Germany Leading From Behind

While going in the wrong direction. With lots of wind in its face.

Energy

At one point this month renewable energy sources briefly supplied close to 90 percent of the power on Germany’s electric grid. But that doesn’t mean the world’s fourth-largest economy is close to being run on zero-carbon electricity. In fact, Germany is giving the rest of the world a lesson in just how much can go wrong when you try to reduce carbon emissions solely by installing lots of wind and solar.

After years of declines, Germany’s carbon emissions rose slightly in 2015, largely because the country produces more electricity than it needs. That’s happening because even if there are times when renewables can supply nearly all of the electricity on the grid, the variability of those sources forces Germany to keep other power plants running. And in Germany, which is phasing out its nuclear plants, those other plants primarily burn dirty coal.

Hysteria Half-Life Not Yet Reached In Germany

Nor will it be any time soon. It must be artificially maintained in order to justify the German Energiewende, you see.

Chernobyl

Thirty years after the Chernobyl disaster, it has become clear that radioactivity might be less harmful than originally thought. Some researchers even believe it may be beneficial in small doses.

That is a surprising finding. Three decades ago, half of Western Europe was contaminated with weakly radioactive precipitation. The public at large was taught to view the ubiquitous radioactivity as particularly insidious.

But now, apparently not everything that gives off radiation is bad after all. The body seems to be able to cope with low doses of radon. “We are continuing to search for damage to the genome,” says Fournier, “but so far we aren’t seeing anything.”

Who would voluntarily breathe in radioactive gas? These days, there are people who do. They swear by the notorious noble gas radon, created by the decay of uranium: They inhale it deeply.

A Green Superpower?

Germany?

Coal

Germany is a superpower when it comes to setting ambitious goals. But it’s even better at burning coal.

Germany aims to generate 80% of its power from renewable sources by 2050 with nuclear being fully phased out by 2021. But given the costs associated with renewables and the challenge of replacing nuclear power efficiently, it is not clear that Germany will succeed in either of these goals…

The Germans have increasingly turned to coal as their power generation source of choice, especially U.S. coal. Today coal power plants are responsible for generating nearly half of Germany’s power, and numerous new plants are scheduled to come online in the next few years.

Overall, the increase in coal is likely to create a significant increase in airborne pollution and potentially stoke tension between Germany and its neighbors. But at the same time, if Germany wants to phase out nuclear power, coal is the only realistic option; a fact which some German politicians are starting to admit.

Just Like The Duracell Bunny

Germany’s Energiewende (energy turnaround) just keeps on going.

Not only is the cost part still working: The cost of government subsidies for green energy is passed directly through to consumers. As a result, German households pay twice as much for electricity as their US counterparts.

Coal

The unreliability of renewables keeps on working, too: Berlin has little choice but to rely on electricity generation from dirty coal-fired power stations (evil nuclear power has been turned off here).

Which brings us to the next absurd turn of events.:  A striking example of the absurdity of this emerged this week with the publication of a letter from Germany’s vice-chancellor to the new Swedish centre-left government. Ms Merkel’s deputy warned of serious consequences for electricity supplies and jobs if Vattenfall, Sweden’s state-owned utility, ditched plans to expand two coal mines in Germany. While the Germans may need the dirty lignite these facilities produce, the Swedes are under pressure to scale back the mines because of popular concerns in Sweden about CO2 emissions.

Germany Still Threatened By Fukushima

Or by the ghost of Fukushima, I should say.

Fukushima

Danger! Danger! More “experts” issuing expert warnings here again: Nearly three years have passed since the Fukushima disaster in Japan and Germany is still not adequately prepared for a nuclear incident, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.

I can only assume that they mean being not adequately prepared for  a nuclear incident caused by a magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake hitting somewhere off the coast of Bremerhaven in a region of the world that doesn’t “do” earthquakes and causing a massive tsunami that could wipe out one of Germany’s coastal power plants, or maybe even one in Bavaria, provided, of course, that said tsunami could still find a German nuclear power plant that was still in operation, which is very doubtful indeed, but still.

Nope. You can never be prepared enough when it comes to preparing for one of those worst conceivable and most completely unpredictable natural disasters like-in-recorded-history-type-disasters that has already happened somewhere else, I guess.

Deutschland ist nicht ausreichend auf einen nuklearen Störfall vorbereitet.

Energy Turnaround? Nein, Danke!

Not if the SüdLink power lines have to go through my backyard!

Grid

Network providers planning one of the country’s most important power-transmission pathways presented a proposal on Wednesday for an 800-kilometer, or 500-mile, corridor of high-voltage lines. The power lines would carry electricity from wind turbines in the blustery north states to power-hungry industries in the south...

But many Germans balk at the idea of high-voltage power lines running through their backyards and the fields around their communities. Last week, angry villagers in Bavaria protested plans by the network operator Amprion to construct a similar high-voltage line through their state. An attempt by the power company TenneT last year to have citizens invest in another planned expansion to the grid in the state of Schleswig-Holstein failed to win substantial support.

And mark my words here folks, the real ugliness hasn’t even begun yet. They’re never going to get this thing built.

“The corridor is not definitive, and we need feedback from citizens and communities to be able to plan this important link.”

Sunny, Windy, Costly And Dirty

What’s not to like here?

Super Minister

“Super minister?” I’d say this is more like a job for Superpenner.

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. And “batteries”—storage technologies that, for example, convert power to gas and back again to electricity—on a scale sufficient to supply a city are years away. Nuclear-power plants are being phased out (this week’s court decision that the closure of a plant in Hesse was illegal will raise costs even more, as it may entitle the operator to more compensation). So conventional power plants have to stay online in order to assure continuous supply. 

I Got The Power

The power bill, I mean. The Power Bill Blues, actually. Just like everybody else here in Germany.

Power

The electricity prices in Germany are the highest in the EU. A household here shells out 1000 euros annually (approx. $1,370). The French pay half. The EU average is around 700 euros.

Is this what they meant by the Energiewende (energy turnaround)? The power may be renewable here but I’m not sure how much longer the money is going to be.

Well, at least the electricity prices in Germany will be going up even higher again next year.

Bei den Strompreisen gehört Deutschland innerhalb der EU zu den Spitzenreitern. Ein Haushalt zahlt mehr als 1000 Euro, der EU-Schnitt liegt bei 700. Und im kommenden Jahr dürfte es noch teurer werden.

Taxing Nuclear Fuel Rods That Aren’t Being Used?

You can never be too rich or too thin, I guess. And if you’re Germany, you can never tax too much, either.

Taxation

Germany’s biggest utilities, still reeling from the country’s early exit from nuclear power, scored a major victory Tuesday when a Hamburg court said the national tax on nuclear fuel rods may violate European law.

The Hamburg finance court said it “cannot assess beyond any doubt” whether the tax on nuclear fuel used for electricity generation complies with European law. It will now ask the European Court of Justice to decide whether the levy conforms with rules that prohibit member states from creating new taxes on electricity for “general budget financing purposes.”

The tax was introduced at the beginning of 2011 and came as part of an extension of nuclear reactors’ operating lives that the government had agreed on. However, the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima power plant in March of that year triggered a U-turn in German energy policy, with Chancellor Angela Merkel ordering the immediate shutdown of the oldest plants and the early phaseout of nuclear energy by 2022. Out of 17 reactors that were in operation in March 2011, only nine are still producing power. But the fuel-rod tax remains in place, to the utilities’ annoyance.

Das Hamburger Finanzgericht will vom Europäischen Gerichtshof (EuGH) in Luxemburg zentrale Fragen zur umstrittenen Brennelementesteuer klären lassen.

No Contradiction Here

Just move along, folks. Nothing to look at here.

Loans

While German dedication to saving the German environment by ridding the country of nuclear power is in full swing (sort of), the German government has absolutely no problem using public money to guarantee the construction of nuclear power plants in other countries at the same time.

It’s not a contradiction really, though. Honest. Environment Minister Peter Almaier’s current ministry slogan is “high time that something changed” and they are even trying to set up an international club of countries who have done/will do away with nuclear energy. And that’s the main thing. So something has changed, sort of. The countries Germany is helping to build atomic energy programs for just won’t be allowed to join their club, that’s all.

“It is a gross contradiction, that we are pushing forwards with the change in energy generation while supporting atomic energy abroad.”  

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