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  • zoeymorton

    Germany’s renewable energy experiment comes at a cost

    4 years agoReply
    Financial Times | In the idyllic southern Bavarian community of Wildpoldsried, 2,600 villagers are diligently playing their part in a bold experiment in German renewable energy generation, known as the Energiewende. The shift away from nuclear power and fossil fuels is Germany’s most complex undertaking since reunification two decades ago. But with consumers complaining of rising energy bills and industry warning of a threat to competitiveness, whoever wins the German federal election on September 22 will face intense pressure for a rethink.

    In Wildpoldsried, scores of homes and energy-efficient public buildings are bedecked with high-tech solar panels and many obtain their heat from a communal biomass plant. Wind turbines, financed by local residents, dot the surrounding hills and several farm buildings have adjacent biogas plants. These and many similar projects produce roughly 500 per cent of Wildpoldsried’s energy requirements. Thanks to Germany’s renewable energy law (EEG), which prioritises wind and solar power over coal and gas, the surplus of electricity in Wildpoldsried – worth an annual €5m to the village – is delivered into the grid. This bill is footed by a surcharge added to German electricity bills.

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    In part due to the ecological ardour of villages like Wildpoldsried, renewable energy has been expanding more rapidly than envisaged. “I think people were surprised that the Energiewende is happening so fast,” says Günter Mögele, deputy mayor. However, this is driving up the cost of subsidies, creating inefficiencies and outstripping the ability to develop the necessary electricity grid and storage infrastructure to support it. The environment ministry has estimated the total cost of the project could reach about €1tn. Claudia Kemfert, energy expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), says: “German angst used to be about blackouts and the dangers of nuclear power. Now Germans are worried about the Energiewende. The process is being mismanaged and the government’s policies need urgently to be improved.”

    Pressure is growing on whoever forms the next government to rethink how the country goes about its flagship project, which will be closely observed internationally. Ulrich Grillo, head of the Federation of German Industries, said: “It was always clear that there would be a price . . . [But] the new energy supply architecture was entered into without an architect, a construction plan or site management.” Kurt Bock, chief executive of chemical maker BASF, mused that “abroad, people are observing this German experiment with wide eyes and partly with a little Schadenfreude”.

    Following Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power in 2011, Germany’s goal of raising the percentage of renewables in the electricity mix to 35 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050 – from 23 per cent last year – has become a national obsession.

    German media let out a collective groan when it emerged that a new offshore wind farm near the North Sea island of Borkum was not yet generating any electricity from the wind and instead was consuming large quantities of diesel. The required grid connections to the land are not ready yet due to discoveries of second world war munitions on the seabed. However, the wind farms’ mechanical components must be kept turning with diesel generators to avoid corrosion.
  • zoeymorton

    Morning Energy: BP bites back

    4 years agoReply
    ILLNESSS OF FORMER EPA OFFICAL CHARGED WITH THEFT POSTPONES HEARING: An arraignment scheduled for today in the case of an EPA employee who stole nearly $900,000 from EPA over more than a decade has been moved to later this month because he is currently hospitalized. John Beale, who has worked at EPA since the 1980s, has been charged with theft of government property obtained via fraudulent bonuses and salary. In a court filing Friday, his lawyer wrote that Beale will be in the hospital at least through today due to “a potentially serious medical condition affecting his throat.” The hearing before Magistrate Judge John Facciola of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia now is set for Sept. 27. The Justice Department is seeking to recover $507,207 from Beale. | POLITICO

    HARPER PROPOSES ACTION TO WIN KXL APPROVAL — REPORT: In case you missed it Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly sent a letter to President Barack Obama last month proposing “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” in an effort to win the Obama administration’s approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The proposal quickly drew scorn from green groups who said Canada cannot cut emissions enough to offset the oil development.

    Go Deeper Into Energy Thing: ct-si.org/events/APCE2013/

    STEYER KICKS OFF $1 MILLION AD CAMPAIGN AGAINST KXL: Sharp ME readers will remember billionaire activist Tom Steyer said last month he would be launching a $1 million campaign against Keystone XL — and now the ad buy is beginning. The campaign, which will be four parts, began yesterday with 90-second spots during the Sunday shows hitting the project for sending Canadian oil to Gulf Coast refineries for potential export. “Here’s the truth: Keystone oil will travel through America, not to America,” Steyer says in the spot. The ad also notes next week’s round of commercials will focus on the oil spill earlier this year in Mayflower, Ark. While that pipeline is owned by Exxon, Keystone opponents seized on the accident as a sign of what could happen.

    The boys are back in town: Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is in town today to meet with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to discuss “the significance of the Canada-U.S. energy relationship and Canada as the United States’ responsible energy supplier,” according to an advisory.

    Why wait? 350.org put out a statement Sunday that it is “great that Oliver and Moniz are meeting” but that “there is no way that Canada can meet its targets for reducing global warming pollution while trying to expand production of the tar sands.”

    WYDEN MAY PUSH LEGISLATION BOOSTING FERC’S POLICING POWERS: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden on Friday said he is considering legislative action giving FERC more powers to police energy markets. Wyden and other senators earlier this year asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to work with FERC on boosting information sharing, but in an Aug. 29 letter the lawmakers released Friday afternoon, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff wrote that “the two agencies disagree over whether the CFTC should provide FERC with certain data that we believe is critical to our surveillance program to detect and deter energy market manipulation.”

    — The jurisdictional waters have been muddied by disagreements over the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and a recent court ruling that CFTC has exclusive oversight of futures markets. Wellinghoff said that he would support “a legislative fix to eliminate uncertainty on this matter and ensure that FERC has the full authority needed to police manipulation of wholesale physical natural gas and electric markets.”

    EPW GOP REPORT HITS EPA OVER TRANSPARENCY: Senate Environment and Public Works Republicans will release a report today criticizing EPA over transparency and FOIA issues — what the report, previewed to ME, alleges is “a culture of secrecy and evasion” that developed under former EPA chief Lisa Jackson. (Jackson, now at Apple, is testifying on federal transparency issues before a House panel this week.) The report reviews complaints made by ranking member David Vitter and others over the last few months, including Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” email account, officials occasionally using their personal email accounts for agency matters, alleged discrepancies in waiving FOIA fees for environmental groups while denying waivers to conservative groups, and more.

    — The report concludes: “These actions were taken contrary to official EPA policy and sometimes, contrary to the law. While in some instances the Agency has begrudgingly admitted their mistakes, the culture of secrecy runs deep and it will take the proactive intervention of EPA’s new leadership to right the ship and permit the transparency the President promised the American people.” ... complete story @ http://goo.gl/5S17vQ
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