Frank Hennig, known to many readers of Tichys Einblick as a commentator on German energy policy, has produced a book on the fundamentals of energy supply and the conflict between nature and climate protection. A review by former Hamburg Senator for the Environment Fritz Vahrenholt
Anyone who has read this book by Frank Hennig will be shocked. Due to the detailed review of the wrong paths taken by energy and climate policy in Germany, the reader comes to the conclusion that this policy will end in disaster – with disastrous consequences for citizens, jobs, companies and economic power.
The prosperity of all of us is in great danger. In contrast to the numerous commissions from the ethics commission to the coal phase-out commission, in contrast to the ministers, party executives, almost all members of parliament, here someone who knows what he is talking about provides the precise energy analysis. He knows, unlike a candidate for chancellor, what a gigatonne of CO2 is. He knows why reactive power is needed to transport electricity, and he knows the difference between electrical work and the output of wind turbines.
The energy transition will fail due to a power shortage economy that will lead to rationing of electricity as we know it from developing countries. It will lead to a crash of German prosperity through the explosion of local energy prices; because already today Germany has the highest electricity prices in the world thanks to the energy turnaround , the double exit from coal and nuclear energy.
The good thing about this book, which I hope will be widely read in Germany, is that no politician or journalist will be able to say later that they could not have known what was coming. Even if there will be underground power lines from north to south towards the end of this decade, there will have to be a necessary electricity import of 16 gigawatts in southern Germany due to the elimination of nuclear and coal-fired power plants. However, there will be nothing to transport during the periods of dark doldrums, which can sometimes occur for five days at a time in winter. To illustrate the size of the task: 16 gigawatts is considerably more than twice the electricity consumption of our neighbouring country Austria.
Germany demonises nuclear energy, but is happy to take nuclear power from the Czech Republic, France, Sweden or Switzerland. For example, Baden-Württemberg, where a year ago the Green Minister for the Environment celebrated the demolition of the 35-year-old cooling towers of the Philippsburg nuclear power plant, is supplied by the world’s oldest nuclear power plant, the 50-year-old nuclear reactor in Beznau, Switzerland.
Without a secure power supply
A secure power supply, the seal of approval of the German industrial society, is a thing of the past. Germany relies on wind, whose 60 gigawatts of capacity to date have an assured output of one percent. And the 55 gigawatts of capacity of photovoltaic plants, the highly praised second cornerstone of future energy supply, have a secured capacity of zero – which can easily be seen at night.
Many politicians and journalists are calling for the multiplication of wind and solar energy. Because transport and heat are also to be built on these unreliable pillars in the future. The Academy of Science and Engineering in Munich (acatech) estimates that this will double electricity consumption. With 100 percent electricity from wind and sun, a sixfold increase in current capacity would be required.
If one also wanted to base the industrial energy supply in Germany on wind and solar energy, the current electricity consumption of 600 terawatt hours (TWh) would have to be added. We are then talking about a tenfold increase in renewable capacities with extreme surpluses in windy and sunny periods and major shortages in periods of darkness.
Hydrogen, produced in times of surplus, is supposed to bridge the doldrums. However, with the current state of technology, two thirds of the energy generated is lost – an unaffordable solution for the foreseeable future.
How great is the need for storage in Germany? Today’s electricity consumption amounts to 1.6 TWh per day. It will triple rather than double if the German government’s 2050 targets are to be met. A ten-day lull will then require storage of an unimaginable 32 to 48 TWh. This is roughly equivalent to 800 to 1200 times the pumped storage capacity currently installed in Germany.
But we will be provided with new narratives. We will already get the hydrogen from North Africa, because solar energy supposedly has a future there. Meanwhile, Morocco itself, for example, imports ten million tons of coal from Russia and South Africa to fuel, among other things, its 1400-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Safi, which went into operation in 2018. We are getting out of coal, the opposite is happening globally. China will build around 200 coal units by 2030.
Destruction of nature is accepted
Germany is betting on wind. Many now suspect that this will mean the greatest destruction of nature in Germany since the Second World War. The sixfold increase in wind energy leads to the adventurous plan to erect a wind turbine every two kilometres, even if the wind turbines become much larger and higher than today. On an ever-increasing scale, German forests are being turned into industrial areas for wind turbines, are being cut up, parceled out and deprived of the nature that lives in them.
European species protection law still protects against the extinction of numerous species. However, the German government’s energy transition think tank(AGORA) is already calling for the ban on killing species in the Nature Conservation Act to be abolished in the interests of wind power expansion. What are a few rare birds of prey against saving the world!
Already today 12,000 birds of prey and 250,000 bats are killed annually by wind turbines. Protected species are now getting unexpected support from citizens who feel cheated out of their homes and have joined forces in more than a thousand initiatives. If it turns out to be true that a large part of the insect mortality is due to the huge wall of rotors that has spread across Germany, it could be a tight squeeze for a policy where nothing is green. For the growing realization that wind energy fields produce a local temperature increase of about 0.5 degrees Celsius in their area of impact and cause soil dryness will also get around, as will growing concerns about serious health damage from infrasound.
Even wind energy, which – where the wind blows – is a thoroughly elegant form of energy generation, must be measured against the requirements of nature conservation, environmental protection and health protection. Like any other form of energy.
Propaganda through fine words
The propagandists of the energy turnaround are still succeeding in throwing sand in our eyes by using fine words. Hennigs book brings numerous examples. For example, forced shutdown becomes “demand smoothing” and rationing becomes the “smart grid.” Wind turbines are suddenly “cathedrals of the energy turnaround” (Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier).
Alongside semantic artifice comes the lie, which is no less reprehensible when uttered with good intentions. For example, Altmaier promised that no job would be lost in the lignite mining areas without a replacement job being created first. Nevertheless, 600 employees of the power plant in Jänischwalde were left out in the cold after the closure. They will not be the last.
Frank Hennig, an energy expert from the former GDR, introduces us to the future security of energy supply, which will become more and more similar to that of the real existing GDR. He reminds us of what planned socialist systems have caused in terms of destruction of nature, environmental pollution and inefficient energy use.
Politicians and the media have succeeded in creating a climate of fear, so that a large proportion of young people are seriously convinced that the end of humanity is imminent in the next twelve years – unless immediate action is taken and CO2 emissions are brought to zero. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that climate models are running too hot, that the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming is overestimated, and that natural variations in climate, such as those documented in the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, are being ignored.
And another effect is underestimated: the earth is getting greener, more and more CO2 is absorbed by plants (besides the oceans). Meanwhile, the rise in CO2 has increased yields of wheat, rice and other food crops by 15 percent. Important in the fight against world hunger. We too often forget that CO2 is a basic building block of life.
It is undeniable that we need to cut CO2 emissions by about half over the course of this century. But not to zero. For the past 40 years, the average temperature worldwide, as measured by satellites, has been increasing by 0.14 degrees Celsius per decade. And in this 0.14 degrees, a good part – some scientists assume half – is of natural origin. For example, the oscillation of the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean by +/- 0.3 degrees in a 60-year cycle has been in its warm phase in the past 30 years and will soon swing back. Nature is giving us the time to make our energy system lower in CO2 with smart technological developments. Panic is not appropriate.
No discourse about risks
However, there is no discourse about the risks of the path we are taking now. Without a negative experience in terms of supply security – i.e. a blackout – the pack will continue on the path to disaster. Increasingly, we should also be interested in what happens if the country loses its cohesion as a result of an erosion of the social systems through power cuts, car bans and the emigration of entire industries. The energy shortage and the escalating costs for citizens and society will also not be solved in a short time, even if a gas turbine programme is then frantically launched.
Fortunately, there are neighbouring countries that are not prepared to be drawn into the maelstrom of Germany’s global happiness policy. When inherently safe nuclear power plants are built on the Polish border and on the Dutch coast and increase the prosperity of these countries, it will dawn on us that the backward-looking idyll of wood-fired power plants and windmills is no good.