Renewable Energy Law has weakened the German electricity grid

The Renewable Energy Law was introduced 12 years ago in Germany. It prioritises the use of “green energy”. What was thought to be a way of helping the introduction of new technology and fulfilling a political agenda has backfired and has led to a severe weakness of the electricity grid and the second-highest electricty price in Europe.

The Law leads to large conventional coal and gas plants leaving the grid far too early  and these are the only plants which can guarantee a stable supply of power. This in turn has led to many of these plants being decommissioned prematurely since they were being forced to operate at uneconomic levels of loading. They are then no longer available to compensate when the wind does not blow or at night or on cloudy days as wind and solar power generation fluctuate wildly.

The hidden costs of renewable power are now being revealed and an entirely new market for “balancing power” has appeared. The “balancing power” – nearly always gas-fired  – is just to compensate for the inherent unreliability of wind and solar.  For every 100 MW of renewable capacity added around 70 MW of (mainly) gas-based balancing capacity has to be added to ensure a stable and steady supply of power. With subsidies and “balancing” costs added to the direct cost of building wind or solar plants, the actual costs of renewable power have been exorbitant and have contributed significantly to the increase of electricity prices to the consumer. Germany now has the second highest consumer electricity price in Europe (second only to Denmark with its profligate use of subsidised wind turbines)

The German Federal Network Agency has issued a report warning of the dangers during the coming winter. Daniel Wetzel of Die Welt writes (translation from GWPF – Philip Mueller):

Last winter, on several occasions, Germany escaped only just large-scale power outages. Next winter the risk of large blackouts is even greater. The culprit for the looming crisis is the single most important instrument of German energy policy: the “Renewable Energy Law.”

The dramatic tone of the report by the Federal Network Agency (FNA) on the near-blackouts last winter is hard to overestimate: although the cold spell was short and mild, the situation in the German electricity network was “very serious” according to the Agency.

Several times, the pre-ordered reserve power plants in Austria and Germany were fully utilized. On several occassions, the network operators were not even able to mobilize additionally needed emergency reserves abroad. The number of short-term emergency interventions in network and power plant operating shot up by more than 30,000 percentage points on some network portions.

“Had a failure of a large power plant taken place in this situation, there would have been hardly any room for maneuver available.” This quote from the FNA report is translation for “We narrowly escaped a catastrophe.”…….

The culprit for the looming crisis is the single most important instrument of German energy policy: the “Renewable Energy Law” (EEG). It stipulates the priority of green electricity supply. What was once useful as an aid for the market introduction of wind and solar power, has today, 12 years later, disastrous side effects.

It pushes those plants which alone can guarantee a stable power supply, i.e. gas- and coal-fired power plants, out of the market far too early. More and more facilities are being decommissioned. The result is a significantly higher risk of large-scale power outages, so-called blackouts, whose duration and propagation is hard to predict.

The economic cost of a wide-scale blackout are measured in billions of Euros per day. If power outages last longer, one has to expect a high number of deaths. The most important test of energy policy is now the stability of power – so far only the cost of the green energy transition has been focused upon.

Because the federal government does not have the guts to start an overdue and fundamental debate about the usefulness of a 12-year-old, now totally outdated, “launch aid” called EEG, it now threatens to over-steer, with the green energy transition ending up in a crash. Fasten your seat belts.

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