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A Look at Wind and Solar Energy, Part 1: How Far We've Come

Full Spectrum: Energy Analysis and Commentary with Jesse Jenkins

This post is co-authored by Alex Trembath and Jesse Jenkins.

After decades of incipient growth, it seems that wind and solar power are finally ready for prime time. These two renewable energy resources are growing rapidly and are beginning to move the needle in global energy supplies.

Renewable energy’s growth has been fueled for years by deployment subsidies and other support policies — feed-in tariffs, tax credits, portfolio standards, and the like — exactly the kind of proactive public policies that the Breakthrough Institute (where one of us worked and the other still does) has supported since its inception.

While we have both called for reforms to improve the efficacy and sustainability of dominant approaches to deployment policies, we also recognize the tremendously important role deployment policies — however imperfect — have played in driving nascent industries. Just as government investment in research development and demonstration and subsidies for early deployment were central to unlocking the shale gas revolution or giving rise to the modern nuclear power sector, public investment in renewable energy adoption has taken the wind and solar industries a long way.

How far have we come exactly? In 2013, wind turbines generated almost three times as much electricity globally as they did in 2008. Solar generation grew by more than a factor of 10. Together, wind and solar increased from 1.1 percent to 3.3 percent of global electricity over that same period, not an inconsiderable feat as overall global electricity demand simultaneously expanded 14 percent. Of the 6,340.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power generation growth between 2003 and 2013, 10.9 percent came from wind (564.8 TWh) and solar (122.8 TWh).

Global electricity generation and wind and solar generation

Unfortunately, wind and solar will have to sustain rapid growth rates in order to truly compete with coal and other fossil fuels, not just for relative market share, but to drive fossil fuels from the global energy marketplace in absolute terms. [See “Has Renewable Energy Finally Ended the Great Clean Energy Stagnation?”]

At the same time, global figures can mask the larger contributions that wind and solar are already making today in certain grids around the world. As wind and solar move in from the power grid’s margins, the global conversation has shifted in important ways. No longer is the discussion about if renewables will play an important role in the global energy system, but how much of a role and how will they impact energy systems when their penetration levels reach scale?

In short, it is time to start thinking of wind and solar power less as niche technologies and start thinking more about their place in fueling the low-carbon, high-energy world we need in the 21st century.

In that spirit, this post will provide a quick lay of the land on wind and solar’s best performances to date. In a follow-up post, we will consider what implications we can draw from both practical experience and emerging research in power systems modeling. 

Wind and solar leaders

When it comes to renewable energy leadership, Germany almost certainly spills the most ink, but it is actually not the world leader in terms of penetration of variable renewable energy sources (or VRE, our shorthand here for wind and solar).

Italy actually out-generates Germany in terms of solar’s contribution to the grid, and Denmark has long held the mantle of global wind leader.

Likewise, several states in the United States have earned accolades for generating significant shares of their electricity with wind –– including Texas, Iowa, Colorado, and California.

Unfortunately, the shares of VRE in these jurisdiction’s energy mixes often overstates the real penetration of these renewable energy sources.

The reality is that while wind may provide 32 percent of Denmark’s electricity and solar generates 8 percent of Italy’s, for example, these countries and states are really part of much larger power grids. Renewable energy advocates sometimes obfuscate this fact, implying that VRE has reached much higher shares of the power system than they truly have. [Data above from the 2014 BP Statistical Review.]

Integrated grids

For example, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has celebrated that Iowa generated 28.5 percent of its electricity with wind power in 2014. But Iowa is part of a regional energy market and power system run by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator –– which spans parts or all of 13 states, from North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa in the Great Plains to Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, down to Arkansas and Louisiana. As a whole, wind power supplied 5.7 percent of MISO’s demand in 2014.

U.S. wind energy capacity and share by state

Source

At the same time, MISO is strongly interconnected with power systems controlled by other market and grid operators, including the PJM market, the largest organized electricity market in the United States (in terms of total demand), which spans from Illinois to the mid-Atlantic coast. The MISO and PJM grids are so well integrated they are moving towards establishing a common power market. At this scale, wind provides just 3.7 percent of combined MISO-PJM demand.

MISO and PJM markets map

Source

Finally, Iowa is part of the 610 gigawatt Eastern Interconnection, a synchronized gridspanning virtually the entire eastern continental United States (excepting parts of Texas) as well as the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. Wind energy accounted for 3 percent of electricity generated in the American portion of the Eastern Interconnect in 2013 (for which data is available from the EIA).

The Eastern electricity interconnection grid map

Source

Similarly, wind supplied more than 10 percent of electricity consumed in Idaho, Colorado, and Oregon, according to AWEA. But each of these states is a member of the 160-gigawatt Western Interconnection, a synchronized grid spanning the entire western half of the continental United States plus Alberta and British Columbia, which gets only 6.6 percent of its electricity from wind.

Finally, most of Texas is supplied by its own synchronized grid known as ERCOT — Texas has always had a go-it-alone mentality! Here, wind penetration finally tops double digits at the grid-wide level, reaching 10.6 percent of electricity demand in the ERCOT system in 2014.

We mention all of this not to diminish the importance of wind energy, but rather to bring the scale of analysis to the power system level. When evaluating the impact that VRE has on the grid, it’s essential to look at the whole grid. We’ll illustrate this with a quick detour to Europe.

Taking the whole system view: a tour of Europe

We start our spin through Europe in Denmark, which for decades has been held up as a model for deployment in wind power. Wind generates about one-third of Denmark’s in-country electricity consumption, but again, looking at the whole grid is important. Denmark is a member of the Nordic Synchronized Area, which also includes Norway, Sweden, and Germany.

Here’s what total generation in the Nordic Synchronized Area looks like, where about 8 percent of electricity generation comes from wind power, while 43 percent comes from fossil energy, 22 percent comes from large hydro, and 17 percent comes from nuclear.

Electricity shares for Nordic Synchronized Area

Indeed, when we look Denmark as part of the integrated Nordic system, we immediately see one of the main factors that enabled Denmark to achieve such a large share of its electricity from wind. Denmark benefits tremendously from its interconnections with all three of its Nordic neighbors, using this integrated grid to balance out fluctuating output of wind by importing and exporting over a third of its electricity annually.

On windy days when Danish wind turbines exceed the local demand, Denmark can effectively “store” its excess production in Norway’s flexible hydropower reservoirs, and then import that power again later once the wind dies down. As much as 40 percent of Denmark’s wind generation is exported, according to an analysis by Johannes Mauritzen.

As Roger Andrews at the blog Energy Matters has concluded, “It would appear that Denmark’s ready access to balancing power from the Nordic Grid allows it generate a lot more wind power than it would otherwise be able to, whether it consumes it or not.”

Another window into the Denmark wind situation is the through the Nord Pool Spot, which makes available data on power production from Nordic/Baltic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia, and Finland). Among this club, wind penetration is approximately 4 percent. This graph shows the generation balance in these countries over the past 4 years:

Nordic power pool (Nord Pool) electricity production by type

Source

This analysis itself is incomplete, since Denmark and the Nordic system is also well integrated with the rest of Europe, which is creating a single, unified pan-European electricity market that will enable trade and flow of electricity across the continent. Yet even at the scale of the Nordic system, we see the importance of looking at power systems holistically.

So while countries like Germany and Denmark get most of the attention, it turns out Iberia and Ireland are the true leaders in variable renewable energy penetration Europe at the grid-wide-level.

Spain and Portugal are relatively isolated from the rest of the European grid, and both are VRE leaders. Wind generated 20 percent of Spanish electricity and 24 percent of Portugal’s power in 2013. Solar contributed another 4.9 percent of Spain’s electricity and half a percent of Portugal’s, making the Iberian Peninsula the world leader for grid-wide variable renewable energy penetration.

The Irish grid, which supplies both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is a close second, with 16.3 percent of its electricity from wind in 2013. It is a truly island system with a 500 MW undersea DC cable to the UK its only connection to other grids. (Wind and solar in turn supplied about 8.4 percent of UK electricity in 2013.)

In our next post, we’ll look ahead to the future of wind and solar energy, and what that future tells us about how to build zero-carbon power systems on a high-energy planet.

The series:

Part 1: A Look at How Far Wind and Solar Have Come

Part 2: Is There An Upper Limit to Variable Renewables?


Jesse Jenkins is a PhD student and researcher at MIT and a freelance writer and consultant. He pens the Full Spectrum column at TheEnergyCollective.com. He previously directed the Energy and Climate Program at the Breakthrough Institute from 2008 to 2012. 

Alex Trembath is a senior energy analyst at the Breakthrough Institute, where he authors the Energetics column.

Jesse Jenkins's picture

Thank Jesse for the Post!

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Alistair Newbould's picture
Alistair Newbould on May 28, 2015

“On windy days when Danish wind turbines exceed the local demand, Denmark can effectively “store” its excess production in Norway’s flexible hydropower reservoirs, and then import that power again later once the wind dies down.”

 

This synergy between wind and hydro has been apparent for some time. In NZ low rainfall winters can limit hydroelectric production. By increasing wind contribution the need for fossil fuel back up is being directly reduced. This flexibility of hydroelectric makes integration of all variables easier – with the possible exception of tidal power where not only predictability but predictable variability from different facilities within the same grid make the nirvanah of renewables – low output at one source balanced by higher output at another source – a real possibility (if a “real possibilty” is not a contradiction in terms!).

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on May 28, 2015

Nice article, useful info. Thanks.

Jenny Sommer's picture
Jenny Sommer on May 28, 2015

Interesting to note that Norway does “store” the power by using the energy from Denmark and curtailing their hydro generation. These are 1250 hydro plants that could be retrofitted with pumps if needed.

About 170TWh of storage potential.

 

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on May 28, 2015

Jesse

The Irish grid operator dispatches down wind generation due to curtailment and constraints. Data can be accessed below. there are many reasons but noticalbe is when wind generation is enchroaching on the System Non-Synchronous Penetration at a limit of 50%, generation is dispatched down. The report highlights night time curtailment.

Ireland dispatch down (constraint and curtailment) report

 

 

Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on May 28, 2015

The article seems to show that wind and solar renewable power sources need lots of connected dispatchable power to operate effectively within the grid.

Henry KB's picture
Henry KB on May 28, 2015

Renewable energy is growing rapidly, it is a tremendous bad news for bats and birds, a misfortune for wildlife.
“For today’s Germany, which has 39 Gigawatts, this would add up to 2,340,000 – 3,900,000 dead birds a year.”
“Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines kill on average 6 – 18 million birds and bats a year.”
These climate-friendly energy technologies are provoking more fatalities and environmental impact per gigawatt generated than nuclear.
http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/72044
http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/71563
http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/big-winds-dirty-little-secret-toxic-lakes-and-radioactive-waste

 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 28, 2015

The graphic on the Nordic Synchronized Area’s electricity generation is interesting.  It shows that Germany and Denmark are responsible for nearly all of the 43% fossil fuel electricity the area uses (and iirc most of that is coal-fired).

It’s also noteworthy that with enough big hydro to supply 22% of their electricity, the Nordic area could easily go 100% non-fossil, if their grid were built around load-following nukes (like in France), assuming they don’t over-build electric heating.  However, it will be quite a struggle to reach 0% fossil fuel with large deployments of solar and wind; expect a lot of dirty biomass burning, onerous demand-response, expensive storage, and very expensive and inefficient power-to-gas-to-power (or maybe they’ll just keep using fossil fuel).

Jenny Sommer's picture
Jenny Sommer on May 29, 2015

Nuclear is too expensive and Germany is phasing out nuclear  and reducing coal use. German emissions are falling while most others are rising (US, China, Russia and all the other big polluters).

The complete Energiewende is cheap incomparison to what France is facing.

German people pay 21ct/kWh and this includes all taxes grid fees, EEG-Umlage etc. Quite cheap if you compare household bills with the US or any other countries would you agree?

Probably you are not familiar with French nuclear economics. Load following does make it worse. They too depend on fossil backup and seasonal imports. Historically France used to dump nuclear power on it’s neighbors (and would still if it was competitive) practically destroying their markets and locking in fossils generation.

Electric space heating is actually still encouraged in France because EDF needs to survive and is trying to push consumption in every way. The nuclear industry is much like the coal industry, a dying dinosaur that could not survive the liberalisation of the market (wise people like Hermann Scheer predicted this development over 15years ago) with thousands of jobs depending on it. A political minefield. 

Repeating nuclear tales does not help. Investing in RE is the only sensible path. Imagine France would have started the Energiewende in the 70ties, the while world would be better off and France wouldn’t face implosion now. Very couriius how they might catch up some time in the future. Hard tobspin off a bad utility from EDF…then OTOH the French taxpayer will take the tap.

 

 

 

James Hopf's picture
James Hopf on May 30, 2015

Nathan, myself and others obviously understand nuclear economics a whole lot better than you do.  And it is you who are telling “tales” (to the point that it’s becoming tiresome).

Continuing to operate existing (French) nukes is far less expensive than installing renewable capacity, and providing the necessary grid up grades and storage and/or fossil backup etc..  Germany and Denmark’s power costs are the highest in Europe; France’s being far cheaper.  And those high costs don’t even fully reflect the high cost of renewables, as some of that cost is paid for by taxpayers.

What exactly is France “facing”?  What if France tried to persue nuclear instead of renewables decades ago?  Either they would have failed entirely, and would be still using fossil for most power today, or their power costs would be far higher than they are.

There’s an obvious difference between coal and nuclear in that coal inflicts massive harm to public health and the environment (which is not included in its costs), while nuclear does neither.  There is not defensible reason to treat nuclear differently under policy than other clean sources (e.g., renewables).

The “liberal” market you refer to is massively warped by large interventions on renewables’ behalf (large subsidies and outright mandates for their use, even if additional generating capacity is not needed).  Such renewables only policies dominate, while even-handed policies that give all means of emissions reduction a fair chance to compete (such as a CO2 price) are weak to non-existant.

“Environmentalists” have been claiming for awhile that renewables are cheaper than nuclear while continuing to insist on energy policies that do not allow nuclear and renewables to compete, but instead give the market to renewables by fiat.  The hypocrisy is getting increasingly annoying.  It’s past time to get rid of all renewable portfolio standard, subsidies, feed in tarriffs, etc…, and replace them with a CO2 emissions reduction and trading scheme as the *only* policy.

Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on May 29, 2015

I live in Oregon, USA and the variability of wind power is raising hazards for our salmon and other fish within our rivers.  Intermittent wind power and fairly high state RPS regulations are foolishly requiring the hydro power plants to release water for power daily in a fashion that makes it hazardous (heavy to low to heavy flows) to our fish.  The hydro power companies are getting sued by our Native American residents and other river conservation organizations for the impacts to the fisheries.  We are currently planning to install fast response natural gas power plants to address this intermittency problem.  This will spoil our current low carbon electrical provider status and is causing our state to go the wrong way in meeting the newly mandated Federal CO2 reduction plan.  

Jenny Sommer's picture
Jenny Sommer on May 29, 2015

That’s just the potential of existing hydro installations.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 30, 2015

Nuclear is too expensive…”

Oh, perhaps you have not heard that China is betting $100 billion that you are wrong, with 24 nuclear reactors under construction, and a plan for 150 GW total by 2030 (see here).  Similarly, other poor and/or developing countries are also investing many $billions on civilian nuclear power (e.g. India, South Korean, UAE, Turkey, Slovakia, etc).  To understand why they are doing this, we can refer to the data from the EIA, which basically says that nuclear costs about the same as other sustainable energy sources, except that there is no need for energy storage, vast long distance transmission networks, or the near 100% fossil fuel backup required by solar and wind; so nuclear is appealing to any nation that imports fuel for electricity (it is no coincidence that anti-nuclear countries like Germany have influential fossil fuel industries).

I think that usually, when an environmentalist says Nuclear is too expensive…”, it really means “I wish nuclear was too expensive, because then I would not have to face the reality that my real reason for hating nuclear is completely irrational, and my anti-nuclearism contributes to our fossil fuel dependence and the resulting environmental damage“.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on May 29, 2015

How do you store power generated by a wind turbine in a reservoir? The only way would be some form of pumped hyrdo unit.

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Jesse Jenkins on May 30, 2015

Thanks. I included this information in our Part 2. The recent iteration of the Western Grid Integration Study (by GE Consulting) for the Western North America interconnect (WECC) found that this limit on the instantaneous production of asynchronous generators (i.e. wind and solar) could be about 55-60 percent with application of current technology. It’s another important factor to consider. Please see our second part in the series for more…

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Jesse Jenkins on May 30, 2015

Joe, in the interest of full discolure: I’m a native Oregonian as well, and had a part to play in helping negotiate, pass and implement that state RPS policy in 2007. Management of competing uses of the federal hydropower system in the Northwest has always been a challenge. With the right input from stakeholders (including when necessary through suits), BPA and regional policy makers can carefully manage the inherent tradeoffs here. But you point out another key challenge to integrating large amounts of variable renewables. Even relatively flexible hydropower has it’s limits.

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Jesse Jenkins on May 30, 2015

Hi Michael,

If you have reservoir hydro (rather than run of river), what we mean here is that you can effectively “store” the excess wind production by just not running the hydro units, holding the water until later when the wind dies down, and then running the hydro then. That’s what’s happening now in the Nordic system, as well as the Pacific Northwest of the United States and New Zealand and other hydro-rich regions. It’s technically not storage I suppose, at the full grid level. I just mean that Denmark can export power to Norway or Sweden, which back off of hydro production, and then later it can import power from said hydro dams when the wind dies down.

This is similar to how people with solar on their rooftops often use the grid as a “battery,” exporting solar during the midday peak and importing from the grid in the evening. It’s not really storage, just taking advantage of a much larger, flexible system. 

Both examples aren’t truly storage. That’s why we put it in scare quotes (“store”). Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

Pumped hydro amounts to true storage: you use excess electrical generation to pump water up into the reservoir and then release it later when needed to generate electricity. 

Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on May 30, 2015

I suppose that you are right and I admit that I may be looking at wind power and natural gas power plants from a negative point of view.  I have a sister that has a job to prepare reports on the scenic impacts to our National and State lands from utility corridors (natural gas pipelines and power lines) that are being proposed to serve these industries. I am in agreement that we need to wean ourselves from emitting immense amounts of fossil fuel combustion pollution quickly but I have trouble subsidizing the damage to our beautiful scenic vistas and fisheries. Do we really need this subsidized wind power so badly when we export hydro-power to California?  I would prefer that we concentrate our governmental support on conservation, efficiency and reduction of power exports until small modular MSRs can be commercially developed and strategically installed.  I also understand that it will likely take a long time in the US thus Oregon for there seems to be too many other special interests/industries (anti-nukes, fossil fuels, renewable including hydro, existing nuclear, railroad, etc) that don’t want to compete with a low capital and operating cost 24/7 power source.  Call me a dreamer I guess. 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on May 30, 2015

You do realize that when you substitute wind energy for hydro, then the price of power goes up? Reason is pretty simple, the price of hydro power includes debt repayment. Thus when wind (which is generally more expensive than hydro) is substituted! the debt repayment must still be picked up. The rate payers are hit with a double whammy.

Considering that hydro is carbon free, the wind substitution strikes me as not particularly wise.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on May 31, 2015

“this limit on the instantaneous production of asynchronous generators (i.e. wind and solar) could be about 55-60 percent with application of current technology.”

If it is desired to create a free market for electricity, there are a variety of paths to create a grid capable of 100% penetration of “asyncronus generators”.  This could be done through a variety of approaches using synchronization signals through the existing wires or other communications means.  It also could be done by transitioning to DC for the entire grid or for transmission.  Both scenarios would create a more resilient grid in which smaller sections would require isolation in the event of storms.

If such a grid were built it would put an end to concerns of destabilization and allow for markets to govern electricity costs.  Such markets could be designed to incentivize desired outcomes and find highly cost efficient methods to reach those goals. 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 31, 2015

Free markets are great for maximizing near-term profits.  But as we transition our energy system to sustainability, the challenge will increasingly become management of very long-lived assets such as hydro dams, nuclear plants, solar farms, and moderately long-lived wind farms.

While the free market will no doubt play an important role in constructing these assets, I think the regulated utility model is better for stewartship of them.  There are always many ways to sqander a long-term investment by pursuit of short term profits.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on May 31, 2015

I think it will go somewhere between the two.  Some who are uncomfortable with change will cling to the old model.  One fraught with cost over runs and a pathetically slow pace of technology adoption.  Others will want to dive in too fast and not recognize the broader infrastructure issues that may require hybrid rules.  However, free markets are able to address long timeline investments.  They do it all the time, from REITs building malls or other similar projects with the risk of competitors breaking the long term investment to private investors looking to the long term in their investments in companies that they look out to 10, 20 years or even longer for the return.

One personal example.  I was part of a group invited to educate a group of utility engineers in the mid 1990’s about inverters and connecting PV to the grid.  They were arrogant and dismissive.  Among other things they complained about the harmonics that were injected onto the grid by inverters and the tendency of inverters to run on and put linemen at risk.  

Their jaws dropped when I showed them the Thd for inverters with synthesized sinewaves.  Our power was much cleaner than the grids.  In fact from both a power factor perspective and a harmonic distortion perspective we actually improved the quality of power on the grid.  They had no idea.  They were 10 – 15 years behind the times because they could be.  They thought we were simply injecting line commutated square waves onto the grid as had been done in the 1970’s.  In the late 70’s and early 80’s a great deal of work was done to develop clean safe inverters.  By 1984, probably earlier clean sinewave inverters with anti-islanding capability were commercially available.  The utility engineers were intellectually lazy and didn’t keep up with the technology. 

You could argue that the fact that they were at the meeting showed that they were interested.  However they were at the meeting because they were forced to be at the meeting by their PUC.  And I have seen the process with PUCs and often things move glacially.  I would rather see a competitive environment where they are attending the appropriate conferences to be informed about technology opportunities and looking to how they can improve services based upon new technologies.  The free market does a great deal to motivate looking for new and better ways to do things.  I think we have reached the point were, for generation, the model needs to flip to free market and that is the direction we are headed. 

 

 

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on May 31, 2015

“what we mean here is that you can effectively “store” the excess wind production by just not running the hydro units,”

In an earlier comment I mentioned this possibility with EVs.  Hadn’t read this one.  As EV penetration increases charging based upon TOU price signals could have the same effect offering reduced curtailment.

Jenny Sommer's picture
Jenny Sommer on May 31, 2015

Extending the lifetime of French nuclear reactors would be a worse choice than transitioning to RE. I don’t see how that would even be possible in light of the rising cost of old reactors and the declining cost of RE. There is also the little problem with the state of the French economy.
http://www.renewablesinternational.net/french-court-finds-nuclear-too-ex...

It would also help if France decided to stop importing fossil power from their neighbours. EDF would only have to cease buying it like Austria has done with nuclear power. The consumer also has the option to buy 100% RE which happens to be the cheapest option in Germany and Austria anyways.

French ratepayers pay about 18c/kWh now, in Germany we pay about 21c/kWh.
The French taxpayer is substituting electricity and will pay extra for decommissioning and storage. Now they are building Flamanville for how many years? How is this going to work out? Just because you are ignorant of reality will not help in any way.

You might want to enlighten me about the cost of nuclear to the German taxpayer. You seem to be more optimistic/knowledgeable than German politicians and scientists.

Maybe you don’t know the origins of the Energiewende and why Germany is doing this transition or why Germany is phasing out nuclear in the first place.

There is also a reason why France did go all in on nuclear and it was not about CO2 reduction. Now they will have to make a decision concerning the future of their failing nuclear industry. You seem to be very sure and again know much more than the French in this case.
There are reasons why German is phasing out nuclear and hard coal before lignite.
Most German people would welcome a quicker transition away from those energy sources. Even raising consumer power prices (which is not a bad thing after all as it helps lowering consumption) would be an option that 80% of the people would approve. After all German power bills are about 1/4th lower than US-American bills.

Meanwhile the US is still exporting 1000M tonns of hard coal each year. How about stopping that? Leaving export coal in the ground would be a start don’t you think?

For perspective: Germany – 1.1% of world coal production and falling.

German coal emissions are falling too despite of political resistance and phasing out nuclear in parallel.

What are you proposing anyways? Killing the German Energiewende and RE industry? For what reason would anybody even consider such a move?

Time to thank Germany for starting great parts of the RE revolution on it’s own.

Alistair Newbould's picture
Alistair Newbould on May 31, 2015

Joe, the Oregon experience is important for all who advocate a pure renewables path to look at. Perhaps you could write a summary of events as an article on here for us to direct people to. Many times I read here of FF back up needed for renewables variability but this may be a very neat case example of real world experience in reaching the “renewables limit”.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 31, 2015

ShrinkThatFootPrint has an article on the global cost of electricity:

It shows electricity is cheaper in the US; if Germans are paying less per month, they must be using less electricity (an understandable demand-side response to expensive energy, but not an indicator of prudent supply-side policy).  The important question is what path the developing nations will follow (hint: the cheap one).

Regarding the reason for France’s choice of nuclear power, that was their chosen method to replace the use of imported oil for electricity.  It was a great success.  With the new wave of anti-nuclearism that is spreading to their country, perhaps they’ll be forced to devote a chunk of their electricity market to variable renewables, which may mean increased use of fossil fuel (perhaps imported!), as variable renewables are never used without fossil fuel; bad news for the French and the environment.

Jenny Sommer's picture
Jenny Sommer on June 1, 2015

I don’t know anybody that is paying 38¢/kWh (32€ct).

Who would do that when you can switch and pay under 21€ct?

Some Genossenschten/Cooperations are even cheaper.

You also have the option of contracting which will help your efficiency.

Maybe energy is too inexpensive in the US. I’d say using less energy is a good thIng. The same is true for US natgas and US petroleum products. You should consider raising prices to German/EU levels. Tax it like we do and you will see a positive effect in consumption and efficiecy.

 

France is not anti nuclear, it’s the rising cost and uncertain economical development that is driving their electricity cost. Now EDF has to sell a part of production at market prices they admit that their product is not competitive. Actually EDF is talking openly about that. You probably did also read the French RE studies that leaked last May or April. Opposition is not the problem of nuclear in France.

 

The reason why France pursued nuclear was the lack of coal. They used cheap coal whenever they could. 

A French Energiewende now would come cheaper than the work leading Germany has had to do.

Jenny Sommer's picture
Jenny Sommer on June 1, 2015

The nordic market situation is much more complex than you would like to imply. Maybe you are just ignorant of the economic importance of the Danish wind export industry.
Denmark is generally buying back at normal prices. The trade between countries is rather a win-win situation.
Better for everybody if Norway can save water and sell electricity instead of importing fossil power from Denmark.

The EROEI of a modern onshore windturbine does exceed the EROEI of nuclear. You might want to read the new Siemens lifecycle studies.
The energypayback time of PV is not that bad either (up to 66) and getting better all the time.

You probably know that the second phase of the Energiewende is emphasising storage.

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