Why Germany's Energiewende is causing ripples in US | RenewEconomy

Why Germany’s Energiewende is causing ripples in US

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Germany’s Energiewende is set to prove a low-carbon future without nuclear is best option for a thriving industrial country. Not everyone is happy about that.

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Renewables International

This year, US Senator Lamar Alexander has lashed out against Germany as an example of where the United States should not go. The desperate attempt to reframe the Energiewende as an “energy mess” shows what the real threat is: Germany is poised to prove that a low-carbon future without nuclear is the best option for a thriving industrial country.

us-nuclear

In February, Senator Alexander spoke about a future United States “without nuclear power – a day we don’t want to see in our country’s future.” He focused on three countries as examples, one of which was Germany. Here are five things he said (in italics) followed by my response below.

  1. “The cost of attempting to replace nuclear power with wind, solar, and accompanying infrastructure is estimated by the German government at 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars”

The Senator is exaggerating. He probably got the figure from former German Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier, who announced a price tag of a trillion euros for the Energiewende. But over the next 35 years (Germany has targets for 2050), this number only amounts to 30 billion euros a year. Even that amount is probably less than what we will have to pay anyway. After all, Altmaier was not only talking about phasing out nuclear, as the Senator seems to think.

Rather, Germany also aims to reduce the share of fossil fuel in Germany’s energy supply from the current level of around 85 percent down to 40 percent by midcentury. Pursuing the Energiewende is cheaper than not pursuing it. And the Germans aim to do so not only with solar and wind, but also with biomass, efficiency, smart grids, etc.

Fraunhofer001

In this chart from early 2014, Germany’s Fraunhofer IWES calculated the total cost of Germany’s energy transition. The net cost impact (dotted red line in middle) is currently significantly negative, but investments in the energy sector are made for decades. The breakeven point is expected to come in around 2030, and by 2050 the hundreds of billions that Germany will have invested in a future proof, sustainable energy supply will have paid off considerably.

2) “… the subsidies for wind and solar are very high…”

Germany doesn’t subsidize wind and solar; it simply pays what these energy sources actually cost – much in the way the US government arranges prices for medical products and services in Medicare, a program not considered to be a subsidy by the American people and probably not by Senator Alexander (oh, well, never mind). In fact, given its poor wind and solar conditions, Germany has some of the lowest prices for wind and solar in the world; as I recently explained, Dubai has twice as much sunlight as Germany but does not have solar prices twice as low.

germansolarimage003

Chart 2: The price of an installed solar roof in Germany has historically been much lower than the price in the US, primarily because solar installations involve so much red tape in the US. Today, a solar array in Germany still costs only around 40 percent as much as in the US. So much for Germany overpaying for solar power.

3) “Germany does not produce enough reliable, base-load energy for an important manufacturing economy.”

www.energytransition.de
www.energytransition.de

In 2014, Germany already had nearly 30 percent renewable electricity and among the highest power reliability in Europe. What Senator Alexander fails to accept is an unavoidable truth in Germany: baseload power generators are incompatible with fluctuating wind and solar. And nuclear is baseload, so nuclear is incompatible with wind and solar towards a low-carbon power supply (as Americans will eventually realize when they have as much solar and wind as Germany does).

4) “So, while closing its own nuclear reactors, Germany is buying nuclear power from France, buying natural gas from a very unreliable partner, Russia, and – in a remarkable turn of events – Germany started building coal plants.”

France historically imports more electricity from Germany than it exports to Germany.

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Chart 4: In 2014 and previous years, Germany was the only country from which France was a net power importer. Source: French grid operator RTE

While Germany does indeed buy natural gas from Russia (along with hard coal and oil), this situation has not changed in recent years. In fact, over the last years Germany has been diversifying its gas supply by increasing gas imports from Norway. Buying gas from Russia is not a reaction to the nuclear phaseout, particularly because most gas is used outside the power sector for heat.

image006 image008

Above: Sources of natural gas in Germany from 1991-2013. German dependence on Russian imports (light blue bar) has remained relatively stable, whereas dependence upon Norway (pink) has more than doubled. Source: German Ministry of Economics BMWi

Finally, since the nuclear phaseout of 2011, Germany has indeed completed construction of a number of coal plants, but none of them were a reaction to the phaseout. Coal plants generally take around six years to construct, so plants that went online in 2014 were probably first proposed around 2008 at the latest. In fact, since Fukushima Germany has canceled numerous coal plant projects without adding a single one to the pipeline.

5) “Prices are now more than double those in the U.S., and Germany has among the highest household electricity prices in the European Union.”

I’m with the former FERC chairperson on this: “We need to stop looking at rates and start looking at bills.” German power rates are high, but power bills are low by US standards. Most Germans have efficient flat screen TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, and all of the other creature comforts that Americans also love – except for air conditioning, which Germans do not need. In many parts of the US, however, air-conditioning drives up power consumption considerably. Furthermore, industries that consume a lot of electricity pay low power prices in Germany; businesses that consume less electricity pay considerably higher rates than in the US, but power bills make up a small share of expenses for these firms . Labor costs are a more important component .

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Above: German household power bills are low by US standards

In conclusion, Senator Alexander is recycling Energiewende myths. During his visit to Germany, he apparently was not curious to see what was really going on. Instead, he cherry-picked numbers to trash talk the German energy transition. He complains about government support for renewables without acknowledging that nuclear only survives today because of governmental support.

His frustration is understandable: Germany is in the process of demonstrating not only that a highly industrialized country does not need nuclear power. The Energiewende also reveals that baseload nuclear is incompatible with a power supply largely based on wind + solar and that a renewable supply is the better option. As such, the Energiewende is a great challenge to Senator Alexander’s baby.

Craig Morris ( @PPchef ) is the lead author of German Energy Transition . He directs Petite Planète and writes every workday for Renewables International 

This article was originally published on Renewables International – http://www.renewablesinternational.net/energiewende-doesnt-translate-as-energy-mess/150/537/87819/

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40 Comments
  1. onesecond 5 years ago

    Thanks for destoying the myths (or maybe one should call it willfull lying to get subsidies for nuclear despite the fact that they are more expensive, will be forever and are not needed). Just one thing: The original phaseout of nuclear power was first made into law in Germany in 2001 and the truth is that subsequently it was considered that a lot of coal plants would be needed. That is were the handful of coal plants, that acutally went online in the last years came from. But because of the huge success of the renewable energy buildout, which was not foreseen (ok maybe it was foreseen by the Greens but still a backup plan was needed for the conservatives) because it never had been done before, almost all coal plants were scrapped and now more old coal plants closed than new ones were added (I think four were added).

  2. atheistcable 5 years ago

    I’ve never been outside of the USA, but I’m very proud of Germany. I’ve watched videos of German robotics and things are only going to get better. I cannot praise German inventiveness and ingenuity enough. Germany is a country that works! And has been working towards a peaceful world for the past half century.

    As an American my feelings range from frustration to embarrassment and downright disgust. We burn and spill oil all over the place, we make weapons of mass destruction and we cause wars all over the world. However, we do have the highest incarceration rate in the world. I mean, we have to excel in something!

    To the German people, keep on making waves in this country–probably the only thing that will save us–if we are to be saved at all.

  3. jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

    There’s something amiss in all these pro-Energie-Wende articles… they all seem to make similar statements such as (in this article): “German household power bills are low by US standards”

    ok – fine. But then I go to wikipedia (“Global electricity price comparison”) and get what countries actually pay per KWH on average:
    — Germany 36.25
    — United States 12.5

    Germany is paying 3X what the US is paying…. maybe not at the HH level but someone is paying it.

    So someone is lying to me and I don’t think it is wikipedia. So you green guys get back to me when you get your stories straight.

    • Colin 5 years ago

      jxxx mxxx,

      as you provide no link to back up your wild claim you should have no problem with the fact that people are ignoring you and consider you a troll.

      • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

        Yes u r right… the url to wikipedia is very obsucure… no one would ever guess the url is wikipedia.org… my bad. Here is itthe wild link to the wild claim: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_pricing

        Now u owe me an answer.

        • Colin 5 years ago

          “Now u owe me an answer.”

          Not really.

          Any reason you are so antagonistic about this?

          • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

            Actually, I’m not antagonistic… I’m agnostic. I just think Americans need to know that under the EnergieWende, Germans pay .34 per kwh and we pay .12.

            Also read my other posts here and elsewhere. You will see I favor a $1/gal carbon tax (cheaper the DE) and a 20% VAT (cheaper the DE) while simultaneously using that money to repeal the income tax. This plan brings conservatives and tea partiers to your cause. No one here has a more radical, effective, eco-friendly plan to usher in green energy… no one!

      • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

        why couldn’t u just answer the question like Barri Mundee did?

    • Barri Mundee 5 years ago

      From the article:

      “German power rates are high, but power bills are low by US standards. Most Germans have efficient flat screen TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, and all of the other creature comforts that Americans also love – except for air conditioning, which Germans do not need. In many parts of the US, however, air-conditioning drives up power consumption considerably. Furthermore, industries that consume a lot of electricity pay low power prices in Germany; businesses that consume less electricity pay considerably higher rates than in the US, but power bills make up a small share of expenses for these firms . Labor costs are a more important component “.

      • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

        Ok- that’s a very good answer… Thank you. the bills are not apples to apples;but KWH are. A german KWH is the same as a US KWH and the bottom line is they pay more per kwh – they pay more to consume b/c it costs more to produce using their costly production methods ie solar and wind. I don’t see that as something to brag about

        • Calamity_Jean 5 years ago

          The impact of electrical prices is at the bill level, not the kWh price level. German TVs, washing machines and refrigerators are more efficient so they use less power. Germans’ TV programs are just as entertaining (maybe more so, I don’t know), their clothes are just as clean, and their milk just as cold as those things are in the US. If it takes less power to do that, so what?

          • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

            Everything you say about their appliances is true… But that has nothing to do with solar and wind – nothing.

            Secondly, even following your own explanation, you are not telling the entire story. Germans tend to live in cramped apartments, Americans in spacious houses (by German standards)… They take showers, we tend to bathe (and let’s be honest, they don’t shower as often)… the tend to buy fewer, but higher quality appliances (and cars and boats), but fewer none the less. I am married to a German as it happens and we send our kids to a German school.

            Bottom line: they have lower electric bills b/c they have and do less; not b/c electricity is cheaper and not b/c of solar or wind are making it cheaper which it is definitely not… if Americans were to adopt their lifestyle, our monthly bills would skyrocket.

            The article is unduly hyping it’s subject: I do not foresee the Energiewende causing any ripples in US

          • onesecond 5 years ago

            You are mixing up a lot of things. Bathing and showering has almost nothing do with electricity in Germany because electric water heating is very rare. Ok, some things are true, I like showering much more than bathing where you soak in your own dirt. 😀
            Bottom line: I think Germans get much more for their money than USA citizens do. Their spacious houses would mostly qualify as farm barns in Germany due to the very low American housing standards. My bofriend lived over there because of work for a year and traveled the whole country. He said that everything outside of Calfornia and New York mostly looked like a threshold country, but with very beautiful nature though.

          • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

            I do argue with anything you just said about German standards. Americans have diff personal standards. You may or may not appreciate those standards but that is not your decision to make.

            I am not mixing anything up.

            Your argument is: if the US adopted Germany’s lifestyle then the article is correct. Fine. But Americans do not emulate the German lifestyle and have not interest in doing so, so that argument is bogus and the article is over-the-top optimistic and misleading to the point of propaganda.

            Do you agree or disagree with this statement: The typical US lifestyle will cost MORE under Germany’s EnergieWende price structure : Yes or No?

          • onesecond 5 years ago

            You have been mixing electrity prices with heating as I pointed out, I hope you can at least agree to that.

            So will the typical lifestyle cost more under Germany’s Energiewende price structure or not? That is actually a very good question. The upfront costs would certainly be higher because you would have to invest in more efficient appliances and in better housing standards. But those would lead to substantial savings which should compensate for that. So the question is, how much, if at all, do these savings overcompensate the higher upfront costs? Does this overcompensation amount to the difference paid for higher electricity prices even if you consume much less electricity? Then there are the secondary effects like generating more business for efficiency solutions and the avoided environmental costs. Assuming that the USA will hit much more severly by weather extremes such as droughts, hurricanes and blizzards than Germany, how much will these events cost?
            I think in the end you will pay more for your American lifestyle than you ever imagined and would be much better of if you adopted the Germany’s Energiewende price structure. So I think the answer is no and the article would be misleading, dishonest bogus on the point of propaganda if it would only see the higher upfront costs and neglect all other impacts. It does a good job being smarter than that.

          • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

            I am not have been mixing electricity prices with heating – take heating out of the equation, my point is still valid.

            You, with your long soliloquy are avoiding my only real statement: Germans pay far more than Americans per KWH… now where is this stated in the article… why? why hide that important fact?

            USA will hit much more severely by weather extremes.. than Germany… Why would that be?

            Finally: Americans are not Germans; if saving the planet means Americans must start living with less like Germans then kiss it goodbye

          • onesecond 5 years ago

            You did mix it when you talked about bathing and showering while this article is about electricity. That really shouldn’t be hard to understand.

            Then the price per kWh in Germany is clearly stated in the graphic where the actual resulting bills are listed. Maybe you should buy glasses.

            Lol. Of course the USA will be hit more severely by weather extremes caused by climate change than Germany. Have you ever heard about Sandy, Katrina or the severe drought in California? It is simple Germany doesn’t have a Hurricane season and its a wet country, even if things get worse they won’t reach American levels.

            Finally Germans live with much much more than Americans. We just don’t understand the appeal of buying tons of cheap unecessary China stuff that makes us sick and destroys the environment and bad American Cars (with the exception of Tesla of course) and bad American housing standards. We prefer free health care, free education, free social care and better social justice for all and German luxury cars and houses where you can’t punch through the outside wall. Not that we couldn’t consume as much, we just prefer not to. Fun fact: WalMart couldn’t even compete in Germany because their quality was to low and their prices to high and so they couldn’t find enough people to rip off.

            Maybe you should take a quick look at the following article and see what your fellow Americans that are in Germany actually have to say about living in the USA and Germany:

            http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32821678

          • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

            >> You did mix it when… Whatever/irrelevant … FYI: here’s an electric water heater for the shower typically found in german apartments: #G6134667 (google it). How does the water heater know not to use PV or wind power??? Doesn’t matter/move on!

            >> Then the price per kWh in Germany is clearly stated. You got me/ I need glasses. it clearly stated that electricity is more expensive in EnergieWende Deutschland.

            >> Finally Germans live with much much more than Americans. That’s subjective and judgemental!

            >> We prefer free health care, free education, free social care… Really? healthcare and education are actually “free” with no cost to person or state. Why not make electric free instead of 34 cents per KWH? And trips to Ibiza… and prostitutes in Hamburg…

            Funner fact: WalMart couldn’t even compete in Germany because they prohibited affairs between supervisor and subordinate… Funniest fact: When I interviewed for a job in Vienna, the supervisor sent his female secretary out for coffee for the both of us… I would never do that in the US.

            Related Question: Why can’t German Software/ robotics/ computer companies compete with Silicon Valley?? Must be some deficiency in the German character, huh?

            I send my kids to a German school here in the US… you should see the mansions the germans here live in… the multiple cars they drive… the gadgets they own.. the gasoline they consume… the big screen TVs they have… the money they earn… the wealth they accumulate… the taxes they DON’T pay…

          • onesecond 5 years ago

            Yes, electric water heating does exist but it is a minority and only makes up a small portion of the energy bill. Most houses still use oil and gas to heat water (sadly). People care about not using to much warm water for environmental reasons.

            So I take it you haven’t even clicked on the link? Your and your children’s bad I guess.

            Lol. So you haven’t heard of SAP, wich is the biggest IT firm for business software in the world? Or Kuka AG one of the biggest companies for industrial robotics in the world? You seem more ignorant by the sentence.

            So now we arrived at personal anecdotes? Ok, if you insist. My parents house provided 370 m2 living space for four people, they bought me and my sister new BMW 3s when we made our drivers license, while driving BWW 5s and X5s. My sisters new house cost over 1 million euros alone and they are driving new mercedes cabrio, an new BMW and a new VW T6 for the four kids. It is hard to keep up because they always have new ones all the time. After having made my Phd in physics (remember free college education) I actually sold my car and moved to Berlin in a flatshare with my friends to have a good time. I love it, that you don’t need need a car because of the excellent public transport and flat share is much more fun. My parents sold the big house, because it was really to big for just two people and I didn’t want to have it. They build a new one near my sisters with 150 m2 for two people in passive housing standard and big solar pv system. They are actually only using one floor and have the other one just for me visiting. And my aunt just came back from a half year long luxury cruise ship tour around the world. I know what I am talking about. Consume less, have more.

          • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

            I applaud you making the choices you have made; it’s the only real freedom any of us have.

            I was just thinking of u… I just had breakfast at the french bakery with a German acquaintance. She’s moving here to start a biz flipping houses in New Orleans. We need more germans like her here and more americans like u to move to germany. Then everyone can make their own personal choices about how the live and what they buy without being judged by others.

            a half year long luxury cruise ship tour… that is great. Never mind that ships burn “bunker fuel”, the dirtiest of all FFs.

            I wasn’t trying to one-up you with silicon valley… only point out that certain companies do well in certain countries and not in others. Walmart failed on Germany – they also failed in India; but are doing great in mexico and brazil. So what? I don’t see any german retailers even attempting the us.

            FYI: u did not get a free education; you used the government to force someone else to pay for it. Europeans have a habit of forcing other people to pay for their lifestyles. Greece? Spain?? If the Germans bail out the Greek government then don’t the Greeks get “free” government… and won’t that make u so happy that the greeks are getting “free” government. Soon Germans will be be giving “free” money to Italy and France… and the u will ecstatic!

            Not here’s the oddest think of this whole thread: It’s certainly clear to u that I am (as they say) a “right-wing nut job”. But I actually favor wind and solar and nuclear. I advocate putting a heavy price on fossil fuels AND consumption with $1/gal carbon tax PLUS a 20% VAT that repeals the income tax. Turns out I advocate more radical eco-friendly policies than most US liberals.

          • onesecond 5 years ago

            First of all let me say that in the article I send you a link to, it was pointed out that in Germany even US citizens can get a free college education because it pays for itself because the generate enough economic activity afterwards in Germany. So actually noone is forced to pay for other people. Yes I know, its hard to believe, just read the article, it is from the bbc.
            Then let me say that all I wanted to point out, is, that the average German really is not sitting in the cold and dark, even to afraid to bathe. Thank you for your kind concern, but that just is not true, it’s just a convenient lie for vested interests to discredit the Energiewende. If we were that poor over here, we really wouldn’t be the fourth largest economy in the world with only 80 million people and there really wouldn’t be around 90 % of the Germans in favour of the Energiewende which polls find on a regular basis.
            The truth is Germans still consume way to much, which you were right to point out with the luxury cruise. I am glad to hear that you agree it is a good thing to cut back on fossil fuel use. By driving a car for example you want to go from A to B, this is your prime interest, not burning fuel. You can do this with an electric car on 100% renewable energy, so your prime interest can be achieved without damaging other people through exhaust fumes or by damaging the environment. Why should anyone insist on burning more fuel then? I am pretty optimistic, not at least thanks to Tesla, that electric cars will get much cheaper soon.

          • Calamity_Jean 5 years ago

            You’re right, of course. German electricity does cost more per kilowatt-hour than American electricity does. I suspect it always did, or the Germans wouldn’t have been motivated to develop more efficient appliances in the first place.

            Because Germans used energy very efficiently, when the time came to start the Energiewende they could afford to make a big investment in photovoltaic (PV) panels which at the time were very expensive. Some spent a big chunk of money to buy and install PV panels, and the rest of the Germans who couldn’t make a big purchase up front helped out by agreeing to pay more for the electricity that the panels produced. This increased the demand for PV panels. Filling this demand allowed the manufacturer to achieve “economy of scale” and the price of panels fell. The reduction in price meant that more people could afford them, which increased demand, which increased manufacturing, which caused the price of PV to fall again. This is still happening. Surely you have seen those graphs that show the price of PV falling and falling. That didn’t happen by accident. The Germans started it.

            So it’s true, the Energiewende is partly responsible for the high price of Germans’ electricity, because they are still paying for those early expensive solar panels. Panels bought now cost much less. If human civilization survives the Global Warming crisis, the survivors will have the Germans to thank.

          • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

            I can’t argue with any of that. Well said. So the question for climate changers becomes: How do we get the US to start it’s own EnergieWende? And the answer is NOT hiding the truth about energy costs in Germany and it’s NOT bullying and name calling as the left often does And it’s not heavy-handed regs and it’s not whining about some far off catastrophe that does not comport with real-time events.

            The answer is to buy off conservatives? How?? Enact a $1/gal carbon tax (cheaper the DE) and a 20% VAT (cheaper the DE) while simultaneously using that money to repeal the income tax. Problem Solved!

          • Calamity_Jean 5 years ago

            New wind power is now cheaper than the power from a new coal plant. Some coal burning power plants that are already under construction may get finished, but I expect that there will never be another coal plant started in the US. And the cost of wind is still falling. Soon it will be cheaper than the power from existing coal plants. Coal will never compete again. Did you see this story? http://www.powermag.com/fpl-seeks-to-acquire-and-phase-out-coal-fired-power-plant/ HA!

            The cost of photovoltaic solar is also still falling. New solar farms, which have their own economy of scale, are already competing with natural gas burning generators. It won’t be long, just two or three years, before solar PV will be beating coal on price. The US energy transition has started. It could use a push to get it going faster, but the economics of renewable energy are now unstoppable. Whether this will happen fast enough to prevent human extinction is still an open question.

          • jxxx mxxx 5 years ago

            >>New wind power is now cheaper than the power from a new coal plant.

            Really? Then why does it need a subsidy? How did you calc the cost of wind when it the wind is not blowing; did you factor in the cost of firing up the coal plant or do you assume businesses and home just shut down? And Is wind cheaper than natural gas in the US?

            >> Coal will never compete again.

            Really… then why is Obama effectively outlawing coal… if coal is not competitive and going the way of the dinosaur, why outlaw it?

            >>The cost of photovoltaic solar is also still falling.

            Really? What is the cost of PV during the hours of 5PM and 5AM? or do you assume businesses and home just shut down? What about the cost of PV during cloudy days?

            >>It won’t be long, just two or three years, before solar PV will be beating coal on price.

            Really? Coal runs at full tilt 24 hrs, pv runs at full title 4 hours epr day and never on rainy days.

            >> the economics of renewable energy are now unstoppable

            Great. Can’t wait! but if it is so “unstoppable” why do we need a price on carbon and why do we need gov regs?

            btw: I favor wind and solar and nuclear and want to help it… search my alias and you will see that I advocate putting a heavy price on fossil fuels AND consumption with $1/gal carbon tax PLUS a 20% VAT that repeals the income tax. It’s ironic that I, a certified right-wing nutjob, advocates a more eco-friendly plan than any lib out there.

            bottom line: i’m not opposed to renewables, just to propagandists like this article that lie about it’s costs and hype the potential

          • Calamity_Jean 5 years ago

            “…a 20% VAT that repeals the income tax. It’s ironic that I, a certified right-wing nutjob…. “

            It’s not at all ironic that you, a self-described “right-wing nutjob” want to replace the income tax, which falls ever so slightly more on the rich, with a VAT that falls more heavily on the poor.

            “…then why is Obama effectively outlawing coal… “

            He’s not. In fact, some more land was just recently made available for coal mining.

            “Then why does it [wind] need a subsidy?”

            The main subsidy for wind ended at the end of 2014.

            “How did you calc the cost of wind when it the wind is not blowing; did you factor in the cost of firing up the coal plant or do you assume businesses and home just shut down? “

            The wind never stops blowing, it just shifts around from place to place. Until enough wind farms are installed so that there is one to catch the wind wherever it happens to be, as a temporary solution we would need to use gas turbines.

            “And Is wind cheaper than natural gas in the US? “

            It depends on where in the US you are.

            “What is the cost of PV during the hours of 5PM and 5AM? or do you assume businesses and home just shut down? “

            At night some other source of electric power is needed; coal or gas for now, wind or stored solar in the future.

            “What about the cost of PV during cloudy days? “

            PV will produce some power during cloudy days, but please keep in mind that clouds won’t cover the whole nation all at once. The electric grid can move PV power from sunny places to cloudy ones.

            “…but if it [renewable energy] is so “unstoppable” why do we need a price on carbon and why do we need gov regs? “

            Renewable energy is now cheap enough to prevent new coal, gas or nuclear power plants from being built, but it’s price advantage over existing coal or gas generators is still just tiny. This means that renewables aren’t replacing existing fossil fuel generation anywhere fast enough to prevent global climate disaster. Regulations or a carbon price would push fossil fuels out faster.

          • rsbsail 5 years ago

            The so what is that we live in the U.S., not Germany. And if you haven’t noticed, it is quite a bit warmer in places such as Houston or Phoenix. Power costs matter. And the power costs 3 times that vs the U.S.

          • Calamity_Jean 5 years ago

            See my response to jxxx mxxx.

  4. Miles Harding 5 years ago

    Senator Alexander is only doing what an obedient pet of the FF** industry would do. We should know, with captain (phony) Tony careening this country.

    A large part of the problem in the USA is that these and other vested interests have seized the public agenda in a way the Cap’n Tony’s handlers can only dream of. The result is perverse public policy, for example Medicine, Imprisonment, Arms manufacture, Foreign policy, energy (Corn Ethanol and electricity). For the corporations involved in these injuries, vast sums of wealth can be harvested from the willing and misinformed people.

    It is refreshing to see German public policy take the long view of prosperity, Sadly, none of that is to be seen in this country at present.

    ** I consider Nuclear to be a fossil of much earlier energy storing bonanza. It is potentially less polluting than Coal, provided that not too many Chernobyl or Fukushima events occur, but is arguably more finite than either coal or oil, as the end of economic Uranium fuel reserves is closer.

  5. FlyFreelyNow 5 years ago

    I’d be curious to get your opinion then as to why Germany is the only country with Poland to have increased their CO2 emissions year to year since Energiewende as shown by this report from the EU (Germany increased 2%, while the rest of Europe decreased by more than 2%). I’m afraid your facts don’t square with the data: http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/news_docs/jrc-2014-trends-in-global-co2-emissions-2014-report-93171.pdf

  6. Achal H P 5 years ago

    In a 4th gen Molten salt reactor, you can vary the energy output to meet requirements. 4th gen Nuclear is compatible with renewables, It can be designed to take manage peak loads.

  7. Ken Fabian 5 years ago

    Perhaps the decision to phase out nuclear is indicative of where Germany’s lingering Conservative climate science denier’s priorities are – all out defense of coal rather than defense of technology that would contribute to emissions reductions? Sacrificing the problematic nuclear sector in an effort to save coal may have ended up saving neither.
    It looked like the wrong way to go to me – I’d have killed off coal power first – but time may well prove the German decision to be no more than a short term blip in a longer term trend of greater, successful replacement of fossil fuels.
    One thing is clear to me – nuclear will struggle without bipartisan commitment to emissions reductions; climate action obstructionism is as antithetical to fixing emissions with nuclear as it is to fixing it with renewables. If Alexander is a loyal Republican – and from here it looks like he is – then he will ulitmately oppose climate policies that put nuclear ahead of fossil fuels. Perhaps like here nuclear is primarily a rhetorical device for hitting ‘greenies’ and renewables with, not fixing the climate problem.

  8. accord1999 5 years ago

    Germany’s Energiewende has been an utter failure, hundreds of billions of euros to build out solar nameplate capacity of 38 GW and wind nameplate capacity of 35 GW, only to produce a measly 6% of total electricity from solar and 10% from wind. All this for a country that averages 50 GW of electricity use.

    Germany’s most successful “renewable” is biomass, but that is limited (unless Germany wants to buy out the entire wood harvest of Canada) and very dirty regardless of its “carbon-neutral” aspect advertised by greenwashers.

    Anyways, given the terrible performance of German unreliable renewables today, how does it ever hope to reach even 60% renewable? That would mean tripling solar and wind capacity, to over 100 GW each. But without effective means of storing dozens of TWh of electricity, most of it will be wasted since the whole of Europe can’t absorb that excess electricity nor are there transmission lines capable of moving it.

    Energiewende just guarantees that Germany will never be able to get off coal.

    • Pusteblume 5 years ago

      Germany achieves the targets so far. Wait 15 years and we can discuss again.

  9. Math Geurts 5 years ago

    Do really consider Volker Quaschning to be a serious source?

  10. rsbsail 5 years ago

    Germany pays 34 cents/kWhr versus 12 cents in the U.S. And this is supposed to be good? Are you an idiot?

    Total cost is meaningless, since Germans don’t use near as much energy as we do in the U.S., especially in places where we have air conditioning.

    • Strom-Report 4 years ago

      At the moment Germans pay approx 32 cents per kWh and the average monthly bill for a private household of 3 is around 94$ (3500 kWh)

      http://strom-report.de/strompreise/

    • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

      Er, heating in cold climates uses more energy than cooling in warm and moderate climates, bright-eyes. The point you missed its that German houses are not oversized mcmansions and are incredibly energy efficient compared with US and Australian housing. Our housing is often not much better than from a thermal perspective than tents, but with many more air gaps and leaks in them. That’s why they can heat their houses with candles and body heat, although their bodies on average are less well insulated than Australian and US bodies so probably emit more heat and feel the cold more.

  11. KaptainKabul 5 years ago

    I don’t like this article. Mostly because i don’t think its all rainbows and lollipops when it comes to the Energiewende. I’am fro germany, and i can tell you its not as smoothly as the article makes it out to be- There are problems and it is more epxensive than planned. I don’t like the renewable industry to paint a brighter picture than it is.
    But and this is a big but. The Energiewende is by no means a failure or even much to expensiv to be done. This Repub Senator is also painting a much to bad image of it. It is just not going as as smoothly as politicians said. If this would be easy, everyone would have done it already. It will be more expensive as planned and it wont be as fast as planned, there will be more problems on the way. But hey, you do something for the first time, it tends to not go as planned. I’am glad we are doing it. I’am glad there will be some change. I really hope it works out and can be a a shiny example. Don’t belive the hype, don’t believe the haters.

  12. Carlos Batista de Barros 4 years ago

    My name is Carlos and I am from Brazil. We have a lot of sun…we have a lot of wind..we have a lot of hidroeletric energy…and we have a lo of corruption and ignorance. I would like to greet al german and american citizens that have had the discussion about this article. The discussion was polited, educated in the “Ideas Campus”. Congratulations to all. It is rare in my country. The discussion would be turned in verbal agressions. The world needs more “civilized discussions” abou it’s problems… less agressions. A good example all of you just did. Sorry for my English skills.

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