The coming age of power cannibalism…Germany on the verge of committing energy suicide
By Fred F. Mueller
German politicians see themselves as the saviors of our climate. In the early 1990s German politicians started the policies that ultimately culminated in the “Energiewende”, which aims to eliminate nuclear power generation and some 76% of the fossil fuel power generation. By 2050 some 80% of power generation should come from “renewable” green sources such as wind, solar, biomass, waste incineration and hydro. Since the volatile sources of wind and solar power will have to contribute the lion’s share, politicians reluctantly concede 20% of the energy coming from reliable fossil power sources.
Germany’s endeavor is indeed breathtaking. A look at Figure 1 shows in detail how massively Germany had once relied upon fossil and nuclear power sources to secure a highly reliable power supply. These sources were controllable and highly reliable. And because Germany’s topology offers only limited possibilities for hydropower, that renewable source is minimal.
Figure 1: In 1990 the German grid was able to count on conventional power sources which were controllable and highly reliable. Renewable hydropower accounted for only 3.6 %
Today, after some two decades of massive green energy policy, the situation has changed dramatically. Wind, solar, biomass and waste incineration plants have been promoted to such an extent that together with hydropower, the share of “green energy” today has reached 25.8 % of the country’s total electric power production. This resulted from Germany’s EEG renewable energy feed-in act which guarantees producers fixed rates for 20 years and forces power companies to buy up all the renewable power produced, regardless of the market conditions. The result has been a massive oversupply which has led to steep price drops on power trading floors, which in turn have pushed fossil fuel utilities to and beyond their profitability limits. Surplus production has been repeatedly dumped onto neighboring markets and resulted in massive disturbances for the respective national power grids. Readers interested in a more detailed description of the policy might have a look at the article of Marita Noon [NOON].
Capacity without control
The problem with the “renewable” power sources of wind and solar is their intrinsic volatility coupled with their poor capacity utilization rates of only 17.4% for wind and 8.3% for solar (average values for Germany).
That poor utilization rate means one has to build up huge overcapacities in order to achieve a certain amount of power production. Worse, the power source fluctuates wildly according to weather conditions. As a consequence, Germany has to maintain a dual power generation infrastructure that comprises a grossly overinflated capacity of “renewable” wind and solar power plants shadowed by a full scale backup set of conventional plants. These conventional power sources must always be on standby, ready to take over when weather conditions aren’t favorable. The production-fluctuation range of the “renewables” wind and solar is incredibly wide and volatile. For example in Germany there is an installed nameplate capacity of nearly 73,000 MW. Yet the minimum power output in Germany in 2014 from both sources was a meager 29 MW (only 0.04% of installed capacity) while the maximum value was 38,000 MW (48%).
The massive buildup in wind and solar power has already resulted in a considerable nominal overcapacity of “renewable” power sources.
The combined rated capacity of all “renewable” power sources already reaches about 87,000 MW, which is the maximum power consumption the grid has been designed to secure. Additionally, a minimum conventional power station capacity of some 28,000 MW has to be constantly connected to the grid in order to secure supply stability. As a result the risk of the grid reaching an oversupply situation if weather conditions are favorable for both wind and solar power plants is growing with every additional “renewable” plant that comes online. Currently 5,000 – 6,000 MW are getting added each year. That situation is aggravated by the fact that there exists no technology to absorb and store any noticeable quantities of oversupply. Neighboring countries are already taking measures to fend off surplus-power-dumping that could destabilize their grids.
Power cannibalism has already started
The result is a grid which at times is so oversupplied with power that something will have to give. Fossil fuel power plants have been throttled to the point where they are no longer profitable and many power companies have started mothballing them, so quickly in fact that Germany had to pass legislation forcing producers to keep their fossil plants on stand-by, and to do so even if they lost money. Even the reliable “classic” renewable power sources – e.g. hydropower – are starting to suffer because most are not supported by government schemes.
As the build-up in renewable capacity continues, even the subsidized “renewable” power sources will sooner rather than later be forced into fierce competition for access to the grid whenever the weather conditions turn favorable. One can speculate that within just a couple of years, the first “renewable” energy sources will slowly be driven out of the market because of oversupply. Eventually the renewable power producers will be forced to cannibalize each other in an increasingly fierce competition for privileged access to the power grid as the unwanted events of over-supply become increasingly more frequent.
Things are set to get much worse
Normally, one would think that a government confronted with such a situation would stop at this point and wait for a technically and commercially viable solution for storing the increasing amounts of produced surplus electric energy – for use during times when weather conditions are less favorable. Unfortunately no such storage solution is currently available at the required scale, and anything being proposed so far is either much too expensive or has efficiency factors that are not worth discussing.
Yet Germany has a unique peculiarity: its leaders sometimes exhibit a stunning inability to recognize when the time has come to abandon a lost cause. So far €500 billion has already been invested in the “Energiewende”, which is clearly emerging as a failure. Yet all political parties continue to throw their full weight behind the policy rather than admitting it is a failure (which would be tantamount to political suicide). Instead, the current government coalition has even decided to shift into an even higher gear on the path to achieving its objective of generating 80% of German electric power from “renewable” sources by 2050. If the situation is practically unmanageable now with 25% renewable energy, it’ll be an uncontrollable disaster when (if) it reaches 80%.
If the government sticks to its targets, the share of the different power sources will probably appear as in Figure 2. Currently just 26% has been achieved so far, and the existing biomass share of some 7% is more or less doomed and thus will also have to be replaced by wind and solar. One can easily see how daunting the task that still lies ahead really is.
Figure 2. The official goal of achieving 80% power supply from “renewable” sources by 2050 requires further massive investments in wind and solar power technologies. Imagine the huge power supply fluctuations one can expect to see from wind and sun.
Waiting for the grand finale
The real risks that lie ahead for the German power generating infrastructure become more recognizable if one looks at the nameplate capacity buildup that has taken place, e.g. just over the past five years, and compares it to what will additionally be needed by 2050, see Figure 2. Keeping in mind that €500 billion have already been contracted and will have to be paid by the consumer, one gets an idea of the proportions of the task still to be tackled in the coming years.
Figure 3. The installed nameplate power production capacities for wind, solar and biomass as of 2014 has already severely burdened the German consumer with costs of about €500 billion. That will dwarfed by what lies ahead, if politicians don’t change course. Note how 376,000 MW of wind and sun capacity may be installed to ensure meeting the country’s roughly 70,000 MW of demand.
Apart from the sheer dimensions of the costs that lie ahead, the additional cannibalism aspect will grow to enormous proportions. Since an installed wind and solar capacity of some 73,000 MW in 2014 yielded a combined maximum power output of 38,000 MW, the 376,000 MW that are to be installed by 2050 will generate a peak output of 196,000 MW to a grid that might just be able to take up between 40,000 and 90,000 MW. That means, depending on the weather, between 106,000 and 156,000 MW will have to be dumped somewhere else.
In the fight to get power into an often times severely overloaded grid, that’s when cannibalism amongst “renewable” power sources will really become intense. Will wind farmers sabotage solar plantations? Will solar owners sabotage wind turbines? Time will tell, maybe much sooner than we think.
Fred F. Mueller
[NOON] Marita Noon: Germany’s “energy transformation:” unsustainable subsidies and an unstable system www.cfact.org/2014/12/16/germanys-unsustainable-subsidies-and-an-unstable-system/
31 responses to “Germany’s “Energiewende” Leading To Suicide By Cannibalism. Huge Oversupply Risks Destabilization”
How is this
“in fact that Germany had to pass legislation forcing producers to keep their fossil plants on stand-by, and to do so even if they lost money.”
Is it legal under Eu law?
What is the punishment for a Company that just declares itself Bankrupt?
I suppose they just pass the costs on to the consumers.
“Is it legal under Eu law?”
Under EU law, a national government may not subsidize companies; but it is not forbidden to ruin them.
This road has an end. At the end there is a brick wall. So let’s press even harder on the accelerator so we can get there sooner!
As energy companies go bankrupt, who will buy them? The government. As costs go through the roof, and the grid becomes even more unstable, blackouts will begin. Soon, power will only be available for certain hours. Then the economy will begin to destabilize. The only questions remaining are at what point will be people get fed up, and what will they do about it.
If we assume that German politicians try to solve problems and improve the living circumstances we arrive at a contradiction – we cannot explain their actions with this assumption.
If we on the other hand assume that they are trying to squander as much taxpayer and ratepayer money as possible, to get kickbacks in the form of bribes and dividends, their actions make perfect sense.
Most MP’s in Berlin own shares in wind park operators.
Sounds just like UK MPs.
No. It is ideology.
at what point will be people get fed up, and what will they do about it – See more at:
That’s the point I would rather be dead or living in asia. Poor choices both.
My guess is that most people will revolt by the ballot box but that can be as dangerous as revolution. Look at greece right now. They have elected a marxist.
Please don’t repeat the nonsense about the Greeks electing Communists.
Just because they are not Brussels appointees or thieves, does not make them Communists.
“Mother Of Former Greek PM Papandreou Linked To $714 Million Swiss Bank Account”
BTW, the “Lagarde List” was given to the Americans 5 years ago, and they have not chased up a single individual. I wonder why?
Alfred 10. February 2015 at 04:22 | Permalink | Reply
“Please don’t repeat the nonsense about the Greeks electing Communists.
Just because they are not Brussels appointees or thieves, does not make them Communists.”
Alfred, the Greek have an entire Island full of unrepentent communists (all living on welfare).
They have no qualms whatsoever electing communists.
How much energy is removed from the normal air currents by all these wind turbines.
Wouldn’t slowing air circulation have a warming effect?
No, removing energy has a cooling effect, but it is very small.
Andy is right; removing kinetic energy must slow down air circulation, slowing down the atmospheric heat engine. To get back up to the speed that is necessary to achieve equilibrium again, a higher energy gradient is necessary, a higher surface temperature if upper air temperature stays the same.
I stand corrected.
A LOT of warming.
Almost. Mixing due to these propellers have a warming effect in the lower air layers. Wineries use fans to mix air to keep the grapes from freezing.
Pierre had a post on 3 Dec regarding this —
Eon announced yesterday the spin off of its fossil fuel and nuclear generation operations —
Our local retailers advertise sales “Get 2 for the price of 1.”
Electricity in Germany (and elsewhere) is going to be “Get 1 for the price of 2.”
Other stores have signs saying “You break it you bought it.”
The German government(s) are soon going to own a broken system.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Oh BTW; Spiegel has suddenly realized that recycling-crazy Germany produces huge amount of non-recycleable wind turbine blades.
The ultra politically correct Spiegel commenters (carefully selected by rabid censorship akin to Komment Macht Frei of the Guardian) are irritated, feel hoodwinked by polluting planet-saving contraptions.
We, in the UK, still see blog comments saying “Germany has solved all their energy problems, using renewables”; which must prove (again) that the first and most dramatic statement on a subject, however irrational, becomes the truth and it will take a long period of attrition for it to be erased.
It used to be common to involve experts in the subject when faced with a problem. Having politicians deciding how the electricity supply will function brings to the mind the old saying about lunatics in charge of the asylum.
‘German politicians see themselves as the saviors of our climate’. So they are the experts.
Does anyone have an idea how the German landscape will look like when 324000 MW of wind turbines is installed?
Think about it.
You may thank the greens for devastating our planet!
There is a mistake in the demand figure – I am certain that Germany’s electric power demand exceeds 70MW.
Caption to Figure 3 last sentence -“Note how 376,000 MW of wind and sun capacity may be installed to ensure meeting the country’s roughly 70 MW of demand”
Thanks. That was my editing mistake, and not Fred’s. That figure should be 70,000 MW.
“The recent escapades of the Energiewende remind me of a plane that takes off without knowing whether there is a landing strip at the end of the journey,” Lex Hartman, head of grid operator Tennet, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
What happened to German organisation here? It seems Bavaria doesn’t like being told what to do by Berlin and the North – nothing new there of course.
Don’t tell the Hussfrau, but our great leader the Cameroon balloon has solved the oversupply problem.
He just pays his father in law double the going rate to switch his windmills off if there is too much wind.
There – problem solved.
Same solution is applied in Germany to prevent grid meltdown.
I don’t know the exact efficiency or loss being incurred with a pump/turbine hydro
storage system but it should be a lot better than the spread between the minimum and maximum output. Con Edison tried to spread out its load doing exactly that on storm king mountain here in New York but it was shot down by environmentalists. They didn’t like the reservoir. Just a thought.
Should be on the order of 80%; and Swiss and Austrian pumped storage operators do make a fortune by importing German solar electricity for negative prices and re-sell at night or when the sun doesn’t shine. Not much excess wind energy down there, that’s more in the plains of the North.
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