Germany’s ‘Transition’ Back to Coal: Renewable Energy Push Smacks Into Reality

Germans ‘transition’ back to coal …

 

All lies and promises, wind and sun worshippers keep telling us that rocketing power prices and unstable grids are just minor ‘teething problems’ on our way to an inevitable ‘transition’ to a wonderful world run entirely on sunshine and breezes.

On their worldview, it’s a matter of when, not if, modern economies end up completely ditching ‘dirty’ coal-fired power plants, and otherwise wean themselves off fossil fuels, altogether.

Trouble is, in places like notionally wind powered South Australia and Germany, the so-called ‘transition’ has just smacked into reality: the only thing inevitable about it, is more chaos, triggering a run of new promises and even bigger lies.

Every time the facts trouble their fanciful narrative, the narrative shifts, yet again.

Whether it be Elon Musk’s promise of mega-batteries (a $150 million wheeze that would power SA for all of four minutes), pumped hydro systems using seawater (the only hydro system using salt water predictably rusted to a halt on the island of Okinawa, a mere 17 years after it commenced operation) or dictating that power consumers stop being power consumers (whenever breezes drop to zephyrs and/or the sun drops behind the horizon).

Germany has spent a colossal amount in its attempt to run on the sun and wind. However, just like everywhere else on the planet, the sun sets and the wind blows at its convenience, rather than at the convenience of industry and households.

After a near death experience in January this year (when wind and solar power output collapsed for weeks and the grid nearly collapsed, too), Germans, and German industry in particular, got serious. Its power generators were forced to fire up mothballed coal-fired power plants and accelerated their efforts to build new and more efficient plants.

Instead of transitioning away from coal, the Germans are transitioning back to the stuff, much to the horror of the green-left media, including Reuters.

Germany’s long goodbye to coal despite Merkel’s green push
Reuters
Vera Eckert
2 August 2017

Burning coal for power looks set to remain the backbone of Germany’s energy supply for decades yet, an apparent contrast to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ambitions for Europe’s biggest economy to be a role model in tackling climate change.

Merkel is avoiding the sensitive subject of phasing out coal, which could hit tens of thousands of jobs, in the campaign for the Sept. 24 election, in which she hopes to win a fourth term.

Although well over 20 billion euros are spent each year to boost Germany’s green energy sector, coal still accounts for 40 percent of energy generation, down just 10 points from 2000.

To avoid disruption in the power and manufacturing sectors, coal imports and mines must keep running, say industry lobbies, despite the switch to fossil-free energy.

“(Coal) makes a big contribution to German and European energy supply security and this will remain the case for a long time to come,” the chairman of the coal importers’ lobby VDKi, Wolfgang Cieslik told reporters last week.

He also stressed it was crucial for steel manufacturing in Germany, the seventh biggest producer in the world, that use a quarter of the country’s coal imports.

Critics point to the irony in Merkel’s tacit support for coal given that she criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for ditching the Paris climate accord after pledging to voters he would lift environmental rules and revive coal-mining jobs.

“Merkel … has no right to criticize the disastrous climate production policy of U.S. President Trump … figures in this country speak for themselves,” said former Green lawmaker Hans-Josef Fell, referring to Overseas Development Institute (ODI) figures showing the extent of public money going to coal.

Utilities such as RWE, Uniper and EnBW with coal generation on their books fire back by saying their output is covered by them holding carbon emissions rights certificates, while much of their historic profitability has been eroded due to competition from renewables.

Apart from the environmentalist Greens, who want coal generation to end by 2030, none of the main political parties have set phase-out target dates.

Huge vested interests are stifling debate, whether it is potential job losses that alarm powerful unions or the effect on industrial companies relying on a stable power supply.

Industry figures show renewables accounted for 29 percent of power output in both 2015 and 2016, up from 7 percent in 2000. But plants burning imported hard coal still make up 17 percent and brown coal from domestic mines 23 percent of power output.

Cheap coal lets them run at full tilt when necessary while the weather dictates if wind and solar produce anything at all.

Cieslik said he expected hard coal alone to retain a share of 15 percent by 2030.

VDKi warns that nuclear energy, accounting for 14 percent of power, will remove even more of the round-the-clock supply when it is phased out by 2022.

Wind and solar cannot even fill current gaps and a system run mainly on green power would fail to provide guaranteed supply over a winter fortnight, it says.

Power grid operator Amprion has said German networks came close to blackouts during settled and overcast conditions in January when renewable plants produced almost nothing.

Even environmental groups acknowledge the fossil fuel lobbies have a point, arguing there must be remedies to the problem of intermittent renewable supply.

“Old coal plants can be made flexible at a reasonable cost and allow countries with a high share of coal-to-power a soft transition to a climate friendly energy system,” said a study commissioned by Agora thinktank, which backs the energy switch.
Reuters

Pause for a moment, and read the last paragraph above one more time. Assuming that the paragraph accurately reflects the views of renewable energy spruikers, Agora, it’s little wonder that Germany was overrun by lunatics, fully divorced from reality.

The suggestion that they can tinker with old coal-fired power plants (apparently to keep them up and running) on their way to a ‘soft transition’ to an all renewables powered future is a little like St Augustine, who wanted his Lord to make him chaste, but not yet.

Warm fuzzy emotion is no substitute for the laws of physics and economics.

The Germans appear determined to shut down their nuclear power generation fleet in five years time, which means that in Germany, at least, coal-fired power has a long, long way to run.

Always promising to kill coal power in Germany, but not yet…

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Crispin Trist says:

    It would appear that coal is making something of a comeback. The challenge now is to see how efficiently it can be used to make affordable electricity and with the lowest possible emissions. I would imagine that for both the engineers and scientists involved, this would be an opportunity to relish.

    A company in India, CarbonClean has developed a way to remove carbon dioxide from the environment, by turning it into baking soda and without subsidy. I first heard about this story on the ABC (Australia). Things are looking up. In fact there is a market for CO2 as a chemical raw material.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/03/indian-firm-carbon-capture-breakthrough-carbonclean

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/green-tech/a24631/india-co2-baking-soda/

    I also spotted the story on the problems with nuclear waste storage and the Lucas Heights nuclear facility on Landline last weekend. Nice to see the ABC getting to grips with the issue and presenting both sides of the debate.

    We should all be involved in the debate instead of being shut down by both the (Richard Di Natale) Greens and Bill Shorten`s Labour party. The exciting prospect here is that these really are amazing projects that need safe solutions to solve. And it is an issue worth debating when considering that hospitals are also a source of nuclear waste.

    A valuable peace of advice that I picked up from Senator John Madigan was, don`t bludgeon people. And it makes a lot of sense. If you shout at someone and force your opinion, they will become defensive and stop listening.

    Article below from the Newcastle Herald.

    RECORD COAL EXPORTS FOR NEWCASTLE PORT

    Newcastle Herald

    Scott Bevan

    18 Jan 2017, 7 a.m.

    The resurgence in coal prices has flowed down the Hunter to help create a trade record for the Port of Newcastle. 

    In 2016, the port handled more than 167.7 million tonnes, an increase of about 3.8 million tonnes from 2015. The trade value totalled $18.69 billion.

    Port of Newcastle’s Chief Executive Officer, Geoff Crowe, said the figures were “a good outcome”.

    “I’m happy for the Hunter, for the port users, and for the port customers,” Mr Crowe said, adding while he had anticipated beating the previous year’s tonnage, the growth was “probably slightly better than I’d expected”.  

    Coal has remained the powerhouse for the port, representing 96 per cent of the total trade in 2016. Coal exports jumped by 2.2 per cent to a new record of just under 161.4 million tonnes. In 2015, the port recorded 158 million tonnes in coal exports. The 2016 trade value of coal alone was almost $15.28 billion. 

    The strong 2016 figures saw the year end on a high, with a new monthly record for coal exports of 15.94 million tonnes in December.  

    Hennie du Plooy, the CEO of Port Waratah Coal Services, the operator of two of the port’s three coal loaders, said the export figures indicated that stronger coal prices “have encouraged producers to make the most of the available market.”

    The company’s terminals loaded more than 109 million tonnes last year. Mr du Plooy envisaged a growth of two to three per cent this year, but that would still be well within the capacity of the company’s facilities, which was about 145 million tonnes per annum. 

    The port also saw a large increase in wheat exports in 2016. Almost 761,000 tonnes, worth $155 million, were exported in 2016, a jump of 467,000 tonnes on the previous year.  Other grains and meals exported from the port amounted to 235,415 tonnes.

    Mr Crowe said he was particularly pleased to see the increase in non-coal trade, as it emphasised the port’s diversification. The port handled 25 cargoes, which, because of coal’s dominance, was often understated, he said. And with grain farmers having another good season, Mr Crowe believed that would flow into the tonnages handled by the port this year.

    NSW Farmers’ Cropping and Horticulture Policy Director Robert Hardie said through increased investment in infrastructure, ports across the state could play an increasingly important role in grains exports. 

    Mr Crowe said based on trade volume, Newcastle’s port was the third largest in Australia and 24th in the world. While 2,258 ships visited the port in 2016, Mr Crowe said there was the capacity to more than double that figure.   

    Link below.

    http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4409305/coal-comeback-drives-port-to-trade-record/

  2. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “Cheap coal lets them run at full tilt when necessary while the weather dictates if wind and solar produce anything at all.

    “Wind and solar cannot even fill current gaps and a system run mainly on green power would fail to provide guaranteed supply over a winter fortnight, it says.

    “Power grid operator Amprion has said German networks came close to blackouts during settled and overcast conditions in January when renewable plants produced almost nothing.

    “Even environmental groups acknowledge the fossil fuel lobbies have a point, arguing there must be remedies to the problem of intermittent renewable supply.”

    ONE TRILLION EUROS later and the German’s work out that symbolic, weather-dependent energy – wind and solar – does nothing other than make people feel virtuous and morally superior.

    WHAT a disgraceful waste of other people’s money.

    AGAIN, the worst any of these politicians and green-energy lobby groups will ever be accused for wasting billions of other people’s money, killing jobs, economies and wrecking landscapes is an excess “save the planet” of virtue.

    So very, very wrong.

    • As if these things weren’t bad enough, the whole premise for Energiewende was to reduce co2 emissions. That isn’t happening. All this chaos and economic pain had been for nothing. Time to hold politicians accountable.

  3. Well someone did see the Light.

  4. “renewables accounted for 29 percent of power output in both 2015 and 2016,”

    A third of those “renewables” is biomass : wood from Germany, but also US and Brazil, biogaz from farms.

    The real “renewables” without CO2 are less than 20% of German electrical generation.

    • And that figure is misleading as it is an annual average. Power consumption isn’t averaged, it’s a here and now thing. If there is no wind and it’s cloudy, the patient on life support still wants power to keep his system ticking over. And that power has to come from some reliable source. In Germany, as here, 100% of wind and solar capacity has to be backed up 100% of the time by a dispatchable source – ie coal, gas or hydro and nuclear in Germany, until 2022.

    • Nice to know that the world’s leader in renewable energy not only has rising electricity costs and rising CO2 emissions, but has also become a world leader in deforestation.

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