Hamburg considers innovative heat storage scheme

district heating pipes in Hamburg

Institutions in Hamburg are proposing to build a large underground thermal heat storage system that could supply roughly a quarter of the city’s heating needs with waste heat from industrial and power plants. If successful, it would make Vattenfall’s plans to realise a CO2-neutral district heating network superfluous. It could also serve as an example for other cities. … [Read more...]

The Energiewende is running up against its limits

Prunerov coal power plant North Bohemia Czech Republic (photo Vaclav Vasku)

German transmission system operator Tennet recently announced an 80% increase in its transmission fees because of the high construction costs of new power lines to accommodate renewable energy. A study of the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics found that by 2025 costs of the Energiewende could exceed €25,000 for an average four-person household. Jeffrey Michel concludes that the Energiewende is running up against its limits – but may … [Read more...]

Germany sets a new solar storage record

solar installer (photo Greens MPs)

With the most photovoltaic capacity of any country in Europe, Germany has begun to store its excess solar power to enhance local usage. Last year, 41% of all new solar installations were equipped with backup batteries, a world record. Although home storage may only have a limited role to play in Germany due to a highly reliable grid, globally the German initiative could provide great benefits, for example in counterbalancing the predicted … [Read more...]

German accord: it will take a lot more to beat lignite

Lippendorf coal power station near Leipzig - photo Acid Pix

The accord between the German government and energy companies RWE, Vattenfall and Mibrag to put 2.7 GW of lignite-fired power capacity into reserve, will not be enough to wean Germany off lignite, writes Hamburg-based US energy expert Jeffrey Michel. The lignite sector is too well entrenched and lignite mining profitable enough to subsidize the loss-making power production. Only when renewables and gas-fired power generation have fully superseded … [Read more...]

Lignite in Europe: fighting back renewables

Bahnhof Profen (photo Daniel Baezol)

With an output of 350 million tonnes, four EU countries – Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Greece – account for over a third of the world’s lignite production. Renewable energies have cut into their profitability, but lignite producers are fighting back with increased deliveries and exports to third-party customers. In addition, they avoid CO2 penalties under the EU Emission Trading Scheme by  building plants below the 20 MW threshold.  … [Read more...]

Quo Vadis RWE? A power giant’s struggle with the Energiewende

RWE's Ensdorf power plant (photo Wolfgang Staudt)

The German government has proposed new regulations for penalising the country’s most inefficient coal and lignite power plants. This would particularly hit the troubled power giant RWE. What future is there for RWE in a low-carbon economy? Can it engineer its own energy transition? A lot will depend on whether the German government is willing – and even more so: able – to push through its climate legislation at the expense of the existing power … [Read more...]

Wishing away lignite – EU climate policy ignores elephant in the room


While mining and combustion of lignite impose high burdens on the environment, Europe’s least expensive fuel remains impervious to climate policies or market trends. Poland remains committed to lignite power generation. In Germany, the world’s largest lignite industry provides backup electricity for nuclear phase-out and renewable power intermittency. Mediterranean sunshine has not kept Greece and Turkey from relying on lignite rather than … [Read more...]