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President Willem Post Energy Consuling

Willem Post, BSME'63 New Jersey Institute of Technology, MSME'66 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MBA'75, University of Connecticut. P.E. Connecticut. Consulting Engineer and Project Manager....

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German Nuclear Decommissioning and Renewables Build-Out

Germany will be redirecting its economy towards renewable energy, because of the political decision to phase out its nuclear plants, triggered by the Fukushima event in Japan which increased public opposition to nuclear energy. Germany has 23 nuclear reactors (21.4 GW), 8 are permanently shut down (8.2 GW) and 15 (13.2 GW) will be phased out by 2022. 


On 30 May 2011, the German government decided to phase out its nuclear reactors by 2022. The Bundestag passed the measures by 513 to 79 votes at the end of June, and the Bundesrat vote on 8 July confirmed this.  Both houses of parliament approved construction of new coal and gas-fired plants and expand renwables energy. CO2 emission reduction targets remained unchanged. 


Germany’s 2010 generation mix was: 23% nuclear, 23% lignite, 18% hard coal, 14% natural gas, 16.8% renewables, 5.2% heating oil, pumped hydro, others. The renewables were: 6.2% wind, 4.7% biomass, 3.2% hydro, 2% solar, 0.8% waste.


Germany’s preliminary 2011 generation mix was: 17.7% nuclear, 24.6 lignite, 18.7% hard coal, 13.6 natural gas, 19.9% renewables, 4.2% heating oil, pumped hydro, others. The renewables were: 7.6% wind, 5.2% biomass, 3.1% hydro, 3.2% solar, 0.8% waste. The 2011 generation was added to this article on December 27, 2011. The 2010 values were used for analysis in this study.

Germany Without Nuclear: Renewable energy would need to scale up from 16.8% (101.7 TWh of 603 TWh in 2010) to 57% (327 TWh of 574 TWh in 2020) to achieve the CO2 emissions reduction targets (see next section) AND replace nuclear energy, according to a study by The Breakthrough Institute.

Note: Despite GDP growth, energy consumption, TWh/yr, is assumed to be steadily decreasing due to energy efficiency measures.


Germany’s 2020 generation mix would become: 43% lignite, hard coal and gas, 57% renewables. The renewables would become: 34% wind (27% offshore, 7% onshore), 11% solar, 7% biomass, 3.9% hydro, 1.1 % other. 


A high percentage of offshore wind energy is proposed in this study. It would have greater owning+O&M costs than onshore wind, but it would minimize visual and environmental impacts and costly delays due to public opposition; people dislike looking at, and be disturbed by the noise of, a multitude of 450-ft tall wind turbines and thousands of 80 to 135 ft high steel structures and wires of the transmission systems.


Germany’s energy-intensive industries require an electrical energy supply that is low-cost and without voltage fluctuations and power outages to remain competitive in world markets. Because of the uncertainty of such a supply, and the unreliability of wind an solar energy, numerous companies have already, or are planning to move out of Germany which will cause unemployment to increase.,1518,816669,00.html





The existing power generation system is based on 60% fossil, 23% nuclear and 16.8% renewables. Exchanging the existing system with one based on 43% fossil and 57% renewables implies an owning+O&M cost of about 2 – 3 times the current system because:


– the renewables energy production units are more capital intensive PER UNIT OF PRODUCTION than existing energy production units. 

– the useful service lives of wind turbines is about 20 years and of solar panels about 25 years versus 40 to 60 years for existing energy production units.

– the reorganized grid serving the widely-distributed energy sources, fitted with demand and supply management, will have greater owning+O&M costs than the existing grid.

– almost ALL of the existing generators, plus about 25,000 of NEW CCGTs to replace the nuclear plants, will need to be staffed 24/7/365 and kept in proper operating condition to provide energy during periods of low renewables energy production. See next section.

– As renewables energy increases to about 57% of all energy production by 2020, the increased cost of energy will bear heavily on industry and commerce, thereby reducing their competitiveness in world markets, and job creation capacity in Germany. 


The economic impact of the transition will increase the costs of German goods and services which will 


– adversely affect its competitive position in world markets.

– lower the living standards of households, accelerating the current trend. 

– affect, on a relative basis, Germany faring better than its neighbors, if these neighbors cannot be persuaded to follow Germany’s lead; as a minimum, it appears likely England, France and the Netherlands will not.

– divert capital from economic development, such as energy efficiency, that provides returns on investments without subsidies.


Diverting scarce resources from unsubsidized, profitable ventures to subsidized build-outs of wind and solar energy that have high owning+O&M costs and rolling those costs into rate schedules and the prices of goods and services is a sure way to make Germany less competitive relative to the rest of Europe and East Asia, lower living standards and increase unemployment.




On 28 September 2010 the German government adopted an Energy Concept. It states the main targets of Germany’s energy and climate policy. These targets are the linchpin of the German government’s energy policy.


Primary energy consumption, PEC:  a 20% reduction by 2020 and 50% by 2050.


Efficiency measures, (more efficient light bulbs, appliances, HVAC systems, etc.) that reduce the PEC by about 1.07%/yr, which compounded over 38 years (2012 to 2050), would reduce the PEC by 50%. However, if the long-term growth of the GDP is 1.8%/yr, the PEC will double by 2050 thereby completely offsetting the reductions from efficiency measures. To have an PEC reduction of 50%, PLUS have 1.8%/yr GDP growth, efficiency measures that reduce the PEC by about 3.7%/yr compounded over 38 years would be required. 



– Greater percentages of GDP growth would require greater efficiency percentages.

– Germany’s electricity consumption per unit of GDP decreased by an average of about 1.7%/yr from 1990 to 2010. During that period the GDP grew, but the primary energy consumption remained about the same; 14,905 PJ in 1990 and 14,044 PJ in 2010. 

– One way to “manage” the PEC and CO2 emissions is for Germany to build energy consuming plants abroad, instead of domestically; Germany’s GDP would increase, but not its PEC and CO2 emissions. See reference 14 in this URL.


PEC was 14,044 pitajoules in 2010, of which 249 PJ from wind and hydro and 1,073 PJ from other renewables, i.e., renewable energy was (249 + 1,073)/14,044 = 9.4% of the PEC. It was 5.3% in 2005, 6.4% in 2006, 7.9% in 2007, 8.1% in 2008, 8.9% in 2009. See reference 14 in this URL


Energy productivity: an increase of 2.1%/yr, based on final energy consumption. 


Building heating: a reduction of heat consumption of 20% by 2020; a reduction of PEC of 80% by 2050, compared to 2008.


Electricity consumption: a reduction of 10% by 2020, 25% by 2050, compared to 2008.


Renewable electricity: 35% of gross electricity consumption, TEC, by 2020, 50% by 2030, 65% by 2040 and 80% by 2050


Renewable electricity was 16.8%  of TEC in 2011 and 19.8% in 2011.


Renewable energy: 18% of primary energy consumption, GEC, by 2020, 30% by 2030, 45% by 2040 and 60% by 2050.


CO2 Emissions: Germany has a target to reduce its nationwide CO2 emissions from all sources by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, 55% by 2030, 70% by 2040 and 80-95% by 2050. That goal could be achieved, if 100% of electricity is generated by renewables, according to Mr. Flasbarth, the director of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Germany is aiming to convince the rest of Europe to follow its lead.


Germany’s CO2 emissions, excl. other GW gases, were (in million metric tonnes): 1,037 in 1990 (Kyoto base year), 861 in 2006, 834 in 2007, 833 in 2008 and 765 in 2009, 826.5 in 2010. 


Germany’s CO2 emissions, incl. other GW gases, were (in million metric tonnes): 1,232 in 1990 (Kyoto base year), 984 in 2006, 958 in 2007, 959 in 2008, 878 in 2009, 946.5 (est) in 2010. The 2008 – 2012 Kyoto goal is 974.


The CO2 emissions decrease in 2009 was mainly due to decreased goods production in heavy industry and the increase in 2010 was mainly due to renewed economic growth.

A 2009 study by EUtech, engineering consultants, concluded Germany will not achieve its 2020 CO2 emissions target (40% below 1990); the actual reduction will be less than 30%. Jochen Flasbarth is calling for the government to improve CO2 reduction programs to achieve targets.,1518,644677,00.html




The Energy Information Administration, EIA, is projecting the world’s energy consumption to increase by 53 percent, from 505 quadrillion Btu in 2008 to 770 quadrillion Btu in 2035; 1,055 Btu = 1 Joule. See the figure 12 spreadsheet of the report. Worldwide, the renewables fraction of total consumption will increase from 10.6% in 2010 to 15.2% in 2035, the fossil fraction will decrease from 84.1% to 79.1% 


This means significantly greater quantities of CO2 will be emitted in 2035 than in 2010 and that any efforts made by Germany to reduce its CO2 emissions will be extremely insignificant regarding global warming. Even if all of Europe were to reduce its CO2 emissions to zero, the increase by other nations would be about twice as great as Europe’s decrease. 


World CO2 emissions (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) were 29.89, 31.63 and 33.51 in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively, projected by the EIA at 33.51 x 1.5 = 50.27 in 2035. 


China, the US, Europe and Germany emitted (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) 7.46, 5.27, 4.3 and 0.79 in 2009, respectively.


China, the US, Europe and Germany projected emissions are (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) 11.7, 6.4, 4.4 and 0.55* in 2030, respectively.


*Germany’s CO2 emissions target for 2030 is 55% below the 1990 Kyoto base year, or (1 – 0.45) x 1.232 = 0.55.


Conclusion: The above data indicates Germany’s (misguided, irrational?) exuberance towards renewables will make no global warming and/or climate change difference, but will adversely affect Germany’s future economic well-being.


Germany, a rich nation with a strong economy, can afford the huge investments in renewables to achieve its CO2 emissions targets, but It is unlikely nations with weak economies, such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, etc., will make the huge investments in renewables to follow Germany’s lead, and France has vowed to continue its 80% energy from nuclear. 


It is even less likely the US, Canada, China, India, Brazil, Russia, etc., will not use their coal, oil and gas reserves. They will likely use them more efficiently and might even use CO2 sequestration, if a suitable geology is available and if it is economically viable.




This is a summary of my estimate of the capital costs and other costs for the phase-out of the nuclear plants, restoring the sites, adding fossil plants to replace nuclear plants, building out renewables to replace nuclear energy, adding wind and solar energy balancing plants, reorganizing electric grids and increased energy efficiency over 9 years to satisfy Germany’s self-imposed 2020 CO2 emissions targets. $1 billion (US) = $1 milliard (Europe)  


Increased energy efficiency: $20 b/yr x 9 yr = $180 billion; ($20 b/$3,286 b in 2010) x 100% = 0.6% of GDP, or $250 pp/yr  

Phase out 23 nuclear reactors and restore sites: 23 @ $1 billion/reactor = $23 billion

Plants to replace nuclear plants: 25,000 MW of CCGTs @ $1,250,000/MW = $31.3 billion

Wind turbines, offshore: (53,300 – 150, existing) MW @ $4,000,000/MW = $212.6 billion  

Wind turbines, onshore: (27,900 – 27,204, existing) MW @ $2,000,000/MW = $1.4 billion

Solar systems: (82,000 – 17,320, existing) MW @ $4,500,000/MW = $291 billion

EEG feed-in tariff costs added to electric rates over 9 years $450.3 billion, less $142 billion revenue from sale of EEG energy (0.79% of total renewable energy): $308.3 billion

Balancing plants: 25,000 MW of OCGTs and CCGTs @ $1,250,000/MW = $31.3 billion

Reorganizing the German grid and neighbor grids: $100 billion

Biomass (incl. biogenic waste): 1,400 MW @ $3,000,000/MW = $4.2 billion


Note: The estimate does not include any future energy storage systems and sequestering systems (a dubious technology) for underground storage of CO2.


Other Estimates of Capital Cost: The EIA says an ADDITIONAL $36 trillion of investment will be required to overhaul the world’s energy system by 2050, but this will be offset by $100 trillion in savings through reduced use of fossil fuels. The capital cost estimate appears too low, the cost savings, much more difficult to estimate, appear much too great.


Capital Cost Estimate of Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE: Siemens estimates the total price tag of meeting Germany’s renewable, energy efficiency and CO2 emissions goals at about 1.7 trillion euros ($2.26 trillion) by 2030; the estimate includes decommissioning nuclear plants, energy storage and CO2 sequestering systems.


Remember that does not get Germany to its 2050 goals, which would be about another 1.7 trillion euros, for a total of $4.5 trillion by 2050.


If the US were to follow Germany’s course, the cost would be about ($14.5 trillion, US GDP)/($3.5 trillion, German GDP) x $2.26 trillion = $9.36 trillion, plus about another $9.36 trillion for 2050 emission goals, for a total of about $18.7 trillion by 2050.


The US cost likely would be even greater as it is more spread-out than Germany and more of its aging electrical systems would need to be upgraded and replaced.


It is 100% sure, the US will NOT follow on that course anytime soon, if ever, and almost all other nations will not either.


A less inclusive estimate of capital and other costs is in this URL



Germany has made the following near-term plans to augment and upgrade its energy generating and transmission systems. Most of these changes are to accommodate past build-outs of wind and solar capacity and the recent shutdown of 8 of the 23 nuclear reactors:


Coal: 11 GW of new coal plants, 6 GW of old coal plants to be phased out, for a net gain of 5 GW of coal plants. 


Wind and Solar Energy Balancing Plants: 5 GW of new, gas-fired OCGT and CCGT plants. The plants will reduce the shortage of quick-ramping generation capacity for accommodating variable wind and solar energy to the grid.


Biomass: 1.4 GW of new biomass (incl. biogenic waste) plants. 


Transmission: Augment and upgrade transmission systems for:


– onshore and offshore wind energy in northern Germany.

– importing hydro and nuclear energy from France and Czech Republic to avoid any shortages. 

– exporting excess solar energy from southern Germany to France. 


Capital Cost: The total estimated capital cost of $53.75 billion for implementing the above measures is detailed below. About 45% of the capital outlays serve to accommodate renewable energy on the grid and can be considered an indirect renewables subsidy.


Coal plants: 11,000 MW @ $2,500,000/MW = $27.5 Billion

Retire 6,000 MW of old coal plants @ $300,000/MW = $1.8 billion

OCGT and CCGT plants: 5,000 MW @ $1,250,000/MW = $6.25 billion

Biomass plants: 1,400 MW @ $ $3,000,000/MW = $4.2 billion

Transmission systems:  $14 Billion 


Germany has fallen behind on transmission system construction in northern Germany because of public opposition and is using the nuclear phase-out as leverage against public opposition; people dislike looking at a multitude of 450-ft tall wind turbines and thousands of 80 to 135 ft high steel structures and wires of the transmission systems. 


The $14 billion for transmission systems is just a minor down payment on the major grid reorganization required due to nuclear phase-out and the widely-dispersed build-outs of renewables. The existing grid is mostly large-central-plant based.,1518,805505,00.html




Germany announced it had 16.8% of its electrical energy from renewables in 2010; it was 6.3% in 2000, mostly hydro. The installed renewables capacity was 55.7 GW, producing 101.7 TWh of electricity, for an all-tech average capacity factor of 20.8%. The contribution to total production was 6.2% wind, 5.5% biomass (incl. biogenic waste), 3.2% hydro and 2.0% solar. Electricity production was 605 TWh in 2010.


Wind: At the end of 2010, 27,204 MW of onshore and offshore wind turbines was installed in Germany at a capital cost of about $50 billion. Wind energy produced was 36.5 TWh, or 6.2% of total production. 


Most wind turbines are in northern Germany. When wind speeds are higher wind curtailment of 15 to 20 percent takes place because of insufficient transmission capacity and quick-ramping gas turbine plants. The onshore wind costs the Germany economy about 9.1 eurocent/kWh and the offshore wind about 15 eurocent/kWh. The owners of the wind turbines are compensated for lost production.


The alternative to curtailment is to “sell” the energy at European spot prices averaging about 5 eurocent/kWh to Norway and Sweden which have significant hydro capacity for balancing the variable wind energy; Denmark has been doing it for about 20 years.


As Germany is very marginal for onshore wind energy (nationwide onshore wind CF 0.167) and nearly all of the best onshore wind sites have been used up, or are off-limits due to noise/visual/environmental impacts, most of the additional wind energy will have to come from OFFSHORE facilities which produce wind energy at about 2 to 3 times the cost of onshore wind energy.


Biomass (incl. biogenic waste): At the end of 2010, about 4,910 MW of biomass was installed at a capital cost of about $18 billion. Biomass (incl. biogenic waste) energy produced was 33.5 TWh, or 5.5% of production. Plans are to add 1,400 MW of Biomass (incl. biogenic waste) plants in future years which would produce about 9 TWh/yr. 


Hydro: At the end of 2010, about 4,780 MW of hydro was installed. Hydro energy produced was 19.5 TWh, or 3.2% of production. Hydro growth has been stagnant during the past 20 years. See below website.


As it took about $150 billion of direct investment, plus about $130 billion excess energy cost during the past 11 years to achieve 8.2% of total production from solar and wind energy, and assuming hydro will continue to have little growth, as was the case during the past 20 years (almost all hydro sites have been used up), then nearly all of the renewables growth by 2020 will be mostly from wind, with the remainder from solar and biomass (incl. biogenic waste).


Solar: At the end of 2010, about 17,320 MW of PV solar was installed in Germany at a capital cost of about $115 billion; current prices are 4,500 euros/kW, or $6,300/kW for small roof-mounted systems. PV solar energy produced was 12 TWh, or 2% of total production. 


Most solar panels are in southern Germany (nationwide solar CF 0.095, out of a theoretical of 0.115). When skies are almost clear all over Germany, the solar output usually peaks at about 8 to 12 TW around noontime.


Because of insufficient capacity of transmission and quick-ramping gas turbine plants, and because curtailment is not possible, part of the solar energy, produced at a cost to the German economy of about 30 to 50 eurocent/kWh is “sold” at European spot prices averaging about 5 eurocent/kWh to France which has significant hydro capacity for balancing the variable solar energy.




A study performed by The Breakthrough Institute concluded to achieve its 2020 CO2 emissions target (40% below 1990), and the decommissioning of 21,400 MW of nuclear power plants by 2022, Germany’s electrical energy mix would have to change from 60% fossil, 23% nuclear and 16.8% renewables in 2010 to 43% fossil and 57% renewables by 2020. This will require a build-out of renewables, reorganization of Europe’s electric grids (Europe’s concurrence will be needed) and acceleration of energy efficiency measures.


According to The Breakthrough Institute, Germany would have to reduce its total electricity consumption by about 22% of current 2020 projections AND achieve its target for 35% electricity generated from renewables by 2020. This would require increased energy efficiency measures to effect an average annual decrease of the electricity consumption/GDP ratio of 3.92% per year, significantly greater than the 1.47% per year decrease assumed by the IEA’s BAU forecasts which is based on projected German GDP growth and current German efficiency policies.


The Breakthrough Institute projections are based on electricity consumption of 544 and 532 TWh in 2008 and 2020, respectively; the corresponding production is 587 TWh in 2008 and (532 x 587)/544 = 574 TWh in 2020.


The capacities and capital costs of the 2020 renewables build-outs will be based on the following conditions and assumptions:


– Hydro energy and biomass energy are 11% of renewables.

– The current wind energy to solar energy ratio is maintained at 3 to 1

– Wind energy and solar energy are 57 – 11 = 46% of renewables, of which solar energy 11.5% (2% in 2010), wind energy 34.5% (6.2% in 2010)

– Wind energy is 80% offshore and 20%. These percentages minimize the onshore build-out of wind energy to avoid delays due to public opposition.  

– Total energy production is 574 TWh.

– The current levels of feed-in tariff subsidies are maintained. Higher levels may be required to attract sufficient capital.


Build-out of Wind Energy: The estimated capacity of the offshore wind turbines will be [{0.57 (all renewables) – 0.11 (assumed biomass + hydro)} x 3/4 x 592 TWh] x 0.80 offshore/(8,760 hr/yr x average CF 0.35) = 0.0533 TW.


The estimated capacity and the capital cost of the onshore wind turbines will be [{0.57 (all renewables) – 0.11 (assumed biomass + hydro)} x 3/4 x  592 TWh] x 0.20 onshore/(8,760 hr/yr x average CF 0.167) = 0.279 TW.


Capital cost offshore = (53,300 MW – 150 MW, existing) @ $4 trillion/TW = $212.6 billion.

Capital cost onshore =  (27,900 MW – 27,204 MW, existing) @ $2 trillion/TW = $1.4 billion.


Build-out of PV Solar Energy: The estimated capacity and capital cost of the PV solar capacity will be [{0.57 (all renewables) – 0.11 (assumed biomass + hydro)} x 1/4 x 592 TWh]/(8,760 hr/yr x average CF 0.095) = 0.082 TW.


Capital cost = (82,000 – 17,320, existing) MW @ $4.5 trillion/TW = $291 billion. Solar capital costs/kW have declined due to mass production by China (has 65-70% of the world’s panel market) in recent years, but this trend has ended which means current costs will be the ones going forward. 


Reorganizing Electric Grids: For GW reasons, a self-balancing grid system is needed to minimize CO2 emissions from gas-fired CCGT balancing plants. One way to implement it is: 


– to enhance the interconnections within Germany and with other nations, such as France, Spain, the UK and Ireland (owning+O&M costs, including transmission losses)

– with European-wide selective curtailment of wind energy

– with European-wide demand management

– with additional impounded and pumped hydro storage capacity.


Caveat: The interconnected area would be easily covered by a 500 to 1,000-mile length/width weather system; the wind turbine facilities would all experience about the same weather at about the same time. Hence a new interconnecting overlay grid, costing tens of billions of dollars, to reduce variations of outputs would be mostly useless.


These four measures will reduce, but not eliminate, the need for OCGT and CCGT balancing energy at greater wind energy penetrations during higher-windspeed weather conditions.


European-wide agreement is needed, the capital cost will be in excess of $100 billion and the adverse impacts on quality of life (noise, visuals, psychological), property values and the environment will be significant over large areas. 


Other Capital Costs: The capacity of the quick-ramping OCGT and CCGT balancing plants was estimated at 25,000 MW; their capital cost is about 25,000 MW x $1,250,000/MW = $31.3 billion. The capital costs of the phase-out of the 23 nuclear reactors and restoring the sites will be about $23 billion. 




Variability and Intermittency: Because utilities must take renewable energy BEFORE all other energy, temporary oversupply occurs, spot prices become negative, and production of existing coal and gas plants is lowered causing them to be less profitable. However, no conventional plants can be decommissioned, because: 


– Wind energy generation is variable and intermittent; usually it is minimal during summer, moderate during spring and fall, and maximal during winter.  


About 10-15 percent of the hours of a year wind energy is near zero, because wind speeds are too low (less than 7.5 mph) to turn the rotors, or too high for safety. During these hours, wind turbines draw energy FROM the grid. 

Note: Wind turbines need energy 24/7/365 for their own operation. The parasitic energy can be 10% to 20% of rated output on cold winter days, whether operating or not.

Example: German wind power output peaked at about 12,000 MW on July 24, 2011, four days later the peak was 315 MW.


– Solar energy is variable (during a day and during variable cloudiness) and intermittent; usually it is minimal in the morning, maximal at noon about 3-5 hours before the daily peak demand, minimal in the afternoon, minimal during foggy, overcast, snowy days, and zero at night. 


About 65-70 percent of the hours of a year solar energy is near zero, and it cannot be turned off, as in Southern Germany with about 1 million PV systems, when on sunny summer days solar energy surges to about 12,000 MW to 14,000 MW and has to be partially exported to France and the Czech Republic at fire sale prices, 5.5 euro cent/kWh or less, after having been subsidized at an average of about 50 euro cent/kWh.

Example: German solar power is as little as 2% of rated capacity, or 340 MW, on cloudy days and when snow covers the panels. 


That means, absent economically-viable energy storage, such as pumped and impounded hydro plants, almost ALL of the existing generators, plus about 25,000 of NEW CCGTs to replace the nuclear plants, would need to be staffed 24/7/365 and kept in proper operating condition to provide energy during periods of low renewables energy production; the plants would have low capacity factors and would need to be subsidized because they would not have enough revenues from energy sales to cover costs.


As these periods would be mostly unpredictable, a significant percentage of the existing generators would be in spinning mode 24/7/365 to immediately supply energy in case of steep-ramping wind energy ebbs. Any NEW conventional generators would likely be gas-fired CCGTs, thus CONTINUING Germany’s dependence on Russian gas. Russia would insist on a minimum gas purchase per year under a long term contract to recover its investment in the pipeline. Increased imports of nuclear energy from France and the Czech Republic would be required. Germany, instead of an electrical energy exporter, would become an energy importer.


Utilities will be loathe to build these new CCGT plants without significant subsidies, as these plants would have low capacity factors. This new CCGT capacity might be lessened somewhat by more efficiently operating the existing plants nearer their rated outputs.


Frequency and Voltage Regulation and Energy Storage: The Laurel Mountain wind turbine facility, Elkins, W. Va., with 61 ridge line turbines, totaling 98 MW, capital cost about $210 million, is using 32 MW of lithium-ion batteries in sixteen 53-ft trailers on an acre of land, capital cost about $25 million, supplied by A123 Systems. It acts as a frequency and voltage regulating “damper” of the variable wind energy SUPPLY by quickly charging with smaller wind energy surges and quickly discharging with smaller wind energy ebbs on a minute-to-minute basis; quicker than smaller capacity OCGTs can do it. 


Those smaller SUPPLY surges and ebbs (typical duration less than 15 minutes, in the order of about a hundred times per day) are often larger than the DEMAND surges and ebbs utilities normally deal with for frequency and voltage regulation. 


Larger capacity OCGTs and CCGTs, operating in part-load-ramping mode, will continue to be needed to ramp up with larger wind energy ebbs and ramp down with larger wind energy surges which have longer time periods. Coal plants often assist the OCGTs and CCGTs by slowly varying their outputs; rapidly varying their outputs would destabilize combustion and air pollution systems.


The battery system can deal with only smaller wind energy variations lasting up to 15 minutes, i.e., up to 32 MW x 1/4 hr = 8 MWhs. It is not storing a significant quantity of energy, i.e., hundreds of MWhs, when there is an excess of nighttime wind energy and discharging it later to serve daytime demand. The technology of that type storage has not been sufficiently developed and is not economically viable. 


Example: Vermont Electric Cooperative, a utility in Vermont, studied a battery energy storage system (50% subsidized by the DOE) in 2009 and determined the cost adder due to storage was 23c per kWh. 


For evaluation, the levelized owning+O&M costs of the battery system would be compared with the levelized owning+O&M costs of the CO2-emitting OCGT and CCGTs used for balancing wind energy. Disposal costs of the batteries would be a part of the evaluation.


The only energy storage that is economically viable is impounded and pumped hydro, however, they are available in only a few areas of the world.


Dependence on Gas: Wind and solar energy is often sold to the public as making a nation energy independent, but Germany will be buying gas mostly from Russia supplied via Nord Stream, the newly constructed pipeline under the Baltic Sea that connects Vyborg, a Russian port, with Lubin, a coastal northeast German village.


Wind energy is unpredictably variable and intermittent, i.e., chaotic. It is very much dependent on gas. It is the cube power of wind speed. When it surges, other generators on the grid have to quickly ramp down their outputs, and when it ebbs, they have to quickly ramp up their outputs, to maintain supply/demand balance on the grid. Such ramping happens in the order of about a hundred times per day AND at part load. Such operation is very inefficient for the quick-ramping gas turbines used for balancing, i.e., more Btu/kWh, more CO2 emissions/kWh. 


There are four recent (last 2 years) studies of the Colorado, Texas, Irish and Dutch grids, based on published, real-time grid operating data sets, that show almost no CO2 emissions reductions due to wind energy. The reason there are not more such studies is very few grid operators post the 1/4-hour, or 1/2-hour data that are necessary for analysis. 


All other studies are based on modeling, statistics, grid operations scenarios, weather/wind histories and forecasts, etc. Invariably they are performed by well-educated, experienced people (but often not energy systems analysts) who are paid by renewables proponents. Independent studies, i.e., not paid by renewables proponents, follow similar methodologies and, no surprise, have similar outcomes.


Wind energy associations agree that the above described ramping of gas turbines to accommodate wind energy to grids causes less reduction CO2 emissions/kWh than they originally claimed, but, they say, it is only a few percent less, and then present studies to back up their claims. 


The dispute is about how much less. The four recent studies show it is at least 75% less than is claimed by proponents, i.e., almost no reduction of CO2 emissions due to wind energy.


Example of Cost of Accommodating Wind Energy: Xcel Energy, Denver, Colorado, serves eight states from North Dakota to Texas, and is the largest US retailer of wind energy. Frank P. Prager, managing director of environmental policy at Xcel, said the higher the wind energy penetration, the more a grid needs to keep conventional generators on standby — generally low-efficiency, gas-fired OCGTs that can be quickly started and stopped. 


He said in Colorado, if wind energy is 20% of total generation, the cost of standby generators is about $8/MWh of wind energy, for a total generating cost of $80 to $90 per MWh; this cost is reduced by the $22/MWh federal production credit. Energy from a new coal plant is about $33 to $41 per MWh.




As a result of Germany’s decision to decommission its nuclear plants by 2022 and meet CO2 reduction targets, Germany will need to build out its renewables capacity to increase its renewable energy production. Almost all of that increased energy will be covered under existing renewable energy laws.


Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG) of 2000 guarantees investors above-market fees for renewable power for 20 years from the point of installation. An EEG surcharge, equal to the feed-in tariffs paid by utilities for renewable energy, minus the revenue from that energy fed into the grid, is added to the electric bills of almost ALL households and businesses.


In 2010, German investment in renewables was about 29.4 billion euros, of which about 25.8 billion euros in 7,400 MW of solar systems (3,485 euro/kW). Note: 1 bn = 1,000 million 


In 2010, about 79%, or about 80.7 TWh of renewable energy was covered by the EEG program at an average cost of 15.85 eurocent/kWh. The cost has been steadily rising from 10.87 eurocent/kWh in 2006, primarily due to the rapid solar build-out.


In 2010, the EEG payments were: 


solar: 5.1 billion euros for 11.7 TWh, 

biomass: 4.2 billion for 25.1 TWh,

wind: 3.3 billion for 37.5 TWh,

hydro: 0.3 billion for 5 TWh, and

other: 0.1 billion for 1.2 TWh, for a total of 12.8 billion euros.


For comparison, the EEG payments were 5.6, 7.6, 8.8 and 10.5 billion euros from 2006 to 2009; 12.8 billion euros in 2010; 23.6 in 2014.


In 2011, the EEG apportionment was 3.53 eurocents/kWh, excl. 19% VAT, or 14% of the consumer price; 4.2 eurocents/kWh, incl. VAT, or 16% of the consumer price of 26.3 eurocent/kWh.


The 2011 apportionment reflects the energy production of the renewable systems installed prior to 2011.


For comparison, the EEG apportionments were 0.8, 1.0, 1.1, 1.3, 2.05, 3.53, 3.592, 5.227, 6.24 eurocent/kWh, excl. 19% VAT, from 2006 to 2014, with annual increases of 1.5-2.5 to follow.


EEG Apportionments and Renewables Build-out: As the phase-out of the nuclear plants proceeds and to meet Germany’s 2020 CO2 reduction targets, the following will need to installed during the next 9 years:


– About 53,300 MW of NEW offshore and 696 MW of NEW onshore wind capacity (about 2 times existing, buildrate about 6,000 MW/yr) 

– About 64,680 MW of NEW solar capacity (almost 4 times existing, buildrate about 7,000 MW/yr) 

– About 1,400 MW of NEW biomass capacity (about 0.3 times existing, buildrate about 150 MW/yr) 


Renewables investments, subsidies, and EEG apportionments will increase, even though the feed-in tariffs for later solar installations are less/kWh than for earlier installations. 


EEG Subsidy Projection: In this study the subsidy was calculated using the following assumptions and conditions;


– The annual production remains at 603 TWh in 2010 through 2020 due to increased energy efficiency. 

– The renewables energy is 16.8% of production in 2010, or 101.8 TWh, and 57% , or 344 TWh in 2020.

– The build-out starts the beginning of 2012 and ends the end of 2020 for calculation purposes.

– The EEG percentage remains at 79% of renewables production.

– The EEG subsidy remains constant at 15.85 eurocent/kWh from 2012 to 2020; a conservative value because it should be rising due to the more expensive offshore build-out being added to the renewables mix. Future feed-in tariffs will likely not be reduced, because it would reduce capital inflows and slow down the renewables build-outs, which is undesirable if nuclear plants are to be decommissioned. 

– The EEG apportionment increases at a constant 1.25 eurocent/kWh each year from 2013 to 2021; a conservative value.*


*Based on forecasts by the four German transmission system operators, the EEG surcharge is likely to increase from 3.592 eurocent/kWh in 2012 to between 3.66 and 4.74 eurocent/kWh in 2013. It may become 6 eurocent/kWh in 2014.


Based on the above assumptions and conditions, the EEG subsidy will rise from 12.8 bn euros in 2010 to 43.1 bn euros in 2021, for a total of 321.67 bn euros for the 2012 – 2021 period.  The revenue from selling the EEG energy is estimated at 101.45 bn euros for the 2012 – 2021 period. The net cost (the EEG surcharge apportioned to electric bills) is 321.67 – 101.45 = 220.23 bn euros, or $308.3 billion. The 2021 apportionment reflects the energy production of the renewable systems installed prior to 2021. 


Impact on Household Electric Bills: The EEG apportionments are estimated to increase monthly electricity bills of households from  26.3 eurocents/kWh, incl. VAT in 2011, to 39.7. incl. VAT in 2021, a total increase of (39.7 – 26.3)/26.3 = 51% by 2021 compared with 2011. This increase is largely due to the solar and offshore wind build-outs. This is a real increase based on 2011 euros. Bills will likely increase by more than 51%, because other components of the household bill will also increase. 


The EEG apportionments will be borne by all households, including those without solar systems. They act as a steadily-increasing regressive tax that will affect lower income households more than higher income households, many of which receive feed-in tariff benefits from having solar systems; an inequitable condition.

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Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Oct 22, 2011

Don’t forget that older nuclear and coal plants generate power for under 2 cents per kWh (i.e. after their construction loans are paid off). Older wind plants must be replaced with expensive new plants. Solar is too expensive to every reach large deployments in any case.  Their renewable buildout plan is either a smoke screen to hide a coal resurgence, or it’s a time-bomb programmed to kill their children’s prosperity.

With Germany leading Europe down a dead-end path, it is more important than ever that the US take the lead in revitalizing the nuclear industry, and rolling-out Gen IV technology (e.g. LFTR and IFR).


Paul O's picture
Paul O on Oct 22, 2011

Oh to be able to go 15yrs into the future and see the outcome of this grand German experiment. 

Whatever happens, we may fault  the German government for not leading in their Nuclear Shutdowns decision, but the German people will not be absolved from blame.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Oct 25, 2011

Willem, sorry to reply without fully reading your analysis. But over the months you’ve contributed, I tend to think you emphasize “quality” over “quantity.” And I agree.

In my area, a decade ago people tore up a lot of environment to plant corn and build plastic houses. Many borrowed to buy ATVs, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, pick-ups, and build “toy box” tin sheds; and now can’t pay their mortgage or sell their underwater home. Alan Greenspans described “irrational exhuberance.” So now our county has 8,000 acres of tax forfeit land the Mn. Dept. of Natural Resources wants to restore to forest and clean water.

I’ve described my efforts as trying to build a European style farm under an American style farm program (I get laughed off). Winters give me time to play with electronics and Linux computers. We in the US are lucky computers are still programmed in English, because the Germans are doing the programming. And they are a decade ahead of us in electronics. I would like to learn their plans before judging their plans.

Bill Woods's picture
Bill Woods on Oct 26, 2011

The EEG charge won’t be going up much next year. … Apparently because shutting down 8 nuclear reactors has raised the underlying price of power instead.

(Google translation)

Bill Woods's picture
Bill Woods on Oct 28, 2011

The EEG surcharge covers the difference between what utilities have to pay renewable power generators, and what the power is actually worth. But, in the absence of a lot of cheap nuclear power, the wholesale price of power is going up (and meanwhile the FiT rate has come down). So next year the difference between wholesale and retail is increasing only slightly. 


Also, they seem to be spreading the cost over more power, by charging CHP generation, which reduces the increase per kW-h.

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