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The End of the Energiewende?

Energiewende demonstration in 2014 (photo Bundjugend)

Energiewende demonstration in 2014. (Photo: Bundjugend)

The prominent German economist Heiner Flassbeck has challenged fundamental assumptions of the Energiewende at his blog site makroskop.eu. According to Flassbeck, the former Director of Macroeconomics and Development at the UNCTAD in Geneva and a former State Secretary of Finance, a recent period of extremely low solar and wind power generation shows that Germany will never be able to rely on renewable energy, regardless of  how much new capacity will be built.

Stable high-pressure winter weather has resulted in a confrontation. An Energiewende that relies mainly on wind and solar energy will not work in the long run. One cannot forgo nuclear power, eliminate fossil fuels, and tell people that electricity supplies will remain secure all the same.

We have attempted unsuccessfully to find Energiewende advocates willing to explain that inconsistency. Their silence is not easy to fathom. But maybe the events themselves have made the outcome inevitable.

With nuclear power no longer available, a capacity of at least 50 gigawatts is required by other means, despite an enormously expanded network of wind turbines and solar systems

This winter could go down in history as the event that proved the German energy transition to be unsubstantiated and incapable of becoming a success story. Electricity from wind and solar generation has been catastrophically low for several weeks. December brought new declines. A persistent winter high-pressure system with dense fog throughout Central Europe has been sufficient to unmask the fairy tale of a successful energy transition, even for me as a lay person.

This is a setback, because many people had placed high hopes in the Energiewende. I likewise never expected to see large-scale solar arrays and wind turbines, including those offshore, motionless for days on end. The data compiled by Agora Energiewende on the individual types of electricity generation have recorded the appalling results for sun and wind at the beginning of December and from the 12th to 14th:

AgoraGermanElectricity01-19December2016

Of power demand totaling 69.0 gigawatts (GW) at 3 pm on the 12th, for instance, just 0.7 GW was provided by solar energy, 1.0 by onshore wind power and 0.4 offshore. At noontime on the 14th of December, 70 GW were consumed, with 4 GW solar, 1 GW onshore and somewhat over 0.3 offshore wind. The Agora graphs make apparent that such wide-ranging doldrums may persist for several days.

You do not need to be a technician, an energy expert, or a scientist to perceive the underlying futility of this basic situation. You simply need common sense, shelving expectations and prognoses for a moment, while extrapolating the current result to future developments. Let us suppose that today’s wind and solar potential could be tripled by 2030, allowing almost all of the required energy to be obtained from these two sources under normal weather conditions. This is an extremely optimistic scenario and certainly not to be expected, because current policy is slowing down the expansion of renewable energy sources rather than accelerating it.

One cannot simultaneously rely on massive amounts of wind and sunshine, dispense with nuclear power plants (for very good reasons), significantly lower the supply of fossil energy, and nevertheless tell people that electricity will definitely be available in the future

If a comparable lull occurred in 2030 (stable winter high systems that recur every few years), then three times the number of solar panels and wind turbines (assuming current technologies) could logically produce only three times the amount of electricity. The deficiency of prevailing winds and sunshine will affect all of these installations, no matter how many there are. Even threefold wind and solar generation would then fulfill just 20% of requirements – again very optimistically – assuming that demand had not increased by 2030.

Redistribution effects

However, precisely the opposite can be expected, namely a massive increase in consumption due to the substitution of fossil fuels by electrically powered automobiles that require increased generation. The possibility of saving so much energy in this short time, enabling overall consumption to be decreased despite abandoning fossil fuels, can be confidently ignored. For that to happen, the price of fossil energy would have to rise dramatically, which is not to be expected, and one would have to compensate for the resulting redistribution effects that are politically even less likely.

Accordingly, Germany would end up with a catastrophic result 30 years after the start of the Energiewende. With nuclear power no longer available, a capacity of at least 50 gigawatts is required by other means, despite an enormously expanded network of wind turbines and solar systems under comparable weather conditions. Those other means according to current knowledge will be provided by coal, oil and gas.

In other words, one cannot simultaneously rely on massive amounts of wind and sunshine, dispense with nuclear power plants (for very good reasons), significantly lower the supply of fossil energy, and nevertheless tell people that electricity will definitely be available in the future. Exactly that, however, is what politics largely does almost every day. It is quite irresponsible to persuade citizens that from 2030 onwards only electrically-powered new cars may be allowed, as has recently been propagated in the highest political circles.

You can wish for a lot and always hope for a good outcome. But as important as wishes and hopes are, they are not yet solutions

The example of Energiewende once again demonstrates that the traditional political approaches of our democracies are ill-equipped to solve such complex problems. Consequently, they pursue what I have recently called symbolic politics: democracies do something that is supposed to point in the right direction without thinking it through and without even taking note of the system-related consequences. If it goes wrong, the political predecessors were guilty and nobody feels responsible.

That is why citizens need to remain vigilant and critical. You can wish for a lot and always hope for a good outcome. But as important as wishes and hopes are, they are not yet solutions. We likewise have to use our minds when we would prefer to turn them off because the conclusions are so depressing.

by

This article was first published on the German-language website www.makroskop.eu on 20 December 2016 and has been translated for Energy Post by Hamburg-based independent energy consultant Jeffrey Michel (jeffrey.michel@gmx.net).

Original Post

Content Discussion

Josh Nilsen's picture
Josh Nilsen on January 10, 2017

I researched this and found out why articles like this are coming out.

The German fossil fuel industry is *collapsing*. Their profit centers have been completely destroyed after nukes shut down, the price of oil is at record lows, all their bets on natural gas have backfired, and their coal plants are running under capacity.

The biggest piece of data we need to focus on is the overall German economy. They posted a surplus in 2015 and look like they’ll post another in 2016. They also have had a balanced budget for the past three years. They’re pretty much the only country in the western hemisphere doing well right now.

If you want the real truth, look at how much the fossil fuel industries of Germany have been getting absolutely wrecked from 2009-2016. It’s been a bloodbath for them with all their profits EVAPORATING.

What do you do when your business model is failing, your profits disappearing, BLAME OTHERS OF COURSE, SPIN OFF PR BABY. It can’t possibly be the upper managements fault, EVER!

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on January 10, 2017

Germany is heading for a disaster.
See http://wp.me/p1RKWc-11F

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 10, 2017

Josh, you’re not making much sense. Nukes haven’t shut down much, cowardly German politicians made the nuclear shut-down plan shed most nuclear capacity late, in 2021-2022. Also, keeping nuclear online is, of course, part of what makes power companies lose money: Germany has a widening gap between gross generation and consumption, leading to high net exports and low wholesale prices. So unfortunately, fossil plants aren’t running that much under capacity, since they opt to export instead.

My own Sweden also has a balanced budget. It’s a matter of culture, discipline. But you need to understand that a country wasting vast amounts of money on renewables doesn’t make most indicators such as GDP or public debt worse. The result is merely that instead of better houses, new cars, better health care and so on, a lot of GDP is sunk into shiny black equipment on roofs, more power lines and huge turbines on towers in the sea. This choice of GDP use (that very few would make with their own money) makes them equally rich on paper, but rich in things that doesn’t really improve their standard of living.

Anyway, the article is insightful. The energiewende is coming to an end. They have already abandoned solar, biomass and now only expand/repower wind. It’s wise of chancellor Merkel to push the admission of the death of the energiewende to after the elections in the second half of this year. If she loses, her successor (probably social democrat Sigmar Gabriel) will be in a horrible position given the Greens as likely coalition partners. They’ll feel obliged to beat the dead horse some more.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 10, 2017

The Energiewende continues full swing. Read the renewed Energiewende law; the EEG2017.
Solar expansion targets continues to be 2.5GW/a.
Onshore Wind expansion targets are increased from 2.5GW/a (in EEG2014) towards 2.8GW/a.
etc.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 10, 2017

In 2015, solar expansion was 1.4 GW. In 2016, 1.1 GW, down from 7 GW/a in 2011-2012. So it’s shrinking, actually, and cannot honestly be said to “continue full swing”. They have some nominally higher targets, but use auctions and FiTs that undershoot those goals by a wide margin.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 10, 2017

The idea that a long winter lull may lead to power outages because wind & solar do not produce then, was an argument of the incumbent (nuclear & fossil) utilities in the nineties. It was then eradicated by the studies of consultancy firms at that time.
But it comes up every few years again.

This time by a few authors who clearly know little about the Energiewende, even not the present electricity mix.

It’s childish to think that all the scientists involved in the Energiewende policy, wouldn’t have thought about such situation.

The Energiewende targets 80% renewable. Apparently the authors never thought about when the other 20% (=fossil) would used. They never heard of cheap gas turbines.

Neither from the power-to-gas (PtG) program, so 100% renewable electricity can be reached. As well as 100% renewable regarding all energy via storage of the syn gas in earth cavities and burning it in cheap gas turbines.
etc.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on January 10, 2017

Stop using shortened URLs here.

You are not length-limited, and it is positively anti-social to hide what you’re linking to.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on January 10, 2017

The article reads like pro-fossil fuel propaganda, and does not accurately explain the difficulty with hoped-for renewable future. It is true that the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow. Data from US grid studies show that the majority of capacity from variable renewables must have backup from thermal generation. Of course fossil fuel is by far the cheapest way to provide that backup; this means that when cost is a concern, a renewable-rich grid will be only somewhat cleaner than the fossil gas rich grid that the US is moving towards.

There are two technically plausible fixes for renewable variability; readers may judge for themselves the desirability of either:
– hydrogen/ammonia economy. this requires us to either run our cars on hydrogen or ammonia, or run our backup power plants on these fuels, which will likely cost more than gasoline, thus producing very expensive electricity. Electricity users must accept highly variable electricity prices, while saying no to the cheaper fossil alternative. The backup power plants will need massive subsidies in the form of capacity payments, or very prices during times of scarcity, or both.
– global grid. this requires us to all give up our hopes of energy independence, and all do business together, with no backup plan (other than bombing any country that won’t play fair).

So far, proponents of Energiewende have succeeded in convincing the public to accept very high prices for residential electricity. But they have failed to get industry to go along, and have failed to shut-down their lucrative coal industry; they just send their dirty electricity across the border.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on January 10, 2017

I think the author makes 2 valid points. First, solar and wind in Germany need a backup system that can generate power for days at 50GW minimum. Second, this backup will likely be fossil fuel-based for the next decades.

Both of these systems will need subsidies. Wind and solar generate only 20% of German electricity and already the situation is such that no-one will build unsubsidized generation capacity. The backup system needs subsidies because its running hours will be more and more limited as renewables are added.

The German utilities are shutting down fossil fuel plants because of economics. Contrary to what some people believe, they have no interest in running loss-making businesses with no future. The German network agency has in some cases prevented shutdowns to keep the grid stable and the politicians want to keep the coal jobs in East Germany.

The same applies to renewable generators, too. If electricity were to become almost “free”, costing next to nothing, who would be interested in installing solar panels or wind turbines? Current solar subsidies in Germany, 3-4 times higher than wholesale prices, have already led to collapse of solar installations.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 11, 2017

Consultancy firms come to whatever conclusion you want them to, unfortunately. So it’s not a surprise that their findings are not taken as gospel as long as there is no showcase grid that has attained non-hydro RE supremacy.

Agreed that the Energiewende targets unsustainable amounts of fossil generation, and that France have had 80% nuclear for a long time with the addition of hydro and biomass for a far cleaner mix than Germany will ever attain. Especially as it seems unable to even approach this 80% renewables.

Current PtG projects, afaik, targets adding some hydrogen to existing methane (fossil gas) pipelines. That can be done with little fuss. However, 100% hydrogen necessitates new investments in infrastructure as then the existing methane infrastructure won’t do. And of course, to go all the way to methane lowers energy efficiency further.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 11, 2017

Fossils may act as “backup” to solar in Europe only when there’s a solar eclipse. At other times, fossil generation isn’t a backup. Fossil generation is the primary power source, whereas solar and wind saves some of its fuel when the weather patterns allow them to.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 11, 2017

So in February the FiTs for rooftop solar will be increased, which may increase expansion rate. If it doesn’t work, the FiT’s will be increased further.
Probably the high EU import tariffs for Chines solar panels play a negative role.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 11, 2017

Nathan,
Why do you not expect that those hydrogen back-up power plants are simple cheap gas turbines?
If the the caloric value of hydrogen is to high, it’s simple to reduce that.

BTW.
The Germans don’t bet on a global grid. They got their share of the problems associated with that, when Belarus blackmailed them demanding ever higher fees for the Russian gas transport through their country towards Germany.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on January 11, 2017

The caloric value of hydrogen isn’t too high, it’s too low.  It’s about 1/3 as much as methane by volume.  It’s also about 1/8 the mass-density, so any significant fraction in the NG system requires re-engineering of turbocompressors and energy-recovery expanders.

You’ve been told this multiple times, yet you continue to construct your own bogus narrative in which everything renewable is rainbows and unicorns.  Frankly, your mendacity should have had you ejected from all reality-based society years ago.  Pathological liars are toxic.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 11, 2017

So we need adapted gas turbines for hydrogen.
Luckily that development is well underway*) and will be ready by the time we may need them (after 2030).

Then we also have the nice fuel cells which convert hydrogen into electricity without moving parts, and allow for much smaller units.
One may expect that development will deliver cheap cells that require hardly any maintenance as a mass market is looming (hydrogen cars).
________
*) Check the development planning at page 2

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 11, 2017

I’ll bet you €20 that Germany doesn’t add more than 1.5 GW solar PV in 2017.

If you accept this wager, lets simplify the handling of money like this: The loser will donate the sum to an organization of the winners choice that is residing in the losers country. (I can help you with a choice of batshit-crazy anti-nuclear organizations in Sweden, should you win the wager.)

Torrey Beek's picture
Torrey Beek on January 11, 2017

Current PtG projects, afaik, targets adding some hydrogen to existing methane (fossil gas) pipelines. That can be done with little fuss. However, 100% hydrogen necessitates new investments in infrastructure as then the existing methane infrastructure won’t do. And of course, to go all the way to methane lowers energy efficiency further.

Can you expound on this, or provide a link to basic information? I am having trouble understanding what PtG is.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 11, 2017

Power-to-gas, basically using electrolysis to create hydrogen from otherwise stranded power from renewable sources. It can be blended into natural gas, to a low percentage and low roundtrip efficiency. For instance:
http://www.gerg.eu/public/uploads/files/publications/GERGpapers/HIPS_-_the_paper_-_FINAL.pdf

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on January 11, 2017

As a reminder to anyone who thinks Europe will be powered by sunlight, as we can see from NASA’s DSCOVR spacecraft (which photographs the sun-facing side of Earth several times per day), Europe is simply not sunny in the winter.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 11, 2017

He links to his own WEB page with his private opinions….
Tries to generate more visits and (I assume) more income.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 11, 2017

Unmanned Power-to-gas plants, in one (or a few) sea-container, are also used to generate hydrogen at car refill stations in Germany.
So no bulk hydrogen transport needed.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 11, 2017

Jarmo,
Germany doesn’t have a capacity market as they have in UK and parts of USA.
Their authorities consider that to be unnecessary subsidies.

Unnecessary, as the problem solves itself towards on optimum solution because the prices become very high when there is shortage (as can be seen at the EPEX in Leipzig).
And they are right!
When you look at the price fluctuations you see that those are now less than few years ago..

Big consumers adapt their consumption, more peakers and batteries are installed, their 35 pumped storage facilities have less losses, and interconnection capacities with other countries are increased.
This year NL will again increase its interconnection capacity with Germany greatly with a new power line. A good thing for us too as it allows to transport superfluous offshore wind to Germany and we can get more of their cheap electricity.

BTW
Your statement regarding fossil fuel plants needs a little correction. It should be:
“German utilities are shutting down base load plants because of economics.” There is no place for base load in a grid with a lot of wind & sun. So they also closed a big (1.3GW) nuclear plant prematurely.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 11, 2017

Thank you for the nice pictures!

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 11, 2017

The German fossil fuel industry is *collapsing*.

German coal power fleet (hard and brown):
2002: 49 GW
2016: 49 GW

German gas power fleet:
2002: 20 GW
2016: 28 GW (+40%)

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 11, 2017

Current PtG projects, afaik, targets adding some hydrogen to existing methane (fossil gas) pipelines. That can be done with little fuss.

Detailing the fuss required, for month like this past December in an all renewable, wind, solar and PtG, Germany:
o Replace the 49 GW of coal with the same amount of new gas power.
o Gas pipelines don’t work with H2 only (as Jesper suggests), forcing synthetic methane production which means carbon capture, mostly from the atmosphere, which has far more energy overhead.
o Storage. After discounting for hydro and some biomass, 50 GW*3 weeks = 25 TWh would have to be produced from gas plants fed by PtG before hand. With 50% efficiency, 170 BCF of gas is required, which would consume 80% of Germany’s current natural gas storage, much of which is needed for space heat.
o PtG capacity. ~80 GW*3 weeks of surplus energy fed to the PtG fleet ( to cover only this December)

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 11, 2017

H2 transport can’t escape the required scale.

A US 10 gal/min gasoline pump delivers chemical energy at 20 MW equivalent, each one. Ten pumps running, 200 MW. Pumps serving trucks have three times higher flow. H2 or straight electric vehicle transportation is more efficient, and production can run over night, but there’s no getting around the order of magnitude.

Yes H2 could be produced on site for vehicle fueling stations, and the onsite production requires multi-megawatt compressors, multi-megawatt electrolyzers, a multi-megawatt utility connection, and several thousand liters of 20 MPa double lined H2 storage. In my area, a large utility connection is ~$30K per MW per year, even if the first kWh is never drawn.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 11, 2017

The article reads like pro-fossil fuel propaganda,

Agreed. The author i) argues (correctly) that variable power has been “proven” to fail, ii) suggests the power supply is no longer “secure”, but iii) never mentions fossil fuel dependency (Russian) or emissions problems, even obliquely, and iv) dismisses nuclear “for very good reasons” as beyond discussion.

The entire idea of Energiewende could well make Germany into a mostly fossil fuel (Russian) consuming nation for decades, when no other political path could. Without it, the more sober environmentalists would never have gone along with the radicals on eliminating nuclear power. With Energiewende, the nuclear fleet is shuttered, then the inevitable December like this one comes along and out come the sorry, never-mind-renewables articles. The same fossil fuel fleet remains in place, just a big as it was at the beginning of Energiewende, but with no short way back to nuclear.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 11, 2017

German gas generation up 40% 2015-16, wind *and* solar down. Source Fraunhofer.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 12, 2017

Don’t want that you waste money to batshit-crazy organizations, even if it are Swedish organizations.
You have a nice country.
Got the impression that you have a lot of wind turbines (more than in Norway, though not as much as Denmark). Even in Lapland in the north near the Finnish border.
Seems they are expanding as I got the impression the numbers increased since a few years ago.

Do you still have no WISE organization in Sweden?

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 12, 2017

It states that the av. day ahead price was €28.20/MWh.
So a good thing we increase our interconnection capacity again this year as our price is still too high with ~€30/MWh.
It will allow us to earn more easy money by exporting towards nuclear Belgium and UK who have substantial higher prices.

For those critical on coal & lignite; note their lower production.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 12, 2017

H2 production at vehicle fueling stations operates in Germany for private cars and also for e.g. the public service (H2 fuel cell) buses at Hamburg.

Though it’s still in the pilot phase, it’s not ‘could be’.

Don’t understand why you think that large scale H2 transport will be needed.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 12, 2017

You regularly espouse batshit-crazy views on nuclear power, so I just assumed that’s what you would seek. WISE seems to fit the bill, but I don’t know of any Swedish branch.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 12, 2017

Storing overproduction as H2 and regenerate electricity is much cheaper than new nuclear, while base load nuclear miss the required flexibility in an high wind & solar environment.
Just do the numbers:

When the PtG plant runs only if the price is less than 1.6cnt/KWh, the av. input price for the PtG plant is ~0.9cnt/KWh as av. price is then lower (check at EPEX).

Conversion to hydrogen efficiency is now ~70% (improving thanks to e.g. MIT research). So the produced gas cost ~1.3cnt/KWh + 1.5cnt for the costs of the unmanned PtG plant = 2.8cnt/KWh.
Storing it in earth cavities*) may imply a loss of 20%. So the costs are then ~3.5cnt/KWh
An unmanned gas turbine that burns hydrogen (in development at e.g. Siemens) generate electricity with an efficiency of ~50%.

So the total costs of the regenerated renewable electricity is then 2×3.5cnt + 2cnt for the costs of the turbine/generator = ~9cnt/KWh.
Which is ~60% of the costs of also unsubsidized new nuclear base load**).

As PtG=>store=>GtP is needed for less than ~10% of the electricity in a 100% renewable grid, the influence of that higher price is small.***)
____
*) NL and Germany store already massive amounts of gas in earth cavities. Germany to cover supply interruptions, NL in order to keep the size of the processing plants smaller (so they retrieve to cover the increased use during winter).

**) Compare Hinkley C: guaranteed price now €101/MWh (inflation corrected since 2012 until >2060). Add the loan guarantees, the liability limitation subsidies, etc. You end above €150/MWh.
Hinkley C is the only new NPP for which near all subsidies are visible as UK govt had to ask permission to the EU for the subsidies (thanks to the EU fair competition rules that UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher enforced).

***) 10% is five weeks without any production. As there is always some production (biomass, hydro and some wind+solar), it will cover a lull period of 7 weeks which normally won’t occur. So the hydrogen spare store will become bigger and bigger through the years. No problem as earth cavity storage is extremely cheap.
So in the end a real long lull period can be covered.

Notes:
– No mass H2 transport, as the P2G and G2P plants can be situated above or near the earth cavities where the gas is stored.

– Until 2030 or later, the produced H2 syn gas can be used to insert into the national gas pipelines (making the gas up to ~4% renewable), supply H2 to busses/trucks/cars, chemical factories, etc. As those applications are already almost competitive.
It implies that that electricity makes other applications more renewable.

– Germany has ~3 decades to improve the processes further and decrease the costs, as it won’t be urgent until >80% renewable.
So the timescale of dena (full scale PtG roll out in 2025) allows for substantial delays.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 12, 2017

The link delivers a nice english brochure (PDF) with explanation of the Power-to-Gas solution and its many options.

There are also “educational” videos at this YouTube channel, which also contains videos of demo projects such as car maker’s Audi e-gas plant (though it delivers some inside views, you’ll learn little from it).

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 12, 2017

***) 10% is five weeks without any production. As there is always some production (biomass, hydro and some wind+solar)

80% this December. Look at the graphic in the article for December, or at Fraunhofer data. Solar+wind+hydro combined are below 10 GW against an average load of 60 GW, for some 20 net days in the month. Currently, thermal sources make up the balance, average 50 GW. In a 100% renewable grid, the task falls to PtG, total 25 TWh over the month.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on January 12, 2017

Heiner, unlike Bas Gresnigt and some other TEC stalwarts you’ve gotten past the denial phase. When we find out we were wrong about something we were absolutely certain about and can accept it, that’s progress.
Now I ask you to consider the possibility that your “very good reasons” for dispensing with nuclear are equally unfounded. I’ve lived for half a century with much of my electricity supplied by nuclear, and there has never been a problem. No meltdowns, no radioactive releases, nothing. Despite a few high-profile accidents around the world, it has been – and remains – the safest, most dependable way to generate clean electricity.
You might find acceptance of that fact somewhat of an epiphany, as others have. A reason for renewed optimism, and hope.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 12, 2017

What’s the issue?
Wind+solar now produce ~20% on av.
So for 100% renewable, capacity will become ~5 times higher. Which implies that wind+solar production will be ~5 times higher with similar weather as in past December.

That implies wind+solar won’t produce 10% but ~50%. Add 10% for the other renewable (hydro, biomass)*), then the stored syn-gas needs to produce 40% of December which is less than 2 weeks. So >3weeks left to cover the other winter months which offer more sun,

It’s possible that it won’t do in one special winter but in general I estimate that the av. year will end with a surplus of stored H2. So after 20yrs that surplus store will be so big that it can handle any special winter.
____
*) Assuming:
– zero increase for biomass/waste, hydro, geothermal, etc.
and
– no peaking of biomass/waste electricity production in winter which is not difficult to do.
– no import from e.g. Norway, etc.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 13, 2017

A lot of problems with your calculations as usual, Bas.

1. The capacity factor of the PtG plant and the gas turbine are not explicitly accounted for in the costs given. Low CF, which can be expected for taking advantage of, or balancing, intermittent power, will greatly increase the capital cost per kWh.

2. The lowest wholesale price points of of subsidised intermittent power is not the cost. For instance, German solar auction prices are now around 9 cents/kWh. That should be the input to your calculations. Divide by 70% and 50% and you arrive at 26 cents just for the power after losses. Add to that the costs of gas turbines and PtG plants.

3. The proof-by-EPR regarding Hinkley is faulty, as previously noted. The strike price is a price, not a cost. Costs and prices shouldn’t be compared. Hinkley has been critized for giving enormous windfall profits to EDF and it includes a lot of contingencies, grid costs and is also allowing EDF to blaze a trail through untested British nuclear red tape to get lower costs for later plants. Finland is calculating 5 cents per kWh for its new Hanhikivi nuclear reactor. The currently reactors under construction in UAE have costs in that region too. US AP-1000 reactors are running over budget as they are the first for some time, but still not close to Hinkley C strike price.

And of course, that only 10% of the power would need to be stored in a 100% renewable grid is, to put it mildly, ludicrous.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 13, 2017

Thank you for trying to calculate my estimations.
Few corrections:

German auction solar prices.
From the Agora 2016 year review:””German–Danish solar energy auction showed how affordable solar power can be, fetching a kilowatt hour price of 5.38 cents….”.

So you can expect that the predicted 2-3cent/KWh for new solar will be reached in 2050-2065 when wind+solar will reach the 5 times bigger capacity which I assume in my model.

Hinkley C & nuclear costs
– Capital by EDF & UK govt £16bln, by EU accountants £24.5bln. Part of the difference are the grid costs, not included in the strike price.
– Neither contingencies in the strike price. If you cannot agree than show which together with sources.
– It’s the fifth EPR they construct. So t’s not a first of a kind,..

Hinkley; Windfall profits??
EDF’s work council delayed the final decision to go ahead for some months because of fears that the losses may hit EDF deerply and hamper the company. Not a sign of windfall profits.
Despite the major UK govt loan guarantees EDF couldn’t find regular banks to finance the rest of the investment. Hence the 30% Chinese involvement. So the banks don’t judge the investment to deliver windfall profits either, but consider it risky.

Dominion’s integrated resource plan shows ~14cnt/KWh for their planned Anna 3 NPP, which is in line with Hinkley C.
Don’t know your Finnish reference, but do know Olkiluoto.
For the utility Olkiluoto may produce for lower costs as it is constructed under a low fix price contract. But the constructor, Areva/EDF, suffers major losses as the real costs are >3times higher…

Storage
Sorry you cite me not correct.
I wrote that only 10% would have to be delivered via PtGtP. With 40% efficiency that implies that 15% extra renewable (wind+solar) production is needed.

As you can read, my statement excludes short term storage to be delivered with batteries, pumped storage, etc. from the calculation. Those cover the day-to-day variability.

Your arguments:
Auction prices not whole sale prices
PtG plant operate as independent units which should make a profit, just as pumped storage, etc.
So the owner will buy cheapest power which he can get on the market, Which will be renewable as only renewable is produced in a 100% renewable grid.

Cap.Factors
The CF of the PtG plant is an optimization issue, lower/higher capacity and then run longer/shorter implying higher/lower power purchase costs.
The CF of the fuel cell or gas (H2) turbine will be ~15% as they have to fillup shortages. Better; they will only run when the power price is high enough to make some profit.

Yet the investment costs of these units will then also be rather low (below €1/W) and their operating costs very low as they will be unmanned remote controlled by a computer.,

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 14, 2017

correction: Dominion calculates Anna 3 with 151$/MWh in 2016.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 14, 2017

Everybody knows already that you can not contributes facts to any discussion, only insults and hate.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 14, 2017

Now I’m there again, wasting time on rebutting your deliberate misrepresentations. But ok, let’s go again:

showed how affordable solar power can be, fetching a kilowatt hour price of 5.38 cents….

The last German auction averaged €0.0723/kWh and as they generously have 24 months before the built capacity has to be online, it seems bidders gamble that prices will decline before they have to start building. So 7 cents should be seen as a cost gamble for mid-2018.

So you can expect that the predicted 2-3cent/KWh for new solar will be reached in 2050-2065

That could be so, but it’s more science fiction than anything else. Please remember that China is dumping a lot of industrial overcapacity into solar fabs and supply chains using weak environmental regulation and low wages. This state of affairs will not go on forever.

I have explained before the myriad of ways the “proof by EPR” is faulty, and you shut up momentarily and then you provide the same lies (and a few more) next time. Very briefly, the EPR has been difficult to build and the French are looking into designing a better version. It is the first project in UK for some time, so it has to battle quixotic regulatory regimes. The negotiated price and the expected cost obviously include contingencies, since 18 billion pounds is an unusually high cost per kW. Grid costs are included in British strike prices and that contributes to offshore wind and solar was given even higher strike prices. Complaints have been raised that it will give EDF too large profits and that’s why a profit-sharing clause was included, so the effective strike price may be reduced later. Regarding financing, EDF has a lousy financial position and that’s the major reason for difficulties, not that the project in itself is unattractive.

North Anna 3, yes, seems pretty costly but Dominion works in regulated market and if it can inflate costs, it will also inflate profits, since regulators allow them to extract a profit margin of around 10%. Also, since there’s 60 reactors under construction, 164 reactors on order or planned, with another 347 proposed, I trust that you honestly chose NA3 as the median cost example? (Hope the sarcasm shines through.)

I wrote that only 10% would have to be delivered via PtGtP. With 40% efficiency that implies that 15% extra renewable (wind+solar) production is needed.

You cited 70% electrolysis efficiency and then 50% gas turbine efficiency for a total of 35% roundtrip. So you’d need to produce 29% of demand to cover that last 10%, so an 19% overbuild. And I assume losses in compression of hydrogen is not included.

“As you can read, my statement excludes also short term storage to be delivered with batteries and pumped storage from the calculation.”

Ok, so another 50% having to pass through 80% roundtrip efficiency? That’s a loss of another 10%. So we’re up to a required overbuild of 40% or so.

So the owner will buy cheapest power which he can get on the market,

The excess power purchased will be cheap to buy, but costly to produce. The difference has to be compensated by higher spot prices at other times, or, more likely, subsidies. So if those 19% power is priced at almost nothing, the rest of power will be more expensive. There can be no free lunches. From a societal perspective, we should look at average production costs, not spot prices, to understand what the cost of making that excess power available is.

The CF of the PtG plant is an optimization issue, lower/higher capacity and then run longer/shorter implying higher/lower power purchase costs.

Obviously. And CF will be very low and thus capital costs very high.

Yet the investment costs of these small units dispersed over the country will then also be rather low (below €1/W) and their operating costs very low as they will be unmanned remote controlled by the grid computer.,

1 euro per watt will translate, under 15% CF, to $6 per average utilized watt. And science fiction is nice, but there will be O&M costs.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 14, 2017

Funny, a friend recently noted that the best that could be said about Bentvels and his trusty side-kick (you) is that you’re fairly polite. But then again, I guess that’s merely an adaptation to the fact that habitual liars and trolls have to be very polite to not be kicked out immediately.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 14, 2017

So all you can do is insult people. A valable member of society….

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 14, 2017

Everybody is free to make up their minds about my contributions. Thanks for truthfully telling me what you think about them.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 14, 2017

German solar price: You first stated ~9cent. Now 7.2cnt/KWh.
Read the German solar price of 5.38cnt near the end of this one page Agora 2016 review summary.

I found predictions that PtG will have an overall efficiency of 40% so I adapted the figures slightly in my last comment.

For the costs of PtG, the costs & losses of short term storage are not relevant as they are included in whole sale prices (~3cnt/KWh),

Neither your idea to use artificial prices. Power is a free traded product with the value the market is prepared to pay for it. Same as most other products.

etc.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 14, 2017

So all nuclear projects are the wrong ones if they show the “wrong” numbers…
And in Hinkley Point the Grind connection is a seperate project by national grid.
Result of tenderng in germany was 5,38ct, but with site in danmark. With site in germany it was 6.8 ct: http://www.pv-magazine.de/nachrichten/details/beitrag/5-photovoltaik-ausschreibung–niedrigster-zuschlagswert-bei-6-8-cent-pro-kilowattstunde_100024041/
So who is lying here?

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 14, 2017

Helmut,
Amazed that a site in Denmark can deliver cheaper than inside Germany, which is more south.
The only reason I can find are lower land prices in Denmark?
Other ideas?

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on January 14, 2017

Duplicate, sorry

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 14, 2017

Yes, now 7.2 cnt/kWh, through better googling. That is the 2018 German cost for utility scale projects.

The Danish-German cross-border auction was won by Danes, who are allowed to install on agricultural land, which is forbidden in Germany. The auction was also tiny, just 50 MW, and possibly the winners accept a loss to capture market share.

But this is your normal modus operandi: You search and find low-cost outliers for renewables and claim that’s what the cost is for RE and that it will fall rapidly from that point. Then you find high-cost outliers for nuclear, exaggerate them as much as you can, and then you claim that’s the cost for nuclear everywhere and that costs will escalate in the future.

Neither your idea to use artificial prices. Power is a free traded product with the value the market is prepared to pay for it.

A pity you didn’t understand, or didn’t want to understand. It doesn’t magically become cheap to overbuild solar because the additional power is almost worthless in the spot markets. You suggest overbuilding solar, but calculate a cost based on the resulting dumped spot market prices. That ain’t serious. But then again, you never are.

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