The End of the Energiewende?

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Energiewende demonstration in 2014 (photo Bundjugend)

Energiewende demonstration in 2014 (photo Bundjugend)

The prominent German economist Heiner Flassbeck has challenged fundamental assumptions of the Energiewende at his blog site According to Flassbeck, the former Director of Macroeconomics and Development at the UNCTAD in Geneva and a former State Secretary of Finance, a recent period of extremely low solar and wind power generation shows that Germany will never be able to rely on renewable energy, regardless of  how much new capacity will be built.

Stable high-pressure winter weather has resulted in a confrontation. An Energiewende that relies mainly on wind and solar energy will not work in the long run. One cannot forgo nuclear power, eliminate fossil fuels, and tell people that electricity supplies will remain secure all the same.

We have attempted unsuccessfully to find Energiewende advocates willing to explain that inconsistency. Their silence is not easy to fathom. But maybe the events themselves have made the outcome inevitable.

With nuclear power no longer available, a capacity of at least 50 gigawatts is required by other means, despite an enormously expanded network of wind turbines and solar systems

This winter could go down in history as the event that proved the German energy transition to be unsubstantiated and incapable of becoming a success story. Electricity from wind and solar generation has been catastrophically low for several weeks. December brought new declines. A persistent winter high-pressure system with dense fog throughout Central Europe has been sufficient to unmask the fairy tale of a successful energy transition, even for me as a lay person.

This is a setback, because many people had placed high hopes in the Energiewende. I likewise never expected to see large-scale solar arrays and wind turbines, including those offshore, motionless for days on end. The data compiled by Agora Energiewende on the individual types of electricity generation have recorded the appalling results for sun and wind at the beginning of December and from the 12th to 14th:


Of power demand totaling 69.0 gigawatts (GW) at 3 pm on the 12th, for instance, just 0.7 GW was provided by solar energy, 1.0 by onshore wind power and 0.4 offshore. At noontime on the 14th of December, 70 GW were consumed, with 4 GW solar, 1 GW onshore and somewhat over 0.3 offshore wind. The Agora graphs make apparent that such wide-ranging doldrums may persist for several days.

You do not need to be a technician, an energy expert, or a scientist to perceive the underlying futility of this basic situation. You simply need common sense, shelving expectations and prognoses for a moment, while extrapolating the current result to future developments. Let us suppose that today’s wind and solar potential could be tripled by 2030, allowing almost all of the required energy to be obtained from these two sources under normal weather conditions. This is an extremely optimistic scenario and certainly not to be expected, because current policy is slowing down the expansion of renewable energy sources rather than accelerating it.

One cannot simultaneously rely on massive amounts of wind and sunshine, dispense with nuclear power plants (for very good reasons), significantly lower the supply of fossil energy, and nevertheless tell people that electricity will definitely be available in the future

If a comparable lull occurred in 2030 (stable winter high systems that recur every few years), then three times the number of solar panels and wind turbines (assuming current technologies) could logically produce only three times the amount of electricity. The deficiency of prevailing winds and sunshine will affect all of these installations, no matter how many there are. Even threefold wind and solar generation would then fulfill just 20% of requirements – again very optimistically – assuming that demand had not increased by 2030.

Redistribution effects

However, precisely the opposite can be expected, namely a massive increase in consumption due to the substitution of fossil fuels by electrically powered automobiles that require increased generation. The possibility of saving so much energy in this short time, enabling overall consumption to be decreased despite abandoning fossil fuels, can be confidently ignored. For that to happen, the price of fossil energy would have to rise dramatically, which is not to be expected, and one would have to compensate for the resulting redistribution effects that are politically even less likely.

Accordingly, Germany would end up with a catastrophic result 30 years after the start of the Energiewende. With nuclear power no longer available, a capacity of at least 50 gigawatts is required by other means, despite an enormously expanded network of wind turbines and solar systems under comparable weather conditions. Those other means according to current knowledge will be provided by coal, oil and gas.

In other words, one cannot simultaneously rely on massive amounts of wind and sunshine, dispense with nuclear power plants (for very good reasons), significantly lower the supply of fossil energy, and nevertheless tell people that electricity will definitely be available in the future. Exactly that, however, is what politics largely does almost every day. It is quite irresponsible to persuade citizens that from 2030 onwards only electrically-powered new cars may be allowed, as has recently been propagated in the highest political circles.

You can wish for a lot and always hope for a good outcome. But as important as wishes and hopes are, they are not yet solutions

The example of Energiewende once again demonstrates that the traditional political approaches of our democracies are ill-equipped to solve such complex problems. Consequently, they pursue what I have recently called symbolic politics: democracies do something that is supposed to point in the right direction without thinking it through and without even taking note of the system-related consequences. If it goes wrong, the political predecessors were guilty and nobody feels responsible.

That is why citizens need to remain vigilant and critical. You can wish for a lot and always hope for a good outcome. But as important as wishes and hopes are, they are not yet solutions. We likewise have to use our minds when we would prefer to turn them off because the conclusions are so depressing.

Editor’s Note

This article was first published on the German-language website on 20 December 2016 and has been translated for Energy Post by Hamburg-based independent energy consultant Jeffrey Michel (


  1. 小杜 says

    Scaremongering 101

    So his complaint is that for a little over a week in December 2016, less generation from renewables.

    How about the other 350+ odd days of the year?
    Do we ignore that?

    Running some sort of temporary backup generation for that odd week or so; gas or perhaps some backup “conventional generation” would fix it, as the graph suggests.

    I would suggest instead by 2030 that in the future less backup will be required as more storage will likely be in use, given the precipitous drop in pricing we’re seeing.

    Yes relying *solely* on renewables would leave them at risk, but the Germans are pursuing a mixed bag of generation, with an emphasis on removing Nuclear, then Coal.
    Not a complete reliance on Renewables.

    • Ike Bottema says

      Agreed. We must examine the complete picture …. and it’s quite depressing for renewables. So you say that Germany cannot rely *solely* on renewables because Germany is pursuing a mixed bag with the strategy to remove Nuclear, then Coal. Right that’s the strategy so what’s to replace those major pieces of Germany’s “mixed bag”? Doesn’t the removal of those components leave Germany with a complete reliance on renewables? Your rationale reveals a huge chasm of misunderstanding, exactly the same misunderstanding that German energy overlords exhibit.

      • Wouter Schram says

        What about a combination of renewables, gas (at least until a functioning hydrogen system is in place) and storage?

      • Helmut Frik says

        You are aware thet nukes are completely useeless to produce residual power?
        Relevant is low cost per capacity generation, while stupid baseload generation has no place any more in the grid. Tooo expensive, too useless.

        • says

          In California’s huge electricity scandal of 2000-2001, energy companies were making money by taking nuclear offline, because they got paid more for “spinning reserve”, which is a gas turbine running on idle.

        • Ron Waskiewicz says

          Helmut, the graph in the article shows a clear need for about 50 GW of base-load capacity! Why would you discard existing nuclear plants and spend billions to purchase batteries? That strategy would again double Germany’s already outrageously high electric rates.

          • Helmut Frik says

            Because they are too expensive to be built, especiall when a reasonable amount of insurance and to take care of wastes is required. There are significant cheaper options with less severe problems. Why would you want the most expensive way to produce electricity?

            • says

              The wastes are slight,far less in 60 years total than the 130 million tons of solid coal waste annually.
              The most expensive way, financially and environmentally, to produce electricity is wind turbines. There is a guaranteed way to not produce electricity for nighttime illumination, it’s called solar.
              If the medical cost of the air quality loss just from the poison gases of coal and methane burning were realistically charged, your “reasonable amount of insurance” for those would skyrocket.

              • Helmut Frik says

                Well, the external costs for coal are well known, and included they would rise costs far less than including insurance costs to nuclear. but they are high enough to make coal more expensive for society than wind and solar, that’s why coal is phased out, too.
                About the rest, there is something called “grid” seems not everybody knows such a thing exists.

          • Bas says

            Because that need mostly vanishes when wind & solar are in full production (spring, summer, autumn).

            Base load will vanish totally when wind+solar produce >50% as then wind+solar produce >100% during ~2 months a year due to its variability.

            • says

              Energiewende has conclusively proved that
              “No nukes, renewables only” is exactly the wrong way to combat Disastrously Drastic Climate Change.
              But that should have been obvious from the beginning, to anybody who can distinguish thousands from millions, and millions from Billions.
              There was insufficient energy from the sun at the beginning of the Reign of Coal, which in Britain was because the “renewable resource” of woodlands was not sustainable,
              And so on.
              Coal swept wind power from the seas, and a Tall Ship is a more effective user of wind than a wind “turbine”.
              Prove me wrong by building a yacht faster than the America’s Cup contenders, powered in any way you like by wind turbine power.

          • Ron Davison says

            leave the nukes that are worth saving in place and add thermal salt storage until economics tell you to shut them down.
            Add the battery storage anyway, but just enough to sequester reserve margin with large renewable penetration like Germany has along with adding as much DER as possible. add catch Dams and side tributary dams upstream of large resevours to allow increased pumped hydro. Use Batteries for frequency regulation, reactive power capture, short term balancing with DER like functionality and penetration to regulate the grid supply and demand much better. There is 10x to 100x need for reserve margin sequestration in the US 2x to 20x in Germany over solar storage needs in 2017.
            All this BS about battery cost being 2x is negated by the fact that reseve margin sequstration pays 2x right up front maybe upto 4x behind meter.

      • Sebastian Herp says

        Just use the data, Luke! (Ike)

        Electricity production of Germany is transparently available on the internet. It’s hard work, but you can download and analyse the data. Results (2016 generation data as base):

        – with 4 times the amount of solar, offshore and onshore wind (respectively) and battery capacity of 50 GWh installed Germany would need 96 TWh of electricity from gas power plants (and would waste 108 TWh to overproduction of electricity)
        – with a factor of 5 only 71 TWh from gas is needed (193 TWh overproduction of electricity)

        If you could store the overproduction in the form of gas no imports of gas need take place.

        This could be expensive, but it isn’t impossible (gas power plants produced 44 TWh of electricity in 2016).

        • Bas says

          Storing overproduction as gas and then regenerate electricity from it is not expensive. As at overproduction electricity is very cheap. Just do the numbers:

          With a max. price of 1.5cnt/KWh before running the unmanned PtG plant, the av. price of the power the plant runs on is ~0.9cnt/KWh as prices often go much lower during overproduction.

          Efficiency to convert to hydrogen is now already 70%. So the produced gas cost ~1.3cnt/KWh + 1cnt for the costs of the unmanned plant = 2.3cnt/KWh.
          Storing it in earth cavities may imply a loss of 10%*). So the costs are then ~2.5cnt/KWh
          An unmanned gas turbine that burns hydrogen (in development at e.g. Siemens) generate electricity with an efficiency of ~50%.

          So the total costs of the regenerated renewable electricity is then ~5cnt/KWh. Add 1cnt for unforeseen, so we end at 6cnt/KWh which is still less than half the price of baseload nuclear.

          As this method is needed for less than ~10% of the electricity in a 100% renewable grid, the influence of that higher price will be extremely small.**)
          *) NL and Germany store already massive amounts of gas in earth cavities. Germany to cover supply interruptions, NL in order to keep the size of the processing plants smaller (so they retrieve to cover the increased use during winter).

          **) 10% is five weeks without any renewable production. As there is always some production as shown in the graph of the post, it will cover at least 6 weeks, which normally won’t occur. So the hydrogen spare store will become bigger and bigger through the years. No problem as earth cavities are extremely cheap.

          • says


            You still don’t take into account that renewables in most countries have a fixed feed-in tarrif and have full priority on the distribution networks. When these increase in % over time, that is economically not sustainable. That already happened in Spain and in the tariffs for the households in Denmark, Germany and Belgium.
            The real price paid for renewables on a free market would be good during low production and near zero – even negative – at high production, making them uncompetetive to any other production. Add to that the costs for storage and the necessary (low yield) 100% “spinning reserve” by fast gas turbines for wind and it get even worse.

            Single gas turbines are needed to cover a fast reduction (country wide in 10-15 minutes) in wind. These need fuel even running idle and have a yield of ~30%, but can ramp up with 10-20%/minute of full capacity. Combined gas turbines have a much higher yield (currently around 45%), but need much more time to ramp up.

            In the best case, you have a ~40% return for power-gas-power. That means that you need to double the nameplate capacity to cover a full year. Add to that the real yield vs. the nameplate capacity…

            To store only the capacity of solar, you need about 90% of nameplate capacity distributed over a year.
            To store wind power you need between 60% (offshore) to 75% (onshore) distributed over a year.

            That capacity must be delivered back over weeks for wind, but for half a year for solar, as solar yield in winter is only ~13% of summer yield…

            • Helmut Frik says

              You forget the grid effects.
              Be aware that negative prices in germany do not become significant more frequent with renewable expansion, because low prices attract buyers and rais the interest in building stronger Grid connections not only for supply security, but also for trade. This is also happening at the moment in the US.
              So when there is high production at some place, this depresses prices to a certain degree, but then export starts towadrs regions which have lowe generation at the moment. With todays technology these regions can be in several thousand kilometers distance. So if new Wind or new solar is about 2ct/kWh cheaprr than new coal powerd plants od new nuclear, coal and nuclear will vanish from the market, because there is always someone selling wind or solar power from abroad cheaper on the market.
              With the >120$/MWh calculated for Hinkley point, or the 151$/MWh calulated for Anna 3 by dominion in the US, the difference between solar or wind power and nuclear is far bigger than the cost of power transportation with modern grids.
              Be aware thet the gaps in power production in the french grid are filled also by power imports fro sweden, poland and other countries, and this without significant expansion of the transportation grid so far.

            • Bas says

              I understand that you only doubt whether PtG will become economical feasible. So we agree that PtG offers a full solution to the variability of wind+solar.

              As you may assume the economic feasibility is also an important topic for German scientists and dena. They clearly are confident that it will become economic as:
              – (efficiency) improvements regarding PtG are still ongoing. Even MIT (USA) contributes with new developed catalysts, etc.
              – efficient H2 turbines are in development. Also at Siemens. Check page 2 for the time schedule and realize that they will only need it when renewable are at ~80%, so ~2040.

              If 10% (extremely high) needs to be delivered via PtG-Store-GtP then it requires an extra renewable production of only 20%, to cover the 35% efficiency of the whole proces.
              Then, I assume a renewable only grid which won’t occur until after 2050.
              At that time you can expect that the efficiency of the whole process will be ~50%, which reduces the needed extra production to 10%.

              – Spinning reserve is nonsense for wind & solar as their variability is accurately predicted with the weather forecast.

              – Don’t understand:
              * why nameplate capacities need to be doubled. Just de a calculation in a XLS.
              * your assumptions in the last two paragraphs.

              – note that unsubsidized new nuclear such as Hinkley C, is now at €150/MWh. Far more expensive while delivering only base load.

          • Joonas Päivärinta says

            I suppose we all recognize the fact that PtG is the only known solution (besides hydro reservoirs) to enable >50% renewable systems.

            The cost argument in favor of PtG is however intellectually quite sloppy:
            60€/MWh as cost should be compared to the operating cost of a nuc, or,
            120€/MWh nuc full cost compared to the full cost of PtGtP (including investment). -which would be somewhere north of 150€/MWh (guesstimate)

            • Helmut Frik says

              No, it is well knon that expanding grids is the cheapest and most simple option to handle this task. It is just also the solution which is hardest to understand. And even if you use PtgtP: it’s then for 5% ot the production, the 95% is well south of nuclear costs, while 5% are north. Since Nuclear also needs storage and peakers, even these 5% are not producing a advantage for nuclear.
              But using strong gtrids is the far cheaper solution.

            • Bas says

              Even with your biased numbers new PtGtP is much cheaper than new base load nuclear

              Assume your €150/MWh investment costs + the €60/MWh = €210/MWh.
              But that applies only with long lulls (no wind & sun, batteries & pumped storage near end, etc.) being <10% of the time.
              So the increase on the av. costs because of the PtGtP is then €21/MWh.
              With av. whole sale costs of €30/MWh**) we end at an av. costs level of €51/MWh.

              More than 50% cheaper than base load nuclear!
              Then we didn’t account yet for the spinning reserve, liabilities limitations, etc that nuclear need.
              *) I included the PtG capitial costs in my first comment in this thread (~€10/MWh; as those plants will be mass produced for car refill stations, etc and will operate substantial part of the time

              Sorry, I forgot the gas turbine and/or fuel cells. As those will run only ~12% of the time, a turbine with cap. costs of €1/W will produce ~1KWh/a per W.
              Considering its low CF, it runs >50yrs. So those costs will be ~€60/MWh.

              Hence total costs ~€120/MWh, add 25% unforeseen, so €150/MWh.
              Which implies that PtGtP solution for wind+solar variability will bring av costs from €30/MWh to €45/Mwh.
              Which is at least a factor 3 cheaper than base load nuclear.

              We speak about ~2050 where wind & solar will be 2-3cnt/KWh (Agora prediction).
              Note that last year solar was auctioned for €54/MWh in Germany which is clearly not the end as auctions in a.o. UAE show prices of $25/MWh.
              Similar for wind (check e.g. Maroc).

              We should also consider increased grid interconnections, such as to Norway, etc.
              Even in the period mentioned in the post, there was a lot of wind not far away from Germany.

    • Helmut Frik says

      Well, at the same time there were production records in scotland and sweden, sinc this year the wind passed further north as it seems, so at many days using a good grid would do the job and compensate lack at one place with surplus at the other.
      It is a old fashioned style of argumantation from the 1990 against renewables to allow the trade of oil, gas, coal over the border, but never ever of electricity.
      Which results in irrelevant texts like this one.

      • Jeffrey Michel says

        This text is not irrelevant with respect to what is presumably the author’s main point referring to “symbolic politics”. Certainly Germany’s nuclear phase-out act of 2011 falls into that category. Can anyone imagine what we might all be discussing if one Japanese tsunami had not caused that fundamental policy reversal? I am old enough to recall the Chernobyl meltdown of 1986. At that time, someone in Japan proudly declared that his country had no comparable radiation dangers to fear, since most of its nuclear reactors had been built on the coast to insure that any radioactive contaminants would be wafted out to the ocean. West Germany thereupon undertook the historic symbolic act of founding its environmental ministry. After national reunification in 1990, the new German states became a staging ground for energy symbolism in peaceful coexistence with lignite mining regulations inherited from the Third Reich. Yet while environmentalists incessantly proclaimed the advantages of combined heat and power as the preordained forerunner of today’s Energiewende, all of the eastern German manufacturers of high-performance diesel generators were filing for bankruptcy. A few years later, the same fate descended upon the self-acclaimed Solar Valley in Thalheim, which at one point had produced 17 percent of the world’s PV wafers. It is therefore difficult to become enthusiastic about any of the innovative proposals voiced in this lively discussion. They might all be practical to a certain extent, but they are gutless compared to the industrial successes of earlier centuries that staged new technologies as an afterthought. Henry Ford declared his passion to be the elimination of human drudgery. The internal combustion engine precluded steam boiler explosions. Thomas Edison proclaimed that he would make electricity so cheap that only the rich would be able to afford candles. Millions of wind turbines may now be necessary to protect human civilization from the disastrous consequences of global warming. However, the greatest honor will ultimately be accorded the inventor who later devises an effective means of eliminating them.

        • Bas says

          “Can anyone imagine what we might all be discussing if one Japanese tsunami had not caused that fundamental policy reversal?”
          Yes. The same!
          There was no policy reversal in Germany after Fukushima. The Energiewende started already in 2000.

          Merkel didn’t reduce expansion of renewable in autumn 2010, etc.. She only delayed the forced closure of the NPP’s with 10years (under pressure of her coalition partner, the FDP).
          Thereafter her popularity fell substantially.
          So Fukushima in spring 2011 was a gift from heaven, as she then could reverse her decision. Even increase her popularity by declaring herself to be a champion of the Energiewende and enforcing the immediate closure of 8 NPP’s.

          At next elections after Fukushima, the FDP suffered an historic defeat and lost all presentation in the Bundestag (parliament).

          • Math Geurts says

            I agree. Without that gift from heaven some of Germany’s lignite power plants would have been forced to close, because as most-inflexible plants they would not have been able to compete with nuclear plants. That would have been very uncomfortable for Merkel.

            • Helmut Frik says

              Lignite plants have many problems, inflexibility is not any more among them. Modern Lignite plants ramp from 50% to 100% load in 15 Minutes. Faster e.g. than some older CCGT plants which are not especially designed for fast ramping.

                • Jeffrey Michel says

                  Lignite power plants obtain additional revenues from supplying district heat that increases during periods of high wind intensity when buildings cool out faster. In contrast with electrical power fed to a grid that is already swamped by oversupply, there is no competition in a local heating network. An operator is therefore ill-advised to lower the plant’s output in response to power trading price signals if that in any way reduces his ability to deliver an adequate quantity of heat to local customers. Large power plants usually have thermal energy to spare, rendering these considerations immaterial. However, I lived for years within sight of the 2 x 891 MW Lippendorf power station that supplies up to 330 MW of heat to Leipzig and to local municipalities. Whenever one block was down for servicing or repairs, the second block was kept running a full capacity to maintain heating deliveries and to avoid any temporary shutdowns due to inadvertent control malfunctions.

                • Helmut Frik says

                  Pleas look a bit closer at the graphs.
                  E.g. here you can take a closer look: You will find Lignite raped a lot, nuclear nearly not beside Brokdorf which was required to reduce output even wnehn blowing the steam in the condensor. What remains at lignite are the plant which are connected to district heating, and so can not be switched off or run below a certain limit. Ramping down from 21 GW to 5,5 GW is far from not ramping. E.g. you find that Weisweiler G was running with 660MW constant while other plants were ramping up and down. Weisweiler is heating the city of Aachen.

                  • Math Geurts says

                    Helmut, these graphs prove that If nuclear plants would not have been closed, modern lignite plants would have been obliged to reduce their output and emissions, in more periods (not only during Christmas)

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      No. Start learning the basics about the enegry markets.
                      The graphs show that only those lignite plants were running which are absolutely must run stations due to their contracts to deliver heat to neighbouring citys.
                      All what would have happened with 20 GW Nuclear instead of 6 GW woule be deeply negative prives for whole weeks and Expoerts 14 GW higher. at many times. Creating higher costs for the thermal clients of the lignite plants , since they would forward the costs due to the negative prices, and giant losses for nuclear, making sure they would close down fast, or would already have been colsed down any way.
                      The only positive aspect might have been, that improvements for district heating might have come faster, e.g. installing resistor heatin to waste the surplus nuclear power production in a somewhat useful way.
                      In modern grids there is no place for stupid baseload any more.

                • Bas says

                  The newer lignite plants (operating since ~2010) have enough flexibility.

                  Whether they do it is dependent on the contract the plant has. If the plant has a fixed price contract than it won’t use its flexibility.

                  • Math Geurts says

                    Bas, if nuclear plants would not have been closed, modern lignite plants would have been obliged to choose for flexible contracts, and thus reducing their output and emissions.

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      Be aware that german lignite Plants have fuel costs of about 3,2€/MWh according to NEP 2015.
                      For nuclear if find fuel costs od 6-8 €/MWh.
                      The inflexibility of nuclear would have resulted in many hours with negative prices, killing the businescase of nuclear. So if they would not have been shut down already, they are likely to have closed due to economic reasons.

                    • Mark Bare says

                      Nuclear will be replaced by natural gas and coal… people can argue all they want but that is what is happening… the share of RE is small and will dwindle… especially when the HUGE amount of subsidies are stopped and the whole “cheaper” lie his out the door. Don’t let RE zombies throw a lot of numbers around and claim to be right… the real world keeps smacking them back into place.

      • William Sharpe says

        Good point. It’s also notable that the top of the article presents its author as an unbiased commentator but it’s language clearly shows that he is pursuing an agenda and attempting to demonise renewables.

        This respected economists looks a lot like an opportunistic hack.

    • Spetzer86 says

      And think of the cost to implement that “temporary backup generation” to power 80-100% of your First World economy for those few weeks. So you pay several times to cost to install several times the needed capacity of renewables AND pay for a reliable baseload system (that only runs for a few weeks a year), OR you die from the cold. Or you could just admit that renewables are a false dream and just buy the reliable baseload system and have done.

      • Sebastian Herp says

        So the comparison is between renewables with backup energy generation [A] or just the backup energy generation (or reliable baseload like you call it) for everything [B].

        In A we have more capital costs, but less fuel costs. In B we have less capital costs, but more fuel costs.

        Don’t you think there is a price per kWh of renewable energy that makes solution A not only cleaner, but also more economical?

        • says

          Sebastian, the problem with (any) intermittent energy is that it is not a choice between [A] or [B], but between [A] + [B] and [B] alone.

          For renewables (except hydro) you need 100% backup for in case these aren’t available. Or some form of storage, which also needs capital and operating costs. If you have only [B], you need some 10% reserve for a sudden loss of one large unit and/or planned maintenance and some 10% interconnection for in case of larger problems. The relative low price of capital [B] gets in the way if that is only used as backup and should be added to the capital cost of renewables…

          • Helmut Frik says

            This is nonsense. A Baseload generator costs several thousand € per kWp, in case of nuslear it’s heading up to 10.000€/kWp.
            A fully equipped Diesel generator (>500kWp) we get for 150-200€/kWp in our tenders (Outside the energy/electricity business)
            So there is a diffence in investment costs between a backup and a baseload system in the area of a Factor 10…60.
            Also the european grid reduces any neccesity from 100% for 3 Weeks to 50% for some days.
            But even today grid connections strech much further than just europe.

            • Mark Bare says

              California generated 4.1% of all instate power in 2015 with 12,000 windmills. Imagine the destruction that 120,000 will cause just to get to 40%. You people that advocate for this are as math challenged as Mark Jacobson at Stanford that says a windmills footprint is only where the pole touches the ground… that is like saying you could park a car in a couple of square feet because that’s all the tires touch. Stupid.

              • Helmut Frik says

                A Modern windmill today has 4MW onshore and runs >3000 full load hours. (E141) So you think California needs 120.000*4MW*3000Hours*2,5=3600TWh of electricity???

                • Mark Bare says

                  You can throw calculations out all you want sir but I gave a real world example showing its more than installed capacity. Your problem is that you live in a theoretical world… Germany is figuring that out as well well… give up the slash and burn technology of RE. Oh and FYI that windmill gets at best 40-50% of the 4MB you theorize so it’s really a 1.6-2MB windmill

                  • Helmut Frik says

                    Start learnuing about the basics of energy systems, and then start to learn the basics how enewable based energy systems work.
                    First its Megawatt, Mot Megabytes we are talking about.
                    Second the generator capacity does not diminish with capacity factor. The capacity factor is relevant when you calculate the enegy produced over a certain time.
                    Which is what I have done correctly.
                    Given the situation that California has thousands of tiny wind power generators from the 1970’s and 1980’s which are now replaced by significant less large wind power generators, it is not likely that the number of generators will rise very much, it might even fall. 4 MW is not the end of the development. A 160m towers are not the end of the decvelopment. It’s just the state of development today.

                    • Mark Bare says

                      Oh.. I mixed up a symbol… You win helmet. HA HA What you have done is what every RE fanatic does and just run a number calculation. It has no real world example as I showed. People ran calculations for what we have today and it s suppose to be much more because you don’t understand capacity factors or scaling technology. If I had to guess you are a office /lab person with little to no field experience. You would decimate 1000s of square miles just for your RE utopia. The world is more than numbers… try to remember that.

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      So you see it as realistic option that somebody will uild a hundredthousand of 1970’s and 1980s turbines in California just to make your numbers come true???
                      OK, in a postfactual world everything can be assumed.
                      Just outside there is still reality. Wher up to date systems are installed. And grids exist. And many other factors ignored by you.

                    • Mark Bare says

                      Yes the new ones produce more… and still suffer from capacity factor issues. You are like so many windmill advocates… just build more and newer ones. Thus want figured into our cheap claim and we still need all those subsidies. Windmills & solar plants are equal to slash & burn agricultural. You day I don’t answer but all you do is say build more… tell me if you believe in climate change… and I think the climate is changing… isn’t it stupid to base your energy sources on things that require pretty weather?

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      Yor require unneccesary high numbers. And now say I want them. Destroying not even a strawman. Wind power generation removes as many space – or less if mining and enrichment is encluded than nuclear from other use. You can still run usual agriculture and forestry around the wind power generation beside a few hundred square meters per unit.
                      And with SOlar – here in egrmany only on roofs , on landfills, at unusable land along railroads and roads. So no netto land use for solar.
                      And I promote expanding grids and building just enough power production to produce a bit mor energy per region than it is used there.
                      Same as you require for nuclear or fossil fuels, for whoever youre lobbying.

            • says

              Helmut, I was not talking about nuclear as backup, I was talking about non-intermittent backup vs. intermittent.
              In case of a failure of one big “conventional” unit, you need about 10% “spinning reserve” of your maximum load. That can be hydro (if available), fast ramping gas turbines or storage, depending of what is available and the costs involved. In the case of renewables, you need 100% backup, of which again 10% spinning reserve for any load from solar, which changes relative slow, but 100% for any load from wind, which can change very fast. No matter what type the backup is, it will be part of the year in standstill, only to serve when there is low/zero wind and sun, thus that power will be very expensive and the extra costs for 90% extra backup should be attributed to intermittent power…
              Even if there is a European grid (which costs should be attributed to intermittent power too), in the (theoretical) best circumstances, you still need 50% non-intermittent power for only 3 days full running per year, that power will cost the price of gold per gram for a kWh…

    • Roy Latham says

      The problem is that the main cost of the backup system is the capital cost, not the fuel cost. It’s 60% to 80% of the cost. There is also an expensive switching system and more transmission lines from the alternative sources of power. The capital costs of the backup must be paid no matter how little it is used. In the US, California is about 20% wind and solar and has about double the electricity prices of adjacent Arizona.

      • Helmut Frik says

        But the capital costs of a backup system are far far lower than the capital costs for a baseload system.
        Modern Lignite plants with low emissions and high efficiency cost above 2000€/kWp if you’d wanf to start a new project here, nuclear would be well above 5000€/kWp.
        Diesel generators which we tender as backup for few hours per year cost 150-200€/kWp (>500kW per Unit) The are designed to run 15.000 hours before first major overhaul, starf up from 0% to 100% in less than 15 seconds and have ca. 42% efficiency.
        The further a grid sans, the less hours per year or decade or century such a backup system is required to operate.
        Which is why in articles like this electricity exchange over the border (germany, california, etc… ) is never allowed, although it naturally happens every day.

    • Paolo says

      So far total German electricity storage is 0.04TWh, GB electricity storage being 0.032 TWh. NOT 100’s of TWh ….

      • Helmut Frik says

        Well, in fact german storage is about 100 GWh bigger but the longer term storage of the Schluchsee chain is not counted, because it is released by a chain of 3 power stations, while the power storage which can be used by each of these power stations independend of the others is much smaller.
        but the main storages which are used for the german grid since a century are the big storages in the alps, which have a storage capacity of about 20 TWh (pumped and non pumped) as far as I remember. Scandinavia has a storage capacity of 112 TWh, manly not pumped. Austria and swizerland are earning good money by providing storage fuctions to germany france and italy.
        To balance wind and solar production of 20 countries in europe as it is distributed today, about 1 TWh of storage and 16 TWh of biomass per year would be enough to smooth it to a 41 GW constant output 24/7/365 in 2016.

    • Albert Stienstra says

      No chance of storage to solve this problem.

      The energy supplied by the storage system to cover the entire 100-hour lull would be 100 hour x 1.1 x 62.0 GW = 6827 GWh, assuming a 10% discharge/conversion loss. Imports and exports would be minimal, as nearby countries also would have wind and solar lulls.

      The actual energy in the storage system would need to be about 13650 GWh#, because the batteries are assumed not fully charged at the start of the lull, and batteries should not be frequently discharged to less than 50%, as it would significantly shorten battery life.

      # The CCGT plants could perform much of the balancing of wind and solar energy, as well as supply electricity when wind and solar are insufficient, which likely would significantly reduce the above 13650 GWh of storage capacity.

      Standard 1 MW battery units can deliver about 1 MW for 6 hours. They are about the size of a 40-ft trailer. The turnkey cost is about $1.5 million/unit^. Multiple units can be located at a site. See page 1 of URL.

      ^ Whereas the cost of batteries for vehicles likely would decrease in the near future, due to mass production, that likely would be much less so for engineered, 25 to 100 MW, utility-grade, bulk energy storage systems, which require up to ten acres of land.

      The battery systems would be:

      – Charged with solar energy during peak generating hours and would discharge energy, as needed to meet demand, during other hours, on a daily basis.
      – Charged with wind energy and would discharge energy, as needed to meet demand, during all hours of the year.
      – Charged by the other generators (hydro, bio, etc.), as needed, during all hours of the year.

      The turnkey capital cost of the utility-grade storage systems would be 13,650,000/6 x $1.5 million = $3.41 trillion. They would be distributed throughout Germany. A significant percentage of this capital cost would be repeated every 15 – 20 years.

      The Agora graph shows that the second wind and solar lull occurred a few days later. That means, either there must be enough electricity generation (mostly wind and solar, and some hydro, bio, etc.) to charge the batteries in a few days, plus serve the demand (a very tall order), or even greater storage capacity must be available to serve demand during the 2nd lull. The safe approach would be to have available the additional storage.

      German policymakers are beginning to realize expensive, bulk energy storage systems are not an economically viable option in the near future.

      Calculations done by Willem Post

      • Nigel West says

        Yes, agreed on the calculations. Even if battery costs fall to 1/5th say of current costs it’s not economic.
        Expanding grids is not the answer either to intermittency. UK would not take the risk with supply security, or risk being over reliant on external energy supplies over which the UK would have little control.
        There is no need to either as intermittency is easily dealt with using CCGTs.

        • Helmut Frik says

          Well using CCGT would make you dependend on Gas grids. And no reduction of CO2 emissions, nor any hope if someone closed the valves of the gas pipes to produce enough gas on your own in time fefor permanent blackout comes. But who does not want to understand dfferences and similarities will not understand them.

          • Nigel West says

            For security of supply a country needs diverse energy sources. UK has that, nuclear, gas-fired plants and a growing renewables sector. However renewables provides very little supply security. Natural gas supplies to the UK come via pipelines and the UK has LNG tankers from all over the world and LNG storage capacity. Gas is far easier to store than electricity. So the UK is not fully dependent on gas grids.
            Likewise it would be foolish to abandon all nuclear and fossil power sources and only have renewables and interconnectors. UK’s CO2 emissions have been brought down significantly through replacing coal with gas fired plants. Germany should also replace dirty coal with gas.
            The ‘supergrid’ will not solve renewables intermittancy. See the thesis “On the dependence of the motion of cyclones and anticyclones on their shape” by Philander, Hilda Teresa Storari de’. This demonstrates that it is possible for the national wind fleet output to drop across Great Britain (and the rest of Europe), for a number of days in succession, at the same time that demand is very high. This is because very high demand most often coincides with anticyclonic weather conditions, which are cloudless. Indeed anticyclonic weather conditions are often very large; their diameter in the Northern Hemisphere, at European latitudes, can be up to 3000 km as cited (source stated to be University of Kassel data) in the January 2004 edition of Renew Magazine

            • John Daglish says

              Cast your net/grid a bit wider .
              Electrical redistribution of renewable energy wind, solar, hydro, etc. via HVDC (high voltage direct current low loss electric grid) across Europe and probably North Africa to achieve continuous production. see Gregor Czisch seminal study indicating that this could be the lowest cost option

              • Frans Rusting says

                Exactly. I repeat here the comment I made on jan. 10, which shows a proven way how to realise the required network:
                “This article shows very clearly why we need a European Supergrid. Without such a grid, there will never be a real European market for electricity. And without that market countries largely have to rely on themselves; importing from or exporting to direct neighbors of course helps but you need the whole of Europe to be sure that there is always somewhere sun or wind.
                The present political reality makes it virtually impossible to realise ‘one market’ under the umbrella of the EU, but the EU is not needed for this.
                A cooperative company, owned and governed by the TSO’s can realise and operate the required Supergrid, which functionally ensures ‘direct interconnections’ between all countries instead of just between neighbors.”

                • Nigel West says

                  There is no appetite for building a ‘supergrid’ of that extent given the risks involved, except amongst people who want 100% renewables and believe a ‘supergrid’ might achieve this. However something similar might evolve over many decades as grid interconnections around Europe grow stronger.

                  • Helmut Frik says

                    Look at entroe planning for 2050. And naturally, as ther was never a plan to build a wouldwide railroad or road or telephone… network, such networks evolve from single projects. But you achieve a better planing if you know how a suitable grid should look like as a whole. This tells you which line is likely to be extended again in the future (and should be prepared for this now) and which line is likely to remain as it is now for the next 50 years.

                  • Math Geurts says

                    Almost all Germans are supposed to be in favor of renewables. Unfortunately, a lot of Germans are not in favor of expansion of Germany’s grid. Quite a problem.

                • Bas Gresnigt says

                  Your dreams gain some credibility if you could show that present price differences at power Exchanges (e.g. Leipzig, A’dam, Paris, Nordic) would justify the investments.

                  Do also consider:
                  – adaptations such as ongoing decrease of the price difference between A’dam and Leipzig due to increasing interconnection capacities.

                  – political barriers as with the high UK prices. Little plans to increase interconnections as (I assume) they:
                  * hate being more dependent;
                  * keep prices relative high as that makes their new NPP with its price guarantees (now £101/MWh) more acceptable for the public.

              • Nigel West says

                No need to cast net further. Because Czisch’s study proposes that when there isn’t enough wind, solar and hydro power generation in Europe, pumped storage would be needed.
                He discusses using existing hydro power as storage. But in Europe only about 1/4 is the required pumped storage type, the rest is ‘run of the river’ hydro.
                Around 7 TWh of new pumped storage capacity would be needed to address just one day of negligible wind/solar in Europe during winter peak demand. Estimated cost £4 trillion – based on the UK’s Dinorwig station.

      • Bas says

        German Energiewende scientists & policy makers realized that they would have to bridge much longer winter lulls, more than a decade ago. So they developed a.o. Power-to-Gas and expect to have 2GW PtG pilot capacity up and running in 2022. Furthermore to be (economically) ready for full PtG roll-out in 2025 when wind+solar share is ~40%.

        Your calc showed that 14TWh storage would be needed. Germany has ~200TWh very cheap storage readily available in earth cavities.
        So no shortage of storage.

        Assume the PtG plants run only when wholes sale price is <2cnt/KWh, their av. purchase price will be 1.2cnt/KWh. So with the widely expected turnaround efficiency of 40% the price becomes 3cnt/KWh.
        Add 2cnt for the costs of the unmanned mass produced computer controlled installations (PtG and Gas-turbine), than we arrive at ~5cnt as the highest price level during long winter lulls.

        That is one third of the cost of a new NPP…

        • Nigel West says

          Bas, someone has to pay for the 2/3 energy that is wasted in the PtSNGtP process. Either generators will be making big losses selling power at uneconomic prices, or more likely consumers will be footing the bill through paying big subsidies. It doesn’t make sense to waste energy on that scale. Other posters here have said Germany is having doubts about PtSNGtP.

      • Helmut Frik says

        CAlculations are for the case that poer transfer across borders is strictly forbidden. Wit the same assumption for Uranimum you get the result that you need a battery size of 8760*62 GWh per year for nuclear. A also correct calculation with is also useless for practice.

  2. says

    On the European scale, this problem is well known and well studied. See e.g. the recent ENTSO-E publications Ten-Year Network Development Plan for 2030 (, and especially relevant in the context of Flassbeck’s article the Mid-Term Adequacy Forecast for 2025 ( To carry all parts of Europe with reliable electricity supply and based on a largely renewable energy-based system, through a weather situation like that described, a strong European grid, a smart grid with lots of demand response, and also quite a bit of dispatchable backup capacity will be needed.

    • DR Johnson says

      “with lots of demand response, and also quite a bit of dispatchable backup capacity will be needed”
      So in other words, the final vision is for a grid that cannot service its customers so it needs to be able to cut its cutomers off whenever the grid can’t cut it, and even then will need something (read fossil fuels) to back it up. And all for what? An irrational fear of the boogey-NuPow? For MUCH less effort and Euros, Germany’s grid could be ~100% carbon free, stable, and able to actually serve the needs of its customers. Just Do NuPow.

      • Wouter Schram says

        With a mix of nuclear and renewables, you would still need the “strong European grid, a smart grid with lots of demand response, and also quite a bit of dispatchable backup capacity”.

      • Helmut Frik says

        So replace cheap wind and solar power with expensive nuclear which e.g Dominion in the US sees at >150$/MWh?
        And as it seems you know little about demand response, which is already used to shift demand from Day to night. Like Cold storage facilities, which can shift cooling by days, sometimes weeks due to the high thermal capacity of the storag. Or district heating with storages,for short time excess energy, or heat pump heatings in many usual buildings with therma storage (or using the storage mass of the building with tiny temperature deviations) Or using production capacities which allow easy storing of the produced products, like cement production which prefere to mill rock to dust at weekend nights now to use cheap electricity, and which are already equipen to store that products for more than a week, and many other possibilities.
        Aluminium smelters reduce production due to economic decision when prices go up in times of lower supply, and run full throttle when there is excess supply even today. Makes Aluminum production cheaper.

        • says


          I have been working in a chlorine/VCM/PVC plant which was part of such a demand reduction scheme. Sounds good: from 132 MW down to 42 MW in 10-15 minutes. The reward was cheap electricity for the part between 42-132 MW, but with huge penalties if we weren’t out of the peak demand in time.
          The main problem was that the plant in many periods was already working at the top of its capacity and that we needed to expand the factory, mainly because of the power demand play. Thus ultimately the investment in power storage was paid for by others than the power companies and nowhere by the wind and solar power providers who have not the slightest obligation to invest in storage or network regulation…
          Last but not least, power demand reduction can be done for hours, some may be for a week, but for several weeks? Still you need 100% (fossil?) backup…

          • Helmut Frik says

            No, the expansion of the plant was payed by the lower power prices the plant could get with shaping demand obviously, otherwise management would have bought power constantly. Obviously power is more expensive than expanding the plant. And on the power production side it was payed by higher demand when a lot of power was available, reducing costs for renewable and other production, and lower demand at tensioned supply situations, needing less peaker plants.

            • says

              Yes Helmut, a “win-win” for both companies, but mainly for the windfarms and distribution companies who don’t need to invest in storage…
              It will get problematic once that you go over 20% renewables, as then you need long-time storage anyway, which still is available now for the current European mix, but not if all of Europe goes that far…

              • Helmut Frik says

                There’s no long term storage needed in the european grid, neither with 20 nor with 40 nor with 80 nor with 100%.
                You can match the seasonality of demand by building the right mix of supply, with winter having a high output in winter (higher than the demand rise in winter) and solar having a high output in summer. Which leaves the shorter time cycels which get smoothed out with growing grid size.

          • says

            There are two kinds of nuclear breeder technologies, both pioneered quite successfully (in physical terms) in the USA before 1994, when Sierra Club and others had lobbied Clinton enough to get the IFR program cancelled.
            I am incensed at the ignorance of “environmentalist” organizations about this.
            I am a lifelong environmentalist, hard core liberal, and I know quite a lot of mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

  3. Frans Rusting says

    This article shows very clearly why we need a European Supergrid. Without such a grid, there will never be a real European market for electricity. And without that market countries largely have to rely on themselves; importing from or exporting to direct neighbors of course helps but you need the whole of Europe to be sure that there is always something somewhere sun or wind.
    The present political reality makes it virtually impossible to realise ‘one market’ under the umbrella of the EU, but the EU is not needed for this.
    A cooperative company, owned and governed by the TSO’s can realise and operate the required Supergrid, which functionally ensures ‘direct interconnections’ between all countries instead of just between neighbors.

    • Ike Bottema says

      You do realize that even across Europe intermittent renewables (IRE) still require a huge clean, reliable source of power right? Often the wind blows nowhere. I suppose that France is to be seen as that source? Certainly not Germany as neighbours can’t rely on German power production. I suppose they should feel obliged to meekly comply to maintain German industrial might. If not so much, perhaps that “supergrid” can get them to toe the line.

      • Helmut Frik says

        And you are aware that the Article you reference shows that the gaps in production get shorter in time and less deep with every area added to the grid? As mathemathic tells us too?

  4. S. Herb says

    1. This is an important issue, especially as electricity will be increasingly used in the transportation and heating sectors.
    2. It is not exactly news to the renewables community in Germany that there are 2 week periods in the winter with little sun or wind.
    3. Significant decarbonization does not require 100% renewables. 80 – 85% decarbonization can be achieved with a combination of renewables, efficiency, and using natural gas for ‘backup’ electricity generation (but no longer for space heating). [ Fraunhofer ISE studies ]
    4. Nuclear generation is poorly matched to intermittent renewables generation. Although it is probably possible to design reactors which are more throttle-friendly, electricity from a plant which is running at 25% capacity will cost, to 0th approximation, 4x as much as from full capacity, since the capital costs dominate.
    5. Pushing to 90% and higher decarbonization is (more) difficult. Electrolytic hydrogen can in principle supply enough stored energy to replace the natural gas for backup generation, but is currently very expensive due to the modest capacity usage and round-trip efficiency of o(35%).
    There are other possibilities, such as continental scale HVDC grid links, which could contribute partial solutions.
    1. If the Energiewende (with much hard work to come, especially regarding efficiency) can take us to 80-85% decarbonization in 2050, as seems practical, this will be an enormous success.
    2. We have a decade or so to figure out how to push further with decarbonization
    3. Nuclear seems to be an all or nothing strategy. Nothing is still looking pretty good.

    • Joris van Dorp, MSc says

      The notion that shutting down nuclear power has any benefit at all (except to the fossil fuel industry) is false, and those who advance it are being intellectually dishonest.

      As the International Energy Agency has repeatedly concluded, even *with* nuclear power on the table, achieving Paris Agreement goals remains incredibly ambitious.

      A drive to decarbonised with renewable energy is a noble cause, and what Germany has done deserves respect. But that respect must evaporate against the backdrop of the enormous damage German antinuclearism is doing humanity’s hope of addressing climate change in a timely manner.

      The people and organisations who push antinuclearism will probably not live to see the worst of the damage they are doing. None of us living now are likely to. But there should be no doubt that the antinuclear movement is one the worst scourges of human health and dignity, and environmental protection that the world has ever seen. That is what the history books of the 22nd century will detail.

      • Ike Bottema says

        A drive to decarbonised with renewable energy is a noble cause, and what Germany has done deserves respect.

        Good point! It needs to be emphasized that Germany has been performing an experiment that we all can benefit from if we learn from it. If the Energiewende experiment had never taken place we’d forever be left wondering if maybe it is possible to power modern society with IRE. Now we’ve learned that an IRE-based energy policy cannot be achieved when the aim is to drastically reduce carbon emissions. So thank you Germany for showing us how not to power our societies! Now we need to build on that knowledge and not ever repeat that mistake again.

        • Bas says

          When you want to judge the success of a movement/law, such as the Energiewende, you should measure it along its prime targets.

          The 2 most important are:
          1- all nuclear out asap.
          Occurs according to the scheme. Realized in 2020.

          2- 80% renewable in 2050. First intermediate goal was 35% in 2020. They are now at ~32%. Clearly ahead f the scheme. Considering the present speed they will reach 80% in 2040; 10yrs ahead of the target.

          So it’s a full success.

          • Math GeurtsIi says

            I agree, but this also implies that Germany’s Energiewende is not an example for the rest of the world. The real problem is climate change and the target has to be solving that problem.

            • 小杜 says

              Why should it be an example for the rest of the world?

              Its a solution for Germany.
              The rest of the world has different weather, different infrastructure, and different goals.

              There are lessons to be learned, but blindly copying is not a solution, unless you have similar infrastructure and are roughly in the same location. Perhaps Poland or other Germanic border countries can copy, but elsewhere its do as works best for your situation.

              What Germany has shown is that the incessant negativity against renewables is mostly BS.
              I’m with Bas here. Energywiende is a success.

              • Helmut Frik says

                Well in some ways it is a example. Most countries in the world have a higher irradiation. Many have more hydropower or more wind. Many have a lower population density, and less enegry intensive industry.
                So if it works in germany, there is no excuse for most countries why it should not work there, too.
                Naturally each country has to find its own mix of production and its own way to cooperate with neighbours.

              • Math Geurts says

                It’s a succes as far as it concerns premature closing of nuclear plants. It is not a succes in creating a sustainable exporting solar panel industry, another target nobody talks about anymore in German.

                And: “The current figures show that the Energiewende remains on track in the area of sustainable electricity generation. However, urgent action is needed in other areas,” said Prof. Frithjof Staiss, Managing Director of ZSW.

                • Helmut Frik says

                  If you take a closer look, you will find that the target was to build a solar power and wind power supply chain. Not a GERMAN solar power and wind power supply chain. Although many people forget it, it is not possible for germany to supply everybody on the world with all kinds of products. So obviously some production also has to happen outside of germany. Germany is still the most imprortant manufacturer of solar panel production machines, of wind power equipment, of components for high voltage equipment, polisilicon, and many other topics. Correct is the chinese took over the comodity production, as in many markets, so of solar modules. As they did with plastic toys, clothing and many other products.
                  Since now there is a substantial supply chain for wind power and solar power, undercutting the LCOE costs of nuclear, and at many places also of fossil fuel power generation, I would see this point as a clear success.

                  • Math Geurts says

                    No, the target was solar panel production jobs in Germany. Otherwise it would not had sense to open (and close) solar panel factories in Bitterfeld and Frankfurt a/d Oder.

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      No it was not. German is a open economy, which allows companies to be built up, and also to fail when competitors are able to produce things cheaper / better / faster.
                      You can read the documnets, none of them speaks about a production in Bitterfeld or Frankfurt/ Oder. they speak about supply chains.

                • Bas says

                  Why do you your utmost to declare the Energiewende as non-success?

                  We in NL follow anyway with a good delay so we don’t face the first of a kind costs. Luckily those are carried by our big neighbor for which we should be grateful!

                  • Math Geurts says

                    “When you want to judge the success of a movement/law, such as the Energiewende, you should measure it along its prime targets”
                    Gratefullnes of the Netherlands or the rest of the World was not a target of the Energiewende.

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      So targets were
                      a) phase out nuclerar – well under way
                      b) establish a supply chain for renewables – done
                      c) after phase out of nuclear phase out of coal – already starting ahead of shedule
                      d) reach a 30-35% share of renewable power generation in the electricity market till 2020 – already reached.

      • says

        The key uselessness of IRE is twofold.
        At any moment, the wind power you are receiving can drop by nearly 30% if the wind speed drops by 10%, and in most paces that from solar can drop when clouds come up.
        At no time whatever can you order up, i.e. dispatch, either wind or solar power.
        To a person with the responsibility of guaranteeing response to the demand on the grid, “free” renewable energy is about as good a way of supplying energy as begging in the street is for supplying an income. Probably not quite as good.

      • Helmut Frik says

        Load following between 80 and 100% of capacity. to reach lower levels of production, a “flexible” german or french nuclear power station either needs a long time to reduce power or it takes a long time to ramp up power generation (xenon poisening). To make a looad cykle 100%-20%-100% takes days with nuclear pwoer, slower than any other mode of electicity production.
        This, along with the extraordinary high costs of nuclear capacity per kWp makes them useless for residual load.

        • says


          I don’t know where you have your information from, but nuclear power plants can ramp up and down between 20% and 100% at a speed of 2-3%/minute of full capacity. That is comparable to STEG units and better than high yield coal units. Only fast gas turbines can come up cold within a minute and go up with 10-20%/minute. But their energy yield is only around 30% while STEG is up to 45%…

          Xenon poisoning happens (was part of the Tsjernobyl disaster) but in modern design and operations is anticipated for.

          Lots of interesting knowledge about power generation, yield, capacity, control speed, network control,… (in Dutch) at:

          • Helmut Frik says

            STEG are not nuclear plants but gas fired plants.
            My infromation is from the German COnvoi designs and their equivalents in France. They ramp fast from 80-100% slower from 60-80%, and it’s geting extrmely slow the further you go down towards 20%. That’s why they keep producing with only small output production even at negative power prices, since blowing all steam in the condensor also stresses the system. Modern lignite plants ramp with 3% per minute between 50 and 100%, modern hard coal plants even faster. Thats one cause why lignite folows demand much better than nuclear, although they have similar low fuel costs (about 0,32ct/kWh according NEP 2015). Only lignite of very old plants and combined generation which can not go offline remain in the grid during negative prices.

          • Bas says

            No nuclear in the report you linked.
            Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) promotes load following in this report.
            However, opposite to NEA report statement, German nuclear power plants hardly do it as you can see at sh. 9 of this Fraunhofer PPT. For good reason:

            It’s expensive for nuclear due to a.o. fuel pellet cracks/corrosive fission gasses & poisoning and becomes almost impossible near the end of the fuel cycle.

            The high costs of load following also played a role in the French decision to reduce the share of nuclear towards below 50% asap. While near all of their needed load following is absorbed by their hydro and im-/export as you can see at fig. 1.3 in the NEA report.
            The little load following of French nuclear is also shown by its 1.2% impact on the Cap.Factor of nuclear (IAEA 2010).

    • Ike Bottema says

      1. This is an important issue, especially as electricity will be increasingly used in the transportation and heating sectors.

      Agreed. Carbon-free electricity needs to extend to more sectors currently totally dependent on fossil fuels. But to think that the Energiewende will achieve that, is delusional thinking.

      2. It is not exactly news to the renewables community in Germany that there are 2 week periods in the winter with little sun or wind.

      Agreed, and not confined to two weeks and not just to Germany, in fact across the whole of Europe as shown byThe Wind in Spain Blows ….

      3. Significant decarbonization does not require 100% renewables. 80 – 85% decarbonization can be achieved with a combination of renewables, efficiency, and using natural gas for ‘backup’ electricity generation (but no longer for space heating). [ Fraunhofer ISE studies ]

      Riiight. Fill in the missing bits with fossil fuels. The problem here is that with an intermittent renewables (IRE) capacity factor (CF) of 30% the missing bits are 70% fossil-fueled! Doesn’t the inability to shut down those coal plants demonstrate that?

      4. Nuclear generation is poorly matched to intermittent renewables generation. Although it is probably possible to design reactors which are more throttle-friendly, electricity from a plant which is running at 25% capacity will cost, to 0th approximation, 4x as much as from full capacity, since the capital costs dominate.

      Fail! Perhaps you need an introduction to Germany’s next -door neighbour France, where 80% of all electrical power production is nuclear. Guess what! Their nuclear reactors ramp up and down. They must to match the ever-changing demand.

      5. Pushing to 90% and higher decarbonization is (more) difficult. Electrolytic hydrogen can in principle supply enough stored energy to replace the natural gas for backup generation, but is currently very expensive due to the modest capacity usage and round-trip efficiency of o(35%).
      There are other possibilities, such as continental scale HVDC grid links, which could contribute partial solutions.

      Whatever happened to KISS? Complexity > Extra cost. These scenarios all add to the ever-increasing complexity of any IRE-based energy plan. It’s a rickety Rube Goldberg machine. Shake it somewhere and it falls apart.

      Your conclusions are based on a fallacious set of facts and evermore convoluted thinking. As Joris suggests, nuclear cannot be dismissed so easily. In fact it is absolutely essential that the nuclear option be put back on the table. It’s not too late. Those remaining nuclear plants have not yet been closed and shuttered.

      • Helmut Frik says

        Please take a closer look at euan mearns Data, which shows, as it is to be expected by mathemathics, that the “lulls” become less dep and shorter in time which each area you add to the grid you look on.
        You can as well take the data of Gregor Czisch for the next bigger grid size, where there are no relevant lulls left in Europa (and not just a fraction of europe as euan mearns did)

  5. Are Hansen says

    Yes, it is indeed possible to run Germany (and Europe) purely on renewables – and necessary, something Flassbeck apparently doesn’t understand. He seems to think that it’s possible to continue with today’s situation of burning fossil fuels, which it isn’t. We have max a few decades before we have use up the global carbon budget, and all burning of fossil fuels must stop.

    Nuclear has no CO2 emissions, but is simply way to expensive, and detrimental to energy security, as it is dependent on international shipping of uranium fuels and fluctuating prices.

    The way to deal with the intermittency of wind and solar is storage and interconnections with the rest of Europe. Germany already has a lot of connections to other countries, but it needs to be expanded. Also backup power from gas plants (initially natural gas, later biogas ) will even out weather variability.

    Many have made detailed plans for decarbonazation of the grid. Se for example Greenpeace’s report “Battle Of The Grids”,

    • Mike Parr says

      I’ll preface what follows with the statement that I am on record as being NOT pro-nuclear. Mr Hansen, you make the comment that “We have max a few decades before we have use up the global carbon budget, and all burning of fossil fuels must stop”. I can agree with this. We face a very urgent need to reduce emissions. I’d suggest that this need is sufficiently urgent as to over-ride cost considerations. You then go on to note that “nuclear ………. is simply way to expensive”. IF you accept that the urgency of the situation over-rides costs – then nuclear MAY seem a viable route forward. Otherwise I agree with much of what you say.

      It is a matter of fact that, for example, Norway has 16GW++ of untapped PHS potential – sure, not enough to power all of Germany – but heading in the right direction & probably vastly cheaper (& possibly quicker – pace Flamenville) than building nukes. It is also worth observing that market integration of hydro and PHS with RES is still poor – they still fight it out on markets such as Nordpool. Dispatch on the basis of CO2 & then potential to store? You would probably pick up quite a few more multi-day GWs.

      Piling up the stupidity, if Germany dispatched generation on the basis of CO2 emissions it would require a price of around Euro16/tonne of carbon. This would all but eliminate coal and bring gas generation forward – whilst also vastly reducing CO2 emissions. They could do that in months, begging the question: why don’t they? Interconnectors (mentioned by others -another partial solution). As you correctly imply – we need to think in terms of multi-solutions, not one (or two).

      • Jeffrey Michel says

        It is impossible to terminate lignite power generation in Germany without first securing dependable sources of funding for subsequent mining landscape restoration. If the needed revenues were added to the cost of renewable power, solar and wind energy could lose their competitive edge. All federal and state government administrations have consistently blocked the emergence of any alternate economic strategies for the mining regions. When Vattenfall withdrew from eastern Germany several months ago, most of the local trade taxes it had paid as early as 2005 were refunded, driving many communities into insolvency. EPH assumed ownership of the Vattenfall holdings under favorable political terms by providing employment guarantees for all Lusatian operations. Consequently, lignite power generation can continue unabated into the coming decade, enabling communal tax revenues to be restored.

  6. says

    All of the remarks above assume that future nuclear energy would be based upon generation II light water reactors. But we have moved 2 generations beyond that to generation IV, which use either sodium-cooled reactors or liquid thorium salt reactors. These consume unspent fuel from the old reactors, and are far more efficient. IN USA their use has been delayed by the entrenched NRC, but in Europe it would be possible to move ahead more quickly, as China is doing.

    • Are Hansen says

      Nuclear is way to expensive, and getting worse as security standards keep rising. If you count in the price of taking care of the spent fuel and eventual decommissioning (now often covered by taxpayers), the madness of nuclear power becomes evident.
      Also it is not good from a perspective of energy security: uranium has to be imported from a global market, vulnerable to political changes and price swings.
      The opposite is true for renewables: prices are falling fast, making nuclear (and often coal) unable to compete.

      Also building a nuclear power plant takes a long time, often 10-15 years. Whereas a solar or wind park can be set up in a few months – and easily moved/removed if required. No expensive cleanups

      Sorry, but nuclear is simply an obsolete technology. Clumsy and expensive. Sooo last century

      • Ahmed Shaker says

        Not true, Koreans made it cheap, Chinese made it quick; over ten nuclear reactor units, all individually built in under six years.

        And no, taxpayers do not pay for decommissioning of civil nuclear power facilities, the costs are amortized and paid for by the operating revenue of the plant.

        Solar and wind are only able to complete due to subsidy, and adding storage to make it dispatchable makes it rather uncompetitive with nuclear.

        • Bas says

          “…taxpayers do not pay for decommissioning of civil nuclear power facilities…”?
          Only in theory.
          E.g. Borssele, the only NPP in NL asked subsidies to cover losses (~30%) and the decommissioning cost to central govt, who refused.
          It’s decommissioning fund only contains ~€175mln while decommissioning will cost €1000mln, being the costs in USA for similar NPP’s.

          Now they continue in the hope that:
          – CDA will belong to the govt coalition after next elections this spring or the elections thereafter in 2012 or earlier. As a CDA minister may grant the needed 1billion (also 200mln needed for losses)
          – Power prices increase.
          Though little chance as the Futures show no such sign and the expansion of renewable continues, as well as the increase of our interconnection capacity with Germany so we can import more cheap power.

          • says

            Depends of the country: in Belgium the nuclear plants have provided already 8 billion euro for decommissioning and long term storage of nuclear waste, normally -with good investments- enough to cover the costs for the six plants (500-1000 MW) closing ultimately in 2025.
            Costs of decomissioning for the first plant in Germany were around 1 billion, for the second plant about half of that: a matter of technique and knowledge… Borssele is expected to cost half a billion…

            • Bas says

              That low expectation of only 500mln for Borsssele doesn’t fit with the 1 billion in US for similar NPP’s. Neither with the costs in Germany.

              I think that they want to keep the plant in 50years cold store and assume that the 500mln
              – plus the interest
              – minus inflation
              – minus the costs of the coldstore
              will cover the costs then, which is dubious

              Shifting the burden and risk (if it’s not enough) to our grand-children.

          • says

            I want to see the decommissioning of fossil fuel, by putting back into the atmosphere the oxygen the rest of us breathe, which is 32 of every 44 tons of carbon dioxide emitted.
            Then let’s see them restoring all those mountains to their pristine condition.

  7. Hans Blom says

    Interconnecting grid systems will be able to raise the capacity factor(s) significantly, storage (batteries, H2, sabatier CH4, NH3 ) will help as well, production driven energy consumption for the large scale energy users could further optimize the temporary shortages, so lets increase the overall flexibility…

  8. Hans Blom says

    1. Interconnecting grid systems will be able to raise the capacity factor(s) significantly,
    2. storage (batteries,H2/CH4, NH) will help as well,
    3. production driven energy consumption for the large scale energy users could further optimize the temporary shortages,
    so lets increase the overall flexibility…

  9. Bas says

    The authors somehow seem to think that the many scientists at the steering wheel of the Energiewende didn’t think about this obvious problem. If true, it’s rather childish.

    Especially considering the many signs that the authorities are preparing for long winter periods without wind and sun.
    Why do they think that dena is stimulating Power-to-Gas so much (1GW in 2022; full scale roll-out after 2025)?

    • Ike Bottema says

      Indeed it’s a wonderment! It makes me wonder just how many scientists were at the steering wheel. I’m thinking it’s more a case of a cognitive dissonance-blinded greenie leadership giving directions. “Left! Not I mean right! …. Far right!”.

      Give it up Bas. Indeed Germans are keeping extra fuel in the trunk. It’s called “coal”.

      • Bas says

        You sound more off reality than the long outages forecasts of Bloomberg, Der Spiegel, etc in 2011, when Merkel closed 8 NPP’s after Fukushima.

  10. Vince Sp says

    The main problem is that there are countries that can run on 100% renewables, i.e. Norway, Costa Rica, American Samoa, etc. Also Africa, India, or Saudi Arabia have a high potential. For good reasons, Tesla is building their Gigafactory (with the aim to become carbon-free) in Nevada.

    Countries like Germany need to figure out how they can stay competitive in such a future world, when carbon will be disallowed and nuclear will be too expensive to be competitive. That is the core problem. Otherwise, the industry will simply move to other countries.

  11. Math Geurts says

    “As the German energy transition replaces one CO2-free electricity supply system by another one, no major reduction in CO2 emission can be expected till 2022, when the last nuclear reactor will be switched of”

    Wagner, F. Eur. Phys. J. Plus (2016) 131: 445. doi:10.1140/epjp/i2016-16445-3

  12. says

    Vince, I know of only two countries in the world that can power their people on 100% renewables: Norway and Iceland. Both with hydropower and Iceland also geopower, both running 24/24, 7/7, 365/365… Even Norway had one dry year (1976?) where they had to import power. No country in the world does (or even can) run on 100% intermittend power.
    If Norway goes on with its plans to drive only electric cars, they need 50% more capacity than they have now available. Or they must put all their mountains full of windmills, where the hydro dams are the best combined “storage” (even without pumping) and backup you can have, as they already do in part for Denmark and Germany…
    The problem for almost all countries is that they have little to no hydro or geo power. Intermittent power, if you don’t have hydro, needs storage in gigantic amounts of batteries while conversion into H2 or hydrocarbons and back needs even more primary energy…

    • Helmut Frik says

      If you forbid any trade of power across the border, and only alow this for Gas, Oil, Coal, Uranium etc, this argument might be considered.
      But since this is not a reasonable assumption, you can as well say that there is about no country with is able to run its conventinal poer supply on its own gas, coal, oil uranium. All have to trade one or the other with different countries.
      The same happens with intermittend power generation. Where only large states like russia are able to compensate fluctualtions down to a easily manageable level within their own borders.
      But as the US can power their cars with Oul from Arabia, germany can heat the homes with gas from russia, and so on, there is no real problem to balance intermittend power roduction with the uncorrelated intermittend power production of other countries, as long as you take care to have a multitude of trading partners.

      • says

        Of course you can trade power across the borders, but while that at one side levels the problems for intermittent power, on the other side that needs far more installed capacity in each country if e.g. South Europe needs to power not only itself with solar energy but also Northern Europe… Or reverse if the wind is blowing in N.W. Europe and not/less in the rest of the continent. Without European wide enormous power storage, it still is an utopy to go to more that about 20% (real, not nameplate) intermittent power…

        • Helmut Frik says

          No it does not need far more power, it needs less power since transportation losses are smaller than storage losses.
          And there is not 20% limit in grids. Especially not in large grids.

          • says

            Helmut, if you want to power not only your own part of Europe, but also the other parts, you need to double your installed capacity. For solar mainly in southern Europe and for wind mainly in N.W. Europe.
            Still there is no sun power anywhere in Europe at peak hour just after sunset mid-winter, but wind may blow somewhere in Europe for each country with a 30% chance. That means that you need 3 times the nameplate wind capacity within one country (with 100% backup/storage) and 6 times the nameplate capacity if you want to supply the parts of Europe without wind if you don’t want (or want less) backup/storage for a 50% availability of wind European wide…

            • Helmut Frik says

              Seems you insist to misunderstand. If everybody harvests the _energy_ he needs on his area (coutry) but exchanges power over the grid, when _power_ is higher or lower than actual demand in the place, noone needs to produce more _energy_ than he needs (beside small grid losses.)
              Nameplate capacity is of no interest , all discussion is about cent/kWh You get utility scale solar below 800€/kWp in germany at the moment. Even for rooftop solar you get prices below 1000€/kWp for systems above 10kW if you search a while.
              With the evening peak its the same for renewables as with niclear. There is also never enough nuclear to satisfy such peaks. For this purpose there are existing pumped storage facilities to do the fine tuning. In the morning it’s always possible to rely on solar power further east.
              China has shown interest to build some power lines towards europe – to smooth out wind completely, and to get access to solar power in the evening and night in china)

    • Are Hansen says

      Ferdinand, you are grossly misinformed here – or misinforming… Maybe 1976 was a particularly dry year. But import and export of power from Norway goes on all the time. Parts of the year (winter) we might use more power than we have, and import surplus wind energy from Denmark (4 subsea connections). At most other times we export. Netto we export more in a year than we import, a big money machine.

      “If Norway goes on with its plans to drive only electric cars, they need 50% more capacity than they have now available”

      This is nonsense. Calculations with 90% EVs in 2050 will need only 8,5% of total production (10,5 TWh), see (in Norwegian, use Google Translate). Bente Monica Haaland, CEO of StatNett, says Norway has a solid grid, and will be able to electrify the whole transport sector (
      But of course there would be a larger peak in the afternoon if everyone should charge their car at the same time as everyone cooks dinner. But that’s not necessary. Smart meters are on their way into all households, so that minute-by-minute pricing becomes possible. People can set their cars to charge off-peak, easily done with an app on their smartphones

  13. Math Geurts says

    As Bas explained to you: the main target of Germany’s Energiewende is closing nuclear power plants not fighting climate change

    “Climate protection: While total greenhouse gas emissions in Germany increased from 908 to 916 million tons (a 0.9-per cent bump), CO2 emissions in the electricity sector dropped 5 million tonnes, or 1.6 per cent, to 306 million tonnes. This marks the third consecutive year that CO2 emissions in this sector have fallen. By contrast, there is scarce evidence of climate protection in the industrial, heating, and transportation sectors”

  14. stone elworthy says

    I’m very alarmed at the assurances Bas is making above about how “Power-to-gas-to-power” will save the day and allow intermittent wind and solar to de-carbonize electricity supply. This link has a very careful and clear explanation of just how hopeless “Power-to-gas-to-power” is . Let’s be honest. France and Sweden have shown that long established robust technologies (nuclear) can decarbonize electricity. If anti-nuclear campaigners want to stop that then they ought to make a coherent case for why. But I guess they don’t need to because pure politics and misinformation seems to be working for them.

    • Bas says

      Thank you for the link to the PtgtP PPT.
      So I adapt my numbers to the higher 40% efficiency of PtgtP.

      …nuclear … If anti-nuclear campaigners want to stop that then they ought to make a coherent case for why.
      – The genetic and health damage nuclear facilities such as NPP’s spread around,
      – The costs of nuclear accidents and nuclear waste. Near all of those are socialized or subsidized.
      – The genetic and health damage nuclear accidents cause.

      Combined with the substantial chance of ~1% that a nuclear reactor ends it life in such disaster (check the historic figures).

  15. Helmut Frik says

    That’s why PtgtP is just a preacsution to have a Plan C if neccesary. Typical German.
    Plan A is to expand the grids (->tyndp etc) when this is successfull, a fraction of german biomass energy and a small fraction of existing hydropower storages is enough to balnace the remaining variability.
    Plan B would be to use more of the biomass (which is already used for power generation and heating), more of the hydropower storages already used to balance german baseload plants in the Alps for nearly a century, some additional pumped Hydro schemes within germany and use of battery storages in cars. Works with existing interconnectors.
    To have a Plan D, E etc also some more exotic sulutions are also on the research Agenda.
    So far it looks as if Plan A will be sucessfull. Plan B and C develop good too.
    Sweden could do the same as Uruguai – use wind and hydropower. It’s much cheaper than nuclear + hydropower.

    • stone elworthy says

      The problem is that expanding the grid won’t work because it often is insufficiently windy and also dark right across Europe. The extent to which wind would fail to substitute for nuclear in Sweden is clearly shown in the analysis in presentation 9 of this: . In fact those presentations debunk a lot of the arguments put forward here about wind and solar and hopes for energy storage. As far as I can see Germany isn’t genuinely making any transition to renewables, they are substituting lignite for nuclear and then dumping occasional splurges of solar power on the rest of Europe as a public relations measure to excuse themselves.

      • Helmut Frik says

        Wich is a claim well known to be wrong. Just show a single day where there was a complete lull at whole europe.
        By the way ths slideshow is based on unrealistic assumtions like no import/export in case of renewable power. Would be interesting to see how conventioal power stations perform if there is no im/export of uranim, coal, oil, gas allowed…..
        The CO2 emissions for 100% renewable power supply falls from heaven and is outside any erealistic number. What a trash you referenced there….

        • stone elworthy says

          Failure of a wind a solar based system happens if overall there is a greatly reduced level of wind. It is not enough to have some wind somewhere. A wind level of 10% of maximal for Europe overall is completely normal. Anyway, pan-Europe inter-connectors are not in existence. Nuclear or fossil fuels can be traded across the globe but electricity trading depends on inter-connectors that are not yet built, extremely expensive and prone to failure. The UK only has a 2GW link to France, 1GW to Netherlands, 0.5GW to Ireland; yet the UK has 35GW of electricity demand.

  16. dio82 says

    Power-to-Gas advocates willfully ignore one essential ingredient of their scheme: From where do they expect to get their garagantuan quantities of “C” (carbon) for CH4 in a fully decarbonised world from?

    Never mind the other nagging problems of underutilization of PtG machines, horrendous system efficiencies, underutilization of grid, overbuilding renewables etc…

    Let’s just state a simple fact, that needs repeating:
    With current CO2 levels, mankind WILL go extict within the next 200-300 years. No if’s. No But’s. We ARE already committed to catastropic climate change. Not only do we need to decarbonise mankind by “yesterday” we need [i]negative[/i] emissions for the survival of mankind by 2050.

    Now is not the time to undergo philosophical discussions, we need to act and use what we have available. And that are primarily nukes with a side-helping of as much renewables as possible.

    • Helmut Frik says

      Nukes dont help, they are too expensive, much too slow to build, and the supply chain build up would also be much too slow.
      In case someone really needs Plan C (Power to Gas) to balance renewable local variability, it’s always possible:
      – to collect the CO2 from the biogas production when refinig it to be stored in more pure form (25-50% CO2 in the raw gas)
      – to heat up some limestone, and collect the CO2 it emmits when becoming CaO2. dispose CaO2 in the ocean where it lowers acidification, and collects CO2 again.
      -…. (there are many more options)

        • Helmut Frik says

          You can see it like this, as well as you could see for most states that to fight climate change it would have been better if they would have built renewables as fast as germany.
          But you would not have got any political support without phasing out nuclear in germany. And having this support allowed to build wind and solar fast enough to initiate the economy of scale which now leads to competetive prices against Coal and Gas for these two, which are the base for a global fight of climate change. You can not have one without the other, and knowing this the closure of german nuclear pants is the smaller point, and here everybody is very fine with it.

          • Math Geurts says

            Germany and Japan are the only countries which prematurely closed nuclear plants. The rest of the world is more afraid for climate change.
            Germany did not make more progress regarding climate change than countries which did not closed nuclear plants.

    • says

      D. Looney, thanks a lot for that reference!

      It nicely shows the stupidity of the German Energiewende by closing their nuclear plants.
      Wind world champion Denmark has a carbon intensity of 380 gCO2eq/kWh, Germany 345 g, Belgium (50% nuclear, no hydro) 165 g and France (>70% nuclear, rest mostly hydro) is at 96 g. Only Sweden (hydro + nuclear) with 66 g and Norway (hydro) with 55 g do better…

  17. D. Looney says

    Germany should embrace an “Energiewendewende”, shifting the focus from anti-nuclear to anti-CO2. Climate change is the really big issue for the planet.

    • Bas says

      Nuclear significantly harms DNA of newborn up to 40km away from major nuclear facilities and NPPs.
      Which has negative health effects on our newborn / children & next generations, as shown by a.o. the geocap study.
      Then we must also consider the disastrous health effects nuclear accidents have on newborn, as eg shown in Germany after Chernobyl in districts 1600km away.

      So all nuclear out is rightfully Germany’s first priority.

      • Mark Bare says

        Ramsar Iran background radiation level is 250 microsieverts per year with no detectable cancer increase in the population… in fact it is a resort. Marie Curie said things were not to be feared but understood.

        • Bas says

          The district with highest radiation level in Ramsar, Talesh Mahallah, has an av level of 6mSv/a. So 40 times less.
          Using LNT one can easily see that the ~2000 people who live there are not enough to detect significant health effects.*)

          But research showed that people living there have increased levels of DNA repair activities, which implies their cells will be sooner exhausted (telomeres etc), hence have a somewhat shorter life span. Which cannot be measured as the general life span is rather short there, and the number of people is too small (people also move), etc.

          Research also showed significant increased levels of chromosome aberration

          The numbers living in each area of increased background radiation are too small to find significant increased radiation harm. But combining a number of those high background radiation areas does deliver significant increased health damage!
          *) Talesh Mahallah is the area with highest background radiation in the world where significant number of people live.

          • Mark Bare says

            Talesh Mahallah is a district of Ramsar so thanks for proving me correct. Also the medical journals state there is no statistical increase in cancer here… you can hypothesize that the increased response they show to the radiation “MIGHT”??? decrease the life span but you have no real evidence and plenty of anecdotal against… the radium has been here for millennium so” stories” of its dangers would exist of man had seen an issue… evidently there was none. People need to give up a fear of radiation and understand it is as normal as CO2… it just has to be managed and zero exposure is impossible.

            • Bas says

              Scientific consensus is that increased level of DNA damage do harm people; less intelligence, less health.
              Confirmed again by the study that I linked at the end of my comment.

              • says

                Bas, do you know that the atom with the highest continuous damage to DNA: thousands of faults per cell per day, is oxygen?
                Info from Bruce N. Ames, the inventor of the Ames test, a fast screening test for possible mutagens/carcinogens.
                Fortunately the cells have their DNA repair mechanisms which does a lot to repair almost all of these damages, be it that sometimes one overlooked can get into a cancer.
                Further, for a lot of carcinogens LNT is nonsense: below a certain dose, the carcinogenity is zero and even reverses (hormesis): low doses activate the immune system and give lower cancer rates. That is the case for e.g. dioxins and possibly radiation.
                Take e.g. cancer cells killing by radiation. That is done with extreme doses of 40,000 mSv, which kills all cancer cells. The healthy cells around the cancer still receiver som 20,000 mSv but despite that survive and the patient may live many years longer without relapse…
                A very good – but very long – story about radiation and risk is here.
                To take with a little grain of salt, but nevertheless a good overview of cancer rate studies on radiation:

                • Bas says

                  “… cells have their DNA repair mechanisms which does a lot to repair almost all …”
                  During cell division DNA is single stranded, hence cannot be repaired.

                  Hence faster dividing organisms are more vulnerable, which research shows too.

                  So compared to young adults:
                  Elderly are ~10 times less
                  Children are ~10times more
                  Babies are ~100 times more
                  Fetuses are ~1000times more
                  Sperm during production is ~10,000 times more

                  So increased DNA damage is shown around nuclear facilities and NPPs.

                  When due diligence research by pro-nuclear scientists found even worse genetic damage up to 40km around Germany’s prime nuclear waste storage Gorleben, German govt closed it prematurely (despite the expensive building being still largely empty).

                  • says


                    While the HelmholtzZentrum is well known for its climate research (and far less alarmistic as the German PIK, which is advising Merkel and the Pope…), the two links you did send is pure nonsense. The basic point in any search for a link is that you compare dose with (possible) effect. The researchers did not look at all for radiation around the nuclear facilities, so any link can be pure coincidence.
                    Moreover, they ignore known factors that influence M/F birth ratio like stress: in times of war there is a change in sex ratio. See:

                    Then more childhood leukemia around nuclear facilities?
                    Again confounding factors not mentioned in these studies.
                    Studies of “new towns” where there is a new mix of urban and rural people show higher levels of childhood leukemia, even far from any nuclear facility. Probable reason: some virusses that induce leukemia are different in urban than in rural communities. If you mix them in the population, that may infect children of opposite origin. See:

                    • Bas says

                      It’s too consistent and found with too high significance levels, around too many NPP’s and other nuclear facilities in >4 different countries,
                      to be considered coincidence.

                      Furthermore it is supported by e.g. genetic research in UK Sellafield. Workers get 39% more male than female babies!
                      And of course those children also get significant more leukemia.

                      Your studies concern circumstances that do not apply for the people living up to 40km around nuclear facilities.

                    • Joris van Dorp says

                      Bas is always spreading scare-stories about nuclear power and radiation. It’s part of his lifelong propaganda campaign against nuclear energy.

                      “Since the 1980s there have been concerns that nuclear plants were causing cancer after disease rates were found to be up to 10 times greater than the national average in communities like Seascale, near Sellafield in Cumbria.

                      However today the government’s Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (Comare) said there was no evidence that it was the nuclear power plants themselves which were behind the increase.”


                    • Helmut Frik says

                      Well I do not like to discuss the dangers of radiation, since this seems to me unneccesary any more. But as I have read the studys tell two result.
                      a) the statistic deviation is significant
                      b) nobody knows the mechanisem which would link them to the nuclear power station, if there is one. It is likely that there is a link, but it might, or might not include radiation. So research is neccesary. E.g.a nocebo effect should be excluded.

                    • says


                      One can assume more DNA defects specific for workers in such facilities, as they receive higher doses than the average population (which are BTW individually monitored, so a direct comparison is possible).

                      Comparing childhood leukemia and NHL around such facilities without real dosage measurements is scientific nonsense. It doesn’t prove anything if one doesn’t know and take into account confounding factors like viral contamination: the same increase in leukemia and NHL increase is seen in places with concentrations of oil workers far from nuclear facilities and in “new towns” like there are many new suburbs around cities like Glasgow, where the same increase was measured. Rural places like La Hague, Sellafield,… had their invasion of high tech (town) people from other places on earth…

                    • Mark Bare says

                      Of course you don’t like to discuss it. People who have an agenda like Bas and you never like to discuss facts. [PLEASE REFRAIN FROM PERSONAL ATTACKS OR YOU WILL BE BANNED, editor] Here’s one for your nonlinear thinking (thanks to Laurence Hecht) If a certain exposure to radiation pro-
                      duces 1 cancer in a population of 100 people, then, ac-
                      cording to the Linear No-Threshold view, one-tenth
                      that amount of radiation will produce 1 cancer in a pop-
                      ulation of 1,000.
                      By the same type of reasoning one could argue that,
                      if 25 cups of water forced down the throat will gener-
                      ally cause a person to die of drowning, then drinking 1
                      cup of water would produce a 1 in 25 chance of drown-
                      ing. At root the LNT argument is that simple, and ri-
                      diculous. Yet LNT is the basis on which decisions are
                      made as to what levels of radiation are safe, or what
                      levels might even be beneficial (none, according to the
                      LNT proponents).

                    • Bas says

                      Those increased levels of leukemia at Sellafield are not temporal. Neither found by only Parkinson etal. First study confirming it appeared in 1990. In ~2000 another study found it too.
                      I cite from 2002 publication:”the risk to children rose in line with the radiation dose received by their fathers”.

                    • Bas says

                      All NPP’s, dry casks, etc. emit neutrons which create radio-active isotopes in the air which is exhausted into free air.

                      You won’t measure that at the ground in immediate surroundings as it concerns relative hot & light isotopes. But those adhere to moisture (as they are ionized) and come down with the moisture. Hence the genetic damage is higher at 15km distance than at 3km distance.
                      Published by a.o. Kusmierz.

                    • Bas says

                      Your water cup analogy doesn’t fit with theory.

                      Chance DNA is damaged increases linear with:
                      – # of radiation particles that hit the DNA/cell; and
                      – frequency of cell division as then DNA is single stranded and cannot be repaired.

                      1- sperm at production is most vulnerable (highest cell division rate), fetuses more vulnerable than babies, etc.
                      2- there is no safe level.

                      Thanks to unique circumstances rock-solid study could show that the chance on serious deformities in newborn doubles per 1mSv*) radiation increase (p<0.00004)
                      Of course also highly significant increases of Down, stillbirth, etc.
                      *) normal background is 1.5-3mSv/a.

                    • says


                      Simpel reasoning: if the fathers are exposed to higher radiation, then there imay be a higher chance of DNA damage and may be a higher chance of stillbirths and genetic defects in the children. But that doesn’t introduce leukemia and NHL in children, only direct radiation does that, or other non-radiation causes.
                      In the latter case:

                      Further, there is an overall increase of childhood leukemia in England and Wales:
                      and there are few cases of excess cancer risk around 170 nuclear facilities in a book:
                      “Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities: Phase I”
                      Partly on line and especially appndix A.

                      Last but not least, from:
                      excesses of cases in Seascale and around Dounreay disappeared in the early-1990s

                      That confirms the virus hypothesis, not the radiation hypothesis…

                    • Mark Bare says

                      OK Bas… I see you will stick to your irrational theory regardless of common sense which is the type of example I used. You will anyways summon up some type of silly fudge factor to say you are right regardless of the actual evidence. I mean we have Ramsar Iran where the background dose is 10x normal with no discernible cancer increase… or in other areas with higher background radiation. Hypothesis are fine to start but their predictions should bear out… LNT does not… Yes we all know that I forgot that 0.4 times the subset of actual values divided by Avogadro’s number times the LNT fudge factor gives us so many radiation deaths… What was I thinking.

        • Mark Bare says

          So your reply to my example of a location where the background radiation is 10x what a nuclear worker is allowed to have its a couple of leukemia studies where chemical exposures from dozens of other sources are just as statistically likely?

          It is no wonder you just don’t get it.

        • Bas says

          See that you know about the German study which found significant increased leukemia in children living near NPP’s.
          Do you also have an attack against the US study that also found significant health effects?
          Though I don’t agree with the attackers, those attacks are possible as the significance of the found health effects is p=0.05.

          But the significance of the increased DNA damage (my first 2 links) is much higher, while that is at least as damaging as that affects next generations!

          Check also the many other studies that show health damaging effects of lightly increased radiation which are referred in the first two links in my previous comment (just click on the links in the PPT’s).

          • D. Looney says

            I’m not attacking anything or anyone. Science is not an argument to win. I merely pointed out that science has a rigorous built-in self-correcting mechanism, and the studies you refer to are not exempt from it nor above it, as the follow-up research demonstrates for the KiKK and Geocap studies.

            Toting any study aggressively as The Truth in order to win arguments is quite counterproductive. If you present links to the studies you mention, it will be easy for anyone (including yourself) to do a web search to check if peer-reviewed follow-up research has been published.

            • Bas says

              D. Looney,
              The attackers on the French study are a pro-nuclear group (prominent members Cuttler, Feinendegen), who started Dose-Response in order to promote their point of view that a.o. radiation requirements for nuclear plants should be lowered.

              They tried to publish their attack in the International Journal of Cancer, but were refused for obvious reasons which you understand if you got a decent scientific training.

              Their attack has unsubstantiated arguments. Worse, they argument against further research as results, if significant, may create fear… So they find it better that people stay ignorant regarding dangers…

              Please consider that results of:
              – French Geocap study;
              – German KIKK study;
              – UK Sellafield study (Parker etal)
              – US NPPs and some other nuclear facilities, are all in line.

              Also with the highly significant increased genetic damage in newborn around nuclear facilities. Something of that is already stated in the 1958 report of UNSCEAR to the general assembly of the UN (so before UNSCEAR got infected by pro-nuclear).

              • Mark Bare says

                Bas you need to find a lead lined room and stay there… the real world is just to dangerous for you.. especially since you are so ready to exchange your fear of radiation for millions killed by weather events, mass habitat destruction and species extinction including most likely humans but hey that’s OK… no one will be exposed to radiation… well not anymore than the many microsieverts ALL of us get EVERY day. What a sad scary world you live in.

                • Bas says

                  Why create an extra risk for next generations by using nuclear, while renewable offer a
                  – cheaper;
                  – faster to implement;
                  – less CO2 emitting,

                  • Mark Bare says

                    Because RE is equal to slash and burn technology… it causes large areas of habitat destruction for very little bang for your buck… capacity factors on RE are abysmal. More people die from wind/solar per Terrawatt hour than from nuclear. I would rather make it to 75 years old and die of cancer than live a energy deprived miserable life that might give me a few extra years of this misery. Think about the world you advocate for… RE can’t meet the current demands so even worse in the future and that equals dead people. Starvation and the weather kill you far more efficiently than low level radiation

                    • Bas says

                      RE meets demands and end with a far more reliable electricity supply to citizens, etc. than nuclear countries do. Just check the figures.

                      Germany & Denmark have 4 time more reliable supply than nuclear France and UK. And even 8 times more reliable than USA.

                      Power density (KWh/a per m2 land use) of wind & solar is superior to that of nuclear (>5 times better).
                      PV solar is rooftop, so no land use. etc.


                    • Mark Bare says

                      Here you go Bas… Proof you are [wrong[ [edited for inappropriate language]:

                      I have gone y to Germany multiple times and COAL is always the most utilized source. Your problem is that you take one second of meeting demand and get to say it can always do that. WRONG and the link proves that.

                      Ding… thank you for playing.

              • D. Looney says

                Wherever you got your information about Dose-Response, please apply source criticism.

                The claim that this publication was started by pro-nuclear propagandists is simply not true. Dose-Response is a periodical that has been around since 2003 and deals with all kinds of toxic dose responses, not just radiation.

                Thrashing those who take a critical view on one’s own favorite results and interpretations is not fruitful.

                As to the Sellafield study you mention, what I said earlier applies: please check for follow-up research, e.g. .

                And so on. This link exchange about a phenomenon that may or may not be statistically meaningful could go on forever and lead nowhere – the discussion was about the Energiewende and climate change.

                The fact generally accepted by the scientific community (as well as Greenpeace) is that coal power kills tens of thousands of people every year in Europe alone. Nuclear does not. Renewables can not bridge the gap left by giving up coal power any time soon. Nuclear can – the power plants already exist, they are just being shut down by political decision.

                Existing nuclear power would be the climate-sensible stopgap measure while waiting for the glorious renewable energy future to deliver on its promises.

                  • says


                    Have a better look at what you did sent as “rock solid” evidence for the influence of the Tsjernobyl disaster on stillbirths:

                    The overall trend in most countries is a drop in stillbirths 1979-1993 with a twofold in that period, where the Tsjernobyl disaster should have a temporarely stop of some 5-20% during 2 years after the Tsjernobyl fallout. Thus anyway the effect of better health care is many times more important that the possible increased risk of the fallout.

                    Then the dose-response. One would expect the highest peaks at the highest 127Cs radiation dose levels.

                    For Bavaria the overall drop was about the same for the highest and lowest contaminated areas (a factor 10 in fallout). The “extra” peak in the “high” cases was about 50% of the total drop, while in the “low” cases there was no drop at all before Tsjernobyl. In both cases the drop in stillbirths is fast 2 years after Tsjernobyl, which is quite impossible with 137Cs, as that has a half life of 30 years, hardly changed in the 5 years after Tsjernobyl in the investigation…

                    Even more striking the results for Finland: a 20-fold difference in contamination ends in near zero difference in stillbirths for all the regions 5 years after the disaster…

                    Seems to me that some researchers have very good statistical skills but lack some common sense…

                    • Bas says

                      “For Bavaria the overall drop was about the same for the highest and lowest contaminated areas… ”
                      Read better, don’t mix trends with fluctuations and try to understand the study.

      • stone elworthy says

        Coal power stations cause 20000 deaths per year in the EU due to air polution. Chernobyl caused 4000 premature deaths in total. We should compare Chernobyl to the worst renewable energy disaster; the Banqiao dam failure that killed 171000 and displaced 11 million.

        • Helmut Frik says

          Probem with Tschernobyl is: the catastrophy is still ongoing and tha counter for causualities is still running.
          But if you complain about coal, you should complain about poland and greece, who still build new coal plants and not about germany which has plans to phase them out, and where the final sequence of closures has already started. Although it will take a while to finish, changing a whole infrastructure is always a slow process.

        • Bas says

          The Annals of New York Academy of Sciences published a book concluding 825,000 Chernobyl deaths before 2006.
          Which is also more in line with the significant decrease of life expectancy in the region after Chernobyl.

          As there is a latency of 2-6decades before the health damage due to low increase in radiation level shows (shown by the LSS studies and similar as with smoking, asbestos, etc). the logical conclusion is 4-8million deaths.
          A careful estimation is 1 million deaths.

          Note that studies led by the IAEA excluded most casualties from their studies as they assumed only direct involved people could suffer.
          So the rock-solid study in German districts, I linked above was also excluded, etc. etc. Just in order to bring the # of casualties down. Not strange as IAEA has the task to promote nuclear.

          • stone elworthy says

            If you genuinely believe those figures you give, then I guess that explains your stand point. The question is why you decide to ignore hundreds of World Health Organisation affiliated epidemologists and instead believe the sources you do.

            • Bas says

              E.g. Study the 2006 Chernobyl forum and how their conclusions were reached:

              Excluding as many harm as possible without losing all credibility. So only direct involved people, ignoring rock solid studies elsewhere, etc.
              Even regarding the ~800,000 liquidators. they studied only the small part who responded which were of course mostly the more healthy ones.

              Remember that that forum was led by the IAEA whose target is to promote nuclear and that WHO is dependent in these matters due to the enforced 1959 agreement with IAEA (the nuclear powers paid then >90% of WHO budget and were not happy with WHO’s warnings regarding the fall-out health effects of the atmospheric nuclear tests. After that agreement not a single statement from WHO).

  18. michael hart says

    Meanwhile, China, India etc are happy to continue using fossil fuels and receive industries fleeing Europe. The world isn’t warming nearly as fast as catastrophists hoped for, and photosynthetic organisms are enjoying increased CO2 levels. And it’s going to continue for a long time, however much Germans choose to pay for their electricity.

    • Are Hansen says

      China is not “happy to continue using fossil fuels”. They build renewable energy at an unbelievable pace (f.ex. three football pitches of solar panels per hour!), and coal consumption is falling, despite continued economic growth.

      This happens both because China has huge air pollution problems, and because they understand that an energy sector that doesn’t need fuel (and imports) will hugely benefit their national economy

        • Helmut Frik says

          Because they can earn money with it different than with nuclear pwoer plants as it seems. They can expand production capacity for solar and wind nearly indefinit as long as they find customers, and still supply their own demand.

          • Mark Bare says

            You can’t win with Bas… he is an anti-nuclear zealot that is terrified of radiation even though he is exposed to it every second. He is like the crazy Helen Caldicott who only believe the parts of science that agree with their position and the rest is a conspiracy. Millions of people are gone but no real proof so in effect they believe in the Chernobyl Triangle. He cites discredited studies over and over. I am about to the point I have to quote Twain to him.

          • Mark Bare says

            They are selling it because the West is paying for their nuclear plants… so they are becoming energy independent while they make the West energy starved… giid plan… FOR THEM!!

              • Mark Bare says

                You are wrong and that is easy to verify. [edited for inappropriate language] A quick web search proves you wrong & they are building multiple AP 1000s & Houng Ones. Sorry Helmut but the facts don’t agree with you.

                  • Mark Bare says

                    Can you not do a simple web search?


                    HERE ARE THE FACTS :

                    Mainland China has 36 nuclear power reactors in operation, 21 under construction, and more about to start construction.
                    Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world’s most advanced, to give a doubling of nuclear capacity to at least 58 GWe by 2020-21, then up to 150 GWe by 2030, and much more by 2050.
                    The impetus for increasing nuclear power share in China is increasingly due to air pollution from coal-fired plants.
                    China’s policy is to have a closed nuclear fuel cycle.
                    China has become largely self-sufficient in reactor design and construction, as well as other aspects of the fuel cycle, but is making full use of western technology while adapting and improving it.
                    China’s policy is to ‘go global’ with exporting nuclear technology including heavy components in the supply chain.

                    Sorry but you are very wrong and the Chinese know RE is a poor energy source & tickled the West is buying it.

                    • Mark Bare says

                      Sorry but you just don’t get facts… they are building MORE… I don’t care to watch you play with your calculator and they will not let me quote Twain

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      They had planns for 70-80 GW in 2020 in 2010. They reduced thoce plans to 58 GW, but constructions under way tell that they will end up with 52 or below.
                      Well if you think less than 52 is MORE than 70 thats your business.
                      Facts for me are nuclear power stations operating in 2020, so about 36 months from now. Not fancy plans from old times.

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      This aticle does not replace nuclear power staions to be actually built. There are not sufficient nuclear power stations under construction to reach the numbers you claim for 2020. The time window to close these gap till 2020 is closing fast. Ans I have not seen any construction start in china this year. So reality looks like as if the numbers proposed for 2020 will remain numbers on paper, nothing more. In several months we will know this for sure.

                    • Mark Bare says

                      I keep providing evidence China is building more nuclear… that was the original point and I have demonstrated it over and over… sorry if it doesn’t fit in your reality but it is FACT that they are building A LOT more. RE will founder and waste money but never be man’s primary energy source. If you can use a calculator here is why:


                      Just not enough inherent energy to work.

                      Ding Thank you for playing.

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      Well Fact is they are NOT building a lot more but they are plans traveling around in which there are much higher numbers mentioned.
                      Energy density matters for mobile application, not for collection of power. There ia ample available space which can not be used for other purposes (solar) or which can still be used for other purposes while power is collected at spot locations (wind). If you sum up the space exclusively used for wind (300-400m² per turbine) and copare it e.g. with a lignite plant + open cast mine, so the space exlusively used for this plant, there is less space needed for wind. Same for nuclear. Just the rules where to place generation and on which scale to build grids change drastically. This is not a technical problem, but you can not keep doing what you did the last century.

                    • says


                      Aren’t you a little optimistic in your windmill surface needed? The 400 m2 is for one windmill, but the next one can’t be put in the adjacent 400m2m as they disturb each other. Building larger ones needs not much more space, but the distance between them must get larger, so the only advantage is less windmills for the same yield over the same surface…

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      @ Ferdinand, this is correct but this does not increas land use. Otherwise you coud say that mobile phone stations require all available space in inhabited land mass. They also can’t be put one next to the other but must be placed apart and spread over the land to make a useful job.
                      So you need about 400m² to harvest wind from some km² of land, as you need about 10m² to supply mobile phone service for several km²of land.

  19. Reynier Funke says

    Interesting no one notices that the graph cannot be right. The green bar at the bottom does not reflect that a significant part of biomass plants in Germany run actually in a flexible mode. I.e. we should see swings there, but we do not! Such flecible biomass plants should at least reduce some of the periodic lack of wind/sun discussed. Current installed base of biogas plants is about 5 GW and it runs in 4 to 6 GW if not 2 to 8GW range already (not at all visible in the graph).

    As others state, adding spare back-up fossil fuel capacity is rather cheap. Using renewable upgraded biogas fur such purpose is more expensive but feasible and low carbon. Biogas CHPs cost in order of 500 €/kW. Converting existing say 3 GW of biogas power plants to gas upgrading costs in order of 1000 €/kWeq converted. Such investments shall be compared with the power network expansions and adding battery banks. I am not aware of any studies in such direction. However Denmark has executed it to a large degree in practice with strong (fossil) CHP policies already. Even when the Danes pay a high power price it indicates that storing the upgraded biogas say 300 days in the existing gas network (no cost) and adding some 30 GW highly efficient gas power plants for the 65 days the wind and sun do not provide power is feasible in a low carbon way and may well be easier and cheaper than expanding the power grid and adding battery banks, which can only buffer a day or so. The existing natural gasnetworks can buffer months.

    So why is such flexible renewable biomass back-up power and long term storage of upgraded (renewable) biogas barely discussed?

    1) Lack of awareness, enforced by incorrect data regarding flexible biomass (and CHP) power. The source of the graph, IFEU, will admit that the biomass power is based on a consistent set of data that unfortunately does not reflect the full more flexible production picture, in particular with biogas plants in Germany.

    2) Established renewable power policy/support systems (FiT) aimed at continuous power production at >95% of the time.

    3) Electrical Power and Gas/Heat engineers working in “different” worlds and not having an incentive to address the described issue together.

    4) “Religious believes” that nuclear can save the day. It will not. For arguments see some of the other comments. I add another example: fusion technology was the NEXT BIG THING in my “1973 marked energy memory”: safe, no waste and cheap. It is still not expected in decades but is again seen as a solution. It will not happen because the fundamental physics have and will not change. More powerful IT will not solve that. Just as the “smart grid” will not solve the no wind/sun problem.

    5) Complexity which favors large networks over simpler more local networks with carefully planned distibuted back-up power generation (“KISS”). Of course this has to do with a power industry that is defending semi-monopolies. Their complex large scale networks have inherently a monopolistic structure and maintaining their roles is naturally a priority. They get happy support (“smart grid”) from a similarly structured ICT industry. Together they will not address distributed back-up policies, which can be achieved with regionalized CHPs.

    Maybe it is time to renationalize all the Power and Gasgrids in the EU and put policies in place to use local and large grid networks effectively to make the “transition” an “Energy” rather than a “Power” transition?

  20. says


    As far as I can see in the installed mix:
    Biomass is only 7% of installed capacity and indeed it is not used for flexibility, that is done in first instance by gas and coal plants and in small part by pumped hydropower: with “alle Quellen” (all sources). Browncoal is used for longer term control except when the others are already at minimum power. Solar has little yield in winter and nuclear and biomass are indeed used at constant output.
    What is the origin of biogas in Germany and how flexible is its production?

    • Helmut Frik says

      They use wastes, and MAis and similr plants and produce Methan from in, which can be stored, or refined+ added to the gas grid, or be used directly to generate electricity, usually with gas Motors which can ramp up and down within seconds.
      They get a flexibility bonus, which has lead to a significant installation of storages and motor/generator capacity. But since the data of the plenty small systems is not measured online, they are assumed as constant in the diagrams of Fraunhofer or Agora.

  21. says

    It is screamingly obvious that Germany’s opposition to nuclear and pretence that “renewables” of the utterly capricious kind, favour the continued dominance of fracking gas and filthier coal.
    I have read that, contrary to what obstinate ignorant parties have succeeded in doing, France managed in ten years to make itself independent of the coal from the Ruhr, by building nuclear.
    There have existed designs, strenuously opposed and vilified by the FFI (fossil fuel interests), of nuclear reactor since before the disgraceful event at Chernobyl (the only one in sixty years with positively identifiable radiation deaths) that are immune to meltdown, highly responsive to varying demand, and even lower in waste production than what we have so far, which amounted in the USA to a whole 70 _thousand_ tons in 2013, and is growing at the “prodigious” rate of 2500 tons a year. Gaseous coal and methane waste is a mere hundreds of millions of tons a year, and the poisonous solid waste from coal is only 130 _*million*_ tons _a year_.

    • Bas says

      The Energiewende also reduced gas+coal generation. Check the figures at AGEB.
      Fossil reduction will increase greatly when all nuclear is out after 2022. But most dangerous out first is a good policy.
      Btw. No fracking in continental EU (so also not in Germany).

      Now, France targets to reduce nuclear share faster than Germany; towards 50% in 2025 (=2.5%/a). Furthermore they target fast renewable increase, following Germany.

      Despite the fast evacuations and the large excluzion zone around Fukushima, study found significant increase of peri-natal deaths in areas near the exclusion zone of Fukushima. So the zone is somewhat too small for people who want children.

      While areas with coal waste can be used normal after less than a century, nuclear waste has to be guarded during thousands of years. So nuclear shift the burden to next generations.
      Especially since nuclear waste stores create highly significant genetic damage to next generations up to 40km away.
      German govt closed it’s prime nuclear waste store (Gorleben, still largely empty), when a due diligence study by pro-nuclear scientists showed even worse genetic damage than shown in the linked PPT.
      Note that the thick walled dry casks in Gorleben were stored in a large building (20x500m) with 0,5m thick walls

      IMO they forgot the roof and to make the building also airtight so formed Ar41 (via neutron activation) could escape. ..
      Making airtight is expensive as it implies that the building has to be cooled with airco’s that don’t use any air exchange, and the dry casks produce major amounts of heat (surface >100°C).

      • Helmut Frik says

        By the way, although I do not like coal power stations, since germany is a place where all mwterials are scary few, coal wastes are usually recyceled.
        – SO2 is used as gypsum, allowing to close down all gypsum mines
        – Flyash is used as replacement for cement in concrete production, reducing the CO2 production there
        – Other ash is used as addition to COncrete, as addition to brick production (thus permanently enclosing heavy metal in the ash permanently, on the level of the heavy metal content of other materials used for concrete and bricks), as subconstructions for roads and railroads (with lowe mobile hevy metal components in the ash).
        In case the material is neither usable for bricks and concrete and still has a high comtamination with mobile heavy metals, it is used to do the neccesary filling of cavitys in ols salt mines, similar to the proposed disposal of nuclear wastes, but without most of its problems. If you think this way of disposing unsafe, I propose to close down all nuclear at once, because you eliminated waste disposal of nuclear along with it.
        Which means that after ending coal power production some mines will have to be reopened.

    • PatM says

      Great comments.
      France already succeeded in showing us a successful low-carbon grid, if you want it: 70% nuclear.
      Germany has now decisively demonstrated the limits of renewable power. All the RE boosters can hype claims and dreams of an overly complex over-capacity system where consumers pay double because they are supporting twice the nameplate capacity needed, but the economics are ugly, and the rest of the world will be wise to NOT make Germany’s mistake.

      The anti-nuclear claims of Bas regarding dangers of nuclear are discreditable nonsense, and I appreciated the reasonable facts shared. Western nuclear power has been extremely safe, and it is indeed clearly true that Germany shutting down nuclear and running more coal will kill people. That’s a fact. It’s sad that anti-nuclear activist nonsense leads to more deaths, higher electric bills, and closes off a solution to climate change … but that’s a risk of political extremism over taking reason.

      • Helmut Frik says

        At the momennt france demonstrates that they can not afford to build the nuclear power they need to cope with demand, and so once again heavily rely on the reserves built and payed by the neighboring countries.

        • Nigel West says

          If that were true, which it isn’t, EDF would not have almost completed Flamanville 3, and recently embarked on the construction of two reactors at Hinkley Point in the UK.

          The issue in France this winter which is exceptional, and has caused lower than normal nuclear capacity availability, is the ASN regulator requiring inspections of AREVA made components following the quality documentation issues at Le Creusot Forge. AREVA has made clear they believe the issue is records quality, not problems with faulty components.

          • Helmut Frik says

            EDF has scrapped the plans to build any new nuclaer past Flamaville. Flamaville comes from a time more than 10 years ago, and is since many years behind the point of no return.
            Hinkley Point was so much in favour for EDF that the unions protest against it because they are afraied it will kill the company, and the financial boss left the company because he couldnt support the decision. Nevertheless it is political behind the point of no return. Despite that it gets much more subsidies than renewable power.

            • Nigel West says

              EDF is concentrating on life extending their existing nuclear fleet that’s why no more EPR reactors are planned after FA3 and Hinkley Point. In the mean time EDF is working on a new reactor design that will be lower cost and quicker too build. So they do have plans for more nuclear capacity when needed in France.
              The price of energy from HPC at £92/MWhr is competitive with UK offshore wind at £115/MWhr so on that basis nuclear is more competitive and requires less subsidies.
              Also two other companies in the UK are bringing forward new nuclear projects that are expected to undercut HPC costs.

              • Bas says

                HPC guaranteed price is £92.50/MWh in 2012 £’s. Since then inflation corrected which will continue during 35years of operation. So the present HPC guaranteed price is £101/MWh.

                As UK followed an auction method which generates far less competition, UK offshore is >50% more expensive than e.g. similar Dutch offshore, which is now at €55/MWh(=£47) + €14/MWh for the grid connection by Tennet.
                That is a fix price for 20yrs, thereafter whole sales prices ~£25/MWh.

                With 1.5%/a inflation, HPC will get £114/MWh in 2025 at the start and £147/MWh in 2042, half-way the guarantee period. Add the major subsidies HPC gets (loan guarantees, decommision + accident and nuclear waste liability cost limitations, etc.

                So it’s safe to state that offshore wind is now already 2 -3 times cheaper than Hinkley. As offshore will continue to decrease in price, you can assume that offshore wind will be >3 times cheaper than HPC at the start of the nuclear plant!

                  • Bas says

                    If nuclear study only offers a military career, nearly nobody will choose it.
                    But UK consider it of strategic importance to keep its nuclear military capability up to date…

                    • Nigel West says

                      That is not an issue. People do not study nuclear engineering. To develop a nuclear power station requires civil, mechanical and electrical engineers working together.

                  • Bas says

                    Reality starts to show that MacKay simplified too much and was too short sighted.

                    Dutch part of the N.Sea is 57,000Km². With 10MW/Km²
                    we have 570GW with CF of 50% (check Borssele) generating 2500TWh/a which is 20 times more than Dutch electricity consumption…
                    Offshore prices become less than €50/MWh.

                    With PtG, using German technology, we can easily store enough to cover any long winter lulls. We store already major amounts of gas in salt domes.

                    For UK things are easier as it has more sea and is less dense populated.

                    • Nigel West says

                      At £50/MWhr for offshore produced electricity, converted to SNG for storage and then converted back to electricity would cost at least £150/MWhr due to 2/3 of the energy being lost in the process. £150/MWhr is just the energy cost, the cost of building the power to gas plants and storage costs would be extra.
                      Consequently storage would be too expensive and uneconomic at approaching £200/MWhr.

                    • Helmut Frik says

                      Costs are Cost per MWH x Power x Time. If used for backup the factor “time” is so small, that the other facors are not so relevant . If you talk with power station engineers, they will tell you that befor market integration in Europe, when each utillity prefered to balance load within their small patch of land, they used open cycle fast start gas turbines with operational (variable) costs od 2000DM per MWH (1000€/MWh) without problems.They just should not be used more often. Today this is practically not neccesary any more because trade of power is used instead which is much cheaper. So the sequence will remain for the furuer : First try to balance demand and spply over a strong grid. Only if this does not work use peak generation.

                    • Bas says

                      PtG will only work when the power price is low. E.g. <2€cnt/KWh. So av. purchase price will be ~1.2cnt. With widely expected 40% round-trip efficiency the cost is 4cnt + 1cnt of the unmanned plant. Incl 1cnt unforeseen, total is 6cnt/KWh.
                      So that will be the high price level during long winter lulls.

                      Note that new nuclear cost 2 to 3 times more. Not only during long winter lulls, but all the time.

                • Nigel West says

                  Yes, the long term costs of Hinkley Point C are affected by inflation. The current cost is £97/MWhr in 2016 money. However, all the back end decommissioning costs are included within the CFD and not additional costs. The EPR reactor technology is ‘rolls royce’ so the most expensive. However two other companies are developing new nuclear projects that will use lower cost reactor technology – the AP1000 and the ABWR. Their CFD prices are expected to be significantly lower than HPC.
                  The UK’s auction method of awarding CFDs to off-shore wind projects is designed to get the best price for the consumer so it would be good to see prices falling in the UK to the levels seen in the Netherlands reflected in the future UK CFD auctions.

                  • Bas says

                    The guaranteed price for electricity is now £101/MWh, as the contract (£96.50) was in 2012 money.

                    The contract limit the back end decommissioning costs for EDF. So it will become a liability for the UK tax-payer in ~2060.

                    UK’s auction method for offshore wind generates little competition, so UK pays >50% more than the Dutch, who received ~20 competing bids.

                    • Nigel West says

                      The cost of decommissioning Hinkley Pt. C is not a liability for the UK tax payer. During operation a fund will be built up to cover the cost which EDF and other utilities in the US have good knowledge of having already decommissioned PWRs.
                      The spent fuel is not planned to be reprocessed but stored in a repository. Hinkley Point will pay for the long term storage.
                      The cost of dealing with waste from the the UK’s military programme and early civil nuclear stations is more of an issue for tax payers.
                      UK Government deliberately delayed awarding more CFDs for off-shore wind because the costs were too high a few years ago and to pressure developers to bring down the costs. It remains to be seen what the CFD prices will be in 2017 when the auction process restarts.
                      The Netherlands will be a bench mark. However, there is concern that cut throat competition amongst wind developers has driven prices there to levels that are risky and leave little margin for any issues such as cost overruns or delay.
                      Anyway, the Netherlands being so small in terms of electricity demand can saturate itself with wind and when it is becalmed surrounding countries reliable generation will keep the lights on.
                      UK is facing a capacity crunch after the closure of its coal fired fleet and nuke capacity coming to the end in the 2020s. That’s why new nuclear is needed in the UK. Regardless of how low off-shore wind prices reach, CCGTs and/or nuclear will also be needed to keep the lights on.

                    • Bas says

                      As other countries, we also have a special fund to finance the decommission costs of our NPP. However, after 43yrs of operation the fund contains €1billion is needed and the NPP is making major losses (~30%) so it’s near its end…

                      Out ministry doesn’t have the impression that the €55/MWh during 20yrs is a cut throat price. They expect for next 700MW wind farm <€50/MWh. Note that MHI Vestas has a new 9MW wind turbine which will decrease the costs further.

                      UK offshore has far more expansion possibilities than we have (>600GW). UK also has more onshore wind and solar options as it’s far less dense populated.

                      If you get a capacity crunch in the twenties, nuclear won’t save the day considering it’s long construction periods.
                      Some overcapacity of wind and solar combined with gas turbines can! And will be also much cheaper.

                    • Nigel West says

                      The major losses you speak of at Borssele is likely due to subsidised renewables power taking market share from Borselle.
                      UK needs to replace it’s ageing nuclear assets and the projects being developed by Horizon and Nugen should be cheaper than HPC. The Chinese are also planning a reactor for Bradwell.
                      UK is near saturated with on-shore wind. It’s very problematic too for people living nearby so the resource is limited for environmental reasons.
                      Siting off-shore is better.
                      I hope offshore UK wind prices fall to the levels seen in The Netherlands.
                      New CCGTs are needed too in the UK. They will not be built unless the developers receive capacity market (CM) support because it’s too risky with so much subsidised plant around that can bid negative prices to squeeze out other plant.

  22. stone elworthy says

    Biogass (or other biofuels) may be OK if produced from seaweed, but if produced from land based crops they are an environmental disaster and not low carbon at all . We also need all our land either as wilderness or for food production. A wind/solar/biogass based energy system would require a very large amount of biogass even if we had sufficient over-capacity of wind and solar such that 50% of wind and solar went to waste whenever in times of plenty.

    • Bas says

      No need for biogas or biomass for 100% renewable.

      Germany is moving towards syn-gas via a number of Power-to-Gas processes which they test in different pilots. Already many large pilots, incl. car and bus H2 refill stations, etc.
      Those plants are unmanned (in a sea container) having low operational costs, hence they can afford to utilize them only in periods wind+sun are overproducing,

      When you do the numbers accurately you find that it’s much cheaper than using biomass to reach 100% renewable.
      Hence their efforts to develop the process further. Towards more efficient plants (now PtG efficiency is only 70%, increasing towards 85%), requiring less maintenance and more easy for mass production.

      • Helmut Frik says

        Correction: no additional biomass – there are no plans to significantly increase the output of biomass in TWh, but to shift the power production where residual load (power) is required. In the longer run ther might also be a additional pweor generation from waste wood, these >100 TWh thermal are so far going into hose heating, which might be shifted to heat pumps in the long run.
        Coal power stations built past 1990 are tecnological able to use this wood also for generating residual power based on this waste wood, resulting in another >40 TWh of palancing capacity withot using fossil fuels and without using syngas, which would still be needed for chemical industry.
        So there are enough options remaining even when grids are not expanded, although expanding grids is by far the cheapest and most efficient option.

          • Helmut Frik says

            renewable power production is about 33% of demand today. To power everything (Houses, land based transport) by electricity, according to plan, about 800-900TWh per year would be needed, since electricity is much more valuable than heat.

        • David Sanderson says

          Expanded grids across Europe will not address wind intermittancy. The evidence is there now. Europe was in the doldrums all last week from Ireland in the west through to the Poland. with negligible wind generation in the UK and Germany. Lack of wind came at the wrong time too as usual when plunging temperatures drive electricity demand to its highest each year.
          The best option now is to build gas fired plants especially in Germany to replace dirty lignite. Also needed in the UK. This enegiewende experiment will one day cause a massive black out.

      • David Sanderson says

        100% renewables will never be reached – no need to do that either. Syn-gas is not a solution as it is very energy intensive. You argue that because of excess renewables, power will be very cheap. Wholesale power at times yes, but you ignore the cost to consumers who have to pay for the renewables investment through very high electricity prices as is seen in Germany.

      • hans blom says

        For syngas you need a sophisticated electrolysing and conversion unit , a cheap carbon source. Are you suggesting this is feasible Do suggest a HP CO2 transmission line and a storage facility to store the resulting e-syngas fuel at the spot in middle of the north sea ??

        • Bas says

          Check the link I posted with the linked road map. They expect to have 2GW PtG in 2022 and to be ready for full blow roll-out in 2025.
          Check also the interactive project map.

          No need to store the gas below the N-Sea. Germany and NL (and most countries) have enough earth cavities (empty salt domes, etc) to store all they need during years.

          • Nigel West says

            Bas, At the moment there isn’t excess renewable electricity. Rather than produce Hydrogen for storage, when Germany has an excess of renewable electricity it makes more sense to export it to say Poland and the Czeck Republic to displace electricity produced by fossil fuels.
            The pilots look orientated towards making Hydrogen to displace fossil fuels in the transport, chemical and heating sectors, not the power generation sector where the overall process efficiency would be poor.

  23. Helmut Frik says

    Only if you forbid trading power over the border.
    Takt the existing fleet of wind and solar power in 20 countries Europe, sumarize their output, take 2 TW of the 150 Twh of exisiting, useable Hydropower storage, and you find it needs just about 5% of biomass to change this to a constant 24/7/365 power output of 41 GW.
    Biogas-power production of germany as it is today would allow to balance much more than the german electicity demand when grid connections are used to just these 20 countries, and if buildout of renewables would be spread as unevenly (which is a disadvantage then) as it is today, just scaled up.
    Required biomass drops further if all european countries are included, and it drops again further if the interconnector to neighboring regions are used.
    The study you referenced forbids trading power over the border which makes it completely useless. As a study about nuclear would be useless which forbids buying and selling uranium, and concluding that without uranium nuclear power plants running on uranium would dliver no power at all under such circumstances.

    • says


      Indeed interesting discussion and several interesting links discovered thanks to the comments…

      My overall impression is that several here underestimate the costs involved in storage and/or backup of intermittend energy if you haven’t (sufficient) hydro power/pumped storage available to buffer these energy sources… Nor the problems involved to regulate an increasingly complex network the farther its production gets distributed including unregulated sources…

      • David Sanderson says

        Agreed. Pumped storage needs suitable sites which are limited, there are often env. issues and is it costly. It makes no sense to build pumped storage to back up wind and solar. Just build CCGTs – far cheaper.

      • Ron Davison says

        By augmenting hydro with storage (including pump hydro) Dams can be left un-depleted, both for water volume needed for agriculture farming, also for saving potential energy for later release.
        By using battery storage for short term storage needs on the micro second, second, minute, and sub hour time frames. we can leave more water behind Dams for emergencies, droughts, and farming needs. Also allows better river level management as well.

        • Nigel West says

          Pumped storage on the scale needed is not an option for the UK. Sites are not available and the cost would be totally unaffordable. Batteries would be too. See the late Dr David McKay’s book on energy without the hot air.

          • Helmut Frik says

            If you forbid trading electricity things become harder. As well as if you forbid trading uranium, or oil or gas or coal, or everything at all. UK lso relies on food imports. MAybe allowing cross border trade is a good idea?

            • Nigel West says

              Who said forbid trading? However energy supplies are too important to be over reliant on external sources. It’s important to have indigenous supplies of energy.

        • says


          Don’t underestimate the costs and volume you need for battery backup, even if it is only for a few minutes of needed power. The Alaskan City of Fairbanks has winter temperatures occasionally reaching -40°C. It is a matter of life and death to have an uninterrupted power supply. They have a room full of batteries, only to supply 7 minutes of power in case of power failure of the main line with the rest of the country. That is the time needed to bring the backup diesel power units into full stream. See how much room that needs for only 7 minutes of power for 32,000 inhabitants:

          • Helmut Frik says

            Which is why we have redundant power lines preferabely in Germany. And for usual houses you’d accept a 7 minutes or so power failure in cse of a grid fault befor restarting the grid. It is enough to give sensible systems a battery backup. But if batterys become cheap everybody can decide this for himself, too.

  24. Ilma says

    Prof Fritz Vahrenholt spoke well on this very subject last night at the GWPF talk in the UK House of Commons.

  25. Math Geurts says

    “Our results quantify the need for grid, storage, and dispatchable generation.”
    “We note that curtailments stay below 20% at VRE supply shares of up to 100%.”
    “Supply costs are lower in wind-dominated scenarios than photovoltaic-dominated ones.”

    “Integrated modelling of variable renewable energy-based power supply in Europe”; for Germany, see fig 6. page 21


  26. Bas says

    Thanks for the link to the interesting study.
    Considering the production by hydro+waste+biomass I estimate that the share of VRE will not surpass 90%, for 100% renewable grid.

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