The Economist: That whole German “energiewende” has kind of backfired so far, huh?

posted at 8:51 pm on January 16, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

The Economist has been skeptical about Germany’s oh-so-grandiose “green” plans to almost completely phase themselves away from nuclear and fossil fuels for awhile now, but now that the bill for Germany’s outsized ambitions is coming due in the form of so far increased carbon emissions and the planned construction of more coal plants, the gloves are coming off.

More a marketing slogan than a coherent policy, the Energiewende is mainly a set of timetables for different goals. Germany’s last nuclear plant is to be switched off in 2022. The share of renewable energy from sun, wind and biomass is meant to rise to 80% of electricity production, and 60% of overall energy use, by 2050. And emissions of greenhouse gases are supposed to fall, relative to those in 1990, by 70% in 2040 and 80-95% by 2050. …

The difference between the market price for electricity and the higher fixed price for renewables is passed on to consumers, whose bills have been rising for years. An average household now pays an extra €260 ($355) a year to subsidise renewables: the total cost of renewable subsidies in 2013 was €16 billion. Costs are also going up for companies, making them less competitive than rivals from America, where energy prices are falling thanks to the fracking boom. …

Cost is not the only problem with the Energiewende. It has in effect turned the entire German energy industry into a quasi-planned economy with perverse outcomes. At certain times on some days, sun and wind power may provide almost all German electricity. But the sun does not always shine, especially in winter, and the wind is unpredictable. … So conventional power plants have to stay online in order to assure continuous supply.

And opening more conventional power plants means more coal, that most dreaded of fossil fuels. This just did not go according to plan, did it? Via RealClearEnergy:

For all the talk about wind and solar, Germany’s Energiewende is producing one big result – a return to coal. For an entire week last December, Germany’s 23,000 windmills stood perfectly still. Solar didn’t produce much power, either. Gas is still too expensive and so, unless the Germans are planning to do without power for weeks at a time, they need something to replace their nuclear reactors. That is coal.


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The Greens are probably ecstatic. All they have to do is ban coal-fired powerplants, hope for a couple of cold winters, and Germany will be “pristine” gain.

Because everyone will either freeze to death, or leave.

clear ether

eon

eon on January 16, 2014 at 8:57 PM

Whatever you do don’t mention The War.

—– Basil Fawlty

viking01 on January 16, 2014 at 8:59 PM

For an entire week last December, Germany’s 23,000 windmills stood perfectly still.

Average wind speeds in Germany are relatively low to begin with-for example, in Berlin the highest wind speed each year is normally between 10 and 15 miles per hour.

That’s why they are pushing for more offshore wind turbines.

Del Dolemonte on January 16, 2014 at 9:00 PM

It must be due to poor engineering. Have they tried four blades, each bent 90 degrees in the middle?

*ducks*

Christien on January 16, 2014 at 9:07 PM

That’s why they are pushing for more offshore wind turbines.

Del Dolemonte on January 16, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Jonathan Livingston Smacked-gull?

viking01 on January 16, 2014 at 9:09 PM

viking01 on January 16, 2014 at 8:59 PM

Of course you started it!! You invaded Poland…

JohnGalt23 on January 16, 2014 at 9:09 PM

viking01 on January 16, 2014 at 8:59 PM

Of course you started it!! You invaded Poland…

JohnGalt23 on January 16, 2014 at 9:09 PM

You mean they started it. We were in the Underground or American uniforms.

Missed knocking off Adolf at the lodge….. by that much.

viking01 on January 16, 2014 at 9:14 PM

There is no such thing as “renewable” energy. A pox on the luddite tyrants that proposed it to advance Statism.

Murphy9 on January 16, 2014 at 9:16 PM

Interesting how Europe just keeps reinventing fascism. And America wants to be more like that why?

flataffect on January 16, 2014 at 9:40 PM

There is no such thing as “renewable” energy. A pox on the luddite tyrants that proposed it to advance Statism.

Murphy9 on January 16, 2014 at 9:16 PM

Keep talkin’ like that and The Won will whip out his executive pen, bypass congress and issue an Executive Order repealing that silly conservation of energy and mass law.

Oldnuke on January 16, 2014 at 9:41 PM

Where do these sanctimonious twits get off burning coal?

Lonetown on January 16, 2014 at 9:45 PM

http://thebulletin.org/myth-renewable-energy

Oh yeah, you are a nuke!

Murphy9 on January 16, 2014 at 9:47 PM

How much energy from your utility comes from burning rendered biomass like chickens? Or better stated, how many credits does your utility purchase to not have to actually build the infrastructure to produce electricity from biomass? And why are they required to produce a proportion of energy from sources that aren’t net-energy productive?

Murphy9 on January 16, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Christien on January 16, 2014 at 9:07 PM

That’s a low blow and probably unfair. I admire your creativity in coming up with it though. Had to laugh in spite of myself.

hatespam on January 16, 2014 at 10:17 PM

hatespam on January 16, 2014 at 10:17 PM

Hey, I got to crack wise at the expense of German eco-Nazis…that’s a twofer!

Christien on January 16, 2014 at 10:48 PM

When all gummint offices are required to run off renewable energy and no other, THEN we will know they are serious. Until then, they ain’t putting their money where their mouth is. (Like that will ever happen!)

DublOh7 on January 16, 2014 at 10:51 PM

Typical centralized and planned economy blowback.

Maybe the Germans should try a little invisible hand, spontaneous order, and price discovery. They could ask the Austrians about it.

Viator on January 17, 2014 at 5:48 AM

Biggest mistake of Merkel; goes to show she is just a day-to-day bureaucrat not a big picture, long-range visionary.

albill on January 17, 2014 at 7:20 AM

Tell me about it… I live in Germany. Energy costs here are ridiculous. We pay about 3X what we did in the US to heat our home. And we are lucky because we have radiant heat and gas. The people with home heating oil pay 5,000-6,000 euro for the winter season. Most of the time the turbines are languidly turning, if at all.

ktrich on January 17, 2014 at 7:29 AM

Maybe the Germans should try a little invisible hand, spontaneous order, and price discovery. They could ask the Austrians about it.

Viator on January 17, 2014 at 5:48 AM

They would if only they could speak Austrian.

freedomfirst on January 17, 2014 at 7:38 AM

This article missed the “money-quote” from the Economist article:

On cloudy days Germany relies ever more on brown coal. Last year its CO2 emissions rose.

So even measured by the “greens” own standards, German policy toward renewables has been a failure.

quill67 on January 17, 2014 at 8:16 AM

Reality can be a real bitch sometimes. Not that it’s ever bothered the eco-freaks.

GarandFan on January 17, 2014 at 10:33 AM

I recall back in the mid to late 1990′s they were looking to build a wind power plant in Kansas (where I lived at the time).

But wind power doesn’t provide stable energy for the grid, and the wind location wasn’t on the existing grid; so they needed all small coal plant to provide stable “backup” power to keep the grid powered and avoid blackouts and grid failure.

And the environmentalists killed that option because coal is “bad”; so neither were built, and no new energy “green or otherwise” happened.

Or, to put it in a shorter pithier form:

Reality can be a real bitch sometimes. Not that it’s ever bothered the eco-freaks.

GarandFan on January 17, 2014 at 10:33 AM

gekkobear on January 17, 2014 at 12:28 PM

Average wind speeds in Germany are relatively low to begin with-for example, in Berlin the highest wind speed each year is normally between 10 and 15 miles per hour.

Del Dolemonte on January 16, 2014 at 9:00 PM

In Wichita, if the wind speed ever drops to 15 miles per hour, all of the cows and chickens fall over.

landlines on January 17, 2014 at 12:30 PM

Must be politics or something because, in a lot of these cases, I wonder:

Does anyone every consider the possibility, for instance, that if the wind does not blow hard enough for any period of time over a wide enough area AND the sun is not shining enough over a wide enough area, your national power grid may collapse and what are you going to do to prevent that?

This seems to be a case of basing a significant decision(s) on political objectives (green power) without really taking into account the hard, physical realties. Then when those realities begin to BITE really hard, to then scramble for an alternative that maybe worse than what you had before because it is now the only one that can be implemented fast enough.

Oh, well.

Russ808 on January 17, 2014 at 1:20 PM