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Reality Check: Germany Does Not Get Half of its Energy from Solar Panels

germany energy fuel sources

The rise of the Internet means that simple factual issues can be checked quicker than would have been believed possible a generation ago. The rise of social media means that facts are not checked, they are retweeted.

Such is the case with renewable energy in Germany, where it appears almost anything is to be believed.

Here is the most popular meme: “Germany now gets half of its energy from solar panels.” This does the rounds of Twitter and Facebook almost every day. In fact, it has now spread to more reputable outlets such as Popular Mechanics, and has even appeared on the website of Richard Dawkins, the inventor of the term meme, under the headline “Germany Now Produces Half Of Its Energy Using Solar.” The problem, of course, is that Germany does not get half of its energy from solar panels, and will not do so any time soon.

As with any myth there are multiple versions. In this case it is either that Germany gets half of its electricity or half its energy from solar panels. The latter version is easily refuted by pointing out that the majority of German energy consumption is not in the form of electricity. BMWs, Mercedes and Volkswagens run on petrol and diesel, not electricity.

The more common version of the myth is debunked with simple reference to Germany’s official statistics for electricity generation. And what they tell us is quite simple. Germany does not get half of its electricity from solar panels, instead the figure is around ten times lower. Last year only 4.5% of Germany’s gross electricity generation came from solar panels, far short of 50%.

And if you want to think that half of Germany’s electricity comes from something green you will be disappointed. 46% of generation comes from coal. And just over half of coal powered electricity in Germany comes from burning lignite, perhaps the most polluting way to generate electricity on the planet.GermanyElectricityMix

These statistics, then, make it clear that the “solar revolution” that has supposedly occurred in Germany is not worth the name, and is mostly just a combination of hype and wishful thinking. I can make this even clearer by comparing the growth of solar in Germany with that of more old fashioned forms of electricity generation.

In 1990, Britain got no electricity whatsoever from gas power plants. Yet, within one decade this went from zero to forty percent. This is a much more rapid growth than has been in German solar wind, or anything else. In fact, no country has grown any source of renewable electricity at such a speed.
An even more sobering comparison, given Germany’s much trumped green credentials, is with the growth of coal power plants this decade. At the end of last year Germany had a total of 36 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, and this produced 28.3 terawatt hours of electricity. However, between 2011 and 2015 Germany is opening 10.7 gigawatts of new coal power plant capacity. The consulting company Poyry projects that these new coal power plants will have average capacity factors of 80%. If so, they will have a combined average annual output of 75 terawatt hours. In other words, in five years Germany is opening coal capacity which will have an annual output of more than double that from all of its solar panels. However, this comparison is perhaps too generous. Solar panels typically last twenty to twenty five years, but coal power plants easily last twice that long.
What we are seeing in Germany, then, is much more of a coal lock-in than a solar revolution.
And solar power in Germany faces fundamental problems. For obvious physical reasons – the sun always sets – there is absolutely no output from solar panels a lot of the time. In the case of Germany it is around 46% of the time. However, Germany can, on a sunny day, get a lot of its electricity demand from solar panels. On the occasional sunny day solar panel output can exceed half of total electricity demand. This is the source of the myth that Germany gets half of its electricity from solar panels. Media reports on solar in Germany focus on the peak, and not on the average.
The average, well, that’s one tenth of the peak, but I guess not even half of the story.

Germany’s solar output varies massively during the year, and these variations can be made clear by a simple comparison. Daily output of Germany’s solar panels peaked last year on 21st of July, when panels produced 20.9% of daily electricity demand. In contrast, the worst day of the year was 18th January when solar panels produced just over 0.1% of Germany’s electricity demand. This second statistic has, unsurprisingly, failed to elicit any headlines.


During large stretches of winter Germany’s solar panels generate almost no electricity, with output from solar panels being fifteen times higher in July than in January last year. In addition, Germany’s annual consumption of electricity peaks in Winter evenings, when solar panels reliably generate no power. These simple realities mean that Germany, or any other cloudy and high latitude country, will struggle to generate truly revolutionary amounts of electricity from solar panels.

I will end with a simple calculation of how long it will take Germany to reach 50% solar electricity given current build rates.

The new German government has put in place a long-term target of having between 2.5 and 3.5 gigawatts of solar panels installed each year. If we take the higher figure, and assume that 3.5 gigawatts is installed each year, it will take Germany almost ninety years to reach 50% solar electricity. This however is an underestimate. Solar panels must be replaced every twenty or twenty fives years, and 50% solar energy in Germany would require massive advances in energy storage techniques. Germany, then, is around a century away from getting half of its electricity from solar panels.

Does this look like a revolution?


1. Statistics for Germany’s energy consumption are available from BP and Eurostat. In total, solar energy was 2% of Germany’s primary energy consumption last year, using BP’s statistics. The precise percentage however will vary depending on how energy consumption is defined. If we used the IEA’s definition of primary energy consumption for solar, then the figure would be around 1%. I discussed the problem of measuring renewable energy consumption here.

2. Annual electricity production statistics by energy source for Germany are available from AGEB, while Transparency EEX provides real-time production of solar power. Hourly solar power production for the last three years is available at the website of PF Bach.

3. The points made about seasonal variation of solar power output are not particularly valid for lower latitude countries. For example, capacity factors of American solar panels indicate a much flatter seasonal output. There are no long stretches of the year where most of America’s solar panels are producing essentially no power.

Content Discussion

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on August 18, 2014

The other problem here is that these stories assume that consumption and generation are the same. They are not as there is waste and exports.

The former is very difficult to determine for lay commentators.

The latter; refer to the link below. On week thirty we see that there are significant imports around when the solar is kicking in and significant exports when the solar hits its peak. Taken to its extreme? Well just look at week 25. We see a staggering amount of overcapacity with 1/6th of the electricity produced being exported at some times.

Now obviously this is difficult to prove that solar is driving these exports or it solar ‘electricity’ since we cannot measure the path of a certin type of electricity as it goes into the grid. This is neatly illustrated in week 35 where we have export during periods of renewables and no renewables. However on casual obersvation, exports nearly always occur when there is a large amount of solar on the grid.

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on August 18, 2014

There is no serious report anymore that expects Germany to reach 50% of it’s power demand generated by PV any year in the future. More near to the Equator there are lot of countries which can do so.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on August 18, 2014

Robert, very informative post on the ‘variable’ reality of solar PV power generation.  It’s very important that we continue to help educate the Publics on the pros & cons of variable-renewable power generation whose performance is largely conditional on weather conditions for a given day.  The problem most people have in understanding this factor is that most of us from Developed Countries have generally become spoiled over the years having grown up with ‘uninterruptable’ or on-demand and reliable power supplies.  Due to the normally reliable performance of most Developed Countries’ power grids those who are not involved with the design/operation or have not reasonably researched how power grid’s supply-demand are actually controlled, can be unaware of the many variables the must be continuously monitored and managed.  This of course includes the complexities of variable solar PV power generation, as needed to properly maintain and ensure that power grid stabilities.  Keep up the good work.

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on August 19, 2014

No you have it exactly wrong.

The reason for low wholesale prices is the large overcapacity on the grid. All generators, repeat that all generators at that stage have a low or negative wholesale price. However if this were real, then the price of electricity would be very low in Germany. 

What happens is that the wholesale electricity is sold to the grid operator. Since he has a huge amount of options, he can choose the cheapest. Renewables know that they can claim back their prices via the FIT so they undercut. However what it means is that ultimately as the FIT is claimed back from retail prices (or grid operator prices as explained here), the consumer is actually left paying for the more expensive option with regard to electricity. 

Renewables do not generte low wholesales prices. Overcapacity does. 

Randy Voges's picture
Randy Voges on August 19, 2014

A much-needed dosage of sanity.  Surprised that the hopium addicts aren’t out in force against this heresy.

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on August 20, 2014


Thanks you are correct. I tend to use over capacity as without the over capacity, you cannot have the over production. What I am trying to highlight by doing this is that many countries are building extra capacity despite their demand decreasing. 

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 20, 2014

With the expansion rate you assume, German solar will produce >100% of all consumed electricity during an hour in ~2025 and >50% during many hours.
It is an indication that the era of baseload power plants is near its end as wind & solar, having near zero variable costs, will continue to deliver even if they get only $1/MWh.

And expansion continues: Fraunhofer ISE reports for first half of this year; share of solar+wind ~17%; renewable share ~31%. Still only ~3% of German roof space is covered by solar. So enough space for further expansion.

So the replacement of low efficient (~33%) baseload power plants by flexible high efficient (~44%) power plants by German utilities is necessary for their survival. By placing these new plants at the lignite mine, they produce at very low cost prices.

The relative slow German transition towards 100% renewable was (and is) necessary as cheap major technologies still had (and have) to be developed:
– Wind turbines still have to grow a factor 3 or so (20MW is feasible).
– Solar panels will improve a factor 2 (towards ~400W/m²) while the price decrease continues.
– Storage technologies just start to become cheaper. Now also stimulated by the succesfull battery subsidie program for small rooftop solar (<10KW) households.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on August 20, 2014

Reality is hard to find these days. Before heading out at dawn to do concrete trying to build farm infrastructure (actually a greenhouse or “solarium” foundation) I had to avoid the news of beheadings and wars and instead hope to offer encouragement to your energy perspective, Robert.

We are looking at the results of a fantasy decade that has led us to chaos; from St. Louis to Ukraine to Libya to Afghanistan. The German energy technology flop is a profound disappointment. We still desperately need success somewhere, somehow. Perhaps that can be your next article.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on August 20, 2014

Robert, thanks for presenting a factual and honest evaluation of solar’s viability as a contributor to Germany electricity.

Your discussion makes it abundantly clear that solar will never have a dominant role as such. Also, it shows that Germany’s irrational and politically-motivated energy policy is needlessly and arrogantly contributing to the atmospheric greenhouse effect, completely at odds with what its supporters claim.

We no longer have a luxury of time to waste on the consideration of unscientific, fear-based opinions which are undermining the goal of protecting critical planetary balances.

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on August 21, 2014

Who said this?

“As more and more German solar firms fold and more people are laid off within the sector, one can’t help but wonder whether all of this could not have been prevented. The solar sector itself resisted all attempts to reduce feed-in tariffs or employ any kind of annual limit during the years of 7.5 GW of new installations. Photon warned of a pork cycle when the breathing corridor was implemented; German renewables professor Volker Quaschning explained (PDF in German, but initially at the beginning of 2012) why a total of 200 MW need to be installed in Germany was necessary, and Solarpraxis ran with the idea.

Never mind that the government wants to discontinue feed-in tariffs for PV once 52 GW has been built – or that the official 2011 roadmap for the Energiewende has 67 GW of PV installed… in 2050.”

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on August 21, 2014

“A combined 189 MW of PV plants were registered in Germany in June, bringing the amount of new installed PV capacity to just 1,000 MW in the first six months of the year”.

“The hoped-for recovery of Germany’s photovoltaic market has been dashed”

“The target range for new annual installations has nevertheless likewise been reduced from 2.5 to 3.5 GW to the 2.4 and 2.6 GW.”–just-a-gigawatt-in-the-first-half-of-2014-_100015902/#ixzz3B0gxnDeX

Next step: Germany is going to subsidize “flexible high efficient power plants?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 21, 2014

“Germany failed to build sufficient grid adequacy to domestically handle the solar and wind energy…”
Within the EU it is forbidden to restrict such export. So grid adequacy has nothing to do with it.
It is a free market in NW-Europe. So producers sell their electricity at the highest price.
As Dutch utilities pay more, they sell a lot to NL. The Dutch then sell most of it to UK and Belgium as wholesale prices in those nuclear oriented countries are higher.

Btw. German grid upgrades move forward since the adaptation of the new rules last summer.

“Germany currently subsidizes solar energy at a LEGACY average of about 36 eurocent/kWh…”
In 2000 Germany started with high guaranteed Feed-in-Tariffs (~50cnt/KWh during 20yrs) in order to create a mass market with associated lower cost prices for solar. They had to continue this program during almost 10years before succeeding. 2011 is the first year in which all FiT’s were <30cnt/KWh (check this Wikipedia overview).

So that 36cnt/KWh is an investment pay off. An investment which results in low prices from which the whole world profits. Present German FiT’s range from 12.8cnt/KWh (small rooftop) to 8.8cnt/KWh (up to 10MW), no guaranteed FiT for bigger installations. Those FiT’s go down with ~1%/month!

“Germany … sells it on the wholesale market … even at negative prices on sunny days.”
You can see (e.g. at this presentation) that negative prices are exceptions.

If they would occur more often, utilities would close more baseload plants, such as NPP’s, prematurely as those cannot throttle production a lot (for now only Grafenrheinfeld will be closed prematurely). And the pilot power2gas plants would expand faster.

“Germany’s RE folly … has made its economy less competitive”
Nearly all German econoimists declare the opposite. The RE folly created ~half a million jobs in Germany. German industry got an investigation from Brussels because of complaints that they pay such a low price for electricity.
German households pay about similar share of their income for electricity as US households.

“Closing its nuclear plants and replacing them with coal plants …”
You can see at the AGEB figures that since 2001 the nuclear share in electricity production went down with 13.9% (from 29.3% to 15.4%), while that of renewable went up with 17.5% (from 6.6% to 24.1%). So renewable replaced more than nuclear. Renewable replaced also some coal as the share of coal went down 5% (from 50% to 44.9%).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 21, 2014

The target range is 2.4-2.6GW/a.
If installation rate gets lower then the monthly decrease of the FiT stops.
If the installation rate gets below 1.5GW/a the FiT increases.
All measured over roughly the past 12months (no projection & speculations).
So the lower installation rate now will have delayed effects on the FiT.

The Energiewende plan also has a max. of ~56GW of installed PV-solar. Above that no guaranteed FiT. However that max. is now gradually getting under discussion with the argument that in ~2020 solar will be so cheap, that it would be more optimal to increase it towards 80GW or so.

My estimation is that PV-solar installation will continue at a rate of roughly 2GW/a. Even while there will be no guaranteed FiT after roughly 2030.

“Next step: Germany is going to subsidize “flexible high efficient power plants?”
Don’t think so for few reasons:
– It would probably be against EU competition rules and the fines of Brussels are high.

– Germany’s ultimate target is 100% renewable. So FF power plants do not fit.

– Germany is already subsidizing battery storage as their scientists expect the costs may fall the same way as with PV-solar if a mass market is created.

However they subsidize also power2gas and power2fuel pilot plants, so a possibility may be such power plants burning only 100% renewable (incl biomass, waste).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 24, 2014

Those few years with installation rates of 7GW/a did cost the responsible minister (Altmaier) his job. He should have reacted sooner in order to bring the installation rate back into the target range (then 2.5-3GW/a). The present minister Gabriel corrects that mistake by bringing the target range down to 2.4-2.5GW/a.

The big price fall of PV was not expected in the 2011 scenario. So there is now discussion about adaptation of that 52GW max. Not urgent as it will not be reached before 2020.

Robert Wilson's picture
Robert Wilson on August 21, 2014


This comment is essentially libellous. However, given your previous smearings of me and others I am far from surprised.

I suggest you drop your sense of self delusion. I do not read your website at all. Neither have I read this Fraunhaufer pdf you claim I plagiarised from. The only time I read your website is when you smear me. Perhaps you can write another piece doing so.

If anyone wants to know how I calculated which days had the highest and lowest solar power output in Germany, well I can tell them. I took the data from PF Bach’s website, as linked to at the bottom of the post and I used the statistical language R to calculate which day was the maximum and minimum. The code I used for this is below.

Now, can you please stop smearing me?

#### Code to calculate best and worst day for solar in Germany 2013 ####

type = “pv”
if(type == “pv”)
pv <- read.csv(“2013_de_pv.csv”, sep = “\t”) else
pv <- read.csv(“2013_de_wind.csv”, sep = “\t”)
pv1 <- aggregate(pv, by = list(pv$Day, pv$Month), FUN = mean)
load <- read.csv(“2013_de_load.csv”, sep = “,”)
load1 <- aggregate(load, by = list(load$Day, load$Month), FUN = mean)

minday <- pv1[pv1[,5] == min(pv1[,5]),][,6]
minmonth <- pv1[pv1[,5] == min(pv1[,5]),][,7]
pvmin <- pv[pv$Day == minday & pv$Month == minmonth,]

maxday <- pv1[pv1[,5] == max(pv1[,5]),][,6]
maxmonth <- pv1[pv1[,5] == max(pv1[,5]),][,7]
pvmax <- pv[pv$Day == maxday & pv$Month == maxmonth,]

maxP <- max(pvmax$PV)/1000
meanP <- mean(pv1$PV)
meanday <- pv1[pv1[,5] <= meanP + 5 &  pv1[,5] >= meanP – 5,][,6]
meanmonth <- pv1[pv1[,5] <= meanP + 5 &  pv1[,5] >= meanP – 5,][,7]
pvmean <- pv[pv$Day == meanday & pv$Month == meanmonth,]

percenthigh <- subset(pv1, Day == maxday & Month == maxmonth)[,5]/subset(load1, Day == maxday & Month == maxmonth)[,5]*100
percentlow <- subset(pv1, Day == minday & Month == minmonth)[,5]/subset(load1, Day == minday & Month == minmonth)[,5]*100

high <- subset(pv1, Day == maxday & Month == maxmonth)[,5]
low <- subset(pv1, Day == minday & Month == minmonth)[,5]

gg1 <- ggplot(data = pvmin, aes(factor(Hour, levels = Hour), PV/1000))+
  geom_bar(stat = “identity”)+
  ylim(c(0, maxP))+
  labs(title = paste0(“Worst Day: 18th January \n(” , round_any(percentlow,0.1), “% of daily demand came from solar panels)\n”))+
  theme_economist(base_size = 16)+
  xlab(“Hour of the day”)+
  ylab(“Hourly output of Germany’s\nsolar panels (GWh)”)

gg2 <- ggplot(data = pvmax, aes(factor(Hour, levels = Hour), PV/1000))+
  geom_bar(stat = “identity”)+
  ylim(c(0, maxP))+
  labs(title = paste0(“Best Day: 21st July \n(” , round_any(percenthigh,0.1), “% of daily demand came from solar panels)\n”))+
  theme_economist(base_size = 16)+
  ylab(“Hourly output of Germany’s\nsolar panels (GWh)”)+
  xlab(“Hour of the day”)

Robert Wilson's picture
Robert Wilson on August 21, 2014

And as for this repeated smear of Mr. Morris’s that I am not willing to source from the Fraunhofer Institute. Well, anyone can go to my personal website and search for it. They will find that I have sourced them on multiple occasions. I also include the Fraunhofer Institute in the data sources section of my website.

These conspiracy theories Mr. Morris concocts are not becoming of a supposed journalist.

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on August 21, 2014

Unfortunately in German. Dieter Burghardt explains why Germany does not want more than 52GW PV:  to keep the lignite power plants running.

“An der TU München wurde schon vor knapp 10 Jahren ein Studie erstellt, die exakt diese Situation ermittelt hat. Dort wurden Szenarien für unterscheidliche Ausbaugrade der PV erstellt. Das Ergebnis war, dass bei steigendem Ausbau der PV der Bedarf an Spitzenlastkraftwerken immer weiter reduziert wird, bis er irgendwo bei ca. 40-50 GWp der Wendepunkt erreicht ist und der Bedarf wieder ansteigt. 

Fatal für PSW (und Gaskraftwerke), dass Altmeier bereits die 52 GW Grenze für PV gesetzt hat und auch Rösler und Gabriel den PV Zubau so stark ausbremsen wollen, dass wir vorerst in genau diesem Minimum verharren w erden. 

In den Augen dieser Minister sieht man die Sache wohl Volkswirtschaftlich, also so dass das Rückgrat der Stromversorgung aus Braunkohle und EE, durch maximale Nutzung inländischer Ressourcen eben sehr günstig ist und man so mit sehr geringen Energieimporten zurecht kommt. 

Mehr PV würde da nur zu steigenden Gas- und PSW-Stromimporten führen. 

Mehr Wind (onshore) würde auch nur Braunkohle verdrängen und Steinkohle als Ausgleich erfordern” 

“Damit ist klar, dass der weitere Ausbau von Wind (onshore) und PV nur in dem Tempo fortschreiten darf, den der Atomausstieg zuläßt. Für PV als (tendentieller) Spitzenlasterzeuger ist das auch deutlich weniger als für onshore Wind als tendentiellen Grundlasterzeuger.”

Clifford Goudey's picture
Clifford Goudey on August 21, 2014

Selling PV to a cloudy nation requires superior salesmanship.  However, like most other renewable technologies, PV requires an energy input; no sun, no power.  Who seriouely predicted otherwise.  Same thing for wind turbines; no wind, no power.  In truth these most mature of renewable technologies have delivered exactly what was preducted; no more, no less.  How different it has been for fossil energy where in addition to 24/7 power we get polluted air, excess greenhouse gasses, a rapidly warming planet, acidified oceans, toppled mountains, and greasy beaches.  So much more than was promised – we are truly blessed.  Thank you Robert.

Godo Stoyke's picture
Godo Stoyke on August 21, 2014

Dear Robert,

You make some valid points, but I think you vastly underestimate the success of the German “Energiewende”.

The valid points are that PV didn’t supply more than 50% of ENERGY but of ELECTRICITY, and only for a few hours at a time, not over the year. (Though that is an accomplishment in itself; when will the US, with vastly more sunlight get there?)

As to the errors:

“PV lasts 20 to 25 years” – industry standard figures are about 0.5% loss per year; this means that after FIFTY years they still produce 75% of original output. Low quality panels might give out earlier, but there is no reason to assume that good PV panels won’t last significantly beyond 50 years; in fact early PV panels from the 1960s are still operational today according to

“German electricity not green” – Based on data from the German Federal Environment Agency (“Umweltbundesamt”, July of 2013;, specific CO2e emissions of electricity fell from 744 g/kWh in 1990 to 576 in 2012, a reduction of 22.5% WHILE nuclear production fell by 35% at the same time. Not too shabby.

Coal: Germany is adding new coal plants (which I don’t agree with), but to be fair these are replacing older, less efficient coal plants. So, implying that Germany is ramping up coal is not correct.

“sun in winter”: PV has been extremely effective in reducing summer peaks (air conditioning). Wind, which produces more electricity in Germany than solar, supplies more energy in winter than in summer. You are not suggesting that solar should go it alone, are you? 

There are many other myths about the German Energiewende which are clarified by Amory here:

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 21, 2014

“- Why produce at such a high cost/kWh when you get so little for the product?”
So some months ago the German utilities tried to sell their NPP’s to German government for $0.0.

“- Why add even more wind and solar capacity,…”
Because those help to reach the Energiewende targets, and don’t pollute the air as FF plants do, and don’t parasite on the citizens/tax-payers and their grand- grand-children as NPP’s do.

Wind and solar are now much (~factor 3) cheaper than nuclear if all subsidies are calculated into the cost price (compare Hinkley, Vogtle with the German FiT’s).

The targets of the Energiewende (in order of priority):
1. All nuclear out (done in 2022);
2. 80% of consumed electricity renewable in 2050.
Intermediate targets: 35% in 2020; 45% in 2025; 55% in 2030.
Ultimately 100% renewable. In 2065? Discussions are ongoing.
3. Less GHG – CO2
4. Cheap electricity
5. Democratization of control over and production of electricity
6. More robust. Thanks to highly distributed generation.

“Germany household electric rates … France’s household rates are among the lowest.”
Mainly a matter of tax. In NL (no energiewende) we pay ~14cnt tax of the ~22cnt/KWh. In Germany they pay an extra tax of ~6cnt/KWh for the Energiewende.
In France little electricity tax.
Same with car fuel prices. Here the main component is tax.

The feeling is that high energy prices implies that people will not waste it, and government needs the money anyway…

Paul O's picture
Paul O on August 21, 2014

No! No! No! At least make an attempt to look at the German published data  Robert linked to.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 22, 2014

Since this year, it is about twice the amount renewable produce.
Just check the Fraunhofer report.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 22, 2014

Statements of Dietriech (summarized): “More PV implies more gas and electricity import” and “Expansion of wind & solar only to replace nuclear capacity, not faster” suggest he tries to defend the interest of FF plants.
Realize that the major incumbent utilities also sponsor scientific studies. They even installed & sponsor scientific institutes, such as Potsdam, to defend their interests.

The Germans spent >€100mln for studies in the nineties. And of course present government gets advice from the scientific institutes, such as Fraunhofer and Agora, around the Energiewende. Those produce new studies every year (e.g. concluding that grid extension is cheaper than more storage).

The German studies of the nineties concluded that a 50year migration from ~5% renewable in 2000 towards 80% renewable in 2050 would be optimal due to:

technology: most major technologies still had to be developed towards cheap alternatives.
Wind turbines then <1MW, the new Danish wind park gets turbines of 8MW; solar then ~70cnt/KWh, now ~10cnt/KWh; batteries just started to develop towards cheap solutions.

Not all goes well:
Biomass shows no costs progress (so less biomass expansion, and probably more solar). Power2gas/fuel goes slowly. Geothermal goes really slow (remote sensing makes not enough progress; still no reliable predictions regarding how much and quality of hot water in the ground). Pumped storage is a standstll in Germany. Their 35 installations suffer losses and prospects are bad due to battery developments and competition from the Swiss, Austrian, Norwegian, Swedish utilities.

  costs: it keeps the Energiewende costs at low levels so public support continues. Support increased from ~55% in 2000 towards near 90% now. The Energiewende cost consumers now ~6cnt/KWh, next year a little less. Those costs will come down significantly from ~2022 onwards as then the expensive guarantees of the first years end.

Robert Wilson's picture
Robert Wilson on August 22, 2014


You complain about me ranting, and then go off on a complete rant yourself. Very strange, but typical behaviour.

I don’t know where to begin. But how do I not understand capacity factors? I state the annual output of solar. I state the capacity of new coal power plants in Germany and the expected capacity factors of them, and then estimate what their generation will be. Please point out my misunderstanding!

You don’t even seem to have read my piece before attacking me. I do not use IEA or DOE predictions of new solar capacity. Instead I used the capacity windows, which the new Germany government has put in place. This is stated clearly in the piece.

“German coal electricity is nearly all for export.” This is simply not true, and can be easily checked by looking at statistics.

“Peak demand is when solar is peak.” This is not true, as I state in the piece. Peak occurs in Winter evenings. You can check this yourself using the data I cite at the bottom of the article.

So, please check some basic facts before attacking people.

Steve K9's picture
Steve K9 on August 22, 2014

I had read some time back that Poland and the Czech Republic were preparing to install switches, to block the sudden surges of power from Germany on that nice sunny (and perhaps windy) day, which were beginning to destabilize their grids.  Do you know anything about this?

If that is done, Germany will be in an even more difficult situation handling the erratic output from their wind/solar installations.

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on August 22, 2014

ISE-Fraunhofer, in this scenario, with limitations to wind but no limitations to photovoltaics (?), does not expect PV to be more than 143 TWh or 22.6% of Germany’s power, in 2050.


Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on August 22, 2014

“…no serious report anymore that expects Germany to reach 50% of it’s power demand generated by PV

Right, but the problem is the giant gap between what the scientists and engineers understand, what gets repeated in the popular media, especially on clean energy websites.

There are lots of people who simply don’t understand that 50% solar for one hour in the summer is much, much easier and less costly than 50% solar on average.  It is not well understood that if technology stays on its current path, with solar power barely affordable and batteries far, far beyond affordable, the solar-rich path will most likely lead to a 60% fossil fuel lock-in.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 23, 2014

That implies ~140GW PV solar in 2050.
So Fraunhofer estimates that PV solar will be ~twice as big in 2050 than the Energiewende scenario scheduled (my estimation; similar or even higher).

This also implies that PV solar then will produce 100% of all electricity needed during some hours on sunny days. Just extrapolating from the present 37GW that produced 50% during one hour.

Mark Pawelek's picture
Mark Pawelek on August 23, 2014

The promise all over the internet is that Germany gets 50% of its electricity from solar. The reality is less than 5%.

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on August 23, 2014

The full comment of Dieter Burghardt:

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 23, 2014

It is >7% since last year. Read the Fraunhofer report presentation.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on August 24, 2014

Thanks for the link!
So whole sale prices in S-Germany (EEX) are so low now that the Swiss hydro (& PS) plants don’t earn money, so they cannot finance the installation of more capacity. And Swiss government decided to subsidize new hydro & pumped storage power plants with ~€500million.*)

This adds to the over-capacity. With this added capacity peak whole sale prices will decrease further and stay near always below 4-5cnt/KWh.
Hence it may be better for the Germans to take their loss and mothball a number of their pumped storage facilities.
Hoping that storage need will increase when the share of solar+wind reaches 40% in 2030.
– The Swiss are allowed to subsidize as they are not in the EU. So Brussels cannot prevent that subsidy.
– They state that Swiss hydro makes losses, which is hard to believe for me (knowing their situation).

Mark Pawelek's picture
Mark Pawelek on August 31, 2014

The UK Guardian considers itself a serious newspaper: “Germany generated over half its electricity demand from solar for the first time ever on 9 June

– See: UK and Germany break solar power records


donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on September 1, 2014

Well I seem to have no issues with it and google translate as is the case with other commentators. Further more transparent that the AGEB (work group on energy balances)? The group responsible for tallying the energy statistics for Germany and communicating them?

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on September 1, 2014

Even according to the model used by the “not renewable hostile” group of Claudia Kemfert in Europe (EU28) in 2050 the contribution of solar to power production will not be more than 10%. (all renewables 80%)

See fig.4 on page 17:

There remains a lot of hopium around photovoltaics in Germany even after almost all solar factories have been closed.


Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on September 2, 2014

Claudia Kemfert “The Battle about Electricity Myths, power and monopolies”

You don’t need to trust her. 




Paul O's picture
Paul O on September 2, 2014

Try again:

Bob Bingham's picture
Bob Bingham on September 3, 2014

Somebody is missing the whole point here. Burning fossil fuels is an imensly powerfull way of producing power. Unfortunately we ate now at 400 parts per million of CO2 and the economic costs are going to cripple our way of life. Is anyone putting that against the cost of fossil fuels. Solar is not a powerfull producer of electricity but is economic at the retail level. If you buy into the electricity industry by putting them on your roof you get almost free electricity. If we all did it we would not need any coal powered plants at all.  

Jeffrey Miller's picture
Jeffrey Miller on September 5, 2014

You make two excellent points that are often overlooked.

One is that we need to not only decarbonize the electricity sector, which in the US is only about 20% of the total, but the entire energy system including transport, heating, and industrial energy use, all of which are now fossil fuel based. This requires massive investments in carbon free energy sources, of which nuclear must be a large part.

The other is that, as you note, we need to look at the total growth in world energy consumption, which will be enormous in the decades to come, and is almost certain to be fossil fuel based.

Both these points conspire to make the problem of rapid decarbonization much much harder than it is often portrayed in the US media, which is often elated when we make very modest reductions in our electricity based carbon emissions.

It is difficult for me to see how we can rapidly decarbonize without nuclear and carbon sequestration.

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on September 5, 2014

“listening to the people”?  Weirdo’s who believe that solar can provide some 60-75% of Germany’s energy need are even in Germany very rare.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on September 29, 2014

People just like to throw the word “exponential” around the same way they throw out CO2 from their lungs. It it weren’t riddiculouslyamusing, it would have been just plain riddiculous.

I can’t help but to surmise that the Solar Crowd, are angaged in gleeful wishful thinking because of some inexplicable animosity toward utilities and a dreamy eyed longing for something, not sure what exactly.

If Solar Fans (fanboys ?) are so certain of their stance, they should just get completely off the grid and stop using grid power when it suits them. If this were to happen I’d be more inclined to take them seriously.  They should just keep their solar 24-7, and show the rest of us how great their new toy really is. Something tells me 25yrs from now when their solar panels are dead or dying, and when (as they say) the Utilities have gone away, they would besinging a new tune.

Yes Solar Fans, go buy your batteries and Hydrogen storage tanks, then come back and tell us why “exponential” solar power isso good.