German Energiewende – Modern Miracle or Major Misstep

by Davis Swan

There is an ongoing debate regarding the value and/or wisdom of the German Government’s implementation of an energy transformation – the Energiewende.

The primary driver for Energiewende was the policy decision, first made in 2000, to eliminate nuclear power in Germany. Nuclear generating stations contributed as much as 25% of the electricity supply in the late 1990’s.

Sorting out fact from fiction when assessing the Energiewende is not as easy as you might expect because most commentators put a significant “spin” on data that is admittedly subject to multiple interpretations. In this post I will try and summarize the most salient points regarding the Energiewende that can be supported by publicly available factual information. These are:

  • Germany has successfully developed a very significant base of renewable energy over a sustained period of time without going bankrupt or causing unbearable economic hardship to electricity consumers whether they be residential or industrial. This is a very laudable achievement – one that many observers would have declared impossible.
  • The Energiewende in and of itself represented enough of a demand for wind turbines and solar panels to have resulted in very significant decreases in the prices for all of the components associated with these technologies. As every country in the world develops their own renewable resources they will ultimately enjoy substantial cost savings due in large part to the Energiewende.
  • Germany has spent far more public money, in the form of direct grants, tax incentives and utility rate increases than was needed in order to attain the same level of renewable energy generation that it enjoys today.
  • Germany, like Denmark, has only been able to develop intermittent renewable energy resources because of the high capacity inter-connections with other large European energy providers/consumers. In effect, Germany and Denmark have used the European and Nordic grids as a large battery. It follows that if other European countries were to follow the path taken by Germany the system as a whole would soon run out of capacity to deal with the fluctuations in renewable energy production.
  • The German Energiewende has not resulted in less dependence on the burning of coal to generate electricity and will not do so anytime soon.
  • The preferential access to the grid that is given to renewable energy production has frequently pushed thermal generation off-line for extended periods of time, particularly at mid-day on windy days in the springtime. These base-load plants were designed to run 7x24x365 and the business cases underpinning the financing of these plants assumed high utilization factors. As a result these plants are marginally profitable at best. The market response to this situation would be to close many of these plants to reduce capacity and stabilize wholesale prices. That is not possible because all of the thermal capacity is required in the late afternoon and into the night on calm days.

These facts (see detailed discussion below) lead me to the conclusion that the Germany Energiewende has achieved remarkable changes to the energy economy of the largest country in Europe. Unfortunately, I believe that the approach taken was far from optimal and has influenced many other jurisdictions around the world to follow a similar non-optimal path. I also believe that without finding an economical and hugely scaleable energy storage system this approach cannot proceed much further.

The impact of the Energiewende on Wind and Solar Component Prices

I suppose you could argue that the impact of the Energiewende on Wind and Solar Component Prices has not been significant but given the scale of development and the timing it seems clear to me that there has been a large impact. Until China got moving on solar panel installations Germany was purchasing about half the worldwide supply and still represents about 25% of installed capacity.

Germany has also been one of the largest purchasers of wind turbines consuming about 10% of the worldwide supply from 2004-2010 dropping to about 5% more recently as other countries have accelerated their development of wind resources.

Roof-top Solar: $100 Billion plus lost in translation

The biggest failing of the Energiewende has been the investment in subsidies of roof-top solar panel installations.

As I have argued in another blog posting even under the best of conditions in arid regions between 35 degrees latitude north and south roof-top solar does not make sense. Installations are complicated and expensive, roof pitch and orientation is never ideal and there is no ability to implement sun tracking.

In the case of Germany which is located between 48 and 52 degrees north latitude subsidizing roof-top solar panels is pointless. The graph below summarizes electricity consumption and solar power production in Germany in 2013.

Solar power production peaks at about the same time German electricity consumption is at a minimum. For those months solar can meet about 11% of total demand (as much as 30-35% at mid-day on sunny days).

The real problem comes in the winter months when German consumption of electricity is highest. In the months of December and January German solar production is about 500 GW-Hours which meets about 1% of demand. Even if Germany was to double the number of solar panels that have been installed over the past 15 years it could meet only 2% of winter demand and in that situation there would be a huge surplus of solar power at mid-day in the summer. There is no solution to this imbalance between winter and summer insolation which is the primary reason that solar power is so ineffective in Germany.

I am not alone in my criticism of the German approach. A recent report states that Germany has in effect wasted over $100 billion by focusing on solar power. The study suggests that if the same amount of financial support had been directed towards developing solar power in Spain together with additional transmission capacity in central Europe then northern European Countries would have access to much more renewable energy when they need it most in the winter.

It is undeniable that solar panels generate a lot of electricity in Germany. But it is also true that the return on the investment made in solar power has been very poor both in financial and environmental terms.

“Green power sets new record at 78% of German supply!”

Statements similar to this come out on a regular basis, usually in June or July. They are factually correct and impressive but they can easily lead the reader to conclude that the majority of electricity in Germany can be generated from renewable sources quite often. It is in fact a very rare event.

On very low demand days between May and August when winds are blowing strongly Germany can see renewables reach those levels for a few hours at mid-day. However, there are many, many more days and even more late afternoons and evenings when renewables make almost no contribution to the electricity supply. This can be seen by the annual average generation by renewables which stands at about 25%.

Renewable penetration of 25% of total generation would be very impressive if it was actually used in Germany. However, just as in Denmark which makes similar claims regarding wind as a percentage of total generation, a large amount of renewable generation in Germany is of absolutely no value. This is solar energy at mid-day and wind energy at night when there is insufficient domestic demand. In those circumstances Germany has no choice but to export this surplus electricity at very low prices (sometimes negative) and Germany’s neighbours have to absorb this electricity whether they need it or not. The Czech Republic, France, Poland, and Switzerland have been complaining quite bitterly about the negative impacts of these exports. Stress on the regional grids, the need to cycle power sources in those countries in response to the fluctuations in German generation, and low wholesale spot prices are issues that are increasing in severity every year.

From the graph above you will note that German exports have increased about 35% since 2009 as more renewable energy has entered the market. Note however that imports have decreased less than 10% since 2009. This is because of the intermittent nature of renewables. Exports take place at times of low demand and garner low prices. Imports typically take place at peak demand times and at peak demand prices. As a result German retail electricity prices have continued to rise despite the fact that generation capacity has exceeded domestic demand for a number of years. In my blog I have called this combination of increasing supply, increasing or stable imports and increasing prices an Electricity Paradox – or Electrodox

Non-Renewable Sources Supplying More Electricity Than 25 Years Ago

One of the claims by supporters of the Energiewende is that the growth of renewables will allow Germany to reduce its dependence upon coal-fired generation thereby reducing CO2 emissions. That has not happened over the past fifteen years and reducing coal-fired generation will not take place anytime soon.

Source: Heinrich Böll Stiftung

Germany is burning almost exactly as much coal today as it was 10 years ago. A number of new coal-fired plants have actually come on stream in the last 5 years. The addition of natural gas fired plants means that Germany is now generating more electricity from burning hydro-carbons than it was 25 years ago.

From the graph it might appear that renewable generation has largely replaced nuclear generation but the situation is a bit more complicated than that.

Germany has had surplus capacity for many years (all responsibly regulated electricity markets have reserve capacity) and has exported electricity since before the turn of the century. In the past those exports were primarily nuclear power at peak demand times and prices and German nuclear was a welcome addition to the central European energy mix. Now those exports are renewables at off-peak times and very low prices which cause issues for Germany’s neighbours.

It is true that every day of the year renewables make a significant contribution to the electricity supply in Germany, reducing the need to burn hydro-carbons and/or generate power from nuclear stations. The positive impact on CO2 emissions and other forms of pollution is significant. But it is also true that there are many times when renewables contribute very little generation and Germany must make use of all its thermal generating capacity and import power from its neighbours. As a result it has not been possible to retire any significant amount of coal-fired or natural gas-fired generation capacity.

Can Price Volatility Guarantee Security of Supply?

With renewables pushing conventional generation off the grid frequently and with little notice it is very difficult to operate thermal power plants efficiently or profitably. Frequent and unpredictable cycling of coal-fired and natural-gas fired plants increases operating expenses, reduces service life, and introduces uncertainty into revenue projections.

In the absence of any kind of capacity plan utilities are making economic decisions that can be in conflict with the goals of the Energiewende. For example, highly efficient Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) facilities are being closed while lignite coal-fired plants remain open. Natural gas is simply more expensive than coal in Europe. As a result the rational economic choice favours plants that emit more than twice as much CO2 as well as harmful airborne pollutants.

The heated debate over the need for a capacity market in Germany has been going on for several years. For the time being nuclear plants contribute to a significant oversupply situation. That will change in 2022 when the remaining nuclear plants are due to be retired. Making sure that there is adequate and reliable generation capacity available to replace the loss of the nuclear plants remains a work in progress.

The government position at the moment is to allow high spot market prices to be the primary incentive for utilities to maintain adequate generation capacity. German Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has stated that “high prices at times of scarcity would ensure that conventional power plants would remain profitable”. The idea is that if prices are allowed to go high enough when renewables are not available (for example on calm nights), then it will still be possible to make a profit running a thermal generation station if only for a few hours on a few days.

This is the same approach taken by Texas which has raised its ceiling spot price to $9,000/MW (the average price paid is $45/MW). The response of Texas electricity utilities has been “That dog don’t hunt”. In January, 2014 they took out a full-page advertisement warning of a future plagued by blackouts and system failures.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Of course nobody can reliably predict the future so the following comments are pure speculation.

I cannot see how Germany can continue to develop significantly more wind and solar resources in the next few years. The imbalances between supply and demand at different times of the day and different months of the year are becoming too extreme. And with so much generating capacity in place it is difficult to imagine utilities building any new plants. What that means when the nuclear plants shut down is anyone’s guess but it does not look like a pretty picture to me.

The ability for other European countries to move aggressively with renewal energy development also appears to be constrained by the challenges to regional grid stability introduced by Germany. The need for a pan-European strategy seems clear.

Setting up a capacity market in Germany might address the profitability of existing thermal generation but would raise electricity prices. Despite a small decrease in 2014 Germany consumers still pay the second highest retail prices in Europe. Any further increase to support a capacity market would not be welcome.

There is certainly plenty of potential to continue developing solar power in southern Europe – particularly CSP plants that can provide power after sunset such as the Gemasolar plant that runs 7x24x365. The potential to make greater use of Nordic hydro resources through conventional pumped storage schemes or by adding generation capacity in a concept I have termed “unpumped storage” also exists. Both of these approaches would require significant investments in the European grid infrastructure as well as an increased level of political co-operation amongst Euro-zone members.

My assessment of the German Energiewende is mixed based upon what I feel is the ultimate goal – an end to the burning of hydro-carbons to generate electricity. Reducing hydro-carbon usage is not sufficient and will not transform us to a truly sustainable energy society.

What Germany has achieved so far is impressive. It is impossible to deny that. But I would have preferred to see even 20 GW of renewable energy equipped with storage of some sort so that some coal-fired or natural gas-fired generation could be permanently retired. A financial and policy commitment to storage technology that was as firm as the position taken by Germany with respect to solar panels would have been more constructive in my opinion.

JC note:  This article was originally posted at Davis Swan’s blog Black Swan. As with all guest posts, please keep your comments relevant and civil.

251 responses to “German Energiewende – Modern Miracle or Major Misstep

  1. Pingback: German Energiewende – Modern Miracle or Major Misstep | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. The correct answer can be found by rigorous adherence to basic principles of science. A social disaster will follow conclusions that are biased.

  3. Excellent posting, covering major issues in a clear, careful, fair and balanced manner. You probably will annoy people all over the spectrum. (That’s a compliment.)

    • Agreed. I always maintain that we should use the best renewable horses for our particular courses. As with Britain, Germany is simply not suited to solar power generation and there is a considerable shortfall at just the times power is most needed, when there is a high pressure in winter bringing overcast cold and windless conditions during which renewables generate little power.

      Solar may be better suited to sunnier climes or ones with less need for large amounts of base power. Britain needs to develop its wave/tidal resources. I don’t know what is best for Germany

      It may be a game changer when suitable storage technology is developed but that seems a long way off.

      tonyb

    • aplanningengineer, is it too soon to ask you for a status report regarding any impacts SB 350 and Governor Brown’s executive order concerning climate change may have had so far on how California is going about doing its power reliability planning activities?

      I am particularly interested in what changes the California ISO is making to its organizational structure, to its own internal project priorities, and to its policies and procedures now that it is chartered to promote the adoption of renewable energy resources throughout the western United States.

  4. I also believe that without finding an economical and hugely scaleable energy storage system this approach cannot proceed much further.

    As I see it there are two major possibilities: pumped hydro and power→gas/liquid fuel.

    Much of the current storage capacity for pumped hydro (at least in California where I’ve dug into it) is intended as seasonal. This means substantial new capacity could be installed for daily-scale balancing without new dams. IIRC when I took a look at California it could result in a fully dispatchable ~30% increase in total net capacity, based on 4-5 times that capacity (peak) of solar PV in the Mojave/Owens Valley. Germany’s (or Europe’s) mileage may vary, of course, especially given the superior economics of wind vs. solar at that latitude.

    Longer term, the possibility of mass-produced lower reservoirs in deep sea water seems likely to be cost-effective, assuming appropriate learning curves. Several reference designs have been proposed, none of which I consider scaleable. However, I’ve been playing around with some possibilities that might work out.

    As for power→fuel, Germany already has some pilot operations in process, and the USNavy has pioneered a power→jet fuel option. Calculations, along with appropriate learning curve assumptions, suggest that this could be a viable option for solar/wind, as well as nuclear.

    Used as storage for intermittent sources (solar/wind), this option might get a 30% round trip efficiency, which with appropriate cost reductions for intermittent generation could be competitive with fossil sources. An advantage of this approach is that current investments in fossil gas/liquid fuel infrastructure (such as CCGT) would continue to provide returns, even as the world abandons fossil fuels.

    • Ohh please…

      The Bonneville Power Administration which is not part of California provides huge load balancing to California.

      The Columbia river just can’t be jerked around any harder without killing every last fish.

      The biggest ‘seasonal’ reservoirs on the West Coast of the US are called ‘snow covered mountains’. The actual man made reservoirs are tiny in comparison.

      • harrywrt2,

        You make an excellent point – the missing energy is provided by sources that have negative environmental consequences. One could argue that electricity has been imported by California and pollution and environmental degradation has been exported to other states. Most people don’t know that.

        The fish, fishing industry, and those healthy omega3 fatty acids have to be sacrificed because, well, global warming.

      • More knee-jerk stupidity.

        The Helms Pumped Storage Plant has an upper reservoir with a capacity of 151,718,266 m^3, and a lower reservoir with a capacity of 159,119,157 m^3, Let’s assume that about 100,000,000 m^3 is transported daily between these reservoirs. The head is about 500 meters.

        That’s 10^8 tons * 10^4 newtons/ton * 500 meters = 5*10^14 Joules (Watt-seconds). Divide this by 100,000 seconds for daily balancing with some margin, yields 5*10^9 watts, 5 GWatts. With plenty of extra margin.

        From here:

        In 2014, total system power for California was 293,268 gigawatt-hours (GWh), about 1 percent lower than 2013. California’s in-state electricity production remained virtually unchanged from 2013 levels at 198,908 GWh, a difference of less than 1 percent compared to the year before.

        Dividing 293,268 GWh by 8766 (hours/year) yields an average of ~33.5 (33.45516769336071) GWatts total usage, of which 5 GWatts is ~15% (0.1494537419698024).

        Dividing 198,908 GWh (actual production) by 8766 yields ~22.7 (22.69085101528633) GWatts total in-state production, of which 5 GWatts is 22% (0.220353128079313).

        And this is for just one (admittedly the largest) existing pumped storage facility. Using (slightly) under 2/3 of the total available storage capacity.

        Of course new turbines/motor/generators would have to be installed (which could add significant phase stabilization), and probably bigger tunnels, etc.:

        Connecting the reservoirs, in order from upper to lower, is first a 10,511 ft (3,204 m) long head-race tunnel which turns into a 2,248 ft (685 m) long steel penstock which drops in elevation and trifurcates into three individual penstocks which feed a separate pump-generator. After the water is used to generate electricity, it is discharged into the lower reservoir via a 3,797 ft (1,157 m) long tail-race tunnel.

      • More knee-jerk fantasy.

        Do you really think you can flood a canyon in the Sierra Nevada anymore? Planning for Helms began in 1970 and construction began in 1977. In 30 days it will be 2016.

      • Do you really think you can flood a canyon in the Sierra Nevada anymore?

        If you’d bothered to read what I wrote, rather than firing off an ign0rant knee-jerk response, you’d have realized that I’m not talking about flooding anything that doesn’t already get flooded. Just on a faster schedule.

        Assuming you’re smart enough to understand what you read. Come to think of it…

      • @AK

        “With plenty of extra margin.”

        The plenty extra margin is only in the opposite direction of what you hope/dream for!… how about losses?… how about evaporation?… how about costs?…
        You can’t fill and empty a reservoir of that size completely!

        Not to mention that you have assumed that the overall time that the pumped hydro system works is 100%… while practical experience shows that similar systems work for only a very small fraction of the time… i.e. only when it is economically viable.

      • The plenty extra margin is only in the opposite direction of what you hope/dream for!… how about losses?… how about evaporation?… how about costs?…

        Wild arm-waving straw-man arguments.

      • @AK

        “Wild arm-waving straw-man arguments.”

        Wild “I don’t know what I’m talking about argument” reply.

        Nice try, though.

      • Nice try, though.

        Nice drive-by ign0rant nonsense.

  5. Excellent overview. Many thanks.

  6. The positive impact on CO2 emissions and other forms of pollution is significant.

    I strongly object to saying reducing CO2 emissions is a positive thing. That has not been proven. I strongly object to lumping CO2 to pollution. The fact has been well known many years that CO2 makes green things grow. That is a necessity, and more is better, and not any kind of pollution.

    • The fact has been well known many years that CO2 makes green things grow.

      Weeds are “green things

    • I think reducing CO2 usage is positive primarily because we will eventually run out of hydro-carbons. There are more constructive uses for this resource than burning it to generate electricity.

      Regarding the pollution comment I did not mean CO2 was pollution – but burning coal and even natural gas always produces some particulate matter pollution – mercury, arsenic and sulphur dioxide being examples – that was what the MACT was all about in the U.S. So pollution is a side effect of generating electricity by burning coal or natural gas.

      • Davis Swan, electricity in the US is generated by burning mainly coal and natural gas. We are not running out of either any time soon (hundreds of years) and they are both relatively cheap. Germany may be a different story. You would think that a country with a physicist as head of state would be able to make more intelligent decisions than they have made so far.

        I’m all for R&D to come up with cost effective energy alternatives for numerous reasons, but neither CO2 reduction nor running out of hydrocarbons (except oil which is not used to generate electricity in the US) are on my list.

  7. Intermittent renewable energy will always be deceptively expensive and carbon intensive until the storage/redistribution/timeshift/maintenance functions are no more expensive in total per KwH than fossil-fueled baseline generation and can be done within a small carbon footprint. Technology may make this possible one day, but is not nearly up to the task at present.

    • …and for what my opinion is worth, a great posting. Thanks for bringing it to us.

    • sciguy — Your statement (also made by many others here at CE) as a blanket/ubiquitous statement is just wrong. The issue is penetration level and following sound engineering economics.

      Renewables can represent the least cost option up to a certain penetration level (e.g., solar for peaking load). A penetration level can vary greatly depending on the specific integrated system grid they are on.

      Here at CE, the most vocal just will not even try to understand engineering concepts like ELCC.
      .
      Reminder fact — Here in the U.S., solar is currently about one-half of one percent.

      • You are correct, penetration does make a difference. The Swan post to which I refer has to do with a nation attempting to obtain a nearly zero-carbon system through high penetration rates.

        By contrast, when an individual customer with PV uses the grid as backup, peak load source (at retail price), and overproduction sink (at near retail price), then PV looks competitive on a cost basis.

        The grid can absorb a small amount of intermittent power thrown at it with minimal incremental cost, just as the occasional mule cart can venture on a highway without significantly disrupting traffic. In both cases there is minimal public cost but minimal increase in system production. But potential system capacity would suffer once a significant number of carts began to venture on the roadway.

        Back to solar and the US. Yes, a small percentage of early PV adopters can attach to the grid without major problems (but please use your own money folks, not your neighbors’). But once a significant number do so, then ALL of them impose increasing costs, and the terms of their connections should repay their neighbors fully for those costs.

      • sciguy54,

        “Back to solar and the US. Yes, a small percentage of early PV adopters can attach to the grid without major problems (but please use your own money folks, not your neighbors’). But once a significant number do so, then ALL of them impose increasing costs, and the terms of their connections should repay their neighbors fully for those costs.”

        There’s the rub.

        Someone near my son’s school recently installed a rooftop PV system. I wouldn’t have noticed if they hadn’t cut down a mature native coast live oak ( Quercus agrifolia) – a keystone species in our mixed- evergreen forest – in order to let the sun shine on that dinky little panel. Many species of wildlife depended on that tree, which used to block the view of the house and shade part of the school property from the blazing hot sun. Now we get to look at a butt-ugly roof. In densely populated suburbs you can expect a lot of trees getting cut down to let the winter sun shine on the solar panels. I’d rather build nukes and keep the forest. Seven percent of California’s electricity comes from two reactors on 960 acres running 24x7x365. We should build 12 more and expand the forests and let the rivers run wild.

  8. A recent National Geographic issue had a somewhat extensive article on Germany’s Energiewende. Unfortunately, as with most NG articles, it contained pretty pictures and much biased optimism, but very little analysis.

    Mr. Swan provides a much more analytical and rational assessment. Don’t expect the cheerleaders in Paris to take notice.

  9. I’m only skeptical because the German government keeps lying about the success of the Energiewende revolution and because the cost of power in Germany is so high and all of the blackouts and brownouts…

  10. Compared to ‘base-load plants’ that produce relatively cheap power because they are designed to run 7x24x365, German solar panels run ~3x6x240? And, the globe is possibly heading into decades of global cooling, the result of the sun having gone on hiatus?

    • Curious George

      Possible global cooling is based one known coincidence, Maunder solar minimum and the Little Ice Age (reborn after getting slayed by prolific Dr. Mann). Is there a relationship between a number of sunspots and the solar energy output?

      •  We’re in big tsuris when we fail to realize that global warming over the last half of the 20th century was coincident with a 3,000 year solar record. As it turns out, “the modern Grand maximum (which occurred during solar cycles 19–23, i.e., 1950-2009),” says Ilya Usoskin, “was a rare or even unique event, in both magnitude and duration, in the past three millennia.” [Usoskin et al., Evidence for distinct modes of solar activity, A&A 562 (2014)]

      • Maunder solar minimum and the Little Ice Age (reborn after getting slayed by prolific Dr. Mann). Is there a relationship between a number of sunspots and the solar energy output?

        There is a relationship between the more snowfall in all the warm periods and the cold periods that always follow.

  11. Excellent post.

    The only thing that is controversial IMHO is that all these hundreds of billions of $$$ are being spent because of 2 flawed premises. The first being that the burning of fossil fuels to must be stopped in order to address the notion of CAGW and the second is that nuclear energy is too dangerous to use.

    • “DITTO” to all of your points! I can’t imagine that the excellent German Engineering, touted in many of our TV ads, was actually consulted or listened to in the initial central planning decisions to replace Germany’s nuclear power plants with intermittent renewable wind and solar energy generation.

      The same kind of mistakes are being made by the leftist central planners in the US Government, operating in our Executive Branch agencies like EPA and DoE that implement by fiat, the political climate change agenda of our current president. To an old Apollo Program veteran, this political takeover of rational engineering decisions is frightening and disgusting.

      • Curious George

        Governments work in mysterious ways. The Comedy Central may one day make a piece on a White House discussion preceding the invasion of Iraq.

  12. Judith, your use of our chart with the logo cut off and no attribution is in violation of the CC license. You will find that chart in this publication from 2014: https://us.boell.org/2014/06/06/german-coal-conundrum.

    I kindly ask that you use the chart properly, with the full source indicated as required in the license.

  13. Excellent post, interesting.

    You would think the following would cause a rational person to call Energyweenie a failure:

    “The German Energiewende has not resulted in less dependence on the burning of coal to generate electricity and will not do so anytime soon.”

  14. Where are the energy storage facilities (large scale grid level lithium based storage battery banks)? Some call lithium “Metal Oil” now days.

    • I would suggest that you do a quick back of the envelope calculation to determine the amount of lithium batteries required for backing up the power supply of a large western economy. That will answer your question.

  15. Someone help me out here: the return on investment just isn’t there, right? Why isn’t that important to the government planners of the Left? Do they think that chicken isn’t going to come home to roost someday in the future?

    Is it possible to simply increase taxes to 90% on the wealthy to cover all of the expenses? Do the Germans simply refuse to believe what Margaret Thatcher said about “Socialist governments,” i.e., that they, “traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.”

  16. Thanks for the post on renewables. The good the bad and the ugly. It would appear Germanys move away from renewables wasn’t very productive as far as a move away from fossils.

  17. We have the makings for the ultimate Tower of Babble: use the excess electricity that is generated to raise a huge stone off the ground — little by little, day by day — until, the stone can some day escape Earth’s gravity and reside forever in the garden of Zeus.

  18. It is instructive to click on mr Morris’s name as it leads to his twitter feed

    Tonyb

  19. “Germany has successfully developed a very significant base of renewable energy over a sustained period of time without going bankrupt or causing unbearable economic hardship to electricity consumers whether they be residential or industrial. This is a very laudable achievement – one that many observers would have declared impossible.”

    Not so laudable if you happen to be the individual who has lost their employment as a result of companies going out of business, contracting, or moving elsewhere, and you can’t afford to pay your energy bills.

    I don’t think “[Germany] not going bankrupt” is a helpful metric.

    • ‘Germany has successfully developed a very significant base of renewable energy……This is a very laudable achievement’

      Why? What’s ‘laudable’ about it?

      Somebody please remind us what (if anything) is inherently ‘good’ about renewable energy.

  20. Thanks, this is a insightful read!

    A few questions:

    ‘without…causing unbearable economic hardship.’

    Can you elaborate on how you determined what is ‘bearable’? Also why even use this metric vs ‘significant economic hardship’ or even ‘economic hardship’?

    • Smokin Frog,

      the electrcitiy bill of the German household is not pretty much different from that of a US-based household. The main difference that the average German household is uising two to three times less electricity. So, no economic hardship. Just less waste of energy. Same with gasoline. German people and economy can do fine with paying 6 $ per gallone (smaller cars, shorter driving distances, etc.).

  21. Excellent, objective analysis. I would only add that the Energiewende has led to much higher electricity prices and as a result hundreds of thousands of low income Germans unable to afford paying their electricity bills see their power get shut off each year. That’s a lot pain for a few measly hundredths of a degree theoretical climate cooling the Energiewende will ultimately lead to by 2050.

  22. “Green power sets new record at 78% of German supply!”

    Isn’t everyone getting just a little tired of all the lying? “Renewable penetration of 25% of total generation,” says David Swan, “would be very impressive if it was actually used in Germany. However, just as in Denmark which makes similar claims regarding wind as a percentage of total generation, a large amount of renewable generation in Germany is of absolutely no value.”

    “It is clear from the ease with which Mann lies about things that would not withstand ten minutes of scrutiny in a courtroom,” says Mark Stein (see Amicus brief ), “that he has no intention of proceeding to trial.” The same can be said of the claimed 97% consensus of opinion put forward by the IPCC and the Eurocommunists, the Left and rabid environmentalists – blaming humanity for causing late 20th century global warming – that has been dutifully reported by a nutty liberal mainstream media.

    Inflated renewable energy penetration percentages, Mann’s hockey stick, the Left’s 97% consensus claim, all are tantamount to ‘Convert to Islam or Die’ warnings to Christians, designed to keep the western scientists in line or face academic and societal beheading.

  23. Curious George

    The link to the Gemasolar plant with molten salt energy storage goes to a 2010 marketing blurb. The plant apparently went online in 2011. In 2014 it received a Desertec award. (Every winemaker has at least one gold medal, which it awarded to itself.) I could not find any 2014 production data; can anybody please provide a link? (To any production data; I found that the operation exceeded all expectations.)

  24. stevefitzpatrick

    German individuals subsidize industrial users, especially the largest industrial users, who pay only about US$0.05 per KWH. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/industrial-power-prices-and-energiewende

    Smaller industrial/business users pay up to about US$0.16 per KWH. Individuals pay over US$0.30 per KWH. The German energy plan is not just unworkable for a wider Europe, it is grossly unfair: it shifts the cost of renewables mainly to individuals to insulate industry from energy costs (paying the real cost would make German industry less competitive). IMO, the entire German plan (shut down nuclear, put up solar panels and wind turbines) is so nutty that it beggars belief anyone can take it at all seriously. The ‘Science of Doom’ blog has a very informative 15 part series on the cost of renewable energy, which helps to define just how impractically costly and impractically unreliable renewable power is.

  25. Lets see. Massively tax the people and employ that money on a non productive endeavour that has the effect of raising the price of the most basic commodity, energy.
    Otherwise known as pulling the economy up by its bootstraps.

    It is nice of Germany, however, to destroy the potential of their own economy on an R&D project that (perhaps) might benefit the rest of the world (if anything is left) down the road when fossil fuels decline….

    • Nickels,

      the cost of the Energiewende is maybe something like 20 billions per year. Who cares? Let the oil price go 100% up again and the effects is much bigger. Nobody asks if oil prices of 100 bugs per barrel ‘destroy the potential of the economy’.
      Taking in about a million refugees will aslo roughly amount to yearly costs of 20 billions. My dear. US Department of Defence spends the same amount of money to throw bombs on a bunch of people they regard as terroristis.

      • I’m confused. Are you arguing that the process of doing calculations and economic optimization are pointless due to the general insanity of human actions?
        Hopefully our leaders have a bit more responsibility.
        There is an interesting economic question, however, that being whether intellectual calculations and predictions involving renewable energy are more powerful than market forces in ameliorating a potential future problem.
        Of course the totalitarian answer is YES YES YES, we should calculate and predict, then tax and redirect consciously our efforts for the betterment of future ‘society’.
        Of course, society is not a thing in and of itself, so such talk is problematic. Society is, in fact, the collection of peoples. If the free market is not inspiring the people’s to invest in renewable energy, then the push FOR renewable energy can only be coming from ANOTHER group of the peoples, presumably those who do not have capital to invest or who do not want to invest their own capital in such endeavours. In which case such appeals to ‘future society’ are really nothing more than an attempt to force the will of one group of people upon another….

        Ah one has to love the thinking of the Austrian school.

    • Nickels,

      what I am is saying is that the costs of the Energiewende are well below the ‘noise level’ of (economic) wins and losses that is generated by socioeconomic events.Therefore it comes nowhere close to have any significant effect on the economy as a whole.

      • I see. Although that is 20 billion that could have been invested in something that adds back to the economy as well, so one must double the losses.

      • Or at least add the potential lost gains, I guess double is a pretty high rate of profit.

      • gweberbv | December 3, 2015 at 3:17 pm |
        “what I am is saying is that the costs of the Energiewende are well below the ‘noise level’ of (economic) wins and losses”

        So the cost of energy is unimportant, is it?

        That must be why BMW has moved their highly energy intensive carbon fibre fabrication and light metal foundry (both vital to the modern lightweight automotive production industry) to the USA purely because of the price of energy and in the case of the CF natural gas feedstocks also, and why even Krupp steel is considering moving production offshore then.

        Or why the UK (where energy is considerably less than in Germany) has lost all its aluminium industry and practically all its steel industry to nations that are vastly less environmentally responsible than the UK, too, right?

      • catweazle666,

        you spread a lot of half-wisdom.

        For heavy-users of electricity the price in Germany is lower than in UK. Because heavy-users need to pay only a very little for the Energiwende or grid extensions, etc. So aluminum smelters enjoy a good time in Germany right now.
        However, I do not care too much if an aluminum smelter or a carbon fiber producer decides that setting up a factory on Iceland or in the US is even more profitable because of even lower prices. The percentage of high-energy usage industries in Germany is not so high, that the economy as a whole depends on them. It is much more important to have the schools, universities and research institutes in a good shape than to lower electricity prices. High-skilled labour keeps you alive as a western country. Not low wages, not low energy prices, not low environment standards. Because there are more than 5 billion starvelings on the globe that will always outbid you in a race to the bottom.

      • gweberbv : “The percentage of high-energy usage industries in Germany is not so high, that the economy as a whole depends on them.”

        You just keep right on telling yourself that.

        One day quite soon you’re in for a shock.

  26. Davis Swan

    Thank you for an informative article on Germany’s Energiewende and the difficulty in balancing intermittent electricity generation with base load systems.

    What caught my eye though, was the graph of the residential price of electricity @ 0.29 Euro/kwh. Having recently returned from Germany I was told that electricity pricing was based upon a two tier system: daytime, from 6 AM to 8 PM, and night time. The daytime residential price was 0.49 Euro/kwh. Further, that the residential rate subsidized the industrial rate as manufacturing would almost cease at that high daytime rate.

    “Despite a small decrease in 2014 Germany consumers still pay the second highest retail prices in Europe.” Denmark pays the highest rates.

    I am wondering if you have further information on this two tiered system in Germany.

    I would be interested in your thoughts about electric rates in the USA and how they compare to Germany’s as I believe the current breakout of electricity pricing: Coal $0.04/Kwh; Gas $0.06/Kwh; Nuclear $0.07/Kwh; wind $0.22/Kwh; and solar $0.56/Kwh with a combined average of $0.11/Kwh.

    Thank you

  27. Thanks Davis.

    Other considerations:

    Oil is a universal catalyst for wars of all temperatures. Europe’s gas tends to come from places like Russia and Qatar (via places like like, er, Syria and the Ukraine.) Wind and solar are domestic, but they are diffuse, intermittent and expensive. American forests, chipped, carted across the Atlantic in nitrogen and burnt in England…well, the less said the better.

    Coal lies in German ground, and even the brown stuff is relatively concentrated, constant and cheap. In a naughty world, that has to be worth something. It has to be worth a lot, in fact. I suppose that’s why Germany is now digging so much brown while it still talks so green. (Sorry, Angela – couldn’t help but notice. Especially those new whopper plants in Hamburg and Hamm.)

    Anyway, thanks again, Davis. If the urchins throw rocks at you in the street, that often happens to truth-tellers on the subject of imperial clothing.

  28. Pingback: La prueba del algodón de que los alarmisats del clima no se lo creen – #COP21 | PlazaMoyua.com

  29. Davis Swan said: “The preferential access to the grid that is given to renewable energy production has frequently pushed thermal generation off-line for extended periods of time.”

    Is this preference something other than a grid “economic dispatch” working?

    Here in the Eastern U.S., companies like Entergy are closing older nuclear power plants. The reason is that natural gas plants just beat the operating cost of the older nuclear units on the respective system’s economic dispatch.

    In the context of the Davis Swan quote, can one say?: The preferential access to the grid that is given to natural gas production has frequently pushed nuclear generation off the grid.

    • There are a number of economic factors at work. Older nucs can incur very significant maintenance and repair costs due to things like neutron embrittlement and corrosion. They are strictly inflexible baseload. Thanks to the failure to build Yucca Mountain as promised, many are also reaching spent fuel storage capacity constraints thatnwoild necessitate additional reinvestment. New CCGT flexes very nicely between 40% load at 58% thermal efficiency to 100%load at 61% efficiency. That flexibility much reduces the need for spinning reserves and gas peakers. So depending on overall grid architecture, new CCGT investment is simply more economic than reinvestment in old nuclear. Especially with the abundance of US shale gas that will extend for several decades.

      • Rud — I agree with everything you said, but is Davis Swan’s use of the phrase preference for renewables appropriate? Isn’t this preference just an economic dispatch working from lowest to higher operating cost, irrespective of the type of generation?

      • Rud:

        New CCGT flexes very nicely between 40% load at 58% thermal efficiency to 100%load at 61% efficiency. That flexibility much reduces the need for spinning reserves and gas peakers.

        Thanks for that info.

      • I hope people are paying attention to Rud’s comment on the flexibility of natural gas combined cycle units (which have and are replacing old coal and nuclear units).

        This flexibility can play a major role in penetration levels of Renewables using sound engineering economics.

        There are many engineering concepts that must be understood when issues of penetration, backup and intermittency are discussed (e.g., natural gas CC units, ELCC, availability of large hydro, etc.).

      • The preferences for solar and wind on the grid in CA are regulatory ukases, not economic advantages. SS surely knows this.

    • I actually don’t know the mechanisms used in every jurisdiction. In Alberta all wind production is accepted into the grid but must take the “market” price which can be very close to zero. In most of the U.S. wind will win the merit order because wind producers can and do bid at low or even negative prices because of the PTC. In Denmark and Germany wind is not normally curtailed which tells me it has first call on the grid – could be just economic but I think there is more to it than that. You should check out Paul-Frederik’s blog and reach out to him if you are interested in details regarding Europe. http://www.pfbach.dk/

      • Davis, thanks but unless you can refer to something specific I will conclude that the only preference is for the lowest cost economic dispatch on a grid.

      • I can’t speak for all of the UK but here in the west the power generator has placed a moratorium of three years or so on accepting new power from renewables onto the system because they can’t cope with their special requirements

        http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Grid-power-renewable-schemes/story-26265486-detail/story.html

        Tonyb

      • Stephen,
        Your response is disingenuous. Of course, dispatch is based on economic considerations within the market created by the regulatory authority. The production tax credit means that wind can uniquely sell into the market at negative rates.

      • I can’t read German but I did find an English analysis of the “2014 German Renewable Act revision” at http://www.germanenergyblog.de/?p=18626 which reads in part “renewable energy continues to enjoy feed-in priority in the grids” so I do believe that there is a legislated mandate in Germany to accept renewables as a first priority. There are also legislated Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) in many U.S. states that require certain percentages of total generation be from renewables. Utilities are required to report their compliance towards RPS minimums which implies that they would have to accept renewable generation without regards to economics at some point. FIT compensation is based upon generation in many jurisdictions and presumably any attempt to cut back on FIT supported generation would trigger complaints if not law suits for lost revenue. So I think the body of evidence supports the contention which is widely reported that in most jurisdictions renewables have preferential access to grids.

        This raises another very interesting question regarding traditional merit order dispatching. When the FITs run out for roof-top solar in a particular region (as they must over time) which home-owner will get access to sell power to the grid? I suspect that with no criteria available for a merit order for distributed generation that such power will eventually attract a price that is very low trending to zero. At that point no home owner will be able to ever get a reasonable return on the installation of solar panels and that market will dry up. I have discussed here. http://www.theblackswanblog.com/blog1/2013/05/30/the-inevitable-self-destruction-of-renewable-economics/

      • Davis — Thanks for the link to the German System. I will look it over.

        As to you comments on the U.S., I believe you are mixing MW versus MWH up. I stand by my comment that I do not know of any protocols in a U.S. control room dispatch center that gives Renewables a priority (just because they are a Renewable).

      • Stephen Segrest,

        “I believe you are mixing up ‘H’ versus ‘h’.

        The henry (symbolized H) is the Standard International ( SI ) unit of inductance . Reduced to base SI units, one henry is the equivalent of one kilogram meter squared per second squared per ampere squared (kg m 2 s -2 A -2 ).

        https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=SI+Unit+Henry

        The unit is named after Joseph Henry (1797–1878), the American scientist who discovered electromagnetic induction independently of and at about the same time as Michael Faraday (1791–1867) in England.[2] The magnetic permeability of vacuum is 4π×10−7 H m-1 (henry per metre).
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_(unit)

        The symbol for “hour” is “h” not “H” in the SI system.

    • Stephen Segrest:

      If a utility is required to achieve a certain percentage of renewable supply would you consider that to be something other than economic dispatch working?

      • Opluso — I know of no economic dispatch operations (either with utility or ISO) that requires a certain percentage of electricity on the grid to be from Renewables.

        An Economic Dispatch stacks from lowest cost to highest cost.

      • So your earlier comment…

        Isn’t this preference just an economic dispatch working from lowest to higher operating cost, irrespective of the type of generation?

        …should be answered in the negative.

    • Economic dispatch has to compete against wind which has a 2 cent/KW PTC subsidy in the US. Nuclear can’t compete with minus 2 cents…neither can gas. Neither can hydro.

      The problem is that nuclear needs to get 4 cents/KW 24/7 to make ends meet. Operating and fuels costs are for all intents and purposes fixed.

      If nuclear is losing 8 hours per day to wind…then they need to get 6 cents/KW the other 16 hours.

      At current gas prices in the US a combined cycle gas turbine can beat 6 cents/KW.

      If we have a small sense of history…it was only 7 years ago that natural gas prices were above $10/MMBtu…which makes for roughly 10 cent/KWh generating costs.

      /sarc
      Let’d ditch nuclear and coal and bet our entire future on natural gas staying below $4/MMbtu…it won’t the export facilities are being built as we speak..and all that surplus gas will be flowing out the export terminals in another 18 months.

      • Dougbadgero and Harrywr2 — Again, the blanket/ubiquitous statement by Mr. Swan was that Renewables are given a preference on the grid. I respectfully asked a question if he meant a grid economic dispatch or if there was something else.

        The blanket statement on Renewables (in a U.S. context) is just not correct. As I’ve stated, I know of no U.S. economic dispatch operations that “mandates” a certain percentage from Renewables.

        Next, people want to get into tax benefits. For traditional IOU T&D&G Utilities (like the majority of the South is) the blanket statement on tax benefits effecting a grid economic dispatch is incorrect. For this type of utility/regulatory structure — what you’re suggesting would entail something called “flow through accounting”, which would be a violation of the tax code (requiring normalization) as applied in engineering economics.

        For structures involving an ISO type of economic dispatch, perhaps this could happen — but I’d have to see specific discussion by an ISO, IRS, Utility, or IPP that it is occurring (not just somebody’s opinion). In a plethora of news stories on nuclear units (Entergy) closing in New York and Massachusetts, low natural gas cost was overwhelmingly cited as the cause. I never read Entergy citing a cause of wind energy.

        Regarding tax benefits and other U.S. Federal subsidies what about Nuclear (historical and current) — do you really want to go down this argument path? Really? (e.g., PTC and construction cost caps on new nuclear, DOE loans on new nuclear, Price Anderson on catastrophic insurance).

        But the anti-Renewable crowd here at CE just will never accept that at penetration levels that have followed sound engineering economics, that Renewables operating cost can beat other options straight up, irregardless of tax benefits.

      • Stephen,

        Wind generators get a preference in the PNW. It is economic based in the sense that due to the production credit, they get upset when they get told to shut down (since peak wind is also peak hydro), even when they get preferential treatment by being the last generators to shut down.

        2 years ago they sued BPA and filed a FERC complaint. FERC ruled in their favor. In other words, preferential treatment based on politics, not economic advantage.

      • Subsidies:
        Nuclear receives about $1.6 per MWh while wind receives about $22.0 per MWh. Nuclear is mostly R&D while wind is a direct subsidy to producers (PTC).

        Similarly, P-A is not a direct cash subsidy to nuclear, it has never cost taxpayers anything. It is public assumption of risk, as is common in many industries, from the financial to maritime. Reasonable people can disagree about it, but it has cost taxpayers nothing.

        I am not a fan of the loan guarantees either, they shouldn’t be needed. However, they are also a non-cash subsidy that is a shift of liability. Unless the utilities default on the loan the government will make money on them because the government charged a funding fee……….similar to the funding fee charged for a VA mortgage.

        I agree the PTC for new nuclear is foolish, but no one is getting it ….yet. I can hardly wait to hear the self-righteous outrage from various sources when Summer and Vogtle begin receiving it.

        The effective load carrying capacity (ELCC) of solar varies greatly based on location, with a median value of about 45% or so at low penetration. As penetration goes up solar ELCC goes down everywhere. Solar ELCC only looks good when compared to wind, which is <20%.

        If renewables don't need the subsidies and renewable portfolio standards, then let's get rid of them.

      • timg56 — Give me a link to what you are calling a preference for wind on an economic dispatch in the PNW.

      • dougbadgero — I just disagree with almost everything you said or how you frame things.

        But, I don’t come to CE to fight — especially on incentives for nuclear power which I support.

        Also, if you’ve followed me here at CE, I’ve been very consistent in opposing a federal renewable energy portfolio standard. Decisions on Renewables should be made by engineers using sound engineering economics, not by politicians in Washington.

  30. Davis –

    ==> “German Energiewende – Modern Miracle or Major Misstep”

    Why present such a question (which implies a false binary), particularly since you seem to conclude that neither is the case?

    Beyond that:

    1) Do you suppose that your perspective might have been different had the implementation of Energiewende not been largely concurrent with the rollback of nuclear after Fukushima?

    2) I often hear criticisms of Energiewende framed around the high electricity price in Germany…but I think that price is not the only relevant metric: Cost is also an important consideration. Do you have a resource for evaluating how Germans’ per capita expenditure on electricity relative to other countries to view against the relative price?

    • In considering the costs of renewables, hafta’ mention
      landscape loss. Those renewables are hideously
      destructive of landscape and wildlife. Using coal
      energy reversed the destruction of European and North
      American forests.

      To supply the power demands of North America today,
      writes Matt Ridley in ‘The Rational Optimist’ would
      require:

      # solar panels covering land the area of Spain
      # or wind farms the size of Kazakhstan
      # or woodlands the size of India and Pakistan
      # or hayfields the size of Russia and Canada combined
      # or hydroelectric dams with catchments one-third larger
      than all the continents put together *.

      *Chapter 7, ”The Release of Slaves.’ )

      • ==> “Those renewables are hideously destructive of landscape and wildlife. “

        As compared to what?

        That’s like saying that renewables are relatively expensive without accounting for negative externalities like particulates and the trillions we spend to set the geopolitical stage to keep the oil flowing.

        Oh. Wait.

      • Let’s let Matt Ridley count a few negative externalities of wind:

        Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, despoiling views, erecting pylons, felling forests, killing bats and eagles, causing industrial accidents, clogging motorways, polluting lakes in Inner Mongolia with the toxic and radioactive tailings from refining neodymium, a ton of which is in the average turbine – despite all this, the total energy generated each day by wind has yet to reach half a per cent worldwide.

        Oh wait, maybe we are biting the hand (fossil fuels) that feeds us (by providing us with cheap, reliable, abundant, relatively-clean energy). http://www.amazon.com/The-Moral-Case-Fossil-Fuels/dp/1591847443

      • For comparable generating capacity, wind farms require
        200 X more land than a nuclear plant, J, and wind turbines
        require 5 to 10 X as much concrete and steel per watt as
        nuclear power plants.

      • For comparable generating capacity, wind farms require 200 X more land than a nuclear plant, […]

        Not if they’re over the ocean.

        [… A]nd wind turbines require 5 to 10 X as much concrete and steel per watt as nuclear power plants.

        These don’t:

        From Floating wind turbines bring electricity where it’s needed:

        Most wind turbine manufacturers are competing to build taller turbines to harness more powerful winds above 500 feet, or 150 meters. Altaeros is going much higher with their novel Buoyant Airborne Turbine–the BAT. The Altaeros BAT can reach 2,000 feet, or 600 meters.

        […]

        The BAT’s key enabling technologies include a novel aerodynamic design, custom-made composite materials, and an innovative control system.

        Note that “novel aerodynamic design” is like software: once complete it can be replicated infinitely. While “an innovative control system” is a mixture of software, with the above consideration, and hardware, which is generally subject to Moore’s “Law”.

        As for “custom-made composite materials,” they too can be expected to see major declines in cost with economies of scale and learning curve with scaling to provide significant fractions of the world’s energy.

      • AK:
        You seem not to understand the difference between an idea (that needs to be developed) and a solution that is proven and working .
        There is no point in mentioning flying wind turbines – they are not yet operational, as are a million of other ideas.
        When they will be available, and proven to work, we will consider then as a “solution”. Meanwhile they are only an idea.

      • You seem not to understand the difference between an idea (that needs to be developed) and a solution that is proven and working .

        I understand perfectly. These are in prototype/proof-of-concept stage. And, for that, only as mobile stations for remote locations.

        When they will be available, and proven to work, we will consider then as a “solution”. Meanwhile they are only an idea.

        Sorry, but until they’re proven not to work, they remain a valid answer to straw man arguments that “wind turbines require 5 to 10 X as much concrete and steel per watt as
        nuclear power plants.

      • Maybe someone can come up with an Eagle powered turbine …

    • Joshua,

      here is a comparison of the average electricity bill of a German household and one of a US household: http://energytransition.de/files/2015/05/household-power-bills-germany-us.png

      • Interesting. We (US) pay a third the price of the Germans but we use 3 times as much electricity. Different climates and lifestyles. I’m not moving to Germany any time soon.

      • Thanks gweberby!

        Any comparisons to other EU countries?

      • Mark,

        make no mistake. German people have dish washer, washing machines, TV screens, fridges, etc. like the US household. Only air conditioning is rarely used, mainly because of the climate. And still most Germans are using the clothes dryer less frequently than people in US.

        In that respect lifestyle is not so much different. Main difference is that in Germany these machines use electricity in an more economic way than in US (because they are on average smaller – in particular the fridges – and use more expensive technology).

  31. As I understand it, Germany exempted its industrial customers from the electric price increases that its renewable energy policy requires — they understood that industry would move away if it had to shoulder its share of the costs. Second, Germany failed to initially require smart inverters to be installed with the solar panels. They are now embarking on a retrofit effort that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars but that is necessary in order to “smooth” the electrical quality (voltage, frequency) of solar output to keep the grid stable. California is now requiring inverters on new solar panels, but it’s not clear yet who will operate them and what will be done for older solar installations. The West is squandering money with “feel good” power, while many of the world’s citizens don’t have access to electricity at all.

  32. Whoa. Can they turn their nuclear power back on? That would solve a lot of the problems this post points out.

    • Curious George

      Germany is too green for that. My German friend sent me a very angry email when I dared to dispute Catastrophic “facts”. I can’t imagine German public voting to restart the nukes; tsunami danger. I remember vividly that California voters demanded a cheap car insurance, but somehow it has never happened.

  33. O du mein Energiewende,
    w/out King Coal you’re in a bind,
    mein friend.

    • Note to mein Geschäftsführer: an atom of uranium-235 has 50 million times more energy than is obtained by burning up an atom of carbon.

  34. @1:09 Michael Shermer and Lisa Randall discus AGW. @1:12 Shermer falsely blurts out that Germany gets over half its energy from renewables. Randall soberly points out that they are using more coal:

  35. It’s comforting to know there may be a flip flop wearing German in a pink robe somewhere in Germany, warming his feet by a gas fireplace, contemplating a photocopy of this blog on some cold winter night, by the light of a 14-watt compact fluorescent bulb powered by a ~square meter of solar panel and associated storage and inverter devices.

  36. In effect, Germany and Denmark have used the European and Nordic grids as a large battery.

    In other words, it’s a Reverse Ponzi Scheme. It will only work as along there is the rest of the Continent to take cheap renewables, often at negative cost.

    Of course, the difference from a conventional Ponzi, is that owner of the scheme is the one hurt financially.

  37. “◾Germany has successfully developed a very significant base of renewable energy over a sustained period of time without going bankrupt or causing unbearable economic hardship to electricity consumers whether they be residential or industrial. This is a very laudable achievement – one that many observers would have declared impossible.”

    I am not sure that is quite true.
    Socially Explosive …More Than 1 Million German Households Had Power Shut Off Over Past Three Years!
    http://notrickszone.com/2015/11/16/socially-explosive-more-than-1-million-german-households-had-power-shut-off-over-past-three-years/

    Here is the breakdown on power prices.
    https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/what-german-households-pay-power

  38. A hundred billion? It’s comforting at least to know that American environmentalists aren’t the only ones who can’t math.

  39. This is an excellent post. Thank you.

    However, I wonder about your advocacy for CSP.

    There is certainly plenty of potential to continue developing solar power in southern Europe – particularly CSP plants that can provide power after sunset such as the Gemasolar plant that runs 7x24x365.

    Can you post a chart or can you give a link showing electricity generation from Gemasolar (e.g. per half hour for a year or more)?

    This recent post on Energy Matters http://euanmearns.com/a-review-of-concentrated-solar-power-csp-in-spain/ shows the average output of all Spain’s CSP plants in June and November 1-26, 2015. The CSP data was only segregated from PV in April this year, so this data does not a full year and does not include winter months yet. Since it is the average of all plants it includes those with zero and little storage, and those that use some gas generation in their output. Having said that it is an interesting post and shows that CSP is less viable than PV and more expensive.

    • Operations report for Gemasolar can be found here: http://www.theblackswanblog.com/BSB_Library/2012_gemasolar_operations.pdf The plant runs 7x24x365 although at below nameplate capacity for some hours of the night in the winter. CSP will NEVER be cost competitive with PV solar on a levelized cost basis but I do not believe (and the market does not reward) that mid-day generation when demand is low is equal to peak demand generation. That is where all the LCOE calculations fail in my opinion. But if we want to really provide reliable and renewable power during prime time there are very few options. South of 35 degrees latitude CSP makes sense as far as I am concerned because at that latitude peak demand occurs in the summer.

  40. Trying for some objectivity “balance” reflected in comments here at CE. Per opinion polls, Germans like Energiewende:
    https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/polls-reveal-citizens-support-energiewende

    • Curious George

      How Germans like Energiewende: “I am generally in favour of the principles behind the Energiewende, but the costs for private consumers are too high” – 2014: 85% agree; 2015 – 88% agree.

      • Ha ha. Yet its good for the ‘society’, whatever that is. Apparently its not the thing you get when you put together all the people.

  41. “Germany is burning almost exactly as much coal today as it was 10 years ago. A number of new coal-fired plants have actually come on stream in the last 5 years.”

    Because all the newer coal plants are more efficient and displace less efficient older plants, they should use less coal to generate the same output of electricity. Davis Swan’s chart shows only the power output during the year by source, not the primary energy input used to generate it. So this effect will not show up on this chart. So coal use is probably down a little more than that particular chart implies.

    “The real problem comes in the winter months when German consumption of electricity is highest. In the months of December and January German solar production is about 500 GW-Hours which meets about 1% of demand. Even if Germany was to double the number of solar panels that have been installed over the past 15 years it could meet only 2% of winter demand and in that situation there would be a huge surplus of solar power at mid-day in the summer. There is no solution to this imbalance between winter and summer insolation which is the primary reason that solar power is so ineffective in Germany.”

    Solar and wind are very complementary. Solar is highest in summer, wind in winter. Solar generation takes place only during the day, and at that time wind is generally generating less than it does outside daylight hours.

    You can see that clearly from the following chart :-

    This is from page 43 of the Frauenhofer institute statistics for 2013 (https://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/downloads-englisch/pdf-files-englisch/news/electricity-production-from-solar-and-wind-in-germany-in-2013.pdf). With around 36GW of both wind and solar capacity installed in Germany, there is rarely a time when the total generation from both of them is greater than the capacity of either of them.

    When interpreting the graph be aware of the huge amount of wind power generation which ends up being plotted underneath the x axis of the chart – which is at night when German solar PV generation is precisely zero.

    Further, the solar PV panels always generate during the day and this coincides with peak demand. Although the capacity factor of solar PV is low (probably around 10% in Germany), the timing of the power is such that it is more generally more financially valuable than power outside the daytime peak hours.

    So German solar PV can be regarded as an effective means of eliminating some of the gaps in the variable wind power.

    Installation of higher levels of renewable wind power has to be complemented either by fast-response CCGT gas generation, or, preferably, by energy storage capability to fill the gaps. The installation of solar PV reduces the daytime requirement for these two somewhat.

    Germany certainly spent more on solar PV than they need have done, but were instrumental in bringing the technology into the low-price mass market arena. Someone had to bring solar to mass-market status, and the Germans took it on. If you were trying to pick someone who could afford this you would probably have chosen either Germany or the USA. The UK seems to be about to do something similar for offshore wind, though not in quite such a big way – it currently has almost as much installed capacity as the rest of the world put together and says it is going to subsidise and install offshore wind in preference to onshore wind.

    “I would have preferred to see even 20 GW of renewable energy equipped with storage of some sort so that some coal-fired or natural gas-fired generation could be permanently retired.”

    There are two sensible storage options available to Germany to support increase penetration of renewables. It is likely to end up using both.

    The first is pumped hydro storage. Usually this has an effiency of 70-80%.

    Norway has huge hydro lake capacity – 84 TWh of electricity storage compared with average European electricity consumption of 8 TWh per day. But no pumped hydro capability at present. The proposal is to pair up existing high and low-level lakes no more than 20km apart and build vast tunnels and generating stations between them.

    For Germany the strategy has to be to build a dual-purpose North Sea undersea electricity network, not only connecting North Sea wind farms to UK, Germany and Norway, UK and Germany, but also enabling two-way pumped storage power flows between Norway and UK / Germany. The network would be a similar scale to the current huge set of gas and oil pipelines under the North Sea, so this sort of thing has been done before.

    There are environmental questions, as Davis Swan points out – extra cycling of the Norwegian reservoirs plus the building of many new transmission lines – will the Norwergians insist on the extra cost of burying them underground around all the fjords at German expense? But these are nothing like as difficult as building new dams to create new lakes in the first place.

    There’s no doubt Norway has enough storage lake capacity to support very high levels of wind and solar in Germany. The real question is how much of Northern Europe could it support in this manner?

    The second storage technique is Power to Gas (and back to Power), on which the Germans seen inordinately keen. Basically you electrolyse water to hydrogen with excess wind power. Store the hydrogen and use it to generate when the wind is not blowing. If you want you can then combine it with CO2 and form methane which gets pumped into the standard gas grid for transportation to the existing CCGT generating stations.

    Round trip efficiency of Power to Gas to Power is around 44% when hydrogen is used, but lower at around 38% if the hydrogen is first converted to methane. So it’s not as good as pumped hydro storage. But then it would eventually be using surplus wind power which would otherwise be negatively priced, so does that actually matter too much? Probably not.

    • Curious George

      Peter, I can’t understand your graph “Solar versus wind power”. It consists of a large number of dots on a solar-wind power (not energy) plane. What does a dot at 5GW solar – 20 GW wind mean? Does it mean that there was an hour with that generation? A second? A day? Could you please supply a similar graph for an electrical energy generated?

      • Curious George

        Could you please supply a link for the Power-Gas-Power efficiency? The last time I looked some years ago, just the electrolysis stage had a much lower energy efficiency.

      • CG,

        It is not clear what period the individual dots represent in the original Frauenhofer document. I did email the author to ask for the information to be included in the document, but to no avail.

        However, the density of dots does represent the relative probability of different combinations of wind and solar power produced on average for whatever the time period was.

        The rest of the charts go down to no smaller than hourly resolution, so my guess is that is what he has used for these charts too i.e. each dot represents the average generation power over an hour period.

        If it is an hour then you could convert yourself from kW power (for an hour) to kWh (energy) as the numbers would be the same.

        Incidentally the most recent version of the chart is chart 48 in https://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/downloads-englisch/pdf-files-englisch/data-nivc-/electricity-production-from-solar-and-wind-in-germany-2014.pdf which looks very similar.

      • CG, Sorry, the rules here say you are not supposed to have more than 2 links in a comment, so I cut down on the links.

        The original figures came from Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_to_gas#Efficiency and quoting Pathway: Electricity→Gas→Electricity.

        Also, last week I was at the UK Energy Storage Conference at Birmingham University. A presenter from ITM Power (which does P2G in Germany) was quoting their hydrogen electrolysis as 75% efficient. If you assume a CCGT efficiency for hydrogen fuel of 60%, equal to the efficiency using methane, then you get somewhere around 45% round trip efficiency (power to hydrogen to power). So the Wikipedia hydrogen numbers do seem to tie up.

        The hydrogen electrolysis efficiency is on slide 4 of http://www.itm-power.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ITM_Company_Presentation_June2015.pdf . ITM Power claim it was measured by third parties rather than themselves.

      • Curious George

        Thank you, Peter. The ITM materials are exciting – in a 2050 time horizon. They seem to concentrate on a refueling of hydrogen-powered cars at the moment. I did not understand how they intend to convert hydrogen back to electricity, or whether or how they want to store oxygen. Marketing materials, not technical ones.

    • Round trip efficiency of Power to Gas to Power is around 44% when hydrogen is used, but lower at around 38% if the hydrogen is first converted to methane. So it’s not as good as pumped hydro storage.

      But it has several advantages pumped hydro lacks:

      •     Once converted to methane (or liquid hydrocarbons) the resulting fuel can be fed into existing distribution, storage, and use infrastructures. This eliminates the need to develop new technology for storage.

      •     By depending on existing infrastructure, current and near-term investment no longer becomes a sunk cost longer term. Infrastructure developed for fossil fuels can continue to pay for themselves using new, fossil-neutral fuels.

      •     Transporting methane via pipeline is a couple of orders of magnitude cheaper than new electrical transmission, IIRC. Similar economies apply to liquid fuels.

      •     Large-scale use of this process would allow existing investments in hydrocarbon-powered transport to continue to pay for themselves.

      •     Large-scale use of this process would support current use of combustion-based heat sources, such as cooking, heating, and much manufacturing.

      •     If/when the conversion technology can be properly miniaturized, it can be located very close to the intermittent energy source, eliminating any need for electrical transmission. Given the far lower cost of transporting hydrocarbons, most of the world’s energy generating capacity could be located in remote parts of the ocean, eliminating much of the current inconvenience.

      While pumped hydro, especially with manufactured deep-sea lower reservoirs, is scaleable and might well be fairly cheap with proper economies of scale and learning curve, the power→fuel option, combined with solar PV which has been seeing decades of exponential price reduction, will probably (IMO) end up dominating the mid/late-21st century energy scene.

      • All irrelevant innuendo useless for options comparisons unless you give the cost of electricity on an LCA basis (including all costs) on a properly comparable basis with other options. Every time you do such properly comparable analyses you find a large proportion of nuclear (e.g. 75%) and backed up by hydro where available and by gas where hydro is not viable is the least cost way by far to reduce the emissions intensity of electricity

      • Every time you do such properly comparable analyses you find a large proportion of nuclear (e.g. 75%) and backed up by hydro where available and by gas where hydro is not viable is the least cost way by far to reduce the emissions intensity of electricity

        “[P]roperly comparable analyses” being defined as one that gets the results you want.

        LCA” is pretty much a myth for anything more than a decade out. It depends on too many assumptions that those inconvenienced can simply reject.

        For the immediate future, IMO, the best approach is to focus on using existing reservoirs for storage, and push R&D on the rest.

        Ambient carbon capture is essential, not just because mitigation without it ain’t gonna happen, but also because of the risk that the high pCO2 isn’t all due to fossil emissions, as well as the risk of a “tipping point” where other factors keep CO2 levels high despite ending fossil emissions.

        Power→fuel based on electrolytic H2 and ambient CO2 becomes attractive as the capital cost of conversion technology comes down. Rapid response electrolysis may well offer an immediate way to profit from currently high-priced electrolysis technology (from load stabilization), allowing learning curve and economies of scale to bring the price down.

        Solar PV is continuing its exponential price decline, with plenty of new technology coming off the lab bench.

        Nuclear (fission) is stalled, but should be pursued as a back-up for solar PV, in case its exponential price decline falters. Not to mention military and specialized applications where access to normal distribution is unavailable.

      • AK,

        While P2G(2P) clearly has decent potential, we do have a requirement to storage electricity to fill in gaps in renewable generation. Therefore you have to include all the costs of getting back to electricity again. Thus the comparison of transmission costs is not really relevant – you will already have transmission lines from the renewable energy generation sites.

        On this basis P2G is just too inefficient to use as the first priority storage. The stored unit of electricity starts off costing 2.2 x the cost of normal generated units (45% efficiency), plus the capital costs incurred in the electrolysis and any extra costs in the conversion back to electricty. Whereas units of power from pumped hydro tend to come in at a reasonable price.

        While it sounds nice to preserve investment in existing hydrocarbon-fueled land transport, there is going to be a gradual move to electric ground transportation and the old non-electric transport will be able to see out its lifetime while all new transport can be fully electric. By 2035 the move is likely to be complete naturally.

      • Peter Laing said :

        “All irrelevant innuendo useless for options comparisons unless you give the cost of electricity on an LCA basis (including all costs) on a properly comparable basis with other options. Every time you do such properly comparable analyses you find a large proportion of nuclear (e.g. 75%) and backed up by hydro where available and by gas where hydro is not viable is the least cost way by far to reduce the emissions intensity of electricity”

        Nuclear is a decent technical solution, but in the UK there have had to be commitments to 14.5 cents / kWh price inflation-proofed, for 35 years (i.e. beyond 2050), which makes it much more expensive than 2050 wind and solar is expected to be. Further, although there appear to be good technical solutions to nuclear waste disposal, there is no political solution to it, in that no democratic country in the world has been able to get public agreement as to what should happen to the waste.

        Since by 2050 power generation will have to be zero CO2 emissions, then any gas generation would have to be from renewable gas, in which case you come back to using wind and solar as the cheapest means of providing the gas anyway, and might as well use the resources more efficiently to supply the power to the grid directly.

      • @Peter Davies…

        While P2G(2P) clearly has decent potential, we do have a requirement to storage electricity to fill in gaps in renewable generation.

        Well, short-term I think you’re right that pumped hydro using existing reservoirs will be used for that.

        Therefore you have to include all the costs of getting back to electricity again. Thus the comparison of transmission costs is not really relevant – you will already have transmission lines from the renewable energy generation sites.

        Actually, I was looking at a longer-term option of putting the solar (or wind) power collection at the appropriate locations, rather than close to the consumer. But several other things to consider: building a lot of small CCGT plants might well be more cost-effective than building a few large ones. They could use the existing gas distribution system, but avoid some of the costs of large-scale transmission.

        This could be done starting today, using fossil gas. Then, as power→gas gets on-line, it just feeds into the local connections to the gas system. Point is, all the legacy gas generating capacity could be fed off power→gas, once the conversion is up and running.

        While it sounds nice to preserve investment in existing hydrocarbon-fueled land transport, there is going to be a gradual move to electric ground transportation and the old non-electric transport will be able to see out its lifetime while all new transport can be fully electric.

        Perhaps. I doubt it though. Maybe chargeable hybrids, but I suspect most people will want the greater range and independence of fuel power.

      • Curious George

        Is a methane pipeline really couple of orders of magnitude cheaper than an electrical power line? Link, please.

      • @Curious George…

        Is a methane pipeline really couple of orders of magnitude cheaper than an electrical power line? Link, please.

        I did that calculation here in a comment a while back. Couldn’t find it with a quick search, I’ll get back to you.

        Of course, I meant cheaper per unit of energy carried.

      • CG said :

        “Is a methane pipeline really couple of orders of magnitude cheaper than an electrical power line? Link, please.”

        Which is cheaper is probably irrelevant. Most countries already have a national natural gas (methane) network in place suitable for national distribution and incorporating a few days or weeks of storage. So there is no additional cost incurred if this gradually moves over from fossil-fuel gas to renewable methane gas.

        There are possible issues with adding just hydrogen to a natural gas network. UK standards allow very little hydrogen. Germany can take around 10% hydrogen. Either way, you have to mix the hydrogen with a larger volume of existing natural gas from the network before injecting it back into the low or high pressure networks, but that is straightforward.

      • @Peter Davies…

        Which is cheaper is probably irrelevant. Most countries already have a national natural gas (methane) network in place suitable for national distribution and incorporating a few days or weeks of storage.

        Actually, it is relevant, which is why I did the calculation a while back (which I haven’t been able to find, still looking).

        Not, perhaps, to immediate usage for local storage, but certainly for larger-scale plans such as large solar/wind farms far out to sea, where the cost of new transmission lines, and losses from distance, would be a more serious issue than the cost of undersea gas pipelines.

        I grew up in California, and to me the distance between, for instance, Hoover Dam and Los Angeles is an appropriate starting scale for transporting power. Areas of the tropical Atlantic would be suitable for very large floating solar power and/or balloon-type wind farms, given an ability to transport the power back to England/Europe.

        Equally important, IMO, is the fact that the technology itself for storing gas under appropriate pressure is fully mature. Thus, converting large amounts of power to gas could make it fully storeable without having to rely on currently immature and expensive battery technology.

        If, as I expect, the cost of solar panels (at the factory gate) declines by another factor of 5 or so in the next decade, to perhaps 15¢/watt, the economics of power→fuel will totally change. Depending on how the actual capital expense of CO2 extraction and electrolysis plant declines with learning curve and economies of scale, building remote power collector farms, converting the energy to gas/liquid fuel, and transporting it to where it can be used for CCGT generation could easily be cheaper than digging it up, cleaning/refining it, and transporting it.

        Thus, the cost efficiency may be better even despite lower energy efficiency.

      • Peter Davies: “Since by 2050 power generation will have to be zero CO2 emissions”

        No chance.

    • You make some good points but I have to identify some of the common misleading statements made by renewable advocates (and I am absolutely a renewable advocate).
      1) Solar generation matches demand – it does not in any meaningful way. Demand in lower latitudes in summer ramps in the late afternoon – in northern latitudes in the winter it ramps into the night. A cross-correlation would be very poor.
      2) Wind is complimentary to solar – wind does not correlate with demand and is not complimentary to solar in any consistent or significant way. Wind even averaged over many thousands of turbines and large geographic areas is extremely erratic and often falls to close to zero. This is especially true with high pressure systems which lead to very hot summer days and very cold winter nights – exactly the times when demand is highest.
      Statements like this undermine another of the points you make which is that we need very large scale storage to fill in the gaps with wind. On that front I would say we need to do MUCH MORE. Pumped storage at large scale requires very particular geographic features which are rare and trying to get past environmental concerns to build large reservoirs would be very difficult. I have blogged about every conceivable storage technology and none are within an order of magnitude of being cost effective. Energy storage is where we need to focus and I believe an ISS stype International collaboration is required.

      • Davis Swan said :

        “Demand in lower latitudes in summer ramps in the late afternoon – in northern latitudes in the winter it ramps into the night. ”

        If the late afternoon ramp is associated with air conditioning, then by 2050, the storage we need is not power storage, but storage of cold. Suitable phase change materials can then be charged up with cold (cooled down) while solar power is available, then allowed to discharge into buildings once the sun goes down.

        Similarly, the component of northern latitudes evening consumption which is for space heating can rely on heat storage materials fed from heat pumps during solar power availability, although that does imply a 2050 European supergrid with connections to solar PV and CSP generation in North Africa.

        There’s no reason to have to store electricity per se if there’s an end product form of the energy which can be stored better.

      • I have blogged about every conceivable storage technology and none are within an order of magnitude of being cost effective. Energy storage is where we need to focus and I believe an ISS stype International collaboration is required.

        Good point. That’s been my understanding for a long time too. I worked on a lot of hydro plants during my career. A while ago I did a rough estimate of this 9 GW, 400 GWh pumped storage project connecting two large existing reservoirs in the Australian Snowy Mountains Scheme http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/04/05/pumped-hydro-system-cost/ . It’s not viable for technical and economic reasons. I did it as an exercise to help explain to interested readers some of the important factors considered during pre-feasibility studies.

      • Davis Swan said :

        ” Wind does not correlate with demand and is not complimentary to solar in any consistent or significant way. Wind even averaged over many thousands of turbines and large geographic areas is extremely erratic and often falls to close to zero. This is especially true with high pressure systems which lead to very hot summer days and very cold winter nights – exactly the times when demand is highest.”

        Agreed that wind does not currently correlate with demand peaks such as midday and evening. However by 2050 solar will be able to handle these very cheaply, though it will take solar CSP with a few hours of storage to smooth away the evening peak.

        Further, demand will become more flexible, both industrial and domestic. EV charging is inherently flexible and phase change materials can be used to store heat and cold to time shift these around in a helpful manner.

        There are decent and not too expensive solutions around or in development for shifting electricity generation or demand around within a 24 hour period. As you imply above, the problem is really the longer gaps of a few days, maybe up to as much as a couple of weeks.

        Here’s a chart based on power output from 100GW capacity of wind generation with a Rayleigh distribution of wind speed (reasonable first approximation to what you get) and either on one location or split between two independent locations. Capacity factor is 50%.

        Weather fronts are around 1,000-1,200 km in size, which is around the size of the North Sea in Europe. So any wind generation spaced closer than this may well smooth the shorter gaps of less than a day, but won’t help much with the longer gaps. But if you split the wind generation between the North Sea and the North Africa coast (with the Trade Winds) then the two areas are completely independent. You can see that the split reduces the size of the gaps at the expense of fewer times when you get full power.

        If you assume you configure the capacity of wind in both locations to meet a smoothed daytime peak load (e.g. 50GW), then you might expect the off-peak average load to be around 35GW (70% of the smoothed peak). Reduce this by, say 10% for some future long-term demand response from industry to get 32GW off-peak requirement.

        The question then is, given the total wind generation delivers 50GW on average, compared with our minimum requirement of 32GW, what fraction of the time do we have a gap?

        For a single location the answer is around 45% of the time there is a gap, and when there is a gap then with the curved red line, probably the average wind supply is around 1/3 of minimum demand. With a split between two independent generation locations the gap is around 30% of the time, and the blue line is dead straight, so the average wind supply during the gap is around 1/2 minimum demand.

        And to help fill that gap, we are generating an average of 40% more wind power than we need for off-peak times, which would provide more than enough to fill the 15% deficit times, even with some power to gas to power inefficiencies thrown in.

        Don’t treat the example as definitive. More illustrative as a way to get an indication of what is going on. In reality you should analyse actual wind speed records, but as soon as you do this everything gets very complex, and you just have to believe the research paper conclusions without really being able to see why they should make sense. But the simple approach above at least tells you what is going on so you can understand it better.

  42. Peter Davies – I really like your response regarding heat/cold storage to mitigate AC and heating costs. I have advocated for Geoexchange systems very strongly in my blogs. (http://debarel.com/blog1/2013/03/21/harvesting-the-energy-stored-in-the-ground-below-us/) In fact I think that mandating that new commercial/industrial buildings and residential developments have geoexchange would be the single most effective way to reduce energy use – no real cost to the government and guaranteed (if long term) payout to the building owner through lower energy costs.
    You suggest taking that even a step further by using mid-day solar to store heat/cold at the distributed generation source. I have not run into that concept at the local level – there are a few cold storage projects out there http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/5797598-what-will-keep-u-of-g-cool-22-million-litres-of-water/ but I will pursue this idea as I think it avoids many of the issues with distributed generation.

    • Government mandates almost never work. If it’s such a great idea why does’t the market react.

    • Davis,

      Some people have suggested taking the heat / cold store concepts much further and having huge municipal heat / cold stores underground into which you pump heat in summer to provide air conditioning and from which you withdraw heat in winter. I don’t really know much about it, but assume that it’s only going to work in a few cities.

      • Peter Davies:

        Many “campus” settings (such as universities or concentrated governmental properties) already utilize central utility operations so you might want to investigate those examples.

    • Davis Swan:

      In fact I think that mandating that new commercial/industrial buildings and residential developments have geoexchange would be the single most effective way to reduce energy use – no real cost to the government and guaranteed (if long term) payout to the building owner through lower energy costs.

      I believe that ASHRAE standards (technologically and economically based) are superior to political mandates (when, as suggested by your comment, they are based on idealized concepts).

      Most (?) jurisdictions adopt ASHRAE standards into their building codes and ASHRAE updates its standards periodically (residential in 2016, for example). Hopefully, ASHRAE’s committees can resist the political pressure brought to bear by the Dept of Energy and other influences and will continue to produce world-class guidance documents.

      Please note that there is no “guaranteed payout” for renewable/alternative energy — that claim is an economic projection based on certain assumptions. If those assumptions do not match the local market (for rental rates, etc.) then the project will not be built. Reduced economic activity is a common consequence of excessive political mandates (California, I’m looking at you) that is very difficult to quantify.

      Kent

    • Davis,

      One thing is for sure – converting electricity to another form of energy for storage, then converting it back is usually going to be less efficient that storing the source or ultimate form of the electricity is going to be. So you only do it when you really need to.

  43. Peter Davies
    @ https://judithcurry.com/2015/12/02/german-energiewende-modern-miracle-or-major-misstep/#comment-748420

    Nuclear is a decent technical solution, but in the UK there have had to be commitments to 14.5 cents / kWh price inflation-proofed, for 35 years (i.e. beyond 2050), which makes it much more expensive than 2050 wind and solar is expected to be.

    The cost is high because UK is effectively locked into using the very high cost, over engineered, EPR and locked in to the mass of EU regulations that are major impediments to low cost nuclear power. There are many other reasons too. This explains why nuclear is far more expensive than it could and should be: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/11/competitive-nuclear-energy-investment-avoiding-past-policy-mistakes
    Here I suggest how the problem could be fixed: https://judithcurry.com/2015/11/29/deep-de-carbonisation-of-electricity-grids/#comment-747607

    Further, although there appear to be good technical solutions to nuclear waste disposal, there is no political solution to it, in that no democratic country in the world has been able to get public agreement as to what should happen to the waste.

    That’s a common anti-nuke argument used to justify impeding nuclear power. There is no justifiable reason to impede nuclear power. As you say, nuclear waste management is a trivial technical problem and a trivial cost (about $1/MWh). Importantly, only 1% of the available energy has been used; the once used fuel still contains 99% of its original recoverable energy. We will reuse the3 fuel in the future to extract the remaining energy. People know this so they will not permanently dispose of once-used-nuclear-fuel. Nuclear waste arguments are a diversion from the important and relevant points. Those who want to reduce global GHG emissions will have to embrace nuclear power as a large component of the electricity supply, like France has been doing for the past 30 years (i.e. generating 75% to 80% of its electricity from nuclear power). A high proportion of nuclear power is by far the cheapest way to reduce GHG emissions from electricity. Did you read this post and comments (posted on Monday): https://judithcurry.com/2015/11/29/deep-de-carbonisation-of-electricity-grids/

    Since by 2050 power generation will have to be zero CO2 emissions, then any gas generation would have to be from renewable gas, in which case you come back to using wind and solar as the cheapest means of providing the gas anyway,

    No one who knows about electricity systems is arguing that electricity systems in the large economies can be zero emissions by 2050.

    France has been demonstrating that its electricity generation mix (75% to 80% nuclear power) provides electricity at about ½ the cost and 1/6 the CO2 emissions intensity of Germany’s electricity. It beats me why anyone would advocate for anything else if they are genuinely concerned about reducing global GHG emissions intensity of electricity.

    If you want to reduce GHG emissions you should forget intermittent renewables. They require fast response fossil fuel generators (and/or hydro where viable), e.g. the less efficient, higher emissions intensity OCGT gas turbines and coal. Intermittent renewables are very high cost, and require fossil fuel back up. Energy storage is a factor of 10 to expensive so not a serious consideration. Furthermore, intermittent renewables are not sustainable: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

    Intermittent renewables cannot make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions.

    All the above is well understood.

    • Peter Lang,

      “There is no justifiable reason to impede nuclear power.”

      You aren’t taking into consideration just how strongly opinionated general members of the public can be, and how little attention they pay to the actual numbers when assessing risks. Most of them think flying is far more dangerous than driving or crossing the road, for instance.

      I bet by now the German leaders are wishing they could keep nuclear for another 20 years because it would enable them to meet all their 2020 CO2 emission reduction targets standing on their head. But it probably isn’t going to happen, and Merkel probably isn’t going to put the effort into selling it because it is too politically risky. Fukishima didn’t help of course.

      Even though only a handful of people tend to die with each big name nuclear disaster, your nuclear policy can be totally derailed in the court of public opinion by another such disaster. As a government it is just too risky to put up an energy policy which is hostage to such a public whim because a change of course mid-term can be disastrously expensive.

      France’s nuclear investment has indeed payed good dividends, but probably because France had very few other energy security options and went for it with mass rollout of similar reactor designs. Good idea, yet even France doesn’t seem to want to stick with the same high level of nuclear power for some reason.

      “No one who knows about electricity systems is arguing that electricity systems in the large economies can be zero emissions by 2050.”

      Both Germany and UK expect to have zero emission power generation by 2050. To get there the UK funds a lot of work in energy storage capability which is why we were all at the UK Energy Storage Conference last week where you can see and talk to 300 people who are all determined to make it happen, and those were just the ones allowed to take time off to attend.

      I can see how it can be done for Europe in outline, at reasonable cost using wind and solar in both Europe and North Africa, maybe some nuclear baseload, a European supergrid, and a combination of Norwegian and other pumped hydro and some power to gas storage, which would allow renewable hydrogen or renewable methane generation from backup CCGT plant with no CCS if any gap is too long for the pumped hydro capacity.

      And we need it to happen too, because we can eliminate CO2 emissions from power generation, whereas things like cement production are that much more difficult (and will probably need CCS utlimately). Air travel is another tricky area for emissions reductions too.

      • Peter Davies,

        You aren’t taking into consideration just how strongly opinionated general members of the public can be, and how little attention they pay to the actual numbers when assessing risks. Most of them think flying is far more dangerous than driving or crossing the road, for instance.

        I most certainly am taking the public’s anti-nuclear phobia into account and I have been for 30 years. However, public opinion can change relatively quickly, whereas the technical constraints that limit what renewables can achieve cannot. I don’t know what background you’ve read and particularly whether you read the links I provided to this
        http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/11/competitive-nuclear-energy-investment-avoiding-past-policy-mistakes
        And this
        https://judithcurry.com/2015/11/29/deep-de-carbonisation-of-electricity-grids/
        and this comment: “How to make nuclear cheaper” http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/11/competitive-nuclear-energy-investment-avoiding-past-policy-mistakes
        I don’t want to have to explain the same things all over again, so I won’t address the rest of your long comment until you respond to those.

        The important point to recognise is that renewables cannot supply much of global energy requirements so they cannot make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions. Therefore, for those who want to reduce global GHG emissions will needed advocate from a large proportion of energy being supplied by nuclear power. It is the only energy source available that is technically capable of providing most of the world’s ever increasing energy needs for tens of thousands of years (and that’s without fusion).

      • Peter Lang,

        While I’ve nothing against nuclear, the public tend to go off things like nuclear very quickly when there’s an excuse, but any process to turn them back on again tends to happen only slowly, if at all.

        You seem to be suggesting the UK government should say, “actually we think nuclear radiation standards are too tight and we are going to relax them, so that we can pay EDF much less than 14.5 cents / kWh plus inflationary increases over the next 35 years for new nuclear facilities.”

        Personally I would have thought this would go down with the UK public like a lead balloon. At least most of us over here only moan about the huge cost of Hinckley Point C at present, rather than any major political party suddenly taking up the “nuclear no thanks.” slogan, which would probably be the inevitable result of such a UK government change in policy.

        Anyway, no matter, we will probably end up with a “natural” level of nuclear of around 20% in UK.

        “The important point to recognise is that renewables cannot supply much of global energy requirements so they cannot make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions.”

        Where do you get this from? And it’s no good relying on nuclear advocates calculating “balance of system” costs for renewables without documenting clearly where they get the answers from. If a bunch of wind and solar experts and supporters were invited to do an independent calculation of nuclear decommissioning costs and permanent nuclear waste disposal costs you can be assured they would easily find a way of getting a much higher figure than the nuclear exponents do.

        As far as I can see Europe could go with renewables 100% by 2050. Prices are tumbling. You would install four lots of peak load nameplate capacity. 1 x wind in North Sea, 1 x wind in North Africa, 1 x solar PV / CSP in Southern Europe, 1 x solar PV/ CSP in North Africa, a European supergrid using HVDC lines, plus implementation of most of Europe’s (Norway’s plus other) identified pumped hydro potential, then use the excess wind energy for power to gas (methane) and the gas network to power the existing fast-response CCGT generation to cover any minor gaps which are left.

        By 2050 the wind and solar components above will be dirt cheap. One Texas utility is already giving away free overnight wind power to consumers, but it is really solar PV which will end up too cheap to meter. Pumped hydro will be a 60 year investment (and probably cheaper than building nuclear because at least one lake of each pair is already in existence), and the CCGT backup will already be in place (UK for instance is just about to place a big CCGT order to replace coal which is hopeless when fast-start/ramp is required).

        Before storage kicks in the gaps would be approximately half the average load for around 20% of the total time. Pumped hydro would cope with 2/3 of these gaps, leaving renewable gas fuelled CCGT to pick up the odd lengthy becalmed period using the existing natural gas networks as storage.

        And, on the back of the proverbial fag packet, that is it. A cost effective and technically correct 100% renewable solution to 2050 European power.

      • Peter Davies,

        You are missing the relevant point entirely. The point is that renewables cannot make much contribution to global energy supply. Therefore they cannot make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions. Read the links. They are hugely expensive and will remain so. The public will go off them when the real costs start to impact (it’s already happening). The poor countries will not adopt high cost power.

        Renewables cannot do much – you really need to recognise that constraint.. The choice is fossil fuels of nuclear. However, nuclear is sustainable indefinitely so we will move to nuclear eventually anyway, whether GHG emissions are a problem or not.

        For those concerned about reducing GHG emissions, they need to embrace and become enthusiastic advocates for nuclear power. It is the anti-nukes that are delaying progress and have been for the past 50 years or so. Reducing GHG emissions is not my major concern. Like 99% of the wor;l’s population, my main concern is about improving human well-being and that comes by maximising economic growth and development especially in the poor countries. So it’s up to folks like you, who are concerned about GHG emissions, to advocate to remove the irrational constraints that are making nuclear power about some 5 times more expensive than it could and should be now, and allow the learning curve to become positive. Read the links I’ve given you.

      • Peter Davies: “By 2050 the wind and solar components above will be dirt cheap.

        Just possibly. But the necessary technology to cope with their intermittency certainly won’t be – if it exists at all.

      • Furthermore, intermittent renewables won’t be dirt cheap just as nuclear did not become “too cheap to meter”. The growth rate and learning rates at a few percent penetration do not demonstrate what they will be as penetration increases, especially since renewables are hugely expensive and not sustainable – i.e. they cannot produce sufficient energy to power modern society and reproduce themselves. They are entirely dependent on fossil fuels and/or nuclear power: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

      • Peter Lang,

        I’ve looked at some of your links.

        Starting with the J P Morgan report, even Rud Istvan doesn’t rate them as serious energy analysts. It’s really difficult to take them seriously when they say things like :

        “..energy storage of new renewables (wind and solar) would only partly mitigate the need for and use of backup thermal power, since the surpluses are smaller than the deficits.”

        In other words, the configuration of renewables they are using wasn’t even enough to generate a surplus for storage during the gaps in renewable power supply, whereas everything I’ve seen from guys doing it properly would always have plenty of surplus wind power available.

        Another implication of this is that there aren’t enough renewables configured to minimise the gaps either. This means the backup system TWh storage costs are going to be much higher than necessary too.

        What it boils down to is that if you want to make renewables look poor by cheating it is very easy, and a lot of people aren’t going to spot it (did you spot the flaw with the JP Morgan report and lack of excess renewable capacity for storage?)

        The OECD + nuclear report is similarly biased. In particular you can see it uses grid connection costs which are far higher than those quoted in the usual EIA LCOE costing documents. Some of the level of (non-backup) network grid costs they quote would be more than sufficient to transport power over HVDC lines from North Africa to Northern Europe, for instance.

        In short I do not think the documents at the end of your links are written by guys who understand what needs to happen to allow high levels of renewables economically. They are happy to find potential problems, increase renewables projected costs accordingly, then to conclude renewables is not the cheapest solution, whereas they should be looking instead at cost-effective solutions to these issues.

        Now, as for renewables being hugely expensive, the current state of the art with solar PV and onshore wind in good locations is that they are pretty cost competitive with CCGT and coal, ignoring back-up costs for the moment. We are talking LCOE’s around the 5 cents / kWh mark here (unsubsidised), and everybody expects these onshore wind and solar PV costs to continue to drop rapidly, whereas CCGT and coal will experience at best a small reduction. As an example of the drop – probably solar PV will drop by around 16% for each doubling of global installed capacity, which can happen something like 4 or 5 times. So utility-scale solar could well end up at the 2-3 cents / kWh mark. Onshore wind is a little more mature, but you would still expect around 10-12% reduction per doubling, which can happen around 3 to 4 times. Any technology improvements provide further reductions.

        Offshore wind and solar CSP will likely experience faster learning declines in cost, but also start off from a more expensive cost base. In other words they cannot yet be regarded as coming into maturity.

        If you already have a lot of fast-start CCGT gas generation (and a lot of grids already do) then you already have some back-up for variable wind and solar PV, so you don’t need any more. Once CCGT has been used for a while and most of the capital cost is written off, then it is likely increasing renewables will reduce the CCGT load factor, which is why grid capacity payments are coming more into vogue. But you do not throw away the CCGT generation and decide to pay for it again later.

        In short it is straightforward to see how the total system costs for high levels of renewables can very easily beat the 14.5 cents plus inflation proofing that UK will still be paying for Hinckley Point C power in 2050, and beat any follow on generations of nuclear with more reasonable costs around the 10 cents / kWh mark too.

      • Peter Davies,

        It’s become clear to me you do not understand much about energy and your comments frequently show signs of intellectual dishonesty. Also, it seems you rely for a great deal of your beliefs on reading junk sources. It seems you what they say if it supports your belief, but you don’t have sufficient background or understanding of the subject to be able to do your own reality checks. Furthermore, your comments frequently misrepresent what others say and are disingenuous. So, I don’t believe you have much to offer on energy matters – you just have your beliefs, and that’s no help.

        You said:

        Starting with the J P Morgan report, even Rud Istvan doesn’t rate them as serious energy analysts. It’s really difficult to take them seriously when they say things like :
        “..energy storage of new renewables (wind and solar) would only partly mitigate the need for and use of backup thermal power, since the surpluses are smaller than the deficits.”

        Rud said the J P Morgan report understates the cost of renewables. I agree. I suspect they’ve understated the costs and technical difficulties to try to get those renewable advocates who are intelligent and honest to think about the points. Reports have to be written to suit the target audience. That’s standard in any effective communication. In this case he’s pulled punches on explaining the whole truth about how enormously costly renewable is and would become if penetration increases towards the target 80%. Comparing Germany and France, the cost per tonne GHG emissions avoided is much higher with renewables than with mostly nuclear even at current highly inflated costs for nuclear power (which is a direct result of the anti-nuke protesters – read the link I gave on this before blurting out another uninformed comment). It is a good report and much better then the nonsense you keep posting. You are certainly not a serious energy analyst and not even competent to critique anything.

        The quote is absolutely correct in context. The quote you lifted out of context follows from the figures explaining that “the surpluses are smaller than the deficits”.

        Quoting out of context as you do, seemingly to mislead other readers, is a sign of intellectual dishonesty: https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

        I am not impressed by your comments. IMO, you have little of value to offer.

      • http://fortune.com/2015/11/09/texas-free-electricity/

        “Texas is generating more wind power than utility companies know what to do with, so they’re handing it out for free.

        More than 50 companies in the state offer overnight plans that charge higher fees during the day, but nothing between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.”

      • Peter Davies,

        That is another sign of your ignorance of the subject. What you have quotes and said leads to higher electricity prices over all not lower. The back up generators still have to be maintained, but at higher cost (more intermittent and higher cycling costs) but selling lass electricity. They have to charge higher cost per MWh sold to cover their fixed costs. This has to be passed on in higher electricity prices.

        Sorry mate, you need to do less presenting of your beliefs and instead do objective research. Do reality checks with properly comparable costed and options analyses. The J P Morgan provides a good outline for you to follow.
        And here’s one of mine: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.363.7838&rep=rep1&type=pdf

        There are also calculators you can use; here are some (all Australian):

        http://www.industry.gov.au/Office-of-the-Chief-Economist/Publications/Pages/Australian-energy-technology-assessments.aspx

        http://efuture.csiro.au/#scenarios

        http://www.csiro.au/my-power/

        All of these show that the cost of electricity from renewables and CO2 abatement cost is a higher than with nuclear, even in Australia.

        Each of these calculators uses LCOE of the generators only. You need to add the additional grid costs to each.

      • Peter Davies: “What it boils down to is that if you want to make renewables look poor by cheating it is very easy”

        Why bother?

        For all your prolixity, ‘unreliables’ are quite capable of looking poor by themselves.

      • Peter,

        I’ve looked at your paper http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.363.7838&rep=rep1&type=pdf.

        The main problem with it (and presumably the predecessor papers it refers to) seems to be that it is using pretty out-of-date LCOE figures which are probably at least twice as expensive as they would now be.

        In the absence of any “A$” currency symbol on prices my assumption is that all your prices are in US rather than Australian dollars (at around 1.33 per A$), and therefore should be comparable with US EIA LCOE costs. However, that’s not critical as it is the ratio of costs of different technologies which matters. Tell me if the currency assumption is wrong.

        Both onshore wind and solar PV prices have dropped considerably since your paper. Specifically solar PV panel prices have dropped 78% in the last 5 years, and the price tumble is expected to continue in a similar vein.

        Here are the technology LCOEs you use together with those published by the US EIA (DoE) https://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm in brackets after :-

        US $ – unsubsidised prices – P Lang paper LCOE (US EIA LCOE)
        PV 631 (125.3)
        Onshore Wind 169 ( 73.6)
        OCGT 97 ( 75.2 assumed equivalent to EIA CCGT)
        Nuclear 117 ( 95.2)

        As can be seen your OCGT and nuclear prices are in the right ball park, but the PV and Wind prices you used are way too high and are clearly very out-of-date. It’s generally understood now that the LCOE or new solar PV and onshore wind is grid competitive with new CCGT and coal in a number of place in the world, though by no means all at this point.

        The scenarios I am interested in are in the time frame of 2030 – 2050, and particularly 2050, at which point solar PV LCOEs are expected to be very much cheaper than the EIA LCOE prices above (and likely under 2 US cents / kWh) and onshore wind will also be substantially cheaper.

        Here are a few links, including an Australian one :-

        http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/canberra-concedes-wind-solar-to-be-cheapest-energy-by-2030-82930

        http://cleantechnica.com/2015/02/25/solar-pv-will-cheapest-form-power-within-decade/ (“Solar PV will be 1.5 Eurocents in Southern Europe by 2050”).

        https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/TechnologyRoadmapSolarPhotovoltaicEnergy_2014edition.pdf
        (“In sum, large emission reductions arising from the substitution of PV electricity for fossil fuel-based electricity generation are orders of magnitude more important than emission increases that the variability of PV may drive in the rest of power systems.”).

        These predictions of new generation installation worldwide are from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-14/fossil-fuels-just-lost-the-race-against-renewables . What they appear to show is that the rest of the world does not agree with you that wind and solar are too expensive, as it intends to accelerate installation of it in large quantities. You would find a number of similar charts on the Internet if you went looking.

        The conclusion of all this is that one strong reason you are reaching the wrong conclusion about the competitiveness of wind and solar PV is because of using outdated wind and solar prices and making no allowance for the inevitable price reductions associated with volume scale increases for immature technologies.

      • Peter Davies,

        I’ve given up taking your comments seriously. I gave you the link to that analysis so you could follow the example, not asking for your critique because it would be of no value because you don’t understand what you are talking about. It’s already been critiqued, I fully understand the assumptions and limitations. You haven’t even looked at the one that compares the renewables scenarios. The point is, until you can do proper comparisons yourself, your chatter is not worth wasting time on. Picking away with irrelevant points is misleading other readers – that may be your intention, but I am not interested in that game. if you want to critique the paper, you should enter your own inputs, re run the analysis yourself and state how much difference it makes to the results. If you can’t do that you’re just blowing hot air. I know that updating the inputs to current year figures does not change the rankings. Furthermore, changing the AETA inputs to remove some of the renewables bias would make nuclear even cheaper compared with renewables. Every comparison that is done on a properly comparable basis shows that. I’ve given you stacks of references, Apparently you haven’t read them.

        I also gave you links to CSIRO calculators and the more recent AETA model and data for calculating CSIRO. You haven’t mentioned them so I presume you haven’t tested your assertions on them either.

      • Peter Davies,

        I’ve given you many references showing that an electricity system with a large proportion of nuclear power would supply electricity at much lower cost and very much low CO2 abatement cost than a system with a large proportion of non-hydo renewables. Furthermore, the emissions intensity would be much lower at the same high proportion of nuclear or non-hydro renewables. Until you can show that these analyses are wrong and by how much the results are wrong in each case, please don’t expect me to take your comments seriously.

      • I should have also pointed out that all costs are in Australian dollars and for Australia’s conditions and economy – I said that in my comment and it is obvious from the paper and the sources given in the paper, if you’d bothered to read any of it before diving into a pile of nonsense).

        I also gave you the link to the Australian Government’s most recent figures for all the technologies.

        All analyses have to be done with properly comparable figures. As I said in my original comment and in my comment above I gave you this paper to show you how to do analyses. My impressions is you are not capable of doing such analyses nor of commenting on it. Every comment you make reinforces that.

        Furthermore you refer to junk, renewable energy advocacy sites like RenewEconomy. What a joke. Why didn’t you refer to the AETA report? Why didn’t you request the model and run your own analyses? Why didn’t you do some simple analyses using the CSIRO calculators?

        Even the P J Morgans report, which grossly understates the true cost of renewables, shows that nuclear is the least cost option and by far the least CO2 abatement cost.

      • Peter,

        I have also looked at your 2012 paper, and have similar issues with it.

        As well as very outdated renewables prices, you have also given well over the top figures for the capital cost per MW of gas generation. You’ve also well over specified the required network upgrades. It’s not clear whether hydro is used in the optimum manner in a 100% renewables scenario.

        These two papers are your papers, and no-one else’s. If you wish to use them as a basis for claiming that nuclear is cheaper than wind and solar then it is up to you to bring them up to date and to make them bullet proof, which means a lot of amendments to the pricing and changes to some of the configurations used. At the moment they can be dismissed purely on the basis that the pricing is historical rather than current, while the possibility of future renewables price reductions for 2030 and 2050 scenarios is not even mentioned in either paper.

        In the meantime there are plenty of papers costing mainly or 100% renewables solutions for various parts of the world which claim costs will be less than the current fossil-fuelled solutions.

        I have no intention of redoing your work for you. If you want to do that yourself it is up to you. My interest is primarily Europe which has a much denser population density, and therefore a much higher density grid network than Australia.

      • Peter Davies,

        My previous comment was written thinking I was replying to Davis Swan, so my apologies for the tome. But the points are correct.

        In the meantime there are plenty of papers costing mainly or 100% renewables solutions for various parts of the world which claim costs will be less than the current fossil-fuelled solutions.

        All the ones I’ve seen are by RE advocates or RE advocacy agencies and are flawed. Most have been discredited.

        Here is once example, a critique by Martin Nicholson and me of an analysis by University of Melbourne based “Beyond Zero Emissions” . The report is called Zero Carbon Emissions Stationary Energy Plan Our critique is here: https://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/zca2020-critique-v2-1.pdf

        Conclusions

        We have reviewed the ―Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan‖ by Beyond Zero Emissions. We have evaluated and revised the assumptions and cost estimates. We conclude:

         The ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan has significantly underestimated the cost and timescale required to implement such a plan.

         Our revised cost estimate is nearly five times higher than the estimate in the Plan: $1,709 billion compared to $370 billion. The cost estimates are highly uncertain with a range of $855 billion to $4,191 billion for our estimate.

         The wholesale electricity costs would increase nearly 10 times above current costs to $500/MWh, not the $120/MWh claimed in the Plan.

         The total electricity demand in 2020 is expected to be 44% higher than proposed: 449 TWh compared to the 325 TWh presented in the Plan.

         The Plan has inadequate reserve capacity margin to ensure network reliability remains at current levels. The total installed capacity needs to be increased by 65% above the proposed capacity in the Plan to 160 GW compared to the 97 GW used in the Plan.

         The Plan’s implementation timeline is unrealistic. We doubt any solar thermal plants, of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020. We expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can be economically viable.

         The Plan relies on many unsupported assumptions, which we believe are invalid; two of the most important are:
        1. A quote in the Executive Summary ―The Plan relies only on existing, proven, commercially available and costed technologies.‖
        2. Solar thermal power stations with the performance characteristics and availability of baseload power stations exist now or will in the near future.

      • Peter Davies,

        As well as very outdated renewables prices, you have also given well over the top figures for the capital cost per MW of gas generation.

        Clearly you haven’t read or understood the report. The capital cost for gas includes the cost of biomass fuel and biofuel storage facilities. Pitty you don’t read with an intention to understand before making your disingenuous remarks.

        Your disingenuous comments are a disgrace It seems you haven’t read the paper with an intention to try to understand it (or the other links I gave). The LCOE costs were the latest official Australian government figures for Australia at the time of writing . I gave the link to the updated inputs for LCOE calculations. They do not change the conclusions. The CSIRO calculators with the updated figures show the conclusion is correct. An electrcity system with high proportion of renewables is not viable, electricity cost is much more than with nuclear and the CO2 abatement cost is several times higher than with nuclear. Clearly, you are unable to make the calculations yourself, so you resort to unsubstantiated assertions.

        I asked you in previous comments what your background and qualifications are. You haven’t answered. It is clear you are not an engineer, and are uncomfortable or not competent with rational, objective, quantitative analysis.

      • Peter,

        “I asked you in previous comments what your background and qualifications are. You haven’t answered. It is clear you are not an engineer, and are uncomfortable or not competent with rational, objective, quantitative analysis.”

        I certainly haven’t spotted where you asked this, so here are some answers.

        In theory I am an electrical engineer in that my degree is strictly Electrical Science from the Cambridge engineering laboratory in the 1970s. In practice, after a career in IT, I am actually in the middle of a physics PhD on energy storage in nanoscale capacitors (using CASTEP – a quantum modelling tool) as a mature student at Imperial College London, while also availing myself of the excellent events, contacts and other opportunities made available by the Imperial Energy Futures Lab and Grantham Institute of Climate Change. I have recently done a 3 months internship on science communications with both of these jointly. The last couple of years I have attended the UK Energy Storage Conference, which, although it tends to have a significant bias towards metal-ion batteries (mainly Li-ion) also provides coverage of the challenges and status for all other grid storage technologies necessary to support grids powered mainly by renewables.

      • That’s an impressive background and I can see you are right into this. My sincere apologies for my question. (I had asked someone else for his background and in my mind I was writing my comment to him. Very sorry.) When your comment arrived I was drafting an apology comment and responding to some of the main points you’ve raised, but at a high level. I’ll post it soon.

      • Energy storage is tough. Obviously, the sun can’t do it, and look at the mess the earth makes in just the trying of it.
        ============================

      • Kim,

        Speaking as a physicist now, the sun has a huge amount of energy storage. The fusion takes place in the core, and then it takes the energy between 10,000 and 170,000 years (depending on how lucky the photon gets) before it manages to escape up to the sun’s surface and light up our lives down here on earth.

        Or put another way – the sun is very mean about releasing the energy it has already created. It does this so slowly that we are lucky to get any of it at all as far as it is concerned!!!

      • Peter Davies,

        What is the relevance of that comment?

  44. @Davis: The story that German electricity in times of high renewable Generation is exportet for verly low prices and in times of high demand is important for higher prices is not true.
    -> http://www.renewablesinternational.net/german-electricity-exports-still-more-valuable-than-imports/150/537/87018/
    The average price of electricity being important and exported is nearly on the same level.

    • Thanks for the link. I thought that the lowering wholesale price of electricity was due to this kind of “dumping”. I have referred the question to my friend http://www.pfbach.dk/ Paul-Frederik Bach who knows everything there is to know about European electricity flows.

      • Davis,

        maybe you want to play a little bit with this webpage: http://www.agora-energiewende.de/en/topics/-agothem-/Produkt/produkt/76/Agorameter/
        You will notice, that Germany has such a big overcapacity with respect to electricity production that power is exported nearly all the time. Even when renewables production is quite low, you still will find a positive import-export balance most of the time.
        That’s why the story of the expensive imports in times of low renewables production is not true. Net imports only happen when electricity prices outside of Germany are cheaper than to use domestic plants. There is no real scarcity in the electricity market in Central Europe (UK would be a different story).

      • That chart doesn’t support any of your assertions. It’s spans only four days!

      • Peter,

        please have a look at it again. Somehow you missed the option to chose the desired time span.

    • gweberbv

      Renewable Energy Magazine says:

      “German electricity exports still more valuable than imports”

      Well they would say that wouldn’t they.

      That’s just spin. It’s cherry picking. It’s nonsense. You should know enough to know how to do properly comparable full cost comparisons.

      I am certainly not going to waste my time digging up the full, properly attributable costs of Germany’s renewable energy and the costs to the neighbours who have to modify their grids to handle the power volatility and disruptions. What we do know for sure is there’d be no solar or wind with out massive subsidies, we also know that Germany’s electricity is the highest cost in Europe.

      • Peter,

        across borders electricity is traded in a more or less free market environment. So, the value of 1 kWh of electricity is defined by the amount of money the buyer is transfering to the seller. And here we find that the average price of a kWh being exported is nearly the same as the average price of a kWh that is being imported.
        The simple reason for that is that Germany – being the biggest electricity exporter in Europe for a while – still has enough dispatchable domestic capacity to provide its demand at nearly all times. Despite shutting down some nuclear power plants. This is mainly the result of misplanning by the power companies that did not see the economy crisis coming (reduced demand) together with increased energy saving due to higher retail prices (reduced demand) together with a surge of renewable production (temporaly oversupply).

        The wholesale price of electricity in Germany you can find here: http://www.agora-energiewende.de/en/topics/-agothem-/Produkt/produkt/76/Agorameter/
        Just scroll down and click on ‘power price’. For this year the average wholesale price will be something like 40 Euro per MWh. And no, this is not a sustainable price. It is much too low for most producers to pay back their investment costs for the newer plants. But it is just enough to cover their incremental costs. That’s why unless demand is growing again, prices will remain low for a decade or so until some of the older plants will fall apart.

        But in a free market, nobody is asking if the producers are operating profitable. Nobody is asking if the lignite plants are getting their fuel for free. Nobody is asking if PV and wind come in with incremental costs of zero (and below) as their producers are paid ‘outside of the market’ within feed-in tariff schemes.

  45. Pingback: An article asserts that Germany’s demand for wind turbines resulted in lower prices for all components of wind turbines. I struggle to explain why but isn’t this, at best, too strong of a statement? | On Reddit

  46. Other than the thousands who died, the much higher price people have had to pay for energy, and the fact that it hasn’t done a damn thing for the climate, Germany has a success.

  47. So the common meme that our “renewables” will allow us all to live “off the grid” is an actual inversion of the truth and the grid will have to grow extravagantly to deal with dispersed, flickering power sources and demand. Great to see the claims of the “successful”, “laudable achievement” and “substantial cost savings” Energiewende in the first passages, demolished in the remainder.

  48. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #207 | Watts Up With That?

  49. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #207 | Daily Green World

  50. Peter Davies,

    I sincerely apologise for my displays of frustration and for the tone of many of my replies to you on this thread. I had you confused with someone else who I had given up taking seriously.

    I believe I do understand the main points you’ve been making. Some I think are factually incorrect (technical ones) and some (political and policy ones) we have different opinions for various reasons.

    I understand your point about the public’s opposition to nuclear power. But that is a circular argument. Anti-nuke activists scare the hell out of the public and the public turns against nuclear power; this forces politicians to “do something” which increases the cost of nuclear and makes it uneconomic: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/11/competitive-nuclear-energy-investment-avoiding-past-policy-mistakes . I suggest your comments and advocacy for renewables is participating in that. However, renewables will suffer the same fate when a large proportion of people begin to recognize that renewables cannot do the job and we’ve paid a fortune for near useless technologies. That day is coming, sooner than we probably recognise. We can already see the downturn in investment in the EU (see the charts I posted in a previous comment). Nuclear encountered the same slowdown in rate of roll out; but nuclear had reached 18% of global electricity supply whereas, wind and solar have reached about only 3% and the pause has begun.

    To try to maintain focus on a rational debate I try to separate the political issues from the technical issues. The political issues can be solved (over time); I suggested a way here https://judithcurry.com/2015/11/29/deep-de-carbonisation-of-electricity-grids/#comment-747607 (but you misinterpreted/misrepresented what I am suggesting in one of your comments). There are other ways of course. I am convinced it will happen anyway. The fear of nuclear can be compared with the fear of flying when the Comet jet passenger airliners were crashing in the 1950’s. We didn’t resolve that by regulating passenger air transport to the point where it is uneconomic as we’ve done with nuclear. We need to appropriately deregulate nuclear. But not as you misinterpreted my suggestion.

    Regarding the technical issues, I realise there are many young, enthusiastic but uninformed people who believe renewable energy can provide a large proportion of the world’s energy. However, objective analysis does not support this. I’d refer you to:

    “The Catch 22 of Energy Storage”: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/ . The key message is: renewables are not sustainable; they cannot supply sufficient energy to support modern society and reproduce themselves. This is a serious technical constraint

    “The Renewables Future – A Summary of Findings” and the linked articles http://euanmearns.com/the-renewables-future-a-summary-of-findings/

  51. Nuclear power is the least cost and fastest way to substantially cut CO2 emissions intensity of electricity

    1 Energy supply requirements

    The most important requirements for energy supply are:

    1. Energy security – refers to the long term; it is especially relevant for extended periods of economic and trade disputes or military disruptions that could threaten energy supply, e.g. 1970’s oil crises [1], world wars, Russia cuts off gas supplies to Europe.

    2. Reliability of supply – over periods of minutes, hours, days, weeks – e.g. NE USA and Canada 1965 and 2003[2])

    3. Low cost energy – energy is a fundamental input to everything humans have; if we increase the cost of energy we retard the rate of improvement of human well-being.

    Policies must deliver the above three essential requirements. Lower priority requirements are:

    4. Health and safety

    5. Environmentally benign

    1.1 Why health and safety and environmental impacts are lower priority requirements than energy security, reliability and cost

    This ranking of the criteria is what consumers demonstrate in their choices. They’d prefer to have dirty energy than no energy. It’s that simple. Furthermore, electricity is orders of magnitude safer and healthier than burning dung for cooking and heating inside a hut. The choice is clear. The order of the criteria is demonstrated all over the world and has been for thousands of years – any energy is better than no energy.

    2 Nuclear better than renewables

    Nuclear power is better than renewable energy in all the important criteria. Renewable energy cannot be justified, on a rational basis, to be a major component of the electricity system. Here are some reasons why:

    1. Nuclear power has proven it can supply over 75% of the electricity in a large modern industrial economy – France has been doing so for over 30 years.

    2. Nuclear power is substantially cheaper than renewables (at medium to high penetration)

    3. Nuclear power is the safest way to generate electricity; it causes the least fatalities per unit of electricity supplied.

    4. Nuclear power has less environmental impact than renewables.

    5. ERoEI of Gen 3 nuclear is ~75 whereas renewables are around 1 to 9. An ERoEI of around 7 to 14 is needed to support modern society. Only Nuclear, fossil fuels and hydro meet that requirement.

    6. Material requirements per unit of electricity supplied through life for nuclear power are about 1/10th those of renewables

    7. Land area required for nuclear power is very much less than renewables per unit of electricity supplied through life

    8. Nuclear power requires less expensive transmission (shorter distances and smaller transmission capacity in total because the transmission system capacity needs to be sufficient for maximum output but intermittent renewables average around 10% to 40% capacity factor whereas nuclear averages around 80% to 90%).

    9. Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited.

    10. Nuclear fuel requires a minimal amount of space for storage. Many years of nuclear fuel supply can be stored in a warehouse. This has two major benefits:

    • Energy security – it means that countries can store many years of fuel at little cost, so it gives independence from fuel imports. This gives energy security from economic disruptions or military conflicts.

    • Reduced transport – nuclear fuel requires 20,000 to 2 million times less ships, railways, trains, port facilities, pipelines etc. per unit of energy transported. This reduces, by 4 to 6 orders of magnitude, shipping costs, the quantities of oil used for the transport, and the environmental impacts of the shipping and the fuel used for transport.

    There is no rational justification for renewable energy to be mandated and favoured by legislation and regulations.

    • 2.1 Nuclear cheaper and lower emissions than renewables
      Renewables v Nuclear: Electricity Bills and Emissions reductions by technology proportions to 2050

      The CSIRO ‘MyPower’ calculator shows that, even in Australia where we have cheap, high quality coal close to the main population centres and where nuclear power is strongly opposed, nuclear power would be the cheapest way to reduce emissions: http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Energy/MyPower.aspx

      “MyPower is an online tool created by CSIRO that allows you to see the effect of changing the national ‘electricity mix’ (technologies that generate Australia’s electricity) on future electricity costs and Australia’s carbon emissions.”

      Below is a comparison of options with different proportions of electricity generation technologies (move the sliders to change the proportions of each technology). The results below show the change in real electricity prices and CO2 emissions in 2050 compared with now.

      Change to 2050 in electricity price and emissions by technology mix:

      1. 80% coal, 10% gas, 10% renewables, 0% nuclear:
      electricity bills increase = 15% and emissions increase = 21%

      2. 0% coal, 50% gas, 50% renewables, 0% nuclear:
      electricity bills increase = 19% and emissions decrease = 62%.

      3. 0% coal, 30% gas, 10% renewables, 60% nuclear:
      electricity bills increase = 15% and emissions decrease = 77%.

      4. 0% coal, 20% gas, 10% renewables, 70% nuclear:
      electricity bills increase = 17% and emissions decrease = 84%.

      5. 0% coal, 10% gas, 10% renewables, 80% nuclear:
      electricity bills increase = 20% and emissions decrease = 91%.

      Source: CSIRO ‘MyPower’ calculator

      Points to note:

      • For the same real cost increase to 2050 (i.e. 15%), BAU gives a 21% increase in emissions c.f. the nuclear option a 77% decrease in emissions (compare scenarios 1 and 3)

      • For a ~20% real cost increase, the renewables option gives 62% decrease c.f. nuclear 91% decrease.

      • These costs do not include the additional transmission and grid costs. If they did, the cost of renewables would be substantially higher.

      3 Conclusion:

      Nuclear is the least cost way to make significant reductions in the emissions intensity of electricity.

      The difference is stark. Nuclear is far better.

      But progress to reduce emissions at least cost is being thwarted by the anti-nuclear activists.

      • Key are intermittency and power density. Renewables now fail these tests, coal and nuclear pass. Energy storage is tough, perhaps intractable.

        Fear and guilt drive the urge against coal and nuclear, all quite needlessly. It’s a shame how retrograde this social mania has taken our culture. Our descendants will stand in awe of our ignorance and foolishness.
        =========================

      • Was never about energy
        but always about power,
        central authority.
        control economy.

      • Green Blob
        Or your job.

    • There are some significant problems with the statements above.

      One of the big ones is that the figures for EROI of wind and solar are generally outdated and not based on modern commercial systems.

      Typically wind power EROI for large turbines (and most of the new capacity comes as large turbines) achieve an EROI around the 25 mark.

      Solar is becoming cheaper very fast. And unsurprisingly, the cheaper it gets, the higher the EROI becomes. Currently solar PV energy payback times are around 1.2 years, for an EROI of 16 (assumed lifetime of 20 years).

      The figure for nuclear has been challenged by some and there are a number of estimates that put it as low as 5. There’s no clue as to where the large range comes from. 75 is certainly wildly optimistic for nuclear.

      • Peter Davies,

        This is a rather dissapointing comment. There are some significant problems with yourown statements:

        1. they are simply your assertions, many are disingenuous and they are unsupported by any evidence, let alone valid,relevant evidence.

        2. You say ERoEI figures are out dated. That is an irrelevant if you don’t quantify the change and whether this significantly changes the results and conclusions. ERoEI figures vary depending on the method used. However, the ones used in the analysis have been thoroughly critiqued and over all the analyses have stood up well to the critiques. Making fly-by dismissive comments like this is unhelpful and misleading for other reeaders. If you want to challenge the ERoEI figures used why haven’t you done so in the journals or on the blog sites where the experts on the subject had debated the details in depth? This comment http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/#comment-350520 summarises the overall important outcome of those debates and gives you links to where the experts have debated the analyses – you can go there to present your opinions and get feedback from experts. There’s no point making simple dismissive comments here if you are not prepared to debate your beliefs with the experts.

        3. “Typically wind power EROI for large turbines (and most of the new capacity comes as large turbines) achieve an EROI around the 25 mark.”
        A disingenuous comment. The EROEI is not for wind turbines. It’s for a whole system with wind power and energy storage supplying fully dispatchable electricity with same availability baseload technologies. Read it again.

        4. “Solar is becoming cheaper very fast. And unsurprisingly, the cheaper it gets, the higher the EROI becomes. ”

        Wrong! ERoEI is about energy in and out and has nothing to do with the costs of the energy. ERoEI is not derived from the economics. Secondly, solar panel costs are decreasing at around 20% per capacity doubling. But the system cost is not decreasing anywhere near this fast, especially when you include the storage needed to make solar power fully dispatcable like nuclear or coal. And we cannot keep doubling solar capacity indefinitely. Fast rates of cost reduction are experienced by many technologies when they are at very low rates of penetration (as solar is now at <1% of global electricity supply). The real costs are hidden and passed on to others. Solar is not increasing as fast as coal generated electricity. So this is another misleading and disingenuous comment. Solar PV has increased its share of electricity generation at about 1/10th the rate nuclear has achieved since mid 1950s (they both started in the mid 1950s); over 25 years nuclear achieved 18% and solar <1% of global electricity supply.

        5. "The figure for nuclear has been challenged by some and there are a number of estimates that put it as low as 5. There’s no clue as to where the large range comes from. 75 is certainly wildly optimistic for nuclear."

        Another disingenuous comment. Of course you can find no end of ridiculous numbers to support your beliefs if that's what you are looking for. But as a PhD student you should be being trained to be more discerning and to do objective research. You should also learn to do reality checks. Consider the energy density of nuclear fuel verses solar energy strriking the Earth's surface, for example Sorry, but this comment simply demonstrates you swallow anti-nuke nonsense without challenging your beliefs. Once you're locked in in the anti-nuclear cult's agenda, there is little chance of enlightenment for a long time.

        So far you've made many dismissive comments, unsupported by valid evidence, but you haven’t posted anything constructive or persuasive yourself to show that renewables can be viable at a large proportion of electricity generation.

        I’d urge you to review this before you write any more: https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

    • The other points are as follows :-

      “Nuclear power has proven it can supply over 75% of the electricity in a large modern industrial economy France has been doing so for over 30 years.”

      Renewables is starting to develop such a track record.

      “Nuclear power is substantially cheaper than renewables (at medium to high penetration).”

      Only true if you use wind and solar prices which are way out of date. By 2050 most expect solar PV power in good sunny locations to cost no more than 1.5 US cents / kWh.

      “Nuclear power is the safest way to generate electricity; it causes the least fatalities per unit of electricity supplied.”

      Nuclear has been relatively safe up until now, but then no terrorists have yet successfully obtained nuclear material from a power plant. There’s certainly a risk here.

      Wind and solar have a very good track record, although the occasional rooftop solar installer does fall off his ladder.

      “Nuclear power has less environmental impact than renewables.”

      False. In particular nuclear needs large quantities of cooling water to be available, meaning plants either have to be sited on the coast, or water has to be diverted from other higher priority uses. And this doesn’t even mention decommissioning aspect, uranium mining problems or spent nuclear fuel disposal.

      Renewables environmental impact is generally pretty good, provided good environmental assessments are performed first.

      “Material requirements per unit of electricity supplied through life for nuclear power are about 1/10th those of renewables”

      Not particularly relevant. Wind and solar need no fuel at all.

      “Land area required for nuclear power is very much less than renewables per unit of electricity supplied through life”

      False. Land for nuclear power is dedicated and you need a large security buffer zone. Solar and wind farms can often be jointly used for other activities such as grazing cattle.

      “Nuclear power requires less expensive transmission (shorter distances and smaller transmission capacity in total because the transmission system capacity needs to be sufficient for maximum output but intermittent renewables average around 10% to 40% capacity factor whereas nuclear averages around 80% to 90%).”

      True, however, modern wind turbines in reasonable locations come in at capacity factors of 50% (“silent wind power revolution onshore and offshore”). Solar PV in good locations up to 20%. Solar with CSP and storage spreads the generated power over more hours so you get higher transmission line utilisation and lower cost.

      Nuclear is not as high as 80 to 90% because if pervasive it has to load follow demand, so you can take 10% off that figure.

      “Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited.”

      Wind and sunlight are also unlimited, and free, and not potential terrorist material once used.

      “Nuclear fuel requires a minimal amount of space for storage.”

      Wind and solar PV require no storage for their fuel. Solar CSP requires minimal storage for the hot salts which will allow 24 hour generation.

      • Peter Davies: “Renewables is starting to develop such a track record.”

        For being expensive and unreliable.

        Especially with oil looking like dropping to $20 per barrel…

      • Peter Davies,

        I got to this unsupported ridiculous assertion and didn’t bother reading any further:

        “Nuclear power has proven it can supply over 75% of the electricity in a large modern industrial economy France has been doing so for over 30 years.”

        Renewables is starting to develop such a track record

        I am horrified to think that Imperial College’s education levels have sunk to the level of their PhD students simply swallowing climate alarmist and renewable energy dogma.

  52. LIES, AND GREEN STATISTICS

    2012 Daniel Wetzel, Die Welt

    Almost all predictions about the expansion and cost of German wind turbines and solar panels have turned out to be wrong – at least by a factor of two, sometimes by a factor of five.

    When Germany’s power grid operator announced the exact amount of next year’s green energy levy on Monday, it came as a shock to the country. The cost burden for consumers and industry have reached a “barely tolerable level that threatens the de-industrial- ization of Germany”, outraged business organisations said.

    Since then politicians, business representatives and green energy supporters have been arguing about who is to blame for the “electricity price hammer”. After all, did not Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) promise that green energy subsidies would not be more than 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour?

    How could Merkel be so wrong?

    Now, however, the cost burden is rising by 50 percent – to 5.3 cents per kilowatt hour. German citizens have to support renewable energy by more than EUR 20 billion – instead of 14 billion Euros.

    However, if there was one thing which was even less accurate than the prediction of the tempo of expan- sion it was the estimates of the associated costs of this expansion.

    Renewable energy has been completely miscalculated

    Already three years ago, the Renewable Energy Agency examined more than 50 studies on the de- velopment of renewable energy sources to see if their predictions had come true. The results were devastat- ing: All of Germany’s top research institutes, from the Prognos Institute, the Fraunhofer Institute and the Institute for Aerospace (DLR) to the Wuppertal Institute, had completely underestimated the expected contribution of renewable energy.

    “Renewable energy must not be systematically mis- calculated,”theformerheadoftheAgencyforRenew- able Energies, Jörg Mayer, commented the findings of the report: “Major energy policy decisions depend on predictions.”

    Green electricity levy was promised to cost just one Euro

    The leader of the Green Party, Jürgen Trittin, pro- claimed in 2004 that Germany’s green electricity law (EEG) would cost each household “only about one Euro per month – as much as a scoop of ice cream.” In reality, the monthly EEG costs per household have increased almost twenty-fold compared to the amount proclaimed by Trittin.

    Sending out the wrong message

    The message that politicians of all parties got from the studies by the ministry of the environment was as clear as it was wrong: the cost of solar subsidies are negligible, photovoltaics would remain a niche technology. Today, however, the hangover is hurting: Already, the subsidies for solar power alone add up to 110 billion Euros. They will have to be paid by consumers in the next 20 years.

    In 2009, the Association of Renewable Energy (BEE) published a reassuring prognosis: “The delivery vol- ume of electricity generated by renewable energy will decrease after 2013.” The statement was accompanied by statistics that suggested subsidies of 5.6 billion Euros in 2013. Another great error: In fact, with 20.36 billion Euros the figure was almost four times higher in 2012.

    The environment minister’s secret

    When it comes to the green energy costs per household, the stakeholders of the eco-industry also promised the consumers the earth: households would only be charged 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour in 2013 – a figure, which would decrease steadily thereafter and would amount to 6 cents in 2020. The reality shows a different picture: in 2013, consumers will be charged four times of what they had been promised by the green lobby.

    Translation Philipp Mueller

    http://pindanpost.com/2012/10/27/green-energy- forecasts-have-been-off-the-mark-by-hundreds-of- percentage-points-after-just-three-years/

  53. This essay asks the question: “Modern Miracle or Major Misstep” and states “most commentators put a significant “spin” on data”, then goes on to say “without going bankrupt or causing unbearable economic hardship to electricity consumers whether they be residential or industrial.”

    According to German newsprint, (a couple I’ve posted), there’s a lot to be desired with the costs and promises of alternatives in Germany. The essay does acknowledge the importance that coal still plays in the German grid; I imagine the renewed buildout of coal in Germany is a direct result of the costs of alternatives levied on its citizens.

    GERMANY’S GREEN JOBS MIRACLE COLLAPSES

    Date: 28/05/14
    Daniel Wetzel, Die Welt

    Renewable energy was supposed to create tens of thousands of green jobs. Yet despite three-digit Euro billions of subsidies, the number of jobs is falling rapidly. Seven out of ten jobs will only remain as long as the subsidies keep flowing.

    The subsidization of renewable energy has not led to a significant, sustainable increase in jobs. According to recent figures from the German Government, the gross employment in renewable energy decreased by around seven per cent to 363,100 in 2013.

    Further job cuts expected

    In the core of the industry, the production of renew- able energy systems, only 230,800 people were em- ployed last year: a drop of 13 percent within one year, which is primarily due to the collapse of the German solar industry.

    There is no improvement in sight, according to the recent report by the Federal Government. It says: “Overall, a further decline of employees will probably be observed in the renewable energies sector this and next year.”

    15 years after the start of green energy subsidies through the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), the vast majority of jobs from in this sector arestill dependent on subsidies.

    Hardly any self-supporting jobs in Green energy

    According to official figures from the Federal Govern- ment, 70% of gross employment was due to the EEG last year. Although this is a slight decrease compared to 2012, seven out of ten jobs in the eco-energy sector are still subsidized by the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG).

    Around 137,800 employees work in the wind sector which was the only eco-energy sector, besides geothermal, that increased employment. About 56,000 employees in photovoltaic sector depend on EEG payments.

    Investments drop by 20 percent

    Subsidies for the generation of green electricity have been paid for almost 15 years and have piled up into a three-digit billion sum, which has to be paid over 20 years by electricity consumers through their electric- ity bills. This year alone, consumers must subsidize the production of green electricity to the tune of around 20 billion Euros. A lasting effect on the labour market is not obvious.

    The report,“Gross employment in renewable energy sources in Germany in 2013, commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy, was jointly written by the institutes DLR, DIW , STW , GWS and Prognos. According to the researchers, the cause of the decrease in employment is the declining invest- ments in green energy systems.

    The investments in renewable energy sources in Germany fell by a fifth, to 16.09 billion Euros in the past year. Only about half as many solar panels were installed in Germany as the year before. Investment in biomass plants and solar thermal dropped as well.

    “Nothing left from the job miracle“

    The researchers do not expect that the production
    of high quality green energy systems will still lead to a job boom in Germany. For this year and the next they expect a further decline in employment instead. Thereafter, low-tech sectors such as “operation and maintenance” as well as the supply of biomass fuels are expected to „stabilise the employment effect”.

    “A few years ago the renewable sector was the job miracle in Germany, now nothing is left of all of that,” said the deputy leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, Oliver Krischer.

    The Green politician is sceptical about the attempts by the Federal Government to reduce the subsidy dependence of the green energy sector: „The brakes on the expansion of renewables by the previous conservative-liberal government is now fully hitting the job market,” said Krischer: “Thanks to the current EEG reform by the Union and SPD, the innovative and young renewables industry will lose more jobs.“

    The bottom line, no jobs remain

    The report by the Federal Government explicitly esti- mates only the „gross employment“ created primarily by green subsidies. The same subsidies, however, have led to rising costs and job losses in many other areas, such as heavy industry and commerce as well as conventional power plant operators. For a net analysis, the number of jobs that have been prevented or destroyed as a result would have to be deducted from the gross number of green jobs.

    Researchers such as the president of the Munich- based IFO institute, Hans-Werner Sinn, believe that the net effect of subsidies for renewable energy on the labour market is equal to zero:

    “Whoever claims that net jobs have been created must prove that the capital intensity of production in the new sectors is smaller than in the old ones. There are no indications for that. ”

    “There is no positive net effect on employment by the EEG,” said Sinn: “Through subsidies for inefficient technologies not a single new job has been created, but wealth has been destroyed.“

    Translation Philip Mueller Die Welt, 26 May 2014

    http://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/energie/article128432916/Das-gruene-Jobwunder-faellt-in-sich-zusammen.html

  54. This essay asks the question: “Modern Miracle or Major Misstep” and states “most commentators put a significant “spin” on data”, then goes on to say “without going bankrupt or causing unbearable economic hardship to electricity consumers whether they be residential or industrial.”

    According to German newsprint, there’s a lot to be desired with the costs and promises of alternatives in Germany. The essay does acknowledge the importance that coal still plays in the German grid; I imagine the renewed buildout of coal in Germany has a lot to do with the result of the costs of alternatives levied on its citizens.

  55. In 2014 Germany only got 15% of its electricity from renewables! New video by Lomborg:

  56. Latest cost of renewable energy and cost of CO2 abatement

    Last month Lazard’s published their V9.0 of their excellent document
    https://www.lazard.com/media/2390/lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy-analysis-90.pdf.

    This is an excellent document to read if your expectations of wind and solar costs were set five years ago or more.

    In it there is the following graph of the LCOE for new build electricity generation :

    As can be seen, the cheapest way of saving carbon in existing grids is to implement energy efficiency measures – they beat all other ways hands down.

    For new generation onshore wind and utility scale solar PV can come in the cheapest at unsubsidized prices. CCGT and coal are still close, however.

    The following chart shows the decrease in wind and solar LCOE prices. Be sure to distinguish the different lines for utility-scale solar PV from that of rooftop solar which is much more expensive.

    Another interesting chart in the document is the costs of carbon abatement – how much extra it costs to avoid carbon emissions per ton.

    As can be seen, at the low to medium levels of renewable generation which we will see over the next decade or so, wind power proves the most cost-effective at displacing CO2 emissions. This is in a scenario where there is plenty of CCGT fast-start generation around. Squeezing the last 10-15% of CO2 emissions out of the generating grids will be more difficult, although there is always the back-stop solution of CCGT + CCS.

    • Peter Davies,

      First – as I’ve already explained, LCOE of just the generator technology type is not the valid measure to use for electricity cost if we are comparing the cost of different mixes for the system. You need to include grid costs (plus other costs such as the risk that renewables cannot meet requirements by future dates such as 2030 and 2050).

      Second – further to the first point, I suspect that your claims that wind power is the least cost way to reduce emissions has not taken into account that CO2 abatement effectiveness declines very substantially as penetration increases (e.g. to around 50% at 20 % penetration). Have you checked? Please tell me what CO2 abatement effectiveness they assumed at 30% and 50% wind energy penetration, and what did they base their assumption on?

      Third, some commenters said that J P Morgan is a financial institution not an authority on energy analysis. If that applies to J P Morgan the same could be said about Lazzard. They are not regarded as one of the authorities we’d go to for information on energy. I’d suggest you use recognised authorities like IEA, EIA, OECD, EPRI, and other organisations that have long established reputation for doing such analyses for electricity industry.

      You assert what I’ve said is wrong; you need to show why, not just say “Oh, quick, look over here”. I urged you to read “10 signs of intellectual dishonesty”. One of them is:

      6. Employing double standards or “Your evidence is unacceptable (because it’s your evidence)”. This is a question of how high the bar is set for the acceptance of evidence – the bar is set at a much higher level for the other party, while it is set far lower for his/her own evidence.

      This is the approach you seem to be adopting.

      For a perspective on growth rates: In 25 years Nuclear grew to 18%, Wind to 3% and Solar to <1% share of global electricity supply. Nuclear's growth rate stalled when it reached 18% share (because of anti-nuclear propaganda and disinformation) and declined to 11% now. The charts I posted in earlier comment on this thread of growth rates of wind and solar in EU suggest they may have stalled already in EU.

      IEA projects wind could achieve 18% of global electricity by 2050 http://www.iea.org/topics/renewables/subtopics/wind/ . That's nothing like what you were suggesting in an earlier comment where you referred to many reports saying 100% renewables is achievable. Furthermore, even if it is a correct forecast, it is consistent what I've been saying all along – i.e. wind and solar cannot make much of a contribution to global energy supply and therefore cannot make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions. They are delaying progress because by building wind and solar we are not delaying building nuclear. The effect of the delay is enormous when you consider the compounding effects (like compounding effect of starting and staying invested and compounding the income and growth).

      This blog post "Less than the sum of its parts: Rethinking “all of the above” clean energyhttp://bravenewclimate.com/2015/06/05/less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts-rethinking-all-of-the-above-clean-energy/ summarises an essay published by the Breakthrough Institute. It suggests that there is probably a practical upper penetration limit for wind and solar at about the same percentage as the capacity factor.

      These statements are misleading and disingenuous:

      As can be seen, the cheapest way of saving carbon in existing grids is to implement energy efficiency measures – they beat all other ways hands down.

      For new generation onshore wind and utility scale solar PV can come in the cheapest at unsubsidized prices.

      If the goal is to substantially reduce global GHG emissions from energy use, then squeezing a little wind and solar capacity into the existing grid is not relevant to addressing the problem. In fact it is delaying implementing solutions that will work. The point is that wind and solar are not able to supply much of global electricity; therefore they cannot make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions.

      The below chart from Euan Mearns “Energy Matters” web blog illustrates how spillage increases and capacity factor declines as wind penetration increases (please don’t divert to arguing about the actual numbers used; it’s to illustrate the concepts).

      Source: “Decarbonizing UK Electricity Generation – Five Options That Will Work” http://euanmearns.com/decarbonizing-uk-electricity-generation-five-options-that-will-work/

      Peter Davies, above I’ve linked several different approaches and sources that all support the conclusion: wind and solar power cannot supply much of global energy and therefore cannot make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions.

      you keep avoiding the issue. You are advocating for renewables, not addressing the problem.

      • Peter, some responses to your points.

        “First, as I’ve already explained, LCOE of just the generator technology type is not the valid measure to use for electricity cost if we are comparing the cost of different mixes for the system. You need to include grid costs (plus other costs such as the risk that renewables cannot meet requirements by future dates such as 2030 and 2050).”

        Some LCOE figures, for instance those from the US DoE EIA, include estimated averages for additional grid transmission costs in the base LCOE figures. They always look fairly reasonable to me, and are in the range of $1.2 / MWh for fossil fuel generation to $5.8 / MWh for offshore wind. If you wanted to do some checking then the new CREZ lines set up in Texas between major population centres and the best wind site would make a good test case.

        And if we are talking about risk, then be aware that the fossil fuel price risk lies currently entirely with the consumer. Utilities just pass price rises on. Whereas renewables PPAs have a price guaranteed to the consumer who therefore bears no risk. Logically therefore a risk premium should be added to estimated fossil fuel generation costs. But try insuring for the fuel price risk so the consumer has a guaranteed price and you will find no-one at all would insure the risk at a price you could afford.

        “Second, further to the first point, I suspect that your claims that wind power is the least cost way to reduce emissions has not taken into account that CO2 abatement effectiveness declines very substantially as penetration increases (e.g. to around 50% at 20 % penetration). “Have you checked? Please tell me what CO2 abatement effectiveness they assumed at 30% and 50% wind energy penetration, and what did they base their assumption on?”

        There is no obvious reason why CO2 abatement effectiveness should reduce until you get to the point where the total wind and solar plus nuclear base load generation is more than the total instantaneous load for a significant fraction of the time (assuming you are directly replacing coal generation). Assuming no nuclear then this won’t happen in any significant way until you have wind and solar capacities both equivalent to the smoothed daytime peak demand, which is probably when wind and solar in total are providing around 60% of total power over the year. Another way of putting it is that CO2 abatement costs only start increasing when you are throwing away wind or solar power. And if this is just because your grid is lacking, then you had better fix this first, as the Texans did.

        Any load smoothing you can do will improve the abatement costs. For instance, modern aluminium smelters are designed to earn revenue by allowing operation at +/- 25% of the optimal efficiency level to allow them to respond to fast response or longer term requests from the grid to vary the load. Redesign of other industrial processes is expected to let them respond in a similar manner, but this will take a little longer than for aluminium.

        EV’s are coming too, probably in large numbers around the 2025 time frame, and when charging under grid control will also help control abatement costs at even higher levels of renewables than 60%.

        “Third, some commenters said that J P Morgan is a financial institution not an authority on energy analysis. If that applies to J P Morgan the same could be said about Lazzard. They are not regarded as one of the authorities we’d go to for information on energy. I’d suggest you use recognised authorities like IEA, EIA, OECD, EPRI, and other organisations that have long established reputation for doing such analyses for electricity industry.”

        If you read the stuff from JP Morgan and compare it with Lazards then you find Lazard’s includes all the expected disclaimers, and restrict themselves to using standardised methods for calculating LCOE, which is the sort of stuff you might expect a bank to do if they provide loans for utilities. By contrast, JP Morgan is actually trying to do some grid design under the covers to try to prove some things about renewables. That is way beyond their level of competence.

        In practice, Lazard’s figures tend to overlap with the estimates from the EIA (less the grid costs) and correspond to the press articles I read which include new contract PPA prices. Both are very US oriented, of course. I would be happy to go with either Lazard or the EIA figures, although Lazard’s seem more up-to-date when validated against press reports (e.g Some Texas towns and cities contracting for solar PV at around 5 US cents / kWh). And Horns Rev 3 offshore Danish wind farm is contracted at 10.7 Eurocents / kWh for 11 or 12 years so I’m just not going to believe any publication that tells me offshore wind minimum LCOE is more than 20 US cents.

        The IEA are a two-edged sword. The don’t get it right very often. As far as projections for renewables is concerned they are either a factor of 4 out in penetration for a given date, or alternatively, if you look at when a target is achieved they tend to be 5 years late in the expected timescale. The classic case is the IEA forcast for solar PV.

        As far as “other organisations” which have been doing this stuff for a long time is concerned, that includes some of the Koch-funded organisations such as the IER. You can pretty much guess what their conclusions are going to be before you read the report, and there is no criminal or civil penalty for lying if you are just a right-wing think tank.

        The OECD report you like was put together in conjunction with a nuclear group, so you could predict in advance that the answer would be “nuclear”. You really have to understand the ramifications of who writes a report.

      • Peter Davies,

        Some LCOE figures, for instance those from the US DoE EIA, include estimated averages for additional grid transmission costs in the base LCOE figures. They always look fairly reasonable to me, …

        They are not the total cost. Not even close. Not even within an order of magnitude at 50% penetration. I gave you references on this and could give more. But I see no point. You are so far off it’s not even worth reading the remainder of your comment.

  57. Why EROI will be low for low-cost renewables, and why adding in arbitrary storage is not appropriate

    We all know that EROI and price of renewables generation are two different things. However, there is still a link.

    To produce low cost solar PV panels, the manufacturer has to use as little material (e.g. polycrytalline silicon) per watt of output as possible – hence the rise of cheap thin-film panels. That is because material cost money.

    But not surprisingly, if you use less material, then you also require less energy per watt of output. This energy goes into purifying and processing the material in the first place, so is proportional to the quantity of material used.

    Lower input energy corresponds to high EROI and hence high EROI and low-cost tend to go hand in hand. And that is why the EROI of solar PV has improved so considerably since the early days – the panels use less material, cost less, and consequently their energy input is less which results in increased EROI.

    For this reason it is not correct to use historical EROI figures for solar PV (or wind for that matter) because new installations are inevitably cheaper because they use less material and inevitably also therefore have a higher EROI.

    Now, some people seem to think storage EROIs should be combined with wind and solar PV EROIs. They like this because it makes wind and solar look a lot worse. And the guys doing the sums can pick more or less at their own whim how much storage they add.

    Unfortunately life is not this simple. If, for instance, you are happy to install capacity of wind and capacity of solar that are equal to peak demand, then the chance are you will have capacity factors of around 45-50% (onshore wind with latest large rotor, smaller generator specs) and 15-20% for solar PV (decent location for solar in 15-40 degrees of latitude e.g. Southern USA, Australia, Southern Europe, North Africa.

    Because wind and solar generation tends to be anti-correlated, you can nearly (but not quite) add together the capacity factor for wind and solar PV when you work out the gaps. In this case 45-50% + 15-20% is going to be something like 60-65%. So on average 35-40% of the time there is a gap (ignoring times when wind + solar are producing more than the total demand between them). If you are happy to fill the gap with CCGT generation (no CCS at this point), then you can save a lot of CO2 emissions with a very high EROI. The CCGT EROI is also pretty good so does not bring it down much, even when it is used rather less than before. If you were happy to put CCS on the CCGT then the EROI again does not change that much, but now the CO2 emissions are much lower. And you can do it all without any electricity storage whatsoever.

    So it is not sensible to quote figures for wind and solar PV EROI including storage because the system solution and overall system EROI depends on how you meet the objectives. If you do it in a sensible optimised way you can avoid the solutions with ultra-low EROI (and correspondingly ultra-high cost) which are often quoted.

    So, no, it is not applicable to configure in storage to convert wind and solar individually into baseload generation then claim a very low EROI for them. Intelligent solutions combining different generation methods can do very much better than this.

    • Peter Davies,

      Why EROI will be low for low-cost renewables

      Misleading and disingenuous. You are trying to argue incorrect correlation; you have cause and effect back to front. Cost depends on quantity of inputs and cost of inputs. EROEI depends only on quantity of energy and energy out.

      Lower input energy corresponds to high EROI and hence high EROI and low-cost tend to go hand in hand.

      EROEI is not dependent on cost at all. However, the cost is a reflection of both quantity of inputs and price of inputs. If we use high cost inputs, including high cost energy, the cost will be higher but it makes no difference whatsoever to the ERoEI.

      Now, some people seem to think storage EROIs should be combined with wind and solar PV EROIs. They like this because it makes wind and solar look a lot worse. And the guys doing the sums can pick more or less at their own whim how much storage they add.

      Unfortunately life is not this simple. If, for instance, you are happy to install capacity of wind and capacity of solar that are equal to peak demand, then the chance are you will have capacity factors of around 45-50% (onshore wind with latest large rotor, smaller generator specs)

      Utter Nonsense. When all else fails, resort to derision is the common fallback position of the CAGW alarmists and RE advocates. Why didn’t you make your silly assertions and debate with John Morgan on BNC or the authors of the analyses as I suggested you do?

      I’ve explained repeatedly the capacity factor of individual cherry picked wind turbines is irrelevant. It is the LCOE of the system that counts and at high penetration like the 50% and 100% penetration you asserted in previous comments are feasible. As pointed out in my reply to your previous comment, there seems to be a practical limit to penetration at about the same percentage as capacity factor; approaching this value the amount of spillage makes wind and solar uneconomic.

      So it is not sensible to quote figures for wind and solar PV EROI including storage because the system solution and overall system EROI depends on how you meet the objectives. If you do it in a sensible optimised way you can avoid the solutions with ultra-low EROI (and correspondingly ultra-high cost) which are often quoted.

      So, no, it is not applicable to configure in storage to convert wind and solar individually into baseload generation then claim a very low EROI for them. Intelligent solutions combining different generation methods can do very much better than this.

      All unhelpful, dismissive, baseless assertions. Please provide some actual numbers for UK. How much wind energy capacity and energy storage would be required to supply 25 GW constant power using wind generation only for say February 2013, or better still for one or several years using UK actual wind farm capacities and wind generation for those periods. Roger Andrews has done such an exercise here: “Estimating Storage Requirements At High Levels of Wind Penetrationhttp://euanmearns.com/estimating-storage-requirements-at-high-levels-of-wind-penetration/

      Please don’t bother making silly dismissive comments about his work if you cannot do a similar analysis and improve on it.

  58. To produce low cost solar PV panels, the manufacturer has to use as little material (e.g. polycrytalline silicon) per watt of output as possible – hence the rise of cheap thin-film panels. That is because material cost money.

    But not surprisingly, if you use less material, then you also require less energy per watt of output. This energy goes into purifying and processing the material in the first place, so is proportional to the quantity of material used.

    Actually, with proton beam exfoliation the thickness may well be reduced to a few microns, producing a substantial step-wise improvement. Of course the energy consumption of generating the proton beam would have to be added in.

    But this process can also use large mono-crystals of silicon, with (AFAIK) a few percent efficiency improvement.

  59. Peter Lang said :

    “Peter Davies, above I’ve linked several different approaches and sources that all support the conclusion: wind and solar power cannot supply much of global energy and therefore cannot make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions.”

    And they are all highly flawed in one way or another. It should be intuitively obvious to you and the others that the only way to achieve high levels of renewables penetration is to use more than one type (Euan Mearns uses only UK wind). You need two which are anti-correlated, such as wind and solar (typically). And you need geographic dispersion. So my suggestion would be another lot of wind and solar in North Africa, as well as that in Northern Europe. Wind in Northern Europe and North Africa is uncorrelated (as opposed to anti-correlated).

    Until you understand the requirement for anti-correlation or uncorrelation of different types of renewables generation in different locations you are never going to understand why high levels of renewable penetration are achievable. And yes, you would add 1 or 2 US cents per kWh of new grid costs to transmit power all the way from North Africa to Northern Europe.

    And then you can fill the gaps of only 10 or 20% with CCGT + CCS (configured to a capacity of something like 70% of peak demand). You now have a high EROI renewable (or CO2 emission free in the case of CCGT) solution with no storage which delivers to the objective.

  60. Peter Davies,

    And they are all highly flawed in one way or another. It should be intuitively obvious to you and the others that the only way to achieve high levels of renewables penetration is to use more than one type (Euan Mearns uses only UK wind).

    It is intuitively obvious that mixing types of intermittent renewable energy generators simply increases the cost. You have to add the capital cost and fixed cost of each technology. Simplifying to make the point if you have 1 GW of wind and 1 GW of solar you still need 1 GW of fossil fuel back up capacity (or storage) to supply reliable power. If you want storage you have to have sufficient to get through the longest possible period of low power from the intermittent generators.

    BTW, neither Euan Mearns nor Roger Andrews, (no me) are advocating for a single technology. They are using limit analysis methods to do a simple analysis to make it simple for people who are just starting to understand! So this comment is another example of you disingenuous, misleading, misrepresentations. Another example of intellectual dishonesty.

    You certainly have a hell of a lot to learn.

    When you begin your comment with a “highly flawed”, and/or disingenuous, comment, I can’t be bothered reading any more of your comment. You have shown you are intellectually dishonest, and my trust has gone.

    When you star

  61. In the figures below I am going to use the abbreviation LCOE instead of cost per unit. You and I both know they are not exactly the same thing, but this is a very simplified example.

    The point about mixing solar and wind is that, although you do indeed need to put up more capital to install both, you are not increasing the average LCOE of the units from that of wind only.

    To give a very simplified example, assume that you have wind and solar at half the LCOE of CCGT and assume that fuel is half the cost of CGGT, so the LCOE of units from wind and solar is precisely what you would expect to save in fuel on CCGT.

    Assume you start with 100% CCGT generation, so you have already spent the capital on CCGT and are delivering happily to your customers and making a profit.

    When you install the first lot of wind (say 50% capacity factor and the same nameplate capacity as your CCGT generation) your LCOE does not change. Instead of purchasing fuel for the CCGT you are using the fuel saving money to finance capital repayment costs for the wind power instead. Yes you have to find more capital, but you have spare income to pay for it. The LCOE of the wind is half that of the original CCGT LCOE, but the CCGT is now used only half as much so the capital element of the LCOE of CCGT (which we said was half of it) is now doubled, so the CCGT LCOE is now 150% of what it was because of the new CCGT CF of 50%.

    So the average LCOE of the supplied power is now exactly what it was when we started off.

    Now we install solar PV which is precisely anticorrelated with wind. That means it only delivers power when wind doesn’t. That’s a good first approximation for Europe and this is a highly simplified example. Let’s say we get 15% CF for wind. Again we are swapping CCGT fuel costs for wind power capital payments. The wind power has an LCOE of half the original wind LCOE. The CCGT LCOE now goes up again because the CF has gone down and we still have to recover the CCGT capital costs. The LCOE of CCGT is now 192% of the original LCOE.

    But now we are generating 65% of our power from renewables and 35% from CO2-emitting CCGT. The overall LCOE has not changed from a pure CCGT solution. CO2 emissions are down 65%, and the abatement cost is precisely zero. Our consumers are paying exactly what they did for power when it was 100% CCGT. Our fuel costs have gone down by precisely the amount required to finance new capital spend on wind and solar. The total capital costs have gone up, but as a utility we are still making the same profit, though the accounts have a different debt to equity ratio.

    I hope this example is clear.

    • Peter Davies,

      Sorry, not wasting any time on that complete nonsense. I hope you will learn something in your PhD.

      • For those who haven’t followed the conversation closely here’s a very basic summary of the LCOE method of working out costs of CO2 abatement which takes into account Peter Lang’s valid points below.

        Peter Lang had two issues with the LCOE prices of onshore wind and solar PV which are expected to get below CCGT fuel costs by 2025/30 in most locations (and may have already in some specific locations). His two specific issues were :
        1) renewable LCOE costs do not include the cost of backup
        2) renewable LCOE costs do not include additional transmission required

        The method uses authoritative EIA LCOE costs as outlined in https://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm.

        In reponse to point 1) EIA LCOE costs already include new transmission investment ($3.1 / MWh for onshore wind, $4.1 / MWh for solar PV)

        For point 2 the method assumes you have enough CCGT generation to handle peak demand, but don’t use it when wind or solar is available. You still have to pay for the full capital costs of CCGT however. In the EIA document this element is $72.6 (total LCOE) minus $53.6 (variable O&M costs including fuel) = $1.9 / MWh.

        Hence $1.9 / MWh is added to the LCOE prices for renewables to ensure the CCGT capital costs are still fully covered when CCGT load factors drop dramatically. So every unit generated (from either CCGT or renwables) includes the capital costs of CCGT backup. Obviously we do not need to cover CCGT fuel and other variable O&M costs when renewables are generating.

        The conclusion is that once onshore wind and solar PV LCOE costs get below that of CCGT, then a solution saving up to 60% of CO2 emissions will have an overall LCOE which is no more than a 100% CCGT solution.

      • “The conclusion is that once onshore wind and solar PV LCOE costs get below that of CCGT, then a solution saving up to 60% of CO2 emissions will have an overall LCOE which is no more than a 100% CCGT solution.”

        Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth…

      • Sorry, a typo in my conclusion below. It should read :

        “The conclusion is that once onshore wind and solar PV LCOE costs get below the ****fuel and variable O&M component of the CCGT LCOE****, then a solution saving up to 60% of CO2 emissions will have an overall LCOE which is no more than a 100% CCGT solution.”

      • Peter Davies has been dishonest throughout. He continually misrepresents the argument and the important points. He doesn’t understand how the total system cost and emissions are estimated and repetitiously presents his nonsense analysis. The key point that Peter Davies can’t accept is that nuclear is a much cheaper way to reduce emissions than weather dependent renewables like wind an solar. The evidence demonstrating this is overwhelming. I’ve written comments below on a recent study that demonstrates this for the UK. The comments begin here: https://judithcurry.com/2015/12/02/german-energiewende-modern-miracle-or-major-misstep/#comment-750042

        Peter Davies is intellectually dishonest. He’s a disgrace to Imperial College where he says he is half way through a PhD.

    • Peter Davies,

      I don’t know why I am bothering to explain this to you, but I’ll give it a go.

      There is an enormous amount of empirical evidence showing that your anti correlation hypothesis dos not hold in all situations. So it is irrelevant because we always need reliable power. Therefore, no matter how much wind and solar you add to the grid you still need almost full capacity of fossil fuel back up. (Hydro and pumped hydro helps if available but there is little capacity left to develop so ignore this for now.). So, you need to add the capital cost of wind solar and backup (nearly for this simple explanation. Capacity factors are irrelevant because some times the generation is negligible and that can last for days and weeks.

      Your assumptions are wildly optimistic, so there is no point discussing your hypothesis, the assumptions are way too far from reality. The capacity factors you assume are far too high (probably about double reality) and they will decrease as wind energy penetration increases.

      Wind and solar have near zero capacity value. The only saving is in fuel costs. All this is really basic stuff.

      • The question is not whether you agree with the assumptions – we can discuss some more realistic assumptions later. The question is whether you understand and agree that the financial calculations correctly follow on from the assumptions.

        Do you understand and agree with the method of doing the financial calculations from the set of assumptions? The basis is trading off a set of additional capital costs now for future fuel savings.

      • Peter,

        I am not wasting my time debating your thoughts about how options analyses should be done and how the costs of the options should be calculated. You’ve shown you are intellectually dishonest throughout the discussions and are extremely biased in your selection of sources. So, it would be a total waste of time debating any of your thought bubbles. If you want to debate options analyses and the comparative costs, then start with sourcing authoritative analyses showing the system costs of the options at 50% to 80% penetration of intermittent renewable energy.

      • OK Peter, we’ll examine a couple of your points in detail then use the EIA LCOE figures which you claimed above were more authoritative than Lazards v9,0.

        Firstly the anti-correlation between European wind and solar. As long as the anti-correlation is reasonable it doesn’t have to be perfect. Well before 2030 personal transport is going to move to battery electric vehicles, and at least in Europe (because of the EU) there are likely to be standards for how the grid can communicate with EV’s to tell individual vehicles when to charge. For a maximum of the few hours when the sun is shining brightly (and the wind blowing), EV charging can be instructed to ramp up to absorb any excess and effectively change an imperfect anti-correlation between wind and solar into a near-perfect one.

        Here is the chart from the Frauenhofer institute demonstrating a decent anti-correlation between German wind and solar generation :

        With the same nameplate capacity of wind and solar generation (which I am suggesting) which I believe to be 36 GW of each, you almost never hit 35GW for the combined total. In fact most of the time the total does not exceed 25GW. Bear in mind there are a lot of points smack on the x axis because there is zero solar generation at night, but on average more than 50% of the wind generation takes place at night.

        In short the anti-correlation is pretty good, even before EV charging is used to load shift to ensure that it doesn’t matter that it is not perfect.

        EIA figures are here – https://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm .

        For onshore wind and solar PV give CFs of 36% and 25%. So by providing nameplate capacity equal to the average demand over a year, we expect to save 61% of fuel on the CCGT generation which you believe has to be configured to match peak demand.

        The fuel and other variable costs for Advanced combined cycle (best CCGT) without CCS are $53.6 / MWh out of a total LCOE of $72.6 / MWh, or 76% of the LCOE when CCGT runs at a CF of 85%.

        So as soon as the LCOE cost of onshore wind and solar PV get below $53.6 / MWh then it will be cheaper to install up to the average demand nameplate capacity above of each. And you get up to 61 percent carbon abatement (compared with CCGT CO2 emissions) for nothing. Think of the grid you have left as completely powered by CCGT, but wind and solar installed alongside just save fuel costs which pays for their capital costs.

        When will solar PV LCOE get below $53.6 / MWh? Well Lazards V9.0 says it is there already in a number of locations. The IEA (another of your favoured sources) believes the solar PV LCOE it will be around $15 / MWh or better by 2050. My guess is it will be below $53.6 / MWh somewhere between 2020 and 2025.

        How about onshore wind LCOE below $53.6 / MWh? Again, Lazards V9.0 says it is there already in a number of locations. EIA shows a
        2020 range by location of 65.6 to 81.6, so some locations are highly likely to get below $53.5 / MWh by 2025. I would go with that and guess that the majority of new onshore wind locations will be below %53.5 / MWh by 2030.

        So getting the first 60% of CO2 emission out of a grid powered entirely by CCGT is relatively straightforward using EIA figures, and does not appear to cost anything by 2025 or 2030.

        Getting the remaining 40% of CO2 emissions out of electricity generation by a cost-efficient method is a little more complex and might cost something, but we can only really get down to that if you accept this first step.

        So you have what you said you wanted – “authoritative” EIA figures for LCOE and capacity factor for onshore wind and solar PV, plus the information as to why perfect anticorrelation between the two is not necessary. And it shows abatement of up to 60% of carbon costs nothing by 2030.

      • I’ve already dealt with your anti-correlation argument. You still need near full back up. Clearly you have no understanding of how to do the analyses. It’s hard to believe you don’t understand any of this yet you are doing a PhD into energy storage for electricity systems. It makes me wonder, what has academia come to.

        I asked you: “If you want to debate options analyses and the comparative costs, then start with sourcing authoritative analyses showing the system costs of the options at 50% to 80% penetration of intermittent renewable energy.”

        You haven’t answeted

      • In my scenario I am indeed providing full CCGT back-up. One way of looking at the pricing is to regard the units of electricity generated using CCGT as costing $72.6 / MWh. Of this, only $19 / MWh is all costs apart from fuel and other variable costs.

        Then, because you need the CCGT back-up and have to pay for it, then you have to add this $19 / MWh to all electricity generated using onshore wind or solar PV. so if the solar PV LCOE in 2030 were to be, say $40 / MWh, then you should treat the full solar PV cost including backup as $40 + $19 = $59 / MWh.

        Whether you treat the 2030 onshore wind and solar PV as just saving fuel costs, or you treat it as providing an element of the baseline generation just does not matter. What matters is that it lowers prices compared with pure CCGT while abating up to 61% of the CO2 emissions of a pure CCGT solution.

        And you have not provided any counter to the anti-correlation argument. I demonstrated using the German figures that the level of anti-correlation between solar PV and onshore wind is pretty highs; that flexible EV charging can be used to absorb virtually all the excess when both sets of renewables generation are high; and that this will subtract from the generation requirement later by reducing EV charging load when CCGT generation is required because renewables generation is lower. In other words by using virtually all renewables generation to save CCGT generation at some later time, you can safely add the two capacity factors together.

      • Peter Davies,

        Your analysis is complete nonsense. You haven’t the most basic understanding of how the electricity system works. You’ve ignored all I’ve tried to explain, so there is not point continuing with your nonsense analyses. You need to go and do some research. Use publicly available calculators (I’ve given you links to at least three).

        You’d gais some basic understanding of what’s involved in estimating the full system costs by reading the link links I posted at the end of this thread: http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf

      • Peter,

        The analysis used LCOE numbers and breakdowns from what you previously quoted as an authoritative source, as you wanted. It includes costs of full CCGT backup for the onshore wind and solar PV renewables generation, as you wanted. It used capacity factors for renewables from your acknowledged authoritative source (EIA), as you wanted. And it explained why EV charging allowed the system to absorb the occasional concurrent peak in both wind and solar PV.

        However, despite the fact the analysis has been done using your specified input date, you are now not accepting the conclusions. There might be something about the method you do not understand, in which case I am very happy to explain further. Or it could be you are rejecting the analysis purely because you just do not like the answer.

        Either way, unless you have specific questions, there is no point in continuing the discussion. I gave you what you asked for and the conclusion is pretty clear – onshore wind and solar PV can abate CO2 to levels in excess of 50% from the 2025-2030 timeframe with no additional costs (and probably savings) over and above the LCOE of CCGT generation.

      • Peter Davies,

        I’ve told you several times your analysis method is nonsense. You continually take what I’ve said out of context and misrepresent what I’ve said. You are hopelessly dishonest – and clearly a closed-minded extreme zealot for your beliefs. You have not addressed the key question – you keep dodging it but claiming you have addressed it. the key question I asked was

        And clearly you haven’t read, or you haven’t understood, or you choose to ignore the ERP analysis “Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising
        the GB Electricity System

        A person who displays such intellectual dishonesty should not be awarded an PhD, especially by a prestigious UK university.

      • Peter Lang: “A person who displays such intellectual dishonesty should not be awarded an PhD, especially by a prestigious UK university.”

        Peter, you really need to be careful feeding trolls, it can get messy!

      • catweazle666,

        Thanks. Wow, How on earth can some one who is so intellectually dishonest be doing a PhD? Especially at a once prestigious university?

      • The analysis used LCOE numbers and breakdowns from what you previously quoted as an authoritative source, as you wanted. It includes costs of full CCGT backup for the onshore wind and solar PV renewables generation, as you wanted. It used capacity factors for renewables from your acknowledged authoritative source (EIA), as you wanted.

        That is id exceedingly dishonest. I’ve said repeatedly the analysis is nonsense, not just selection of the inputs, but the whole analysis.

        It’s gross misrepresentation – just plain dishonest.

      • Oops, somehow I managed to put my latest response below the wrong post. You can find it by searching for “December 13, 2015 at 5:44 am”.

      • “How on earth can some one who is so intellectually dishonest be doing a PhD? Especially at a once prestigious university?”

        Dunno Peter.

        But there’s a lot of it about!

  62. Below is a comment by Tom Bond on BNC:

    “The conclusions in the Summary of the Energy Research Partnership August 2015 Report “Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity Systemhttp://erpuk.org/project/managing-flexibility-of-the-electricity-sytem/ shows the following.

    The UK 2030 decarbonisation targets of 50 or even 100 g/kWh cannot be hit by relying solely on weather dependent technologies like wind and PV alone.

    That Zero Carbon Firm (ZCF) capacity (such as nuclear) is required in conjunction with wind to reach 50g/kWh target. For example 28GW of wind with gas backup gives total emissions of about 250g/kWh, but coupled with 25GW of nuclear the emissions are 50g/kWh.

    Therefore with the diminishing returns of adding more variable renewables, and the need to cover 2-3 week periods of low renewable output, a complete decarbonisation is going to need a significant amount of firm low carbon capacity.

    It concludes that Germany’s current model phasing out much of its zero carbon firm capacity in favour of high carbon inflexible lignite also runs directly against all the recommendations here (of this report).”

    • The ERP report is a serious study which highlights the issue of removing the final few 10% of carbon emissions from the UK power grid.

      From the summary report http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-FlexMan-Exec-Summary.pdf

      Extrapolating the top line in figure on page 8 shows that 70GW of wind would halve the current CO2 emissions down to 150 g / kWh with no further nuclear build (UK is currently around 20% nuclear). This picture is supporting my position which is that it is relatively straightforward and cost-effective to abate the first 50-60% of CO2 emissions using renewable onshore wind and solar, but to achieve higher abatement levels is more difficult.

      The report points out that a number of technologies will allow the 84% CO2 abatement (50 g / kWh) which is the UK target, of which one is to add 20GW of new nuclear (with a long lead time). However, the report also mentions CCGT with CCS, which is what my proposal above was, in conjunction with “flexible demand” (demand response), and a number of other technologies on page 6.

      They make the point later that the difference in cost between different options is less than their estimated uncertainty in the actual cost for each option.

      One option they do not mention in the summary is the use of renewable hydrogen CCGT generation instead of CCGT + CCS. This would use hydrogen from electrolyis using a deliberate surplus of wind and solar PV power – power to gas to drive CCGT equipment during periods when back-up is required. Germany is very big on power to gas, but it has, as yet, escaped the notice of the rest of the world.

      In my view, the most likely scenario for the UK is that we will use high capacities of wind and solar, around 20% nuclear, some pumped hydro storage locally and as much as we can get from Norway after other countries have made their grabs, and power to gas to power including long-term storage of renewable hydrogen which will drive CCGT backup in any long periods when no wind power is available..

      • A classic example of the extent zealots go to to deny the bleeding obvious. Dodging, weaving, avoidance, intellectual dishonest.

        The unavoidable fact is that the least cost way to reduce emissions to the targets in the British electricity grid is with a high proportion of nuclear. Weather dependent renewables cannot do the job and storage is a extremely high cost option. The only worse option is closing down existing nuclear – doing so would increase emissions and increases total system cost.

  63. From p8 of the Summary: http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-FlexMan-Exec-Summary.pdf :

    The figure shows how the carbon intensity varies with addition of wind to the base scenario, with differing levels of nuclear capacity. For the lower penetration levels the carbon free wind generation displaces emissions from gas plant and intensity falls, however, its effectiveness at abatement declines as more is added. Examination of the schedule shows that as wind is added it is displacing progressively lower carbon plant eventually causing significant levels of curtailment of its own output or that of other zero carbon plant.

    The curvature of the plot clearly shows that the effectiveness of additional wind at decarbonising the system is strongly dependent on the existing build. In fact the modelling shows that the economic value of adding any of the low carbon technologies to the system is also strongly dependent on the existing grid mix in a non-linear manner. Therefore a technology cannot be characterised by a single number such as Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) but must be evaluated using a holistic approach taking account of the full cost of balancing the system.

    The series of lower lines represents the addition of 5 GW increments of nuclear capacity. The effectiveness of this is clear, showing that 20-25 GW of nuclear alongside the NREAP target for wind (or 30 GW of nuclear alone) will achieve the CCC’s 50 g/kWh decarbonisation target. Although this set of scenarios explored differing levels of nuclear, similar results would be obtained with any Zero Carbon Firm (ZCF) capacity so long as it emits no CO2 and provides capacity that is (on a fleet basis) as reliable as fossil plant. This could for example be CCS plant that burns sufficient biomass to offset the residual emissions or an unabated plant that burns biomass with no attributable emissions.

    The figure shows that:

    1. Without new nuclear the GHG emission targets of 50 and 100 g/kWh cannot be achieved; in fact not even 180 g/kWh can be achieved (with 60 GW of wind power).

    2. No new wind plus 20 GW new nuclear achieves the 100 g/kWh target

    3. No new wind plus 27 GW new nuclear achieves the 50 g/kWh target.

    Chart p9:

    A second consideration is the need to meet demand, i.e. system security. Of particular note here are periods of low renewable output where storage could potentially fill the gap. The two most challenging periods are marked on the chart. Each lasts 3 weeks and has a net shortfall of 6-8TWh. Filling this gap represents a serious challenge for storage – current pumped hydro on the GB system can hold less than 0.03 TWh so is clearly not the right technology and other storage technologies seem a long way from delivering this volume.

    To make this clear for deniers of reality, energy storage has no hope of making any significant contribution.

    Peter Davies would make a much more valuable contribution if he changed the focus of his PhD to studying how to remove the ideologically driven impediments to nuclear power.

    • The report does not say it has to be nuclear. Nuclear is given as one option. The report explicitly says further work needs to be done to explore all options.

      Specifically they say In ERP’s modelling a minimum
      of 13 GW of new zero carbon firm capacity was required to
      meet 50 g/kWh.
      .

      • The least cost option is with a high proportion of nuclear and little or no weather dependent renewabes.

  64. I’ve looked at the 2015 ERP report Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf to compare the costs of reducing emission from electricity in GB with different mixes of electricity generation technologies. I’ve compared the CO2 emissions intensity and the electricity cost increase above what it would be with a 70/t CO2 carbon price to achieve various emissions intensities.

    I’ve eyeballed from Figures 5 and 6 some values of CO2 emissions intensity for different mixes of wind and nuclear in the GB electricity system. These are ordered by decreasing CO2 emissions intensity.

    Wind, GW Nuclear, GW CO2, g/kWh
    55 0 180
    30 10 140
    55 10 100
    30 20 60
    0 30 50
    42 20 50
    0 32 40
    0 35 25

    For comparison, France’s CO2 emissions intensity was 42 g/kWh in 2014 http://www.rte-france.com/sites/default/files/bilan_electrique_2014_en.pdf ; 32 GW of nuclear and 0 GW wind would achieve that in GB.

    From Figure 11 (left chart) I’ve eyeballed the total system cost increase for the GB system with the above mixes of wind and nuclear (ranked in the same order for ease of comparison).

    Wind, GW Nuclear, GW TSC, % change
    55 0 8%
    30 10 3.2%
    55 10 11.4%
    30 20 7.7%
    0 30 3%
    42 20 11%
    0 32 3.2%
    0 35 7.7%

    Clearly, the least cost options to achieve the greatest reductions in CO2 emissions intensity of electricity is with mostly nuclear and little or no wind. GB could achieve the same emissions intensity of electricity as France with 32 GW of nuclear, 0 GW of wind for a 3.2% increase in cost of electricity.

    • The column headings for the three columns are:
      Wind, GW
      Nuclear, GW and
      CO2, g/kWh (first table)
      TSC, % change * (second table)

      * TSC, % change means the change it total system cost per MWh above £70/t CO2 carbon price (which is not sufficient to drive the required changes in the electricity system needed to achieve the CO2 emissions reduction targets.

      I should also have made clear that wind is used as a proxy for weather dependent renewables. Substituting some wind capacity with solar does not improve the figures.