Germany’s green transition has hit a brick wall

Even worse, its growing problems with wind and solar spell trouble all over the globe.
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“By now, most of the world has heard about Germany’s “Energiewende” – its “energy transition, its grand plan to create a society based entirely on “green, renewable, sustainable” energy,” says Paul Driessen. “Under Chancellor Angela Merkel, the country has spent many kings’ ransom on the effort. Indeed, it has been estimated that Germany has already spent well over $550 billion on wind, solar and biofuel programs, and that legal commitments to support renewable energy will raise the total to $775 billion by 2022.”

“What can this “climate and energy leader” show for its Herculean efforts? Not much, say Norwegian engineer Oddvar Lundseng and his colleagues. In fact, the entire plan has hit a brick wall. On many days, wind and solar generate a couple percent of the electricity the country needs, while on other days the turbines and panels produce so much power that the electricity must be exported at a loss to neighboring countries that don’t even want it. Meanwhile, Germany is still burning enormous amounts of coal every year – and Asia and Africa are burning millions of tons more each year, to bring electricity and better living standards to 1.3 billion people who still don’t have lights, refrigerators or other modern technologies.”

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Germany’s green transition has hit a brick wall

Even worse, its growing problems with wind and solar spell trouble all over the globe

Oddvar Lundseng, Hans Johnsen and Stein Bergsmark

More people are finally beginning to realize that supplying the world with sufficient, stable energy solely from sun and wind power will be impossible.

Germany took on that challenge, to show the world how to build a society based entirely on “green, renewable” energy. It has now hit a brick wall. Despite huge investments in wind, solar and biofuel energy production capacity, Germany has not reduced CO2 emissions over the last ten years. However, during the same period, its electricity prices have risen dramatically, significantly impacting factories, employment and poor families.

Germany has installed solar and wind power to such an extent that it should theoretically be able to satisfy the power requirement on any day that provides sufficient sunshine and wind. However, since sun and wind are often lacking – in Germany even more so than in other countries like Italy or Greece – the country only manages to produce around 27% of its annual power needs from these sources.

Equally problematical, when solar and wind production are at their maximum, the wind turbines and solar panels often overproduce – that is, they generate more electricity than Germany needs at that time – creating major problems in equalizing production and consumption. If the electric power system’s frequency is to be kept close to 50Hz (50 cycles per second), it is no longer possible to increase the amount of solar and wind production in Germany without additional, costly measures.

Production is often too high to keep the network frequency stable without disconnecting some solar and wind facilities. This leads to major energy losses and forced power exports to neighboring countries (“load shedding”) at negative electricity prices, below the cost of generating the power.

In 2017 about half of Germany’s wind-based electricity production was exported. Neighboring countries typically do not want this often unexpected power, and the German power companies must therefore pay them to get rid of the excess. German customers have to pick up the bill.

If solar and wind power plants are disconnected from actual need in this manner, wind and solar facility owners are paid as if they had produced 90% of rated output. The bill is also sent to customers.

When wind and solar generation declines, and there is insufficient electricity for everyone who needs it, Germany’s utility companies also have to disconnect large power consumers – who then want to be compensated for having to shut down operations. That bill also goes to customers all over the nation.

Power production from the sun and wind is often quite low and sometimes totally absent. This might take place over periods from one day to ten days, especially during the winter months. Conventional power plants (coal, natural gas and nuclear) must then step in and deliver according to customer needs. Hydroelectric and biofuel power can also help, but they are only able to deliver about 10% of the often very high demand, especially if it is really cold.

Alternatively, Germany may import nuclear power from France, oil-fired power from Austria or coal power from Poland.

In practice, this means Germany can never shut down the conventional power plants, as planned. These power plants must be ready and able to meet the total power requirements at any time; without them, a stable network frequency is unobtainable. The same is true for French, Austrian and Polish power plants.

Furthermore, if the AC frequency is allowed to drift too high or too low, the risk of extensive blackouts becomes significant. That was clearly demonstrated by South Australia, which also relies heavily on solar and wind power, and suffered extensive blackouts that shut down factories and cost the state billions of dollars.

The dream of supplying Germany with mainly green energy from sunshine and wind turns out to be nothing but a fading illusion. Solar and wind power today covers only 27% of electricity consumption and only 5% of Germany’s total energy needs, while impairing reliability and raising electricity prices to among the highest in the world.

However, the Germans are not yet planning to end this quest for utopian energy. They want to change the entire energy system and include electricity, heat and transportation sectors in their plans. This will require a dramatic increase in electrical energy and much more renewable energy, primarily wind.

To fulfill the German target of getting 60% of their total energy consumption from renewables by 2050, they must multiply the current power production from solar and wind by a factor of 15. They must also expand their output from conventional power plants by an equal amount, to balance and backup the intermittent renewable energy. Germany might import some of this balancing power, but even then the scale of this endeavor is enormous.

Perhaps more important, the amount of land, concrete, steel, copper, rare earth metals, lithium, cadmium, hydrocarbon-based composites and other raw materials required to do this is astronomical. None of those materials is renewable, and none can be extracted, processed and manufactured into wind, solar or fossil power plants without fossil fuels. This is simply not sustainable or ecological.

Construction of solar and wind “farms” has already caused massive devastation to Germany’s wildlife habitats, farmlands, ancient forests and historic villages. Even today, the northern part of Germany looks like a single enormous wind farm. Multiplying today’s wind power capacity by a factor 10 or 15 means a 200 meter high (650 foot tall) turbine must be installed every 1.5 km (every mile) across the entire country, within cities, on land, on mountains and in water.

In reality, it is virtually impossible to increase production by a factor of 15, as promised by the plans.

The cost of Germany’s “Energiewende” (energy transition) is enormous: some 200 billion euros by 2015 – and yet with minimal reduction in CO2 emission. In fact, coal consumption and CO2 emissions have been stable or risen slightly the last seven to ten years. In the absence of a miracle, Germany will not be able to fulfill its self-imposed climate commitments, not by 2020, nor by 2030.

What applies to Germany also applies to other countries that now produce their electricity primarily with fossil or nuclear power plants. To reach development comparable to Germany’s, such countries will be able to replace only about one quarter of their fossil and nuclear power, because these power plants must remain in operation to ensure frequency regulation, balance and back-up power.

Back-up power plants will have to run idle (on “spinning reserve”) during periods of high output of renewable energy, while still consuming fuel almost like during normal operation. They always have to be able to step up to full power, because over the next few hours or days solar or wind power might fail. So they power up and down many times per day and week.

The prospects for reductions in CO2 emissions are thus nearly non-existent! Indeed, the backup coal or gas plants must operate so inefficiently in this up-and-down mode that they often consume more fuel and emit more (plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide than if they were simply operating at full power all the time, and there were no wind or solar installations.

There is no indication that world consumption of coal will decline in the next decades. Large countries in Asia and Africa continue to build coal-fired power plants, and more than 1,500 coal-fired power plants are in planning or under construction.

This will provide affordable electricity 24/7/365 to 1.3 billion people who still do not have access to electricity today. Electricity is essential for the improved health, living standards and life spans that these people expect and are entitled to. To tell them fears of climate change are a more pressing matter is a violation of their most basic human rights.

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Oddvar Lundseng is a senior engineer with 43 years of experience in the energy business. Hans Konrad Johnsen, PhD is a former R&D manager with Det Norske Oljeselskap ASA. Stein Storlie Bergsmark has a degree in physics and is a former senior energy researcher and former manager of renewable energy education at the University of Agder.


19 thoughts on “Germany’s green transition has hit a brick wall”

  1. Can’t wait for Germany to burn with riots – just like in France. I hope the massive protests spread worldwide.

    • I have long thought that this will be the only way to remove them. In the UK there is no right of centre party to vote for or any party that doesn’t believe in the global warming myth and the ‘need’ to act.

  2. Bookmarked under “government idiots”. How can a nation known for engineering expertise make such a huge mistake? The dipwads that spent HALF A TRILLION dollars on this boondoogle should be shot for treason! Has anyone analyzed who’s making the profits from these panels and wind turbines? Is there massive corruption afoot or is the government there just delusional? Will Trump release the NSA data on Merkel’s hidden bank accounts?

  3. Their ‘biofuels’ includes wood pellets from the US. Yes, it’s a forest product, so they’re ‘renewable’, but more CO2 content than coal. By a mile.

    • Also, those wood pellets have to be transported across the Atlantic. I assume that takes a few gallons of diesel fuel? Maybe they are using 3-masted clipper ships?

      Our Canadian government is urging everybody to buy (grossly expensive) electric cars. Where is all the electricity to power those cars supposed to come from? These city folk seem to think they can cover every square inch of land with wind turbines and solar panels. I would rather use my farm for growing food.

      • Ian, My suggestions are 1), that the US Army has efficient hydrogen fuel cells because I’ve read that the Hummer is to be remanufactured with electric motors and
        2), electric motors are about to become more versatile. Currently we design motors either for high torque or high speed, but it’s hard making one that provides both. To partially over-come this my cordless drill has a 3-speed (Sun & Planet) gear box a bit like my first push-bike. The latest Dynamic Power Management electric motors somehow extend the useable high torque region of the power curve of a motor into the higher speeds.
        Basically, modern motors are not much advanced upon a century ago so this will be a big step in the right direction.
        3) The late John Bedini devised a type of motor that produced far more electricity than a conventional one and there have been numerous other inventors making similar claims. My suggestion is that all current forms of electrical generation will be obsolete by 3018.

  4. To be honest, Germany is doomed.
    They have 7 nuclear plants left. One will be shut down by the end of 2019, 3 by the end of 2021 and the last 3 by the end of 2022.

    There is even a push to shut down the worst coal-fired plants to reduce the CO2 emission. There is also a push to get rid of diesel cars and recently even petrol cars are targeted, as they want to have electric cars.

    There was a close call for a blackout on January the 24th 2017. According to a German news site, the last reserve powerplant saved the day.

    The only political party that wants to change the direction is pushed into the right-wing corner.

    Since the green ideology has taken over the whole political spectrum, children are brain-washed. It was already noticeable in the 80s and it is worse today.

    The whole thing will end, but the green ideology will have destroyed the stable energy production by then.

  5. Just as long as the millions of “New German” citizens have heat, and are provided, by the “Previous Geramn” people, then this is a very good thing.

    200 Billion Euros is a small price to pay for such Good Intentions.

    What I am looking forward to, is in the next 2 years, the massive Snow Dump and 99% Cloudy Days…….I lived in Frankfurt for a few years and I don’t remember the “sun”…..The best thing was anytime there was ANY sun, my friends and I, being high school normal males, would head on down to the public parks and google the girls that would go topless…………ah, the joys of youth………………..

  6. If their program was science based climate change, they would not be moving in this direction. But this is political/social based climate crisis, which is more slanted towards population control than climate. This is less about profit – though I am sure it is there – than it is about getting rid of those people deemed to be unnecessary and nonproductive.

    And finally, if you are looking at the onset of the next ice age, which we may very well be doing, Germany is a “throwaway country,” like much of the US and Canada along with the rest of the Northern European nations. It may seem crazy to destroy the economy of the nation, but if it will be lost to glaciation anyway, what does it matter what they do other than position themselves to move to regions that are not going to be lost to the ice age. In that case, what you want is to keep the undeveloped nations undeveloped since it is far more difficult to take over their countries if they have developed a modern civilization, complete with modern military capabilities.

    Don’t think science here, think about why you would want to put millions of people into cities instead of having them spread out over the land. Why an agenda 21 would be a wonderful way to do that. Why you would consider going to an unreliable energy system while facing the probability of an ice age.

    Then realize that with modern supply strategies, cities have only a day or two supplies in the stores and with a massive power failure in the winter, you could easily rid yourself of hundreds of millions of “unnecessary population” by merely leaving the power off for a week or two. Never forget how darkly man can think.

  7. Thanks for the information. I read that Germany is now importing coal from abroad cause it is needed to get electricity. Secondly: Chancelor A. Merkel was more a supporter of the Green political party in Germany then CDU/CSU from the very beginning as a politician, as I read from an old DDR friend of A. Merkel. Still politicians are using climate as an ideology as it will give them a firm bases to get through their political agenda.

  8. No batteries or super capacitors to store excess? Even then it doesnt look like that would cover beyond a 24 hr window of low power generation.
    Yet the AGW zealots in their greed push an all or nothing agenda on alt energy which results in this disruption. Enjoy the new Dalton Minimum. LOL.

  9. Its all about storage.
    The reason the Tesla power walls work is because they store the excess.
    Massive storage facilities using modern iron nickle (Edison) batteries could be the solution.
    Well understood tech that is cheap(compared to other storage options), robust(batteries last for 20+ years), clean and doesn’t require any rare earths.
    I intend to have such a system installed.
    Not to save money or to be “green”, but because I like being independent.

  10. When you starve people of three square meals per day and light and warmth you have a malleable force who will agree with draconian measures to alleviate their plight. The real movers and shakers on this planet already know what engineers like Lundseng are on about.
    My late father designed bridges, airplane wings and a wind turbine but mostly nuclear reactors. He gave a talk at my school in 1978 on power generation for the 21st C making the point that we would have a far greater population demanding something like a Western standard of living yet fossil fuels reserves would be dwindling by 2050. He did not know about the rise of hydraulic fracturing for gas but to date his work has been quite accurate. In his early retirement he informed the UK Govt of the limitations of wind generators but he was bit dry and clinical in his written word and a mere politician would have “glazed-over” after the first couple of pages of his well researched paper on the topic.

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