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No more electricity for Germany

Holger Douglas, Tichys Einblick

In a few years, Germany’s last coal and nuclear power plants shall be taken off the grid and shut down. Nobody knows where the electricity will then come from. One thing is certain: wind and sun won’t do it.

The Wall Street Journal describes Germany’s phase-out of coal and nuclear power simply as “the stupidest energy policy in the world”. Although stupid environmental policy is routine, the paper continues, Germany still stands out clearly from this nonsense. While China’s coal consumption is rising, things are going downhill here.

In a few years the last coal-fired and nuclear power plants are to be taken off the grid and shut down. Nobody knows where the electricity will come from. One thing is certain: wind and sun won’t do it.

Given these predictions, Professor Harald Schwarz, Chair of Energy Distribution and High Voltage Technology at the BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, now has his say. A year ago, he worked on a study for the Brandenburg Ministry of Economics on secure power supply. In the regional Lausitz magazine he now gave a detailed interview (page 45f.), in which the dramatic errors of the Energiewende are made evident.

His verdict:

“We will not be able to cope with the shutdown of coal and nuclear power in three years’ time and can only hope that there are still sufficient reserves of coal and nuclear power in neighbouring countries to supply Germany when we can no longer do it ourselves”.

So foreign countries are the only hope for Germany’s energy revolution. Schwarz soberly notes that around 120 gigawatts of photovoltaic and wind power plants have been installed in the past 15 years.


“The guaranteed output of PV is nevertheless 0%; for onshore wind it is only 1% and for offshore wind it’s 2%. In plain language, the 120 GW of renewables that we have built up over the last 15 years make almost no contribution to the secured output. We will never build a secure power supply with wind and PV alone. Ten years ago, we had around 100 GW of power from secure energy sources at our disposal – coal, gas, nuclear, biomass and hydroelectric plants.”

Wind and photovoltaic plants cannot provide a reliable output, because no electricity can be produced during dull periods or in the dark. An output is only considered “secure” if it can be delivered at any time when it is required.

“The possible maximum load in Germany is currently around 85 GW. In the meantime, the secured capacity has dropped to just under 90 GW – and the Coal Commission Report stipulates that we will switch off a further 20 GW of secured capacity in three years. This is to be reduced even further.”

“So in three years’ time we will give up our secure power supply from our own resources and will only have 80% of the secure power plant capacity we need to be able to supply ourselves reliably. By 2030 this will drop further to 60%.”

So where’s the rest of the power going come from? Schwarz:

“There is no concept, and with our planning horizons I cannot imagine a real solution. What is certain is that nothing will happen until 2022. What’s under construction today will be finished by 2022, nothing else.”

Professor Schwarz, who was co-author of a brief BTU study last spring by the Brandenburg Ministry of Economics on the technical interrelationships for a secure power supply, starts from the classic principles that applied to a secure power supply in a country:

“If you want secure power supply in a country, you need secure power plant capacity. For a hundred years now, the rule has been that the secured output must exceed the maximum possible load in a power grid.”

This means that more power plant capacity must be available than electricity is consumed. Truisms that have been thrown overboard by the people behind of the green energy transition today.

The German government is counting on the fact that somewhere on the European electricity market there are still a few gigawatt hours left for Germany. But a look at the neighbouring countries is sobering:

“It quickly becomes apparent that wind lulls in our country are also accompanied by wind lulls in our neighbours’. There are facts and figures on this. If our power plants are running at peak load, so are they in Poland and the Czech Republic. The probability that our neighbours will be able to sell us 20 GW on the electricity market during cold, dark doldrums, with more or less no electricity from wind and PV, is unrealistic.”

His verdict:

“It is precisely at this point that the Commission’s final report has become obsolete for me because of the distance to reality”.

“”To this day, many people get high on the annual increase in the percentage of renewables in electricity production. This has led to the belief that ‘business as usual’ in the further expansion of renewables is the solution to all the problems.”

The unsuspecting media suggested that with 40 percent of the “renewables”, 40 percent of Germany could also be supplied with renewable electricity. But this is not the case. “The physical basic understanding of energy-technical connections in the media and the population is unfortunately very small.”

Even with the essential goal of the “energy turnaround”, failure right down the line: Germany’s CO2 emissions are not decreasing – despite the horrendous expansion of wind turbines and solar plants in the past 20 years. Schwarz: “Nevertheless, everyone is happy and celebrates the expansion of renewables. I can’t understand that.”

According to Schwarz, the reason for this is that the nuclear power plants have also been closed. Coal-fired and gas-fired power plants now have to work very erratically to balance the strongly fluctuating flows of sun and wind. But they are not built for that. Brutal summary by expert Schwarz:

“It’s like stop and go by car in the city. This also leads to higher emissions per kilometre than driving at constant speed on the same stretch of motorway or federal highway. As a result, we have spent over 20 years of blind activism, spending three-digit billions of taxpayers’ money, without achieving anything worth mentioning in terms of CO2 emissions.”

The decisive factor in any CO2 balance is a global perspective:

“If we do without coal and nuclear power, only gas remains as a substitute for assured performance. Here, too, we have been lying to ourselves for years. We only consider CO2 emissions in the local conversion process, in which case gas is much cheaper than coal.  This is statistically correct, but CO2 is a global problem. If the actual CO2 emissions from production and transport are taken into account, then lignite increases only slightly due to the short distance between the opencast mine and the power plant, hard coal rises significantly because a lot of hard coal for our power plants now comes from Australia, and the emission values for gas explode. There are gas fields such as American shale gas and its transport to Germany, where total emissions are far higher than lignite. But if we really think about global climate protection, these total emissions are the decisive value.”

Even the reference to other countries opting out of coal does not apply to Schwarz:

“To make a clear comparison, let’s take a closer look at China. There is a lot of coal there and similar renewable targets as in Germany. But there is one major difference. Three quarters of China’s renewables target comes from safe hydropower and only one quarter from wind and PV. For us it is 90 % wind and PV. Other countries have a different mix, and nobody follows Germany’s path.”

When it comes to the Energiewende in Germany, people run like lemmings, like following a religion:

“Politics will only accept the physics of energy once a situation occurs in 2022 when the market cannot deliver. It’s always easy to say that such a major blackout might also be ‘salutary’, but don’t forget that a large-scale and prolonged blackout in Germany would be unimaginably bad.”

Schwarz refers to the study commissioned by the German Bundestag in 2011 on the consequences of a large-scale, long-lasting blackout. Schwarz:

“Everything was examined in great detail there, at least for the first day of the blackout – and those who read it don’t want to experience it.”

The Lausitz magazine asks Prof. Schwarz: “Why is there no outcry by the scientific community?

“The topic is too complex for today’s media landscape and there is no appetite for facts in our country. Large sections of German society are committed to ‘saving the planet,’ even though our share of global emissions is only 2.7 percent.”

Full story (in German)