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Tag Archives: Germany

Energy storage – new ideas Part 1

By Dave Elliott

Energy storage is usually seen as a very good idea – it would help cope with variable renewables. Indeed some enthusiasts now even say that cheap battery storage will make PV solar so viable at the domestic level we may not need grid power!  Or even grids!  That seems unlikely – they help to balance variable demand  with  supply  from a range of sources near and far. But one thing is clear – energy storage, large and small scale, is becoming a big issue, with many new ideas emerging.    (more…)

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PV solar in Germany

By Dave Elliott

PV solar continues its spectacular price reduction and that’s led to large-scale deployment, as in Germany, which now has around 36GW in place, and globally, with around 180 GW. PV was initially expensive, but prices are now much lower, thanks in part to Feed In Tariff systems around the EU, as under the EEG law in Germany, which has helped create a large market. With FiT levels now cut, will it continue to expand?

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WREC in London

By Dave Elliott

Some continue to portray renewables as marginal, with for example, ExxonMobil claiming that their potential is limited by ‘scalability, geographic dispersion,intermittency (in the case of solar and wind), and cost relative to other sources’, and renewables are only likely to make up about 5% of the global energy mix by 2040: www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5a2356a4-f58e-11e3-afd3-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=uk#axzz33albsQ2B

Most however see renewables as booming, with IRENA looking to 30% or more of primary energy coming from renewables globally by 2030 (www.irena.org/remap). That is the sort of future envisaged, on the way to maybe near 100% of power by 2050, by most who attended the 13th biannual World Renewable Energy Congress, this one at Kingston University, London, in August.

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All change in Germany, the EU, and the US?

By Dave Elliott

Things are changing in Germany. With renewables booming, German energy giant RWE has suffered a massive loss of €2.8 billion, its first loss in 60 years. It has admitted it got its strategy wrong, and should have focused more on renewable and distributed energy rather than conventional fossil fuels: ‘We were late entering into the renewables market – possibly too late.’  A previous RWE CEO had gone on record with the immortal line: ‘Photovoltaics in Germany make about as much sense as growing pineapples in Alaska’.  www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/18/germany-energy-idUSL6E8CI12Y20120118

Now Germany has 36.5GW of PV, supplying around 5% of its electricity and at peak times much more!  And about 8% from its 33GW of wind.  (more…)

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Renewables progress: markets bite 2

By Dave Elliott

In my last post I looked at how competitive market pressures were being imposed on renewables by the UK coalition government, via new Contacts for a Difference contract auction processes.  While progress is still being made, as the technologies develop and become more economic, the rapid expansion of some options does seem to be facing difficulties in the UK, arguably as a result of government policies- or,  in some cases, the lack of them.  (more…)

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Burning Answer

By Dave Elliott

In his powerful and eloquent new book, The Burning Answer, which seems to be a response to Mike Berners-Lee’s book on climate change, The Burning Question, Imperial College Professor of Physics Keith Barnham contends that, despite our much higher energy demands now than in earlier periods of human evolution, our sun can provide all our primary energy needs again. Solar technology can save us from the threats of global warming, diminishing oil resources and nuclear disaster, if we take the necessary action.

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100% renewables: local initiatives

By Dave Elliott

The World Future Council’s report, ‘From vision to action: A workshop report on 100% Renewable Energies in European Regions’, provides an in-depth policy analysis of renewable energy front runner countries, Germany, Denmark and Austria, and identifies successful policy elements and instruments. It builds on a parliamentary hearing that the World Future Council (WFC) hosted together with Climate Service Center in the Nordic Folkecenter and outlines solutions as well as implementation strategies for a fossil-free society.

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Germany’s green energy

By Dave Elliott

Renewables have continued to grow in Germany, providing around 23% of total electrical generation from around 32GW of wind and 32GW of PV solar, most of this  being locally owned capacity, including  projects run by a growing number of local energy co-ops. And it works well: in bitterly cold March last year, the wind and PV were supplying about half of total electricity at one point:http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/graph-of-the-day-wind-solar-provide-half-germanys-energy-output-88052.

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A 2012 renewables progress report

By Dave Elliott

2012 saw renewable energy being taken increasingly seriously as a major new energy option, if not the major new nergy option. There is now 238GW(e) of wind capacity in place globally, 245GW(th) of solar thermal heating and 70GW of solar PV and rapid expansion continues, despite the global recession, with wind capacity expected to double over the next five year and PV solar perhaps treble.

‘The share of renewable energy in global primary energy could increase from the current 17% to between 30% to 75%, and in some regions exceed 90%, by 2050.’ So said the Global Energy Assessment (GEA) produced by an international team led by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. The report (which I mentioned in an earlier blog post) is now online at: http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/researchPrograms/Energy/Home-GEA.en.html

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German hopes

Germany has been pushing ahead with it bold energy transition, aiming to get 35% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, expanding in stages to 80% by 2050, with nuclear phased out by 2022. Confidence about achieving these targets seems high, indeed the 2020 target has now been raised to 40%, with offshore wind seen as playing key part. More than 20 offshore wind parks have been approved in the North Sea and three more in the Baltic, all outside the 12 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Inside the EEZ, four wind parks have been approved in the North Sea and two in the Baltic. PV is also continuing to expand- it’s reached 30GW so far, the same as the wind capacity. However, getting coal and gas burn down is proving hard, as is cutting demand and taming the transport sector.

A recent paper by David Buchan from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies “The Energiewende – Germany’s Gamble,” argues that “Germany is on track to meet only one of its three main targets (a one-third renewable share of electricity by 2020), that the country will fail to reach the second target (to cut energy consumption by a fifth by 2020), and that this failure will make attainment of the third goal (emission reduction) harder”. However, he says that “in a broader sense, the gamble may still come off, provided future gains in renewable technology and jobs can be achieved with lower subsidy costs. No other country possesses Germany’s combination of technical expertise from industry and of bottom-up activism from municipal companies and citizens’ cooperatives in support of low-carbon energy.” For example, private citizens own 40% of the country’s renewable energy production capacity, individually and through cooperatives. The FiT system gives many consumers a direct role in energy production via PV.

All of this makes the big energy companies uneasy- their profits are falling. They may have grudgingly accepted the nuclear exit, but some would like to see fossil fuel retained as long as possible. And indeed it makes sense to see coal and gas as bridging fuels, while renewables get up to speed, as long as emissions can be constrained. That means Carbon Capture and Storage or Combined Heat and Power linked to District Heating /, but both take time and money, and CCS is still very uncertain.

There has certainly been speculation that Germany might not make it and dire warnings about grid crises, spreading out across the EU: https://www.entsoe.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/_library/news/Briefing_paper_to_E/120416_Briefing_Paper_TO_EC_ENTSO-E_assessemnt_interconnected_system_operation_in_CCE.pdf

However so far it has managed to cope, despite the nuclear plant closures, with emissions still falling.

This might have been helped by a newly identified phenomena, the reduction in energy use below expected levels, which has been labeled the prebound effect- in contrast to the so called rebound effect- the tendency of people to use more energy net by re-spending the money they have saved form energy efficiency investment. A new study based on German data suggests that the potential fuel and CO2 savings through non-technical measures such as occupant behaviour may be higher than thought.. The research identified a recurring gulf between the quantity of energy predicted by governments for different types of housing and the amount homeowners actually use. Researchers found that the discrepancy was greatest among the least energy-efficient homes, where householders appear to be consuming far less than national energy usage standards predict. And even when comparing homes that fell into the same predicted energy bracket, it was commonplace to find cases where one house used six times as much energy as another. The study focused on data from Germany, although it then found similar patterns in several other European countries, including the UK.

‘Introducing the prebound effect: the gap between performance and actual energy consumption’, by Minna Sunikka-Blank & Ray Galvin Building Research & Information, 2012, volume 40(3), pp 260-273. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2012.690952

Longer term, the viability of the new German energy system will depend significantly on whether it can upgrade and balance its grid system. In addition to extra grid links, there will be a need for extra backup capacity. In 2050, by which time it is planned that renewable energy sources will supply 80% of annual gross electricity consumption, efficient gas and coal-fired power stations will have to be available to provide an estimated 60% of secured capacity – i.e. capacity available to cover demand at all times. This is the result of a study carried out by the Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH – the German Energy Agency (DENA): www.dena.de/studien

It says that by 2050 there would be 240 GW installed total capacity with 170 GW of renewable and 61GW of fossil fired plants. They would presumably have to be CCS linked to avoid carbon emissions, although it’s also possible that some could be biomass/biogas fired.

Certainly bioenergy has been seen as a key option in German for a range of uses, not just power production, but also a heating and transport. However, a recent German National Academy of Sciences noted that biomass production and use has a greater impact on the environment than other alternative energy sources such as photovoltaic solar energy, solar thermal energy, or wind power. http://www.leopoldina.org/en/publications/detailview/?publicationpublication=434&cHash=9daf8d722e71e30bf2901cf01ee800d1(http://www.leopoldina.org/en/publications/detailview/?publicationpublication

While that may be true for some types of biomass, transport biofuel production especially, AD biogas from wastes should be less of a problem, and, in any case, as an alternative/addition, use could be made of green gas (hydrogen and syngases) produced via electrolysis from excess wind power. In addition to helping with grid balancing, that would be less land constrained than biomass, and it would zero land using if the green gas was produced from offshore wind. Gas is also easy to store- much easier than storing electricity.
T
he development of storage capacity is of course the other big issue in Germany. To that end, 60 energy research storage projects have received financial support from the German government -which has provided €200 million for research on energy storage until 2014 to support the expansion of renewables in Germany.

Research projects are supported in the field of generating hydrogen or methane from excess wind power,; for projects aimed at connecting batteries for storage of decentralised renewable power, especially solar power, to distribution networks; projects in the area of energy system analysis, as well as thermal storage facilities. To build know-how for the transformation of the energy systems in the long-run, the programme sponsors junior research groups at five German universities which will carry out interdisciplinary research on various storage technologies. More information on the projects can be found (in German) at http://www.bmu.de/erneuerbare_energien/doc/48928.php

For regular updates on green energy developments in Germany see: http://www.germanenergyblog.de/

In parallel, on the nuclear front, Germany is to leave the 4 tonnes of plutonium that has been separated out from spent fuel it sent for reprocessing at Sellafield, in Cumbria, since it won’t be needing it back (as MOX fuel) after 2022, when all it nuclear plants close. If any MOX is needed before then it will get it from France, in a multinational swop arrangement, which avoids long distance transport. The UK closed its poorly performing MOX production plant at Sellafield, after Fukushima, and the loss of Japanese requirements for MOX. There has been talk of using some of the stored plutonium in a new reactor at Sellafied, but otherwise the UK will become the final home for it all-over 100 tonnes.

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