Europe: back to the Dark Ages?

light-in-darkness

Wind power set to leave Europe in the Dark.

****

Energy Bosses Call for End to Subsidies for Wind, Solar Power
Group Includes CEOs From Eni, GDF Suez and E.ON
The Wall Street Journal
Géraldine Amiel
11 October 2013

BRUSSELS – Top executives of companies that provide half of Europe’s electricity production capacity on Friday called on politicians to end “distorting” subsidies for wind and solar power, saying the incentives have led to whopping bills for households and businesses and could cause continent-wide blackouts.

Speaking at a news conference here, chief executives of 10 energy producers also urged European Union authorities to compensate electricity companies that agree to maintain spare capacity on standby – a practice that helps increase the security of Europe’s highly interconnected power grid.

The executives, from utilities including Germany’s E.ON, France’s GDF Suez and Italy’s Eni SpA, blamed rising power prices on policies introduced at the turn of the century, when most European governments sought to promote renewable energy.

The criticism isn’t new. The industry has long been critical of the continent’s shift to renewable energy because it threatens their investments in nuclear and coal-powered production. Europe’s economic woes, however, have sharpened the debate, as companies and private citizens alike complain about the rising cost of power.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Germany, France, Italy and some other EU countries began subsidizing solar and wind power in an effort to minimize the region’s reliance on imported fossil fuels and to reduce power prices.

“We’ve failed on all accounts: Europe is threatened by a blackout like in New York few years ago, prices are shooting up higher, and our carbon emissions keep increasing,” said GDF Suez CEO Gérard Mestrallet ahead of the news conference.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, is scheduled to discuss the issue next week.

Under the subsidy mechanisms, wind and solar power producers benefit from priority access to the grid and enjoy guaranteed prices. In France, for instance, even as wholesale prices hover around €40 ($54) a megawatt hour, windmill electricity goes at a minimum of €83 a megawatt hour, regardless of demand. The difference is charged to customers.

The system certainly lured investors into wind and solar power projects. Germany now has 60 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity – about 25% of the country’s total power-generation capacity. But the guarantees mean households now pay about 29 euro cents a kilowatt-hour, up from about 14 cents a kilowatt-hour in 2000.

The CEOs said the subsidy mechanisms became deeply flawed in 2008, when the financial crisis hit and many European countries descended into economic recession. Although demand for electricity stalled or fell in some countries, pushing down wholesale electricity prices, investors kept plowing money into new wind and solar power capacity thanks to the guaranteed tariffs for renewables.

Meanwhile, electricity prices continued rising. On average, after-tax power prices rose 17% for households and 21% for businesses in Europe over the past four years, according to Eurostat data.

To cope with overcapacity, utilities decommissioned or mothballed some of their fossil-fuel power plants that had become unprofitable to operate. Over the past four years, 51 gigawatts of gas-fired capacities have been idled across Europe, Mr. Mestrallet said.

“That’s like wiping out half of France’s power-generation capacity, or those of Belgium, the Czech Republic and Portugal combined,” he said.

Analysts say the trend is dangerous because, unlike renewable wind and solar sources, which are intermittent, gas-fired plants are a key element to improving the reliability of the grid because they can be turned on or off at short notice. Some fear that Europe is now ill-equipped to weather a cold spell.

“The importance of renewables has become a threat to the continent’s supply safety,” Colette Lewiner , an energy analyst at Capgemini consultancy, warned in a report released this week. “There could indeed be a blackout.”
The Wall Street Journal

The scale of Europe’s brewing energy disaster is finally starting to register with the big end of town. Better late than never, as they say.

But – unless it does something radical and soon – Europe is well on its way to return to the Dark Ages.

Dark Ages

Staying warm before Europe plugged into cheap, reliable
sparks was never easy. But it had its moments …

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Mothers Against Wind Turbines and commented:
    Better stock up on candles and firewood!

  2. Stock up on candles and firewood….

  3. It is about time adult common sense comes back into the power industry – not all the kids stuff that has been going on – as the industrial wind turbines are putting the lights OUT all over the planet.

  4. David Mortimer says:

    Well, who is going to be the first country in the world with the scrotal capacity to take that first step of removing the REC subsidies? Especially while the rest of the world is watching.
    My bet is that it won’t be Oz but they will be a very close second.
    When it happens, the rest will be an avalanche.

    I don’t disagree that we need to stem the rate of co2 emissions if for no other reason that every atom of carbon burnt reduces our oxygen supply by two atoms.

    I don’t disagree that we need “renewable” electricity generation but it has to actually work to be of any benefit to our planet. Wind, solar and wave motion in their current and foreseeable forms will never work simply because they are intermittent and unpredictable. Growing timber plantations for combustible fuel is “renewable” but hardly co2 free.

    If the world wants reliable and stable electricity, then bite the bullet, nuclear has been around for decades and it works. It is just unfortunate that it still has the Hiroshima and Nagasaki stigma attached to it. If it were not for the stigma and the threat of producing weapons grade material, we would probably only have nuclear power.

    Come on Libs, show a bit of leadership and give the other countries a bit of a push and in the process, do those of us who suffer at the hands of these greedy, environmental criminals a big favour and kill wind energy dead now!

    Sleepless in SA.

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