Could Germany’s program for reducing CO2 emissions by replacing fossil fuels with renewables be failing?
In 2014, approximately 25% of Germany’s electricity was produced from wind and solar, with the goal of having 60% produced from wind and solar by 2035 and 80% by 2050.
But, residential electric rates are already 4 – 5 times higher than the average rate in the United States.
Recently, the government adjusted its energiewende plan by reducing local wind and solar subsidies while increasing the use of off-shore wind. This results in eliminating the involvement of small distributed generation and a return to centralized generation.
Distributed generation is the holy grail of many environmental organizations, for improving energy efficiency and lowering CO2 emissions. A return to centralized generation is a setback for distributed generation programs.
Until now, Germany has been the poster child for wind and solar, and for distributed generation.
In addition, it will be the existing utilities, RWE and E.ON, who will build the new off-shore wind farms as they have the capital required for large investments. In essence, the government is throwing a lifeline to RWE and E.ON who are heading toward bankruptcy because of the energiewende policy where large increase in renewables is stranding existing fossil fuel investments.
An important objective of energiewende was to force the shutdown of all of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants. Thus far, 8 plants have been shuttered.
Off-shore wind is seen as the replacement for the lost nuclear power generation. This is nonsensical since wind is unreliable.
To hedge its bet on replacing nuclear with off-shore wind, Germany has decided to put 2.4 GW of coal-fired generating capacity into a reserve fleet in 2017, to supply power when renewables don’t. The plan is to close the reserve fleet four years later, but that will depend on whether the off-shore wind can actually replace nuclear’s baseload power.
Germany has also committed to cutting CO2 emissions from 1990 levels 40% by 2020, and 80% by 2050, while claiming to have already cut CO2 emissions by 27%.
The 27% claim overstates the reductions actually resulting from wind and solar, since between one-third and half of the CO2 reductions since 1990 came from closing highly inefficient East German industries when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The CO2 reductions caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union is masking the relative ineffectiveness of CO2 cuts from energiewende.
Germany is now trying to slow down its energiewende program by relying on off-shore wind farms while eliminating or reducing subsidies for on-shore wind and solar.
Overall, Germany’s energiewende is a cautionary tale for the United States: Including reliance on wind and solar to replace fossil fuels, and for attempting to cut CO2 emissions.
Part 2 will look more closely at Germany’s reliance on coal.
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Nothing to Fear, Chapter 9, The Utility Death Spiral, explains why displacing fossil fuels with wind and solar will result in the bankruptcy of Utilities.
Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.
Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy
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