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12 Insights on Germany’s Energiewende

Agora Energiewende
In June 2011 the German Parliament ended a long debate of several decades over the future of the country’s energy system with a historical decision. It was historical because of its ambitious goal: Germany wants to transform its power sector from nuclear and coal to renewables within the next four decades. The decision was also historical because it was an almost unanimous vote, a consensus of ruling and opposition parties.

This transition of Germany’s energy system is called Energiewende. Germany will phase out nuclear energy; the remaining nuclear power plants will be gradually closed down by the end of 2022…

Since the long-term targets are in place – the big question remaining to be answered is how to accomplish these goals. Namely, how to manage the transition from a fossil nuclear system to a mainly renewable energy system at the lowest possible cost and without compromising the high standard in system reliability? Our attention is focused on the next 10 to 20 years, or the period up to 2030.

Report Contents
Insight 1
It’s all about wind and solar!

Insight 2
“Base-load” power plants disappear altogether, and natural gas and coal operate only part-time

Insight 3
There’s plenty of flexibility – but so far it has no value

Insight 4
Grids are cheaper than storage facilities

Insight 5
Securing supply in times of peak load does not cost much

Insight 6
Integration of the heat sector makes sense

Insight 7
Today’s electricity market is about trading kilowatt hours — it does not guarantee system reliability

Insight 8
Wind and PV cannot be principally refinanced via marginal-cost based markets

Insight 9
A new Energiewende market is required

Insight 10
The Energiewende market must actively engage the demand-side

Insight 11
The Energiewende market must be considered in the European context

Insight 12
Efficiency: A saved kilowatt hour is the most cost-effective kilowatt hour


(February 2013)
Link to full report PDF

A decarb target is good for the economy, good for the environment and good for gas

James Murray, Business Green
…The arguments against a decarbonisation target really are this weak. They are built on either the reckless assumption that new CCS technology will make a large fleet of new gas-fired power stations compatible with carbon targets, or the reckless assumption that the under fire Climate Change Act and the flawed EU ETS will somehow stop the development of excessive numbers of gas-fired power plants. But it is not the weakness of these arguments that is the real problem currently afflicting both the UK’s energy sector and its green economy. It is what these weak arguments have enabled.

In his desperate desire to leave the door open for all the gas-fired power the industry could possibly want, George Osborne has not only embraced these reckless and flawed arguments he has insisted on a sad and ugly compromise that means the energy industry gets neither the certainty of a decarbonisation target nor the certainty of not having a decarbonisation target.

It has been said before and it will be said again, but in delaying a decision on a decarbonisation target until 2016 the government has thrown the energy industry into three years of limbo just at a time when, as Ofgem today attests, it urgently needs to be building new capacity. Thankfully, some new renewable energy and gas capacity will be built from 2014 once the Energy Bill’s contract for difference and capacity mechanisms are finally sorted out. But the cost of capital for gas infrastructure is likely to be higher than it needs to be because of the looming 2016 decision on a decarbonisation target. Meanwhile, supply chain firms for both the renewables and the gas industry, including of course CCS, will be reluctant to move forward with any investment until the 2016 decision provides a signal as to whether it will be gas or lower-carbon energy sources that dominate the energy mix through the 2020s.

It is a mess. A mess that will only result in higher energy costs and greater energy insecurity for the UK. Any attempt to pretend otherwise is nothing but political spin…
(19 February 2013)

Isn’t it ethical to use less heating?

Lucy Siegle, The Guardian
This year I’ve gone without heating apart from the rare use of a wood-burning stove. I’ve managed well, but friends and family take a dim view of my low indoor temperatures. Meanwhile I find their homes intolerably overheated. Can you back up my assertion that my way is the ethical way?

Voluntary heating refuseniks remain few and far between in the UK. I tried to find you an organised band of resistance to isothermal comfort, but I failed. However, there’s a small pocket of inspiration from across the (frozen) pond. There’s a challenge by US bloggers at Crunchy Chicken to live without central or space heating and also the, which provides practical tips, such as what to wear (layers of natural fibres are essential; skiwear is useless) and letting your taps drip slightly in winter weather – 15-30 drips per hour apparently prevents pipes freezing…
(24 February 2013)

Big shifts ahead in Chinese energy consumption

Kate Mackenzie, FT Alphaville
China’s energy consumption is legendary (okay, its everything consumption is legendary). More coal, oil, hydro, solar, and wind power than… than just about anyone. The coal numbers in particular are mind-boggling. By 2011 China was consuming almost as much coal (3.8bn tonnes) as the rest of the world combined (4.3bn tonnes).

The figures on oil consumption are almost as striking. They consume about 10m barrels a day; more than 10 per cent of world production.

China’s oil and coal consumption (the country’s natural gas consumption is still relatively low) are the cause of three massive challenges for the country right now…
(12 February 2013)

Sunrise in the desert

Chris Nelder, Smart Planet
One of the world’s most remarkable — and unheralded — energy transitions is taking place in the unlikeliest of places: United Arab Emirates, home of the world’s seventh-largest crude oil and gas reserves…

It may seem strange that the world’s seventh-largest oil producer, pumping over 3 million barrels per day of liquid fuels and over 5 billion cubic feet per day of gas, would see the attraction of investing in renewables, but that’s only where the ironies begin in this part of the world…

And yet that’s precisely what it is.

I sat down with Bader Al Lamki, the Director of Clean Energy at Masdar, and asked him why investing in renewable energy was a priority for Abu Dhabi, especially when the U.S. oil and gas industry has been pushing the entirely opposite message about achieving energy independence via oil and gas production, and turning our backs on renewables entirely.

His answers were as insightful as they were surprising.

“It’s totally energy related,” Lamki explained. “The trigger for the leadership here to think about switching to renewables is one that is also driven by the legacy of this country being an energy player on the world stage. For five decades we’ve been producing hydrocarbon resources. Yes, we still have substantial reserves with us, but inevitably they’re going to diminish, one Sunday morning…
(23 January 2013)

Green planet image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.