NewsFlash: Germany Again. 59 percent Renewable. Sky Not Falling.

November 2, 2013



Wind and solar power peaked at 59.1 percent of German power generation earlier this month. It happened at noon on a very windy and sunny October 3, which is the German holiday commemorating reunification. (Germany also hit peaks of 61 percent, a record, and 59 percent earlier this year.)

Solar and wind provided 36.4 percent of total electricity generation over the entire day, with PV accounting for 11.2 percent.

The electrical grid appears intact but electricity prices took a tumble. According to an analysis by Bernard Chabot of BCCONSULT, low demand from large conventional power plants drove the electricity price index covering Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland to 2.75 cents per kilowatt-hour at 2:00 p.m.

Some additional stats from Chabot’s report about Germany’s power mix on October 3:

  • Solar and wind furnished a total of more than 436 gigawatt-hours.
  • At peak, solar furnished 20.5 gigawatts, with wind peaking at 16.6 gigawatts.
  • Conventional power plants had to ramp down to 23 gigawatts at about noon.

We recently reported on an NREL study specific to one U.S. regional grid (the Western Interconnection), which found the costs of backing up and integrating wind and solar are far smaller than the benefits accrued from the use of renewables. We’ve reported on the ways in which the traditional utility model is under threat from renewables. And we’ve heard from grid experts who see the European grid as strained and soon to be challenged by the onslaught of renewables.





34 Responses to “NewsFlash: Germany Again. 59 percent Renewable. Sky Not Falling.”

  1. The gray part of the graph speaks to energy efficiency. As energy efficiency increases, the identical pv output becomes a bigger percentage of the utility output.

  2. “…It happened at noon on a very windy and sunny October 3…”

    Not to denigrate Germany’s achievement, but if a collective project had installed Europe’s solar investments in the deserts of North Africa, and piped in the electricity from there, every single day – summer, winter, spring, and fall – would be a full sunny day.

    And the cost per watt-hour, in the long run, would be whole lot less than erecting difficult and equipment-duplicative installs one-by one on rooftops.

    And the amount of time it would take to erect enough renewable infrastructure in large-scale projects in the desert to supply all of Europe with enough clean energy to replace all fossil fuels would be vastly less. And might even be fast enough to keep us to no ore than a 2C+ world.

    It is large-scale projects that will save us, not rooftop, and we need to fall in love with the benefits of large-scale, cooperative projects already.

    Maybe if we read more articles on environmental blogs about the time and cost-efficiency of large-scale projects sited in ideal places, we could get more excited about them?

    Because we do not need to have the location of the generation of solar power be where that solar power is actually used, it is large-scale projects that will allow the world to bring copious amounts of CO2-free electricity to every country on the planet, not just the rich ones.

    • Alteredstory Says:

      Transmitting that much energy over that long of a distance would be, at best a security and logistics nightmare. Even ignoring the power lost during transmission, storms, wars, earthquakes, floods, terrorists, and anybody with a grudge could all cut off most of Europe’s power in the blink of an eye.

      Germany is showing that even at relatively high latitudes, localized PV can have a big impact, and it has the added benefit of a wide distribution, so no single event can do serious damage to the power supply (unless it does serious damage to the whole country).

      In an era of worsening weather and more conflict, relying on power generated hundreds of miles away becomes an increasingly foolish proposition.

      • Sir Charles Says:

        That’s correct. And most of the renewables are owned by privates, communities and co-ops. That’s why the “big 4” hate them.

        Also =>

      • “…relying on power generated hundreds of miles away becomes an increasingly foolish proposition.”

        Do you have a shred of evidence to back up this assertion of yours? Do you have any sort of expertise in the topic?

        Please keep in mind that we have thousands of miles of above ground transmission lines in the U.S. alone. They have not been targets for (gasp!) terrorists.

        If anything is “foolish” it is your ill-considered dismissal of a superior technology based on your paranoid fears of non existent terrorism.

        Interesting that you would assert such a strong opinion on a topic for which there is no data base, no experience of problems.

        • Bruce Miller Says:

          Cost for initial installation, ongoing maintenance, and cost of losses: all non-existent!

        • It is not very hard to find an answer to your question. The principles involved themselves concluded that the project was not feasible, for a variety of reasons.

          Distilled, it is easier for Europe to generate renewables locally, and some of the markets are saturated. Spain and Germany are net exporters. Further, the principals concluded that Sahara energy might more sense in Africa, where demand is increasing faster than supply. So it may as yet reappear in a different guise.
          Transmission costs are from 2 to 4 million per mile. The link across the Mediterranean excluded.

        • Phillip Shaw Says:

          It’s easy to find examples of electrical transmission lines being targets. Just Google insurgents+electrical+transmission+destroyed and you’ll find a number of examples in Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia – in short, any politically unstable region. Your posting nonsense that can be debunked in less than a minute just makes you look stupid and/or dishonest.

          • I just did your search, there was one article in the first four pages of Google. It was about two towers in Guatamala pulled down by locals who objected to a planned hydroelectric dam on a river, which would displace 2.300 farmers from their homes.

            So, before you come here and start calling me “stupid” and “dishonest”, perhaps you you should take a look at yourself in the mirror?

          • Phillip Shaw Says:

            Wow, so you’re not competent to use Google, huh? Not too surprising, really. My search using the search terms I gave quickly turned up reports of transmission lines being damaged or destroyed in: Pakistan, Nepal, Guatemala, Peru, Iraq, Syria, Colombia, Afghanistan, Thailand, Myanmar, Chile, Yemen, and the Philippines. Other searches add Libya add Sudan to the list of countries which have had attacks on transmission lines.

            For Google search results along the lines of studies and analyses on the vulnerability of transmission lines use the search terms electrical infrastructure terrorist. Lots of sobering stuff.

          • You are right – I screwed up the search. 😦

        • Its not political. Dont be bitter. Its economic. And it makes sense, for now. There are reasons both economic and practical why local energy makes more sense.

          • The project is still going head for local consumption – what does that tell us about the relative economic competitiveness of CSP vs rooftop solar Rooftop solar is constantly presented as ideal for low density areas?

            The economics of the tech is still as solid as it ever was. The problem was getting a consortium together, and the difficulties of getting investors to see beyond short-term goals.

            This explanation that Spain, etc are “saturated” with renewables is econo-garble. Is the total contribution of renewables in Spain, for example, more than 3% of all current energy use? I doubt it. All of these figures about ‘market saturation’, etc are about the contribution of renewables on the contemporary electric marketplace, which still burns a shit ton of carbon. When all that carbon goes away, we all (everyone on the planet) is going to need many more times electricity than we use now.

            Spain is not “oversaturated” with renewables – it has only a tiny fraction of what it will need. What is ‘oversaturated’ is the ability of the capitalist system to incorporate what little renewable energy they have into profits.

            Please don’t confuse that with the idea that large-scale solar is not economically viable.

            And PLEASE – look at that list of infrastructure projects we will need to run the planet on 100% renewable energy. We are NOT going to be able to magically produce those installs “locally”.

            The Delucci paper is, AFAICT, the best blueprint the human race has – the best available information – on what we need to accomplish to survive AGW. It should be required reading for everyone concerned about our environmental future.

            And I just can not see how we are going to accomplish those goals with our current “smaller and local is better” philosophy. Can you?

        • Alteredstory Says:

          It’s called inductive reasoning.

          Weather events are going to become more powerful and more unpredictable. This is not in dispute (except among deniers, and asking me for evidence against THEM is like asking me to debunk Ancient Aliens).

          Economic hardship and famine, also expected to increase, are directly linked to civil unrest. This is ALSO not in question.

          Are you somehow under the impression that terrorism doesn’t exist?

          Do you think that a target as easily accessible and devastating as a power line to Europe would be ignored?

          And, of course, it’s not like any country has ever used control over an energy resource to get concessions, right?

          Transmission lines in the U.S. are all under the control of a single country. That said, power goes out on a regular basis, often for days at a time, due to weather events, car crashes, and so on. In addition, power goes out due to sudden plant closures, underlining the risk inherent in placing too much reliance on any one power source.

          I find it hard to believe that anybody paying attention would think that there’s “no experience of problems” on this issue.

          Have you been living under a rock?

    • And Europe’s energy supply would be held hostage to the Islamic Winter which immediately followed the Arab Spring.

  3. Thanks, Peter. This is how the real world deals with intermittent renewables at high penetration rates. No big deal. The need for backup is a crock. In the real world today, we already have huge amounts of idled capacity. There is a tremendous value in reducing fuel and generation cost that cannot be overlooked. The sky is not falling. Its getting cleaner. I encourage everyone to study the load curves. The more one looks at those the more clear it is that the load has the most variability. Demand management is just as important as generation. So is using the right source for the right load. Water pumping is an ideal load for wind. There are a lot of loads like this. Rooftop solar is ideal for the home. Industry is getting used to the idea of avoiding peak demand hours. A flexible approach is better than chicken little.

  4. redskylite Says:

    While we are in Germany forgive me for a quick plug for my birth town of Wuppertal, which has 7 charging stations for electric vehicles including a free facility

    “Charge your car for free
    The Wuppertal municipal authorities, the WSW, have installed a charging station in the multi-storey car park of the Historische Stadthalle, which is available to users of electric vehicles straight away. It goes without saying that all WSW’s E-charge stations are supplied with green electricity.”

    The town has the oldest electric elevated railway with hanging cars in the world (constructed 1898-1900).

    And is currently developing a Public Hydrogen Fuel Station that Complies with the Latest Standards.

    There is a lot going on worldwide to reduce carbon emissions and many municipalities are leading the way. My hope is that industry will become as enthusiastic and start realising the hidden costs of GHG emissions.

  5. climatebob Says:

    I put solar panels on my roof and it is returning me 10% on my investment without and subsidies. The prices are tumbling and the returns are getting better all the time. If we get overcapacity in electricity we should be steadily converting our transport to electric. That would save on our import bill.

  6. Off-topic, but of interest to this forum:

    Coursera and the University of Chicago have a free on-line course on climate change.  It is currently in its second week.

  7. rayduray Says:

    BBC reports that Berlin will vote soon on returning their electrical grid to being a public utility.

    In brief:

    “Is the tide now turning against privatisation? In the 1990s, a wave of sell-offs swept away countless publicly owned enterprises (though privatisation’s fans would say that “enterprise” was the wrong word to describe them).”

    • It would be easier for us to accomplish this in the U.s. than it would be for those in Berlin. They actually sold off their utility to a private firm. Here in the U.S., the vast majority of utilities are quasi-public already.

      • Bruce Miller Says:

        But: Strangled by the U.S. corpocracies legal/business notions! Social Democracies do not march to the tune of that sad little drummer! – see Canada’s very successful medical care system, CBC Media, police forces, Universities Colleges, Community Colleges, Quebec’s excellent Day Care situation. Americans must look at hoover Dam, Manhattan Project, and National Defence schemes to find solutions to Energy.

  8. indy222 Says:

    I’m all for Germany’s tranformation, and the rest of the world as well… but I just got through reading a depressing article by Vaclav Smil published last year, on how futile it is under current economic motivations (even given the subidies for alternative energy) to win any battle against climate change –

    The vastness of the transformation needed, the speed with which it is needed, and the uphill-ness of the battle given Asia’s enormous speed of building new fossil fuel power plants, is very sobering. The only positive I can see is that NOwhere in Smil’s article is Hansen’s tax-and-dividend strategy mentioned. His economics are solely based on zero cost for carbon dumping to the atmosphere. I feel more than ever that the first and most vital element in transforming the US and the world, is a tax-and-dividend strategy. Then let economics drive, and see how fast things can happen. Subsidies such as Germany uses will never be enough.

  9. And right now the California ISO is reporting renewables at about 33% of the grid at 7GW. Total demand is 22GW. Available capacity is 37GW.
    If you look at the daily curve, you can see that available capacity is way higher than demand. Probably today the entire demand could be met with renewables if the capacity existed. That is why renewables can integrate into the grid seamlessly. Nothing needs to be added, the existing reserve is far greater than demand 99% of the time during the year. Think about it. The yearly peak demand happens over a very short time during the year. That means the probability of needing backup for renewables is much much less than if every day had the same peak. This backup issue has been overblown. Once you see the curves you realize that backup is only needed for a fraction of a day to match the demand curves, and not very often during the year. Also, the amount of backup needed is not equal to the size of the demand. At any time, the probability one of the sources is available is high. The more independent sources are added, the greater the reliability. The more concentrated the sources, the lower the reliability. The choice is between reserve capacity or storage. It is an economic decision. I could easily see V2G and demand management enhancing grid stability beyond the present. Further, take a look at the ERCOT curves for today, currently at 30G, forecast peak at 32G. Then look at the populations of California and Texas. That’s right, demand growth, demand variability, and efficiency are far more important than supply. Texas population is less than California, but the energy use is greater. Germany is rightfully a great example of how to have high renewables and efficiency.
    Snapshot of Germany
    Any body know the website for the German load curve?

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