Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt was interviewed by Switzerland-based Basler Zeitung concerning Germany’s ‘Energiewende’ (transition to renewable energies), and energy issues in Switzerland, on February 18, 2017.
Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt. Image credit: GWPF
Vahrenholt was once the head of RWE’s renewable energy arm, Innogy, and responsible for the installation of offshore wind parks. However, after years of poor performance, discovering that the climate science was unclean, and learning of the harm wind parks pose to the environment, Vahrenholt has since been calling for a fundamental energy policy course correction in Germany.
Vahrenholt has called the German Energiewende “a disaster” so far, foremost because the supply of wind and sun is far too unstable and that everyone knows by now that it cannot work.
He also thinks Germany is making a huge mistake in the decision to phase out nuclear power, and calls Switzerland’s decision to keep nuclear power online “wise”.
The German professor also reminds that adding more capacity will not solve any of the supply problems: “No, even if we triple wind energy capacity, power generation will remain near zero when the wind stops blowing. The situation is similar for solar energy, especially at night. Solar energy only works full time 8% of the year.”
No viable storage technology
Tripling capacity would also result in chaos on windy and sunny days, Vahrenholt explains. On such days, with a tripled capacity, so much power would surge into the power grid that the surplus power would have to be given away, or “sold at negative prices”:
When too much power is fed in, grid operators order wind parks to shut down — yet they continue to be paid even when they do not produce. That is now costing one billion euros a year, and that is indeed absurd!”
Vahrenholt reiterates that sun and wind will not function until a solution is found for the storage problem. Currently no large-scale solution is anywhere near in sight. Dumping surplus power into the power grids of neighboring countries only wreaks havoc in those countries. Already countries are installing so-called phase shifters to keep surplus energy from the German grid from spilling uncontrollably into neighboring power networks, Vahrenholt explains.
Also a topic of the interview was the rising price of electricity for end consumers, which has seen German power become at near 30 euro-cents per kilowatt-hour among the world’s most expensive.
Vahrenholt says that policymakers made great errors in implementing wind and solar power, stating that storage technology should have been first developed. “We shouldn’t put the cart before the horse.”
For the time being, many energy-intensive industries in Germany have been exempted from having to pay the feed-in tariffs that are passed on to consumers. This leaves the regular private consumers to pick up the tab. But there is the risk that industry will soon be called on to pay their fair share. Vahrenholt adds:
One does not invest in a country when he/she is not sure how energy prices will develop. In addition to the price, supply stability also plays an important role. It decreases with every new wind turbine.”
“Enormous” impact on wildlife
Vahrenholt also points out the wind turbines are a real hazard to endangered wildlife: “The impacts on the biosphere of plants and animals are enormous.”
And why aren’t environmentalists and Green Party politicians being more vocal against wind turbines? Here Vahrenholt says that years ago they made the Energiewende the centerpiece of their platform. “In reality in Germany they were never an environmental party, but rather an anti-capitalist party that dedicated itself to protesting nuclear power and industry.”
Green energy for the urban elite
Yet, Vahrenholt sees “an enormous citizens’ protest potential” that reminds him of the anti-nuclear power industry from decades ago. He summarizes:
The dream of the urban elite of a supposedly clean energy supply is being realized on the backs of the rural population, who are losing their homeland.”
All in all Vahrenholt says green energies have been a real bonanza for rich property owners, and a real financial burden on the poor. He believes that the current development cannot be sustained and that it will need to be corrected: “At the latest when the first power grid failure occurs.” and that, “The longer it takes, the greater the difficulties will be.”
The full interview in German is at the Basler Zeitung.