Will Germany’s Winter Wind & Solar Power Collapse Mean the End of the ‘Energiewende’?

German wind farm

STT has a ‘thing’ for the English language.

In the hands of adept practitioners, our mother tongue is capable of conveying all manner of complex concepts and ideas, and doing so with verve and wit.  However, in the hands of the well-paid spin doctors and useful political idiots that run with, and run cover for, the wind industry, the English lexicon has been forced to suffer all manner of outrageous torments and abuses.

One such victim is the word “transition” and its derivatives.  Politicians of all hues appear to throw that word around with gay abandon, whenever talking about their efforts to foist a heavily subsidised wind powered ‘future’ on their hapless constituents.

As South Australia’s power pricing and supply calamity unfolds, we are repeatedly told by State and Federal politicians alike that this is all part and parcel of “transitioning” to an all renewable powered future.

However, the question that’s always left begging, is just precisely what state of affairs our political betters are determined on “transitioning” their nations or states to?

True enough, at the base level, “transition” simply means the process of change.  And, at that level, places like South Australia have certainly experienced “change”. However, scratch the surface and it appears that little or no thought has been given to the fact that the transition playing out in South Australia is one hardly worth emulating – unless crippling power prices and routine blackouts are your kind of thing?

Another place where the word “transition” is routinely coupled up in sentences with “energy” is Germany.  Just like South Australia, it’s an “energy transition” that it isn’t going all that well.

This article was first published on the German-language website http://www.makroskop.eu on 20 December 2016 and has been translated for Energy Post by Hamburg-based independent energy consultant Jeffrey Michel (jeffrey.michel@gmx.net).

The End of the Energiewende?
Energy Post Weekly
Heiner Flassbeck
10 January 2017

The prominent German economist Heiner Flassbeck has challenged fundamental assumptions of the Energiewende at his blog site makroskop.eu. According to Flassbeck, the former Director of Macroeconomics and Development at the UNCTAD in Geneva and a former State Secretary of Finance, a recent period of extremely low solar and wind power generation shows that Germany will never be able to rely on renewable energy, regardless of how much new capacity will be built.

Stable high-pressure winter weather has resulted in a confrontation. An Energiewende that relies mainly on wind and solar energy will not work in the long run. One cannot forgo nuclear power, eliminate fossil fuels, and tell people that electricity supplies will remain secure all the same.

We have attempted unsuccessfully to find Energiewende advocates willing to explain that inconsistency. Their silence is not easy to fathom. But maybe the events themselves have made the outcome inevitable.

With nuclear power no longer available, a capacity of at least 50 gigawatts is required by other means, despite an enormously expanded network of wind turbines and solar systems

This winter could go down in history as the event that proved the German energy transition to be unsubstantiated and incapable of becoming a success story. Electricity from wind and solar generation has been catastrophically low for several weeks. December brought new declines. A persistent winter high-pressure system with dense fog throughout Central Europe has been sufficient to unmask the fairy tale of a successful energy transition, even for me as a lay person.

This is a setback, because many people had placed high hopes in the Energiewende. I likewise never expected to see large-scale solar arrays and wind turbines, including those offshore, motionless for days on end. The data compiled by Agora Energiewende on the individual types of electricity generation have recorded the appalling results for sun and wind at the beginning of December and from the 12th to 14th:

agoragermanelectricity01-19december2016-1024x564

Of power demand totaling 69.0 gigawatts (GW) at 3 pm on the 12th, for instance, just 0.7 GW was provided by solar energy, 1.0 by onshore wind power and 0.4 offshore. At noontime on the 14th of December, 70 GW were consumed, with 4 GW solar, 1 GW onshore and somewhat over 0.3 offshore wind. The Agora graphs make apparent that such wide-ranging doldrums may persist for several days.

You do not need to be a technician, an energy expert, or a scientist to perceive the underlying futility of this basic situation. You simply need common sense, shelving expectations and prognoses for a moment, while extrapolating the current result to future developments. Let us suppose that today’s wind and solar potential could be tripled by 2030, allowing almost all of the required energy to be obtained from these two sources under normal weather conditions. This is an extremely optimistic scenario and certainly not to be expected, because current policy is slowing down the expansion of renewable energy sources rather than accelerating it.

One cannot simultaneously rely on massive amounts of wind and sunshine, dispense with nuclear power plants (for very good reasons), significantly lower the supply of fossil energy, and nevertheless tell people that electricity will definitely be available in the future

If a comparable lull occurred in 2030 (stable winter high systems that recur every few years), then three times the number of solar panels and wind turbines (assuming current technologies) could logically produce only three times the amount of electricity. The deficiency of prevailing winds and sunshine will affect all of these installations, no matter how many there are. Even threefold wind and solar generation would then fulfill just 20% of requirements – again very optimistically – assuming that demand had not increased by 2030.

Redistribution effects

However, precisely the opposite can be expected, namely a massive increase in consumption due to the substitution of fossil fuels by electrically powered automobiles that require increased generation. The possibility of saving so much energy in this short time, enabling overall consumption to be decreased despite abandoning fossil fuels, can be confidently ignored. For that to happen, the price of fossil energy would have to rise dramatically, which is not to be expected, and one would have to compensate for the resulting redistribution effects that are politically even less likely.

Accordingly, Germany would end up with a catastrophic result 30 years after the start of the Energiewende. With nuclear power no longer available, a capacity of at least 50 gigawatts is required by other means, despite an enormously expanded network of wind turbines and solar systems under comparable weather conditions. Those other means according to current knowledge will be provided by coal, oil and gas.

In other words, one cannot simultaneously rely on massive amounts of wind and sunshine, dispense with nuclear power plants (for very good reasons), significantly lower the supply of fossil energy, and nevertheless tell people that electricity will definitely be available in the future. Exactly that, however, is what politics largely does almost every day. It is quite irresponsible to persuade citizens that from 2030 onwards only electrically-powered new cars may be allowed, as has recently been propagated in the highest political circles.

You can wish for a lot and always hope for a good outcome. But as important as wishes and hopes are, they are not yet solutions

The example of Energiewende once again demonstrates that the traditional political approaches of our democracies are ill-equipped to solve such complex problems. Consequently, they pursue what I have recently called symbolic politics: democracies do something that is supposed to point in the right direction without thinking it through and without even taking note of the system-related consequences. If it goes wrong, the political predecessors were guilty and nobody feels responsible.

That is why citizens need to remain vigilant and critical. You can wish for a lot and always hope for a good outcome. But as important as wishes and hopes are, they are not yet solutions. We likewise have to use our minds when we would prefer to turn them off because the conclusions are so depressing.
Energy Post Weekly

angry german kid

Transitioning to anger and despair.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Alfred (Melbourne) says:

    Here is Germany’s current electricity production:

    https://www.energy-charts.de/power.htm

    As you can see, renewables are close to zero. Amazing. This should be tattooed on the arse of every believer.

  2. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Why do people consider the word ‘Transition’ refers to a good outcome when all it means is change. Whether it is for the better or worse needs to be explained by those using it.
    Presently lets face it the word is being bandied about as if the only meaning could be ‘Transition’ for the better when it is clear as ‘muck’ to anyone with a modicum of sense that the only ‘transition’ happening with respect to the use of the wind to produce electrical energy is definitely for the worse outcome possible or anyone but those who reap the financial benefit at everyone else’s expense.

  3. Roger Blomquist says:

    Perhaps you can tell us what the “very good reasons” are for shutting down nuclear plants. Western-designed nuclear plants have never killed anyone, nor has the used fuel.

  4. Frank Campbell says:

    Flassbeck says:
    “I likewise never expected to see large-scale solar arrays and wind turbines, including those offshore, motionless for days on end.”
    then
    “You do not need to be a technician, an energy expert, or a scientist to perceive the underlying futility of this basic situation. You simply need common sense…”

    Continental high pressure systems in winter? Surprise? No sun, no wind?
    Flassbeck’s “common sense” clearly took some time to blossom…

    Better late than never.

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