Articles filed under Energy Policy from Germany
Germany, despite its claim to be a renewable energy leader, is not currently on track to meet its 2030 climate and energy targets. This week, the nation’s new Green Minister for Economics and Climate, Robert Habeck, presented a bold new plan for expanding onshore and offshore wind power. If successful, the plan would add up to 10 gigawatts of new onshore wind capacity every year for the rest of the decade. To put that into perspective, Europe as a whole installed 11.8 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind in 2020.
“Electricity is the most perishable commodity in the world,” says Kobe. At the same time it is generated, it must also be consumed. However, surplus electricity cannot be stored in the grid. One solution would be to store the electricity that is currently being generated too much. The problem: Germany does not have such storage facilities with the necessary gigantic storage capacity, and they will not be available to it in the foreseeable future. The batteries in electric cars are nowhere near enough to store electricity, quite apart from the fact that nobody will bear the costs for intermediate storage unless they are compensated for it.
Kay Scheller, President of the Federal Audit Office, gave this lecture at the Energy Law Conference of the Society for Legal Policy and the Association of Family Entrepreneurs on October 20, 2021 in Berlin. The issues raised in the speech are critical is assessing the rush to build more wind and renewables. Below is an English translation of the speech from the original German. The Federal Audit Office, or Bundesrechnungshof is the primary federal authority for federal audit matters in Germany.
Steag GmbH – which operates six large-scale hard coal plants in Germany with an installed capacity of more than 4,000 MW – closed its Bergkamen-A plant in the western part of the country this week due to shortages of hard coal, it said by email. “We are short of hard coal,” said Daniel Muhlenfeld, a Steag spokesman. “There is a strong demand for coal per se and secondly, there is a strong demand for transport by barge. And since Bergkamen has no rail connection, there are no logistical alternatives available here.” As a result of the failure of “green” renewable sources of energy to fill the demand gap, European utilities have turned to coal due to shortages of natural gas, recently stepping in to the spot market to secure cargoes and even asking Russia for more supplies. China’s move to secure more supplies is likely to make matters worse, with Europe set to scramble to secure fuel this winter.
According to Nordex, there are almost two dozen identical turbines in Germany or are still under construction. As a preventive measure, all 23 systems with the same configuration have been temporarily shut down nationwide, according to Nordex. This also includes a neighboring facility in Haltern. Among other things, the identical Jüchen wind farm was taken off the grid.
A hastier phaseout of coal coupled with slow uptake of renewables and a higher rise in power demand would not only drive up electricity bills for German homes, already among the highest in Europe, but also raise the specter of frequent power outages, especially during chilly winters.
In total, conventional energy sources comprised 56% of the total electricity fed into Germany's grid in the first half of 2021. Coal was the leader out of the conventional energy sources, comprising over 27% of Germany's electricity. Wind power's contribution dropped significantly compared to the previous year — from 29% to 22%.
Depleted natural gas inventories and low wind speeds have led to a surge in electricity prices across Europe, putting pressure on governments as consumers protest against surging power bills ahead of the winter heating season.
The state government has set the goal of building 1,000 additional wind turbines. According to Environment Minister Thekla Walker (Greens), half of this should be realized via the state forest - the government itself can become active here. "As the largest forest owner, the state of Baden-Württemberg has a special responsibility to support these goals," writes Hauk. ForstBW is responsible for the management of over 300,000 hectares of state forest. According to ForstBW, almost 40 percent of the country's area consists of forest.
Germany intends to become climate-neutral. The big questions is just how much wind and solar power that will require. But it's difficult to figure out how much power the country will actually need in the next decade.
In order to give new impetus to wind energy, the conditions for expansion must be relaxed in Germany. Economics Minister Peter Altmaier has spoken out in favor of a simpler and faster procedure for the approval of wind turbines. There is a need for faster procedures and other rules in terms of nature conservation, he says to the «Wirtschaftswoche». In the future, permits should be granted within one year whenever possible. In addition, it is not individual animals that need to be protected from the rotors, according to Altmaier, but only animal species as a whole. Otherwise the energy transition will not succeed.
In the Free State of Bavaria there is almost nothing going on when it comes to wind power. According to a report by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, the expansion has been almost zero for several years. The share of wind energy in electricity production is now even declining. "Wind power is dead in Bavaria" "complained the Green politician Martin Stümpfig.
The social consequences of expanding the ETS means the upcoming reform is already proving to be one of the most sensitive and contested parts of the EU’s radical decarbonisation agenda. Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s environment minister, says his government will oppose any extension to cover cars and buildings because it “risks penalising lower income parts of the population”. At a summit in Brussels in May, EU leaders from poorer eastern countries also warned that their citizens — many of whom cannot easily afford to ditch their diesel-powered cars or switch heating systems in rented accommodation — will suffer the ill-effects.
The German government’s latest attempt to attract investment in onshore wind farms fell flat, according to the results of tenders for renewables published on Friday (30 April), marking another episode in a series of undersubscribed tenders for wind power.
Rather, the new cost driver on consumers' electricity bills is network charges. In the course of the energy transition, network operators have to build reserve power plants and keep them operational, compensate market participants for line bottlenecks and erect thousands of kilometers of extra-high voltage lines. The West German electricity network operator Amprion has just doubled its investment volume for the next ten years to 24 billion euros. "The increased network usage charges and the increase in value added tax have led to this noticeable burden," says Lasse Schmid, Managing Director Energy at Check24: "The minimal reduction in the EEG surcharge cannot compensate for that."
The assumptions of the Ministry of Economic Affairs regarding security of supply for electricity are "partly too optimistic and partly implausible", criticize the auditors. The ministry also did not examine a scenario in which several foreseeable factors coincide that could jeopardize security of supply. So it could be that the network expansion is delayed and at the same time the cross-border transmission capacity is restricted. The Federal Ministry of Economics argues that “a stacking of various disadvantageous scenarios is not sensible according to the state of the technical discussion”. However, the examiners found this objection “not convincing”. Further uncertainties would arise from the increasing demand for electricity for the electrification of transport and for the production of the energy carrier hydrogen in electrolysis plants. The auditors therefore do not share the assumption of the federal government that electricity demand will remain more or less stable until 2030.
Large amounts of intermittent electricity create huge swings in supply which the grid has to be able to cope with. The issue isn’t confined to Europe. Australia has had teething problems in the transition to a cleaner network. Wind power was blamed for a blackout in 2016 that cut supply to 850,000 homes. The nation is looking to storage as a solution and was the first country to install a 100 megawatt megabattery in 2017.
Providing areas for onshore wind and permitting will continue to hamper Germany’s energy transition despite some improvements achieved in the recent amendment of the country’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG), wind energy federation BWE said in an analysis.
Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, has approved an amendment to the country’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG) that aims at reaching 65% of renewables in the country’s power mix by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.
The federal government wanted to make the construction of new wind power and solar plants a question of national security by law. However, after opposition was expressed over the idea the controversial amendment to the energy transition law was dropped.