Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bunking with Gipe: about Germany's Electricity Revolution

Paul Gipe is out with a particularly misleading post:  German Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Falls While Renewable Generation Rises: Debunking Another Myth about Germany's Electricity Revolution:
The latest talking point is that Germany is burning more coal than ever because of all the intermittent renewables that have been added to the system.
So, let's have some fun with numbers and separate fact from fiction.
First, the source. All the data I'll use comes from the Work Group on the German Energy Balance (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen) and can be downloaded from their web site.
Let's not have some fun with numbers.
Let's do some honest work with them instead.

The first point would be including natural gas and reporting on all fossil fuels in any analysis.  Using the AGEB data referenced by Gipe, the graph shows remarkably little movement - the totals for 1990 and 2010 are almost identical.
These figures don't capture an entire 12 months of data since March 2011, when German took offline a number of nuclear reactors.

See Footnote 
Using monthly figures from ENTSOE, graphing the moving 12-month total, the picture of what is happening as nuclear is removed is clearer - about half of the lost generation has come from fossil fuels (ENTSOE data doesn't completely break down the fossil fuels into components) [see footnote] .  An official list of planned capacity additions show the majority of new supply will be fired by hard coal (BNetzA .xls).

Mr. Gipe would like you to note the growing output of renewables, and he'd like to leave out the growth of natural gas altogether.

Increasing renewables should be a distant secondary goal - but selling things is Gipe's goal as it is the source of his funding (some background on his patron Blittersdorf)

Reducing emissions should be a primary goal.

The reasons for Germany's numbers are very obvious.  Intermittents replace baseload, and in replacing nuclear baseload it means you can have more renewables but you'll have more fossil fuel production when it isn't sunny or windy ... and adding wind and solar capacity beyond total system demand means frequent dumping of excess in exports (ENTSOE data shows net exports now above 12TWh on an 12-month running total basis, and by the end of 2012 they'll be right back where they were before the nuclear capacity was removed - at 4 times the emissions intensity of neighbouring France).

In the next month the revision of the EEG, Germany's renewable surcharge, should be announced, and it is widely expected to be a steep increase for Germany's residential and smaller business operators.

I'd suggest people concerned about the topic impacting the US presidential election concentrate on rising sea levels or disappearing ice ... because when they hear in Ohio German households are headed to a renewable energy surcharge that's almost as much as their entire charge, I don't think they will care about which fossil fuels Germany is using -- especially if they are among those who realize they are reducing emissions quicker than Germany is.

Well, this is a correction - with an explanation.
At some point between March 6 and May 14th, 2013, ENTSOE updated it's monthly data for Germany (these figures were pulled form the "Country Data Packages" section).  I had noticed some time ago the renewables data was unreliable - but at not time did I expect that the fossil fuel data was also unreliable.
I created a spreadsheet capturing the changes between my March 6 download and the download on the 14th, and it shows fossil fuels dropped 39,531GWh with renewables bumped up 38,162GWh.
Comparing the annual totals to the other data source in this post, the revisions do bring the two data sets into agreement.
The revised chart therefore appears as:

While this graph certainly eliminates the argument that nuclear was, in the short term, replaced by coal/gas, the other arguments in the post are unchanged.

From the updated ENTSO-E data, we see that net exports did accelerate along with the output of variable Renewable Energy Systems (vRES) - and the renewable surcharge did escalate to over 5 euro cents/kWh effective 2013.

As I stated would be the case in this post, at the end of 2012 Germany was back to high export levels, market prices remained depressed, and the amount of fossil fuel based generation was little changed, despite another year of growth for vRES.


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