The Poverty of the Energiewende

Vaclav Smil on the fatally flawed Energiewende:

….Anybody aware of Germany’s technical prowess must ask: why has the nation that helped to pioneer the age of electricity (above all thanks to the engineering genius of Werner von Siemens and organizational achievements of Emil Rathenau) rushed into the difficulties that were easy to envision — into generating those highly fluctuating electricity flows? These flows create havoc with the grids in neighboring countries by suddenly overloading their transmission capacity, and they undermine economic viability of traditional utilities due to low returns realized on the repeatedly interrupted, but still necessary, fossil fuel-based generation.

And the impacts go far beyond the fate of large utilities. Germany now has the most expensive electricity in Europe. In September 2013, Der Spiegel, the country’s premier weekly, gave the headline “How electricity became a luxury good” to its report on Germany’s new energy poverty. The levelized cost of German photovoltaic electricity is easily four times that of coal-based generation, even as the subsidies for renewables continue to rise: they reached €16 billion in 2013. And due to the high cost of imported natural gas (about three times the U.S. price), German thermal power plants fill the demand with the cheapest alternatives, such as domestically produced lignite and, increasingly, imported inexpensive U.S. coal. So far, die Energiewende has not resulted in lower carbon dioxide emissions, one of its key goals.