US Shale Gas Wins Against Failing German Energiewende

German Renewables - Tom Shepstone ReviewsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

 

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The German Energiewende receives all the plaudits for fighting global warming but it’s failing as US shale gas is reducing carbon emissions and energy costs. 

I’m sick to death (and some will no doubt cheer at this point) of hearing how the German Energiewende (energy transition) is successfully reducing carbon emissions and leading the world in fighting global warming. It’s utter nonsense, lapped up by dreamy utopians with what they suppose are softer hearts and brighter minds than the rest of us. The facts tell a far different story. If these dreamers really want to reduce carbon emissions and make a difference they’ll start emulating us instead of the Germans.

Imagine a world where we focused on results instead of dreamy theories about eliminating all fossil fuels and you’d have this:

Energiewende

This chart is plotted from Energy Information Administration data and there’s more. Here’s why it’s happening:

Energiewende

Germany is not achieving success in reducing carbon emissions because it is not able to substitute natural gas for coal. It’s just that simple. Germany has instead put all its eggs into the trendy renewables basket and it’s been a failure in reducing carbon while producing devastating increases in electricity prices that make a shift away from coal nearly impossible. That’s why Germany continues to build new coal plants that burn lignite or brown coal, which is the dirtiest of all coals. It must do so to keep prices semi-affordable and ensure capacity as it avoids, for reasons of political correctness and fear of radical greens, the two things that might make a real difference; nuclear energy and shale gas.

Energiewende

German coal plant

Meanwhile, Spiegel Online reports this (translated from German with emphasis added):

The social problems in the energy turnaround enlarge: Over the past year, more households saw their electricity disconnected than ever. The reason is the rising price of electricity.

Because of rising prices, more and more German citizens are unable to pay their electricity bills. Exactly 351,802 residential customers were temporarily disconnected in 2014, report the Federal Network Agency and the Federal Cartel Office in its new monitoring report…

The number of power cuts, therefore, increased to the highest value ever recorded. In 2013 some 344,798 barriers had been imposed, whereas in 2012 there were approximately 320,000.

Yet, far more households have problems with their electricity bill. According to the Federal Network Agency, suppliers threatened customers with power cuts a total of 6.3 million times.

Electricity providers can adjust their supplies when bills are not paid, despite dunning for a long time…

The main reason for the increasing number of barriers are the rapidly rising electricity prices. Since 2002, the costs for consumers almost doubled, partly because the levy for renewables rose, on the other hand because the big power utilities reduced costs not passed on to consumers.

Victims are the households. Your electricity costs are around 45 percent higher than the EU average of 20.52 cents per kilowatt hour

By 2016, several utilities have already announced further increases. On average, this will be just over three per cent, which would mean, for a four-person household, an additional cost of approximately 40 Euros per year…

Further increases are expected to be announced in the coming week. The power companies need their customers to be notified no later than November 20 of planned price changes for 2016. Experience has shown that many send the unpopular increase letters at the last minute.

The greens, of course, suggest it’s those profit-taking energy companies are at fault but the cost of the Energiewende can’t be denied. It’s all laid out nicely in this DW article explaining why Germany isn’t doing so well with decarbonization either (excerpts below):

A new coal-fired power plant has opened in Germany a day after an expert commission told the energy minister the country must triple its annual rate of decarbonization to meet its ambitious 2020 climate policy goals.

The button-pushing symbolized Vattenfall’s ceremonial opening of a 1,600 Megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant that had been under construction for eight years – despite heated opposition from Germany’s greens, who want the country to exit from coal altogether.

One day earlier, in London, the UK government had announced a ten-year plan to close down all remaining coal-fired power stations in Britain. At the very same time as UK politicians were basking in the resulting applause, Scholz’s fellow Social Democrat, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of the SPD and the country’s minister of economy and energy, sat in a Berlin conference room absorbing some bad news.

An independent commission of senior energy experts advising his ministry explained to him on Wednesday that Germany was on track to miss – rather badly – the carbon emissions goals the government had set for the country to meet by 2020.

Perhaps the button pushed by officials at Moorburg’s launch could equally well be interpreted as the detonation button on Germany’s emissions reduction goals.

Germany is on track to meet some sub-goals, the experts reported, including continued brisk expansion of renewable energy generation capacity, which exceeded 30 percent of the country’s total generation in the first half of 2015.

But the central target of reducing CO2 emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2020 was “seriously in danger,” according to Andreas Löschel, director of the four-person expert commission, as it presented its fourth annual monitoring report on Germany’s Energiewende

One of the biggest problems the commission found was that energy use in the German transport sector had continued to increase – it was 1.7 percent higher in 2014 than in 2005. Another was slower-than-planned progress in improving energy efficiency, especially in the housing sector, where too little was being done to improve insulation.

A third was continued operation of too many coal-fired power plants, including lignite (brown coal) burning plants, which are especially emissions-intensive.

For these and other reasons, total carbon emissions were not dropping nearly as fast as the 2020 target demanded.

So, enough with this lauding of the German Energiewende, ok? If you want to make a real difference, do what the US has done and simply allow shale gas development that will yield the ability to reduce carbon emissions through conversion of coal plants to natural gas. You’ll get lower energy/electricity prices to boot. What’s so hard to understand? The United Kingdom has learned the lesson and is moving to end coal use and develop their shale gas. Are Germans really so stubborn they refuse to see what is before their eyes? Apparently, they are. But, the rest of the world need not follow their lead and, when it comes to the Energiewende, let’s get real; enough already!

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