government that encourages plastering wind turbines all across the countryside will magically make everything better once it has even more control.

      Magical thinking. Also called statism.

  5. Me Again

    Why “heat creep” explains all

    The flux of radiation is attenuated as the radiation spreads out from a source like the Sun. The fact is that a mean of only about 168W/m^2 of solar radiation strikes the Earth’s surface, and probably less than 20W/m^2 strikes the surface of Venus. Such levels are far too low to “explain” the existing surface temperatures on these planets. So “heat creep” has to be supplying the missing (required) energy.

    To understand why “heat creep” happens we have to understand entropy. The word “entropy” has a totally different meaning to “energy.” Entropy can be considered as a measure of progress towards thermodynamic equilibrium. What always happens in an isolated system is that there is a propensity for entropy to approach a maximum, and to do so by the fastest possible route. When that maximum is attained we have thermodynamic equilibrium, and in a gravitational field (or any force field) that state exhibits both a non-zero density gradient and a non-zero temperature gradient as I have shown in my 2013 paper and my book, both linked from my website here.

    In that state of thermodynamic equilibrium there is no further transfer of net energy or mass across any internal boundary within an isolated system. So the temperature and density gradients are stable and exist without further internal energy or mass transfers on a macro scale.

    That’s what you need to understand, because entropy maximization is what drives and determines the direction of natural convective heat transfer which, by definition, includes diffusion and does not get driven by any external force or input of energy from an external source.

    Entropy maximization can transfer thermal (kinetic) energy in any direction in various circumstances, depending upon, and only upon entropy increasing and never decreasing in an isolated system. So a disturbance to thermodynamic equilibrium has a subsequent consequence that depends upon the propensity for the system to regain thermodynamic equilibrium, or at least approach such until there is a subsequent disturbance. This can and does sometimes entail downward transfers of kinetic energy via molecular collisions, namely “heat creep” for short.

  6. AndyG55

    OT, but people HAVE to read this.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/07/23/yes-why-does-john-cook-of-skepticalscience-and-the-97-have-to-use-identity-theft-in-his-research/

    [b]unbelievable !![/b]

    (or since its John Cook, probably quite believable.)

    1. DirkH

      That reminds me, SKS is the website sod frequently links to.

      Hey sod, why do you link to a website run by identity thiefs?

  7. AndyG55

    OT, but people HAVE to read this.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/07/23/yes-why-does-john-cook-of-skepticalscience-and-the-97-have-to-use-identity-theft-in-his-research/

    unbelievable !!

    (or since its John Cook, probably quite believable.)

  8. sarastro

    Look, this folly has to play out. Likely there will be casualties: people too poor to afford electricity; industry fleeing, and eventually, it can be reliably predicted that there will be brown outs and blackouts even as electric power rates go through the ceiling.

    Freezing in the dark on a regular basis will provide and excellent teaching moment for a few generations in Germany and elsewhere.

    This is the only education plan that has a chance at reaching those infected with green brainwashing and propaganda. Sad…but effective. Heads will roll.

    1. sod

      “Freezing in the dark on a regular basis will provide and excellent teaching moment for a few generations in Germany and elsewhere.”

      Please send some money. i am freezing in the dark every night and half the time i have to run my computer on a bicycle generator as i can not afford diesel and the solar PV system has a capacity factor of 0.1% after 3 months of use. HELP ME, please!

      1. DirkH

        You must be from the future of Germany. Well, you ordered it, you got it. Now trample, slave!

  9. Loodt Pretorius

    Nothing helps to focus the mind more than shivering in the dark.

    Until you have major outages in Germany, stupid Eulenspiegels like SOD will continue to attract and amuse the crowds with the balderdash they broadcast.

  10. sod

    Australia is leading the way, even though Abbott is fighting alternative power with all means:

    Solar and battery storage are already beating Diesel (even existing Diesel!) in remote places.

    http://www.afr.com/business/solar-on-path-to-beat-diesel-lng-to-power-remote-mines-20150729-gin8u1

    and solar and battery storage is already cheaper than power from the grid.

    http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/solar-and-battery-storage-already-cheaper-than-grid-power-in-australia-66169

    1. DirkH

      “Solar and battery storage are already beating Diesel (even existing Diesel!) in remote places.”

      Congrats. You have just identified the one area where PV is economic for a number of years now. As it can be quite expensive to bring Diesel to an Island.

      1. sod

        “As it can be quite expensive to bring Diesel to an Island.”

        sorry, but the “island” we are talking about here is called middle of Australia.

        And PV has been economic at lonesome places for some time, but now we are talking about PV and battery storage (remember, that horrible technology that does not work at all) is beating existing diesel plants.

        This is a completely new thing and should be a serious concern for those who love fossil fuels..

        1. Graeme No.3

          Well it is expensive to move diesel over long distances. Remote areas in Australia are just that.

          PV and battery storage is hardly new. The combination has been used for emergency road side phones, lights etc. for many years in Australia. However you will be pleased to hear that there is some good news from Spain.
          When the Spanish Gov. stopped wind farm subsidies every project in (less windy) Extremadura was abandoned but most new projects in windy Galicia are going ahead with the addition of 2 pumped hydro systems which will ensure more constant supply.

        2. AndyG55

          lol.. you have never been to outback Australia, have you.

          Again, the speaking from ignorance.. your forte !!

          The amount of solar with storage that will be used in Australia, instead of diesel is minuscule and will in no way affect fossil fuels.

          It is a niche market at best.

  11. sod

    I just came across this interesting talking point about the Obama plans.

    “Another bit of evidence the plan is actually pretty weak tea: It almost certainly won’t raise energy prices. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the average American utility bill will actually go down $85 as a result of the Clean Power Plan.”

    http://theweek.com/articles/569759/obamas-new-clean-power-plan-almost-certainly-wont-raise-electric-bill-thats-bad-thing

    It also explains, why even alternative power that makes economic sense will need government support:

    “So in many respects, EPA is going after the low-hanging fruit: pushing the economy to adopt changes that already make economic sense on strict cost-benefit terms, but that wouldn’t happen as quickly if left up to the inertia of the market. Free market idealists like to think that, because of competition, companies have already hit on the most efficient and lowest-cost ways to make use of energy. So any forced change couldn’t possibly do anything but raise prices. This is largely baloney: There’s a long history of environmental regulations successfully forcing change to cleaner ways of doing business, at tiny fractions of the costs estimated by the EPA, much less by the businesses themselves.”

  12. AndyG55
  13. AndyG55

    And of course there is no link between installed renewables and energy cost 😉

    https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/rstudioscreensnapz027.png?w=720&h=653

    1. sod

      thanks for that link, very interesting graph, WUWT is the source.

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/08/03/obama-may-finally-succeed/

      I would love to discuss it. perhaps it is possible to do so in a new topic?

      1. AndyG55

        You know where it is…

        Go and discuss it there.

        Except you know you will be ripped to shreds.