Library filed under Energy Policy from Germany
The German feed-in system, called the Erneuerbare Energieen Gesetz (Renewable Energy Law or EEG) guarantees producers of sustainable power a fixed price per kWh fed into the grid. Since the introduction of the EEG in April 2000, the amount of renewable energy in Germany has more than tripled. Last year saw the production of 20,000 GWh of wind power and 18,000 GWh from other renewable sources. The share of renewables in the electricity mix has increased from 3.01% in 2000 to 10.53% in 2006. The target for 2012 is 20%. At the same time, the increasing share of renewables confronts the power sector with growing pains. They are facing an increasing input from highly variable sources. For instance, in 2004 the grid feed-in from renewable sources has varied between 1.8 and 14 GW.
Alsleben's new wind farm is designed to supply electricity to 30,000 homes, but when the wind stops blowing, the blades stop turning and the power output falls to zero. Critics say this underlines one essential drawback: you can't depend on wind for energy. Even if you build wind farms you still need conventional power plants in case the wind fails. "We face many hours a year with more or less no wind," says Martin Fuchs, chief executive of one of Germany's biggest electricity grid operators, E.On Netz. "We can save only a very small number of conventional power stations." Surges of wind-generated electricity risk overloading the grid, he adds, causing power blackouts. These are charges the wind power industry robustly rejects. Christian Kjaer, of the European Wind Energy Association, says all electricity grids are designed to cope with power fluctuations. "Fossil fuel or nuclear power stations are truly intermittent," he argues. "You never see 1000 megawatts of wind energy shutting down in a second, yet that's what conventional power stations do." For now, few in Germany are questioning the country's wind energy programme. The savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions are politically popular. Yet there is a lingering question-mark over the cost of all this, and whether building so many wind turbines truly makes economic sense. Editor's Note: Originally published 5/28/06
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said renewable energies could meet around 16 percent of total energy supply by 2020 — triple the current amount. At a presentation of a study on expanding renewable energies in Berlin on Tuesday, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said such an expansion of renewable energy sources would not be difficult and has “great potential” for providing jobs. Gabriel said the alternative energies would be a “major success story. He added that the production of electricity, heat and fuels from renewable sources such as wind, biomass and solar power increased 12.8 percent in 2006 and that renewable sources now make up 5.3 percent of the energy supply. Electricity from renewable sources has a 11.8 percent share. Such expansion would gradually allow Germany to replace nuclear energy with renewables, Gabriel said. Rapid growth has also led to 50,000 new jobs in the sector since 2004 — with a current total of 214,000 in the branch. The German Space Center conducted the study for the German Environment Ministry.
High wind-power production in Germany one Saturday night helped extend a blackout across Europe. Last month, the Conservative government joined the long line of governments around the world subsidizing the production of wind power. Meanwhile, new information about wind power from Europe raises the spectre of unexpected blackout risks, high costs, unreliable production and even questionable environmental benefits. Concerns over wind power used to focus on whether enough wind would blow to keep wind generators busy and electric power grids supplied. Now, after a major power blackout in Europe in November that left 15 million households in the dark, concerns over wind power come from an entirely opposite direction – fear that wind power can unpredictably produce more power than a system can handle.
Since the oil shocks of the 1970s, governments around the world have paid plenty of lip service to renewable energies such as wind and solar power. But only a few governments have been able to engineer policies that have begun to bring alternative energies into wider use. Renewable fuels provided 18% of the world’s total electricity supply in 2004, according to figures from the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization. Almost all of that, though, came from hydropower, a source with limited growth potential because of geographic constraints. The use of wind and solar power is growing, but they still generated only 1% of global electricity production in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available.
From Barton, Vermont, to the German border with Denmark and from the shores of Lake Huron, to the Romney Marches of southern England, wind power advocates are fighting crosswinds from local residents. In Barton in mid-January, a referendum overwhelmingly rejected the wind power turbines that were planned near this upper Vermont community. ...In Germany, where one-third of the world's current wind power is generated, doubters have provoked a loud debate. The company that owns the grid that includes nearly half the wind-farms in Germany reported its wind farms generated only 11 percent of their capacity. The company said the winds vary so much the wind farm had to be backed 80 percent by the conventional power grid.
Greener pastures, cleaner air
Deep-water wind farms will top the agenda when U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., leads a congressional delegation to Germany this spring. The trip will involve discussions of a variety of energy issues, said Delahunt, chairman of the bipartisan study group that includes current and former members of Congress. But of particular interest to Delahunt, who represents Cape Cod and the Islands, are German renewable energy companies - including one involved in building a test deep-water wind farm off the German coast in the North Sea. Some of the companies in this project ‘’are beginning to talk about a need for American subsidiaries,'’ Delahunt said. ‘’What better place than Massachusetts for this kind of foreign investment? Wind is to the Northeast, what oil is to Saudi Arabia,'’ he said.
Rube Goldberg would admire the utter purity of the pretensions of wind technology in pursuit of a safer modern world, claiming to be saving the environment while wreaking havoc upon it. But even he might be astonished by the spin of wind industry spokesmen. Consider the comments made by the American Wind Industry Association.s Christina Real de Azua in the wake of the virtual nonperformance of California.s more than 13,000 wind turbines in mitigating the electricity crisis precipitated by last July.s .heat storm.. .You really don.t count on wind energy as capacity,. she said. .It is different from other technologies because it can.t be dispatched.. (84) The press reported her comments solemnly without question, without even a risible chortle. Because they perceive time to be running out on fossil fuels, and the lure of non-polluting wind power is so seductive, otherwise sensible people are promoting it at any cost, without investigating potential negative consequences-- and with no apparent knowledge of even recent environmental history or grid operations. Eventually, the pedal of wishful thinking and political demagoguery will meet the renitent metal of reality in the form of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (85) and public resistance, as it has in Denmark and Germany. Ironically, support for industrial wind energy because of a desire for reductions in fossil-fueled power and their polluting emissions leads ineluctably to nuclear power, particularly under pressure of relentlessly increasing demand for reliable electricity. Environmentalists who demand dependable power generation at minimum environmental risk should take care about what they wish for, more aware that, with Rube Goldberg machines, the desired outcome is unlikely to be achieved. Subsidies given to industrial wind technology divert resources that could otherwise support effective measures, while uninformed rhetoric on its behalf distracts from the discourse.and political action-- necessary for achieving more enlightened policy.
The Renewable Energy Foundation is claiming that uncontrolled renewable energy in the form of wind power was a key factor in the grid disturbance and blackout that affected millions in Europe. They write: ‘ Europe’s principal grid authority the “Union for the Co-ordination of Transmission of Electricity” (UCTE) has published a detailed interim report into the grid disturbance that left 15 million households without power, and came close to resulting in a pan-European blackout. The report reveals that the causes of the event were multi-factorial, but that the key trigger was an unexpected rise in the load on the Landesbergen-Wehrendorf grid link, which joins the grid control areas of E.ON Netz and RWE. The precise causes of this increase are at present not clear, or have not yet been published, but the role of an unpredicted rise in wind generation (documented by E.ON Netz) appears to be a potentially important feature.
After killing nuclear energy and coal-fired power plants, Germany is now taking aim at its own green policies, says the Wall Street Journal. After building nearly 20,000 windmills, Germans are now regulating them well beyond economical sense:
“There's legitimate debate about a couple of segments,” says Keith Raab, boss of Cleantech Venture Network. In some instances, valuations accorded to firms with no profits—and little chance of making any soon—were reminiscent of the excesses of the dotcom bubble. As Douglas Lloyd, of Venture Business Research, puts it, “There's too much money chasing too few opportunities. How is it possible that this many solar companies are going to succeed? They're not.”
As UCTE communicated yesterday, a UCTE Investigation Committee was set up this morning and placed under the chairmanship of Gerard A. Maas (as Chairman of the UCTE Steering Committee) who will be assisted by three convenors (corresponding to the 3-fold split in the system). The task of the UCTE investigation Committee is to clarify the causes of the incident and identify possible additional measures to be taken to prevent such disturbances to occur again. Due to the fact that the disturbance had an impact on all UCTE TSOs, all UCTE members will participate in the investigation. The preliminary results of this investigation will be available by the end of November.
The German distributor E.ON admitted it caused the blackouts, by switching off a power cable across the River Ems to allow a cruise ship to pass. This meant areas to the west were left with a power deficit, while cables in the east were overloaded. Supplies cut out in Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Italy. The EU's Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has called for the European Transmission System Operators (ETSO) to identify the problem urgently and ensure that such a blackout does not happen again.
German utility E.ON said reports of the cuts began to emerge not long after it shut down a high voltage line over a river in northwestern Germany to let a ship pass through in safety, and that this may have been linked to the power loss. "In the past, these operations were often performed without any problems arising," the firm said, adding that the precise cause behind the loss in supply was still being investigated........In Spain, the fall in tension caused 2,800 megawatts of wind energy and one gas-fired power station to be cut off and interrupted the flow of electricity to Morocco, it added.
Parts of Europe were hit by electricity cuts late Saturday with a chain-reaction effect blamed on a surge in German demand causing power losses as far south as Spain.
Power cuts have struck several countries in Western Europe, leaving millions of people without electricity. Power companies said the outage started in Germany with a surge in demand prompted by cold weather, and then spread to other parts of Europe. Some five million people in France lost power, mainly in the east of the country and including parts of Paris. "We weren't very far from a European blackout," a senior director with French power company RTE said.
The German energy company RWE said the blackouts were caused by surging electricity demand Saturday evening due to a plunge in temperatures to the freezing point. Insufficient electricity supply first triggered blackouts in parts of western Germany, particularly in Cologne, and then across France as the French electricity company EDF tried to fulfill the surging demand but could not.
Most shocking of all is new evidence that the need to switch on and off base load fossil fuel power plants, to provide back up for unreliable wind turbines, actually gives off more carbon emissions than keeping them running continuously, thus negating any carbon savings from wind. Alas, only when our governments have allowed thousands more turbines to disfigure Britain’s countryside, not least by their grotesque bending of the planning rules, will the futility of the ‘great Wind Scam’ finally be recognised.
However, some observers are now questioning whether all the investment in wind power makes economic sense....Alsleben's new wind farm is designed to supply electricity to 30,000 homes, but when the wind stops blowing, the blades stop turning and the power output falls to zero. Critics say this underlines one essential drawback: you can't depend on wind for energy. Even if you build wind farms you still need conventional power plants in case the wind fails.