Fraunhofer Institute Director (Who Has Vacation Home In California) Demands Expensive Electricity For The Poor

Rudolf Kipp at Science Skeptical reports on Director of the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany brings us this glittering example of how arrogant and detached from reality the scientific elite among us can be.

How the Fraunhofer Director saves energy in his vacation home in California
By Rudolf Kipp

Professor Eicke R. Weber, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg, Germany, recently expressed his opinion in a commentary appearing in the daily Badischen Zeitung. It bothers him that German companies simply are not acknowledging the huge potential of photovoltaics. They simply lack faith, he claims.

Completely unimpressed by the the wave of bankruptcies that has rippled through Germany due to low-priced competition from China, and despite all the generous subsidies pampering the industry, Weber is still convinced that photovoltaic systems will undergo a boom in the future.

Lack of faith as a reason for bankruptcies?

It’s not really clear if the Professor Weber really means solar companies in Germany are going bankrupt one after another because they lack the faith that he himself demands. That seems to be the least of the problems for German manufacturers. They all believe their products are better than those from China, and that the only way to a sustainable future is if more and more customers buy more and more of their solar modules.

Indeed faith can move mouintains, but it cannot pay a single bill from a supplier or employee wages. And because this is the reality, we are currently experiencing a die-off of an entire industry. The problem is not a lack of faith – it’s the lack of profitability.

Rising electricity prices are no problem for the professor

Another thing that agitates the professor from Freiburg is “the myth that German pensioners with their electricity bills are financing rich property owners who own buildings covered with solar panels and Chinese industrial bosses”. But it is indeed true that in Germany mainly land and homeowners are the ones profiting the most, along with Chinese solar panel manufacturers, while low income earners with no possibility to invest wind up footing the bill. Weber makes no attempt to refute this.

Instead, he simply recommends that low wage earners consume less power. And to ensure that they really do this, incentives need to be created. Here the professor, who resides in Germany, prefers a graduated price structure. He explains how this would work:

My electricity bill in my vacation home in California is structured as follows: 13 cents/kwh for base consumption, 29 cents/kwh for up to 200 percent of the base consumption and much more for households with large consumption.”

When you read this, it becomes clear why Professor Weber is not afraid of rising power costs. The man can obviously afford it. Clearly he has enough money to fly to his vacation home in California multiple times a year – emitting huge quantities of CO2 as he does so.

Moreover, the professor has the chutzpah to expect other people, who can only dream of having the professor’s lifestyle and who emit only a fraction of his CO2, to limit their energy consumption in order to rescue the planet. To reach this target, he considers it absolutely necessary to make energy so expensive that the “little man” is no longer able to afford it.

If at some time rising energy prices should lead to unrest, then I would recommend that Professor Weber remains at his California vacation home instead of staying in Germany. In earlier revolutions such arrogant elitists ended up facing angry mobs armed with pitchforks and torches.


26 responses to “Fraunhofer Institute Director (Who Has Vacation Home In California) Demands Expensive Electricity For The Poor”

  1. JuergenK

    Two hundred plus years ago people like him have been decapitated for their loss of sense of reality.
    Bad times then … He’s a very lucky man to live nowadays.

    Having changed my heating to a modern green and CO2 saving electric heat pump I am now depending 100% on electric energy. Two years after having had that thing installed I am very frustrated and disappointed. Energy prices are moving upwards fast and I am missing my oil based heating already.
    Even worse, our city administration plans to have a lot of bat killers installed quasi in my backyard.

    Now I can pick out of several reason why I cannot sleep any more.

    1.) Energy prices: I have to stop my internet activities – my favorite hobby since I am retired.
    2.) Energy prices: I have to stop heating in winter
    3.) Bat choppers: The wind turbines rattle my nervous system
    4.) AGW religion: My neighbours hate me for my conviction of climate change being natural
    5.) Orwellian regime: The thought police might enter my home any time
    6.) Trifle: The trash investigators from Saxony will catch me for not separating potential crude materials
    7.) High Tech: The CO2 footprint trackers will throw me into prison
    8.) The light bulb monitoring has dicovered that I am using some good ol’ incandesents
    9.) The controllers of a clean environment have discovered I am pouring my old frying oil onto my compost.
    10.) I am using environment killing cement flooring my cellar
    and so on and so forth.

    Is there any way out?
    Will I ever sleep again?
    Why not moving to the sunny state? Oh, I forgot. The people in Schwarzeneggers tenure are doing even worse, don’t they?

    1. DirkH

      200 years ago Weber would have been a Macchiavelli or a Hegel, advising the military dictators of the fiefdom he happens to live at how to manipulate and suppress the population.

  2. Ian Mott

    As the good Director is only in residence in California for a short time each year his power consumption would all be at the base price, subsidised by the normal households who cannot avoid the higher prices. And if the good Director bought another house, to avoid the obvious tedium of bi-habitation, he could ensure that he only paid the base rate for all his power usage. No wonder he likes the idea.

    For the record, California’s unemployment rate is over 11% which is a full 3% points above the US average of 8%.

  3. Renewable Guy

    Instead, he simply recommends that low wage earners consume less power. And to ensure that they really do this, incentives need to be created. Here the professor, who resides in Germany, prefers a graduated price structure. He explains how this would work:

    My electricity bill in my vacation home in California is structured as follows: 13 cents/kwh for base consumption, 29 cents/kwh for up to 200 percent of the base consumption and much more for households with large consumption.”

    When you read this, it becomes clear why Professor Weber is not afraid of rising power costs. The man can obviously afford it. Clearly he has enough money to fly to his vacation home in California multiple times a year – emitting huge quantities of CO2 as he does so.

    He is talking about a two tiered pricing system. Instead of paying less as you use more electricity as many states do, you pay more for your electricity to encourage less consumption. Those that are lower income can afford to have good electricity at reasonable prices and work to avoid using too much elctricity to stay out of the higher prices. This encourages them to be efficient with their electricity and stay at reasonable costs. This is the right incentive to have to encourage less pollution from energy use.

    google translator

    The problem of low-income earners is easy to solve: not instead of a social tariff, the savings of cheap electricity rewards, we need a tiered electricity price, in which a primary care is calculated at an affordable price. Any further consumption would be more expensive. My electric bill in the House in California is structured: 13 Dollar-Cent/Kilowattstunde for basic consumption, 29 cents / kilowatt-hour for up to 200 percent of its consumption, and substantially more for households with large consumption

    1. DirkH

      Encouraging lower consumption means encouraging people to live with less.

      If I pay you a buck a day, will you eat half as much as now? Imagine the savings!

      1. Renewable Guy

        Hmmm. Its an interesting analogy. That I don’t agree with when it comes to power. There is a clear link to power (electricity) and pollution. If you don’t have much money then pinching pennies is a way of life that is important to begin with. If and when gair condition your home, you would want to buy the more efficient air conditioner. When using your lights, you would want to buy the kind of light that would use less electricity. When you don’t need it shut it off immediately. This is not starvation, this is making your money and effort count and not wasting it needlessly. When heating your home, use more efficeint windows, caulk all your gaps in your house, buy a more efficient furnace. Most countries will assist the lower income people so that they can better afford to live in their homes. This kind of assistance allows for more independent living rather than a subsidy of energy because it is being wasted.

        Germans understand frugalness better than most. Waste not, want not.

        1. DirkH

          Buying a more expensive car that consumes less fuel only makes sense when the car lives long enough. Otherwise, more efficiency leads to higher cost.

          Some Germans also understand arithmetic, you know. But I grant you that it’s a minority, and easily fooled by people like you.

          Again: Cut down your caloric consumption! It’s easy! Just stop moving!
          Waste not! Want not!

          1. Renewable Guy

            Goodness. I’m not to be trusted. These are very basic rules of life with no evil involved as you imply. It takes some work, but with a little diligence the efficient way out is better for all.

            In the American society, there is plenty of easy waste to dispose of. What they are calling the low hanging fruit.

  4. Renewable Guy

    The Germans are going to continue building pv factories into the higher effiiencies and lower cost pv.

    google translator

    Germany is in the PV research a top position. The German plant manufacturer equip the world. Of the global production capacity of 50 gigawatts per year, half built by German equipment manufacturers, including three gigawatts in Germany. Baden is a focus of this machine-building industry. Unfortunately, the PV sales 2012 “only” be another record of about 30 GW. So there is a huge excess capacity, leading to bankruptcies and rapidly declining prices. 2020 but experts expect a global market of about 100 gigawatts per year. Soon so new plants will be purchased to serve this demand to continue dropping prices to remain profitable. Little older plants as they have been installed in Germany, since hardly keep up. We need to develop advanced large-scale production plants in the gigawatt scale. This can also be built in Germany.

    1. Bernd Felsche

      I’d love to see your solar-powered silicon smelter producing PV for gigawatt power generation.

      Are you even vaguely familiar with a sense of proportion?

      Do some ARITHMETIC.

      1. Renewable Guy

        It is very clear that our energy and pollution are linked. Reducing pollution is one of the most valuable things we can do for the world.

        With an average efficiency of 15 percent, a square yard of solar photovoltaic cells (PV) would produce (5 kilowatt-hours of solar energy multiplied by 15% =) .75 kilowatt-hours of electric energy per day. Solar panels (PV) covering an area ten yards by ten yards (100 square yards or 900 square feet) would produce 100 x .75 = 75 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day.

        Lets say 1 home would need 25 square yds for full production from a single home. With energy efficiency this could be less. This would be about 25 solar panels/home on average.

        In the southwest desert of the United States, Arizona has more than enough sunlight to power California with plenty of land left over.

        1. Bernd Felsche

          Your argument regarding pollution vs energy is falsified by current generating practices. The air above Europe hasn’t been cleaner in almost 200 years. Yet energy production is a million times greater.

          I didn’t ask you about domestic electricity consumption in Arizona.

          You suggested that GERMANY could switch to efficient PV manufacture. HOW will you run the smelters? You know; the ones that need to produce about 250 MJ/kg of pure silicon product by maintaining a high, STABLE furnace temperature for many hours. Half of the foundry product is sawn waste and has to be re-refined — so the nett energy per kg of PV cells (JUST THE CELLS) is nearly 500 MJ/kg.

          The energy input for encapsulation, typically aluminium and glass are even higher. SHOW me an aluminium smelter than can run on solar power and procude more than a few kilograms of aluminium ingots a day. Is there even a mill that can extrude the sections in the requisite quantities using only energy from the sun?

          What about the glass? How will you melt all that glass to casting temperature and keep all that tin upon which it floats molten with solar power?

          NO AMOUNT OF PV PANELS can make a house self-sustaining with energy. Sunshine is diffuse and unreliable. In order to provide 99.999% availability (tyical of conventional generation and distribution) of electricity over a day, the PV area has to be approximately 5 times greater than nominal. The sun doesn’t shine 1-sun for very much of the year. Especially not in much of Germany where SNOW will cover the PV arrays resulting in ZERO PV-generated electricity for weeks.

          The elephant which you’re trying to sweep under the carpet is the STORAGE elephant. Electrical storage is not cheap, simple or “environmentally friendly”. It, like the electronics required to MANAGE the PV arrays requires constant and expen$ive maintenance which takes people with special skills training. STORAGE makes PV electricity several times more expensive than PV to “grid” without storage.

    2. DirkH

      “Baden is a focus of this machine-building industry. ”

      Make that “was”. Centrotherm is insolvent.

  5. Renewable Guy

    This is really a good thing for solar and the poor too. They will be taken care of while those that can afford will pay for Germany to advance into the 21st century.

    google translator

    The Korean company Hanwha has recognized the signs of the times and is a bargain price to take the PV technology leader Q-Cells, which fell due to bad decisions in trouble. Q-Cells will become part of one of the world’s leading PV company. Most jobs in Germany are to be retained. Unfortunately none of our companies had the foresight to take this step. The future of the solar industry is exciting. Further cost reductions are all people of the world will allow access to low-priced electricity. We in Germany should be proud to support this further by our feed-in tariff for PV and the resulting rapid expansion of this important technology.

    1. DirkH

      Renewable Guy, we know and understand PG&E’s tiered system.

      So again, for the slow learners: Weber, as a vacationer in California never pays tiers 2 and three.

      Of course he likes the system.

    2. DirkH

      Renewable Guy, is your renewable energy company already funding Obama’s successor, far left green Julian Castro?

      1. Renewable Guy

        Renewable energy is my identity only and not an income in it do I make. I have no problem with wealth being transferred to renewable energy rather than fossil fuels.

        It sounds like fossil fuels squabling like children because their wealth will decrease, and as it should.

        1. DirkH

          You were singing the praises of efficiency – how can inefficient capital allocation lead to more efficiency?

          Do you think we’ll use less coal and oil by producing more PV panels and wind turbine masts?

          Are PV Panels produced with PV electricity?
          Do the cranes that erect and maintain wind turbines run on wind power?

          What do they run on?
          I know it.
          You sound like you don’t.

          1. Renewable Guy

            Dirk, what would you have me build it with?

            If fossil fuels can be replaced in a reliable way,would this be acceptable to you?

            Do the builders of wind turbines have to do without fossil fuels to build the network?

          2. DirkH

            Pierre got it.

            Or in a nutshell: Economic inefficiency is energetic inefficiency.

            The very fact that PV and wind (and offshore wind, and geothermal) need subsidies tells me something about energy efficiency. The higher the subsidy per kWh, the smaller the EROEI. That’s the beauty of capitalism – a price is an information.

          3. Renewable Guy

            WIth diversified power sources that are also intermittent, there is a greater chance of the sources covering for each other and also over wide geographic areas will decrease intermittency.

            German wind power generation falls by 20% Y/Y in Aug 2012


            (SeeNews Renewables) – Sep 4, 2012 – The power generated German fed only 2.2 billion kWh electricity into the grid, which is by a 20% year-on-year decrease so far the lowest figure in 2012.

            From January to August, the wind turbines’ power generation increased to 29.6 billion kWh from 26.6 billion kWh in the same period of 2011. The strong January generation contributed particularly to this positive net balance.

            The joint electricity production of wind and solar power plants in Germany amounted to some 52 billion kWh in the first eight months of 2012.

            While wind power production was well above solar power generation in the months from January to April, since May solar systems produce more electricity than wind turbines. This trend is likely to reverse again in favour of wind energy during the autumn months

          4. Renewable Guy


            Many times the government is needed to step in to help get different needed technologies to scale to help the costs drop. This is happening to wind.

  6. Ulrich Elkmann

    As someone is supposed to have said some time ago in a similar situaton: “…qu’ils mangent de la brioche!” – “Let them eat cake!” (if they can’t afford the bread).
    I wonder what became of that lady…

  7. John F. Hultquist

    “Let them eat cake!”

    I’ve read of and heard this many times. One writer contends that it is not exactly what she said, and definitely not what she intended. Her expression of good intention was twisted and used against her. My miniscule knowledge of French history allows for no more this morning (6:30 am here). I’m off to do a day of volunteer trail work in the Cascades of Washington State – the land owner (US Gov) can no longer afford to maintain the things it has!

    1. Ed Caryl

      Those trails were originally built by the CCC. The Government couldn’t afford to build them in the first place.

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