Stellarator vs. Tokamak

Two types of experimental nuclear fusion reactor. Both use magnets to try to keep hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium under enough temperature and pressure to fuse their nuclei into helium, but, said the Frankfurter Allgemeine, the tokamak system can only work in pulsed operation while the less common stellarator can do continuous operation, making it useful for research into electricity-generating applications.

Physicists say the bigger a pulsing tokamak is, the better it works. The world’s largest tokamak experimental fusion reactor is under construction in southern France. The “Iter” reactor in Cadarache is a joint project of Europe, Japan, Russia, China, South Korea, India and the U.S., originally budgeted at 4.6 billion euros with completion in 2020 but now expected to cost ~15 billion and be at least two years late. A project manager said the extra costs are because the original estimates were only for construction costs and did not include e.g. insurance, manufacturers’ profit and administration costs. Because each of the seven partners wants to acquire all knowledge related to this reactor so they can build copies at home, many of the parts have been manufactured in factories in multiple countries instead of by one contractor, with the added risks this entails.

The world’s largest stellarator experimental fusion reactor officially completed construction this month in Greifswald, Germany. The Max Planck Institute said since 1995 construction of the “Wendelstein 7-X” has been financed by approx. 201 million euros from the E.U.’s Euratom program, 672 million from Germany and 131 million from the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; it was originally budgeted at 500 million euros but ended up costing >1 billion.

The stellarator in Greifswald is not intended to fuse hydrogen atoms but is intended to research electricity generation via fusion. The tokamak in Cadarache intends to use 50 megawatts to produce 500 megawatts via fusion, getting more energy out than was put in for the first time said a representative; researchers there are interested in pure physics research but also developing technologies that will be used in the next generation of fusion reactors, probably not available before 2050.

The world’s previous largest tokamak experimental fusion reactor was at Culham, U.K., and only managed to produce 60% of the energy that it fed into the reaction.

Wetterbedingte Produktionslastverschiebungen kommunizieren

To communicate production time shifts in response to weather conditions.

At least one company in Germany is offering a service that communicates to its clients’ high-electricity-consuming factories when local electricity networks are running low on power. This would be in times of low sunlight and low wind, or possibly even artificially high demand caused by the opportunity to export electricity to a neighbor. The client factories then check whether their present processes would permit a production rearrangement to switch to less electricity-consuming manufacturing or even a delay, and in return they receive cash from the utilities for the timely power use reduction.

A “smart” factory profiled in Der Spiegel that needs a lot of energy to run its silicon-melting ovens can reduce its power consumption by up to one-third within minutes after receiving notification. For this, it can get up to 15,000 euros per month from the electricity network operator.

The electricity consumption management company profiled in Der Spiegel has about 100 clients for this service, including paper factories, water treatment facilities, public buildings and a brewery, adding up to about 650 megawatts. The service said their timely communication can replace coal-burning power plants that are only used during demand peaks and replace capacity markets used to hedge utilities’ overproduction safety margins.

The necessary framework of laws is not yet complete, said a representative of the service: the big utilities now are the ones to decide which companies can join such paid time-shifting arrangements in power-intensive manufacturing. They frequently take a very long time to permit new factories into the fold. There’s also a regulatory problem that needs to be ironed out in that factories that increase production when there’s a surplus of electricity in the wires are fined heavily by the utilities right now, even though they’re doing the utilities a favor.

(VET ah bed INKED ah   proad ooked see OWNS lost fair SHE boong en   com moon it’s EAR en.)


The amount of incoming solar radiation that might currently be convertable into electricity, in laboratory experiments.

Solar panels on the nonmilitary market produce electricity with ~14% to ~19% efficiency, said Conventional silicium solar panels can’t convert more than 34% of incoming sunlight into electricity. In 2012, Cambridge University researchers said they’d developed a new approach that could improve that by making electricity out of nonvisible light, such as heat. Their two-part system’s components each converted a different section of the spectrum of solar radiation. At least one of the two components is in the form of nanoparticles. The idea of “printing” solar panels that consist of a mix of small particles each specializing in conversion of different light wavelengths is a thrilling one.

(Fee ah oont fee ah tsig   prote CENT.)


“Nuclear Power Whiteout,” a non-native speaker’s inadequate translation of the title of the bestselling Japanese thriller
Genpatsu Whiteout. It’s a story about a fictional terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant in Japan. The pseudonymous author seemed so well-informed that there was speculation about the area of government in which he or she might have been employed.

Philip Brasor wrote, “Though it sounds like a conventional thriller, the novel’s overarching theme is the government’s determination to resume the nation’s nuclear power network after the Fukushima accident, a mission it carries out so heedlessly that it neglects to enact safety standards that would mitigate the effects of such an attack.”

Apparently the fictional novel also mentions an entrenched system of power companies’ adding 10% over the market value to purchases made for the electricity industry in that country, with some of the extra money being distributed among networks of politicians and their affiliates. And possible post-tsunami attempts in response to the engineering disasters at Fukushima Daiichi to pass legislation that supposedly increased safety, transparency and competition but doesn’t really. Bribe costs ultimately get paid by electricity consumers in their utility bills; reforms that don’t fix the corruption problem might make Japanese voters more amenable to restarting dangerously engineered nuclear power plants if they’re told it will supposedly reduce electricity prices.

(CAIRN croft   VICE blend oong.)


Single-family house the Technical University in Munich is planning to build in Fürstenfeldbruck that will combine passive energy conservation with a rooftop photovoltaic array that can produce about 6000 kW/year, Sü wrote, and thus take care of the family’s energy needs. About one-quarter of the electricity generated will be surplus to the house’s requirements and could be sold back into the grid or used e.g. to recharge an electric car. In good weather, the family could thus be able to drive approx. 150 kilometers/day on rooftop sunlight alone, totalling ~11,000 km/year in Germany’s climate.

A four-person family is scheduled to move in and test drive the house for one year after construction has finished in August 2014 and the engineers have checked all the systems.

Construction is projected to cost about 350,000 euros.

(En air GHEE   PLOOSS   EYE g en high m.)


“Dust sucking.” Starting September 2014, no household appliances can be sold in the E.U. that use >1600 W. In September 2017 that limit will be lowered to 900 W.

This is aimed at vacuum cleaners.

Effective Sept. 1, 2014, household appliances will also have to be labeled with simple symbols showing their power consumption, ranging from a green A for low electricity use to a red G for egregious.

The “Ecodesign Regulation” created exceptions for the following types of industrial-type vacuum cleaners, which sound funnier in German than in English:

Nasssauger, Saugroboter, akkubetriebene Staubsauger, Industriestaubsauger und Bohnermaschinen.”

“Wet suckers, sucking robots, battery-driven dust suckers, industrial dust suckers and Bohner machines.”

E.U. officials said vacuum cleaner manufacturers were consulted in advance, most models >1600 W have been sorted out already, and it’s not the size of their Watts, it’s how well they suck dust that counts.

(Sht OW! bzz OW! g en.)

Physikgesäubert vs. chemiegesäubert

“Cleaned by physics vs. cleaned by chemistry.” In the late 1990’s, to this tourist, it appeared that U.S. appliances were designed so that ever-more-sophisticated soaps and/or soap marketing would get laundry clean, while German appliances were designed to use physics to get laundry clean. The latter had gotten so good at it that for years they’d been competing by promising not cleaner clothes but to reduce the electricity and especially water required to do a load of wash.

The fabrics in clothing sold in 1990’s Germany were much higher quality than the kleenex clothes sold in the U.S.A.: thicker, stronger, less likely to wrinkle. At the time I thought this was because German consumers complained before purchases more, both to each other and to the stores*, but perhaps it was also due to post-purchase complaining after clothes designed to be worn twice and soap-laundered dissatisfied chatty consumers rather egregiously when worn four times and agitation-laundered.

In both countries, water in rural creeks and rivers formed persistent foam that did look like soap bubbles, originally white but turning yellow with dust as it was carried downstream. But friends said this was caused not by household soaps but by artificial fertilizers in runoff from farmers’ fields.

(Fizz EEK geh ZOY bat   vair seuss   chhem EE geh ZOY bat.)

*   “Are you trying to verarsch me with that see-through, pilly, short-fiber cotton?”

Incendies vs. départs de feu published a French nuclear safety agency report saying approximately 100 fires broke out in electricity-generating French nuclear power stations last year, mostly caused by electrical problems. The report carefully differentiated between incendies, major fires, and départs de feu, mere fire outbreaks, at French nuclear power plants.


Spot market, where financial instruments or commodities are sold for immediate delivery, unlike the futures market where they are sold for delivery at a later date. Wikipedia said a spot market can be an organized market, an exchange or over-the-counter (O.T.C.).

Regarding the spot market price of aluminum: Goldman Sachs was accused of bottlenecking aluminum at Goldman’s Metro International aluminum warehouses outside Detroit, increasing customers’ delivery wait times since purchasing M.I. in 2010 from six weeks to sixteen months by first lowering prices to attract a stockpile (“50,000 tons in 2008” to “~1.5 million currently”) and then, actually, trucking a minimum daily regulatory-defined shipment amount of 3000 tons back and forth among the 27 warehouses. There were also accusations of understaffing, reduced shifts and prioritizing putting aluminum into storage over taking it out. The shuttle-shuffled delays raised a premium added to the price of all aluminum, driving up the spot market price “according to an arcane formula” even for metals bought directly from mines or refineries to bypass these warehouses. While delaying delivery the warehouses also continued charging rent on the stored metal. Perfectly legal according to current international regulations, apparently set by the London Metal Exchange.

The London Metal Exchange might need more disentanglement from the entities it is supposed to regulate. According to the article, it still receives 1% of the rents collected by the ~700 warehouses it regulates around the world. Until 2012 it was owned by its member regulees, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays and Citigroup. Many of its metals warehousing regulations were written by a board populated by executives from banks, trading companies and storage companies. In July 2012 the L.M.E. was sold to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, part-owned by the Hong Kong government, for ~$2 billion. A description of the 2012 sale said it “will allow the Asian company to control the world’s largest futures trading exchange for metals like aluminum, copper and zinc, as emerging market demand for commodities remains strong.” In 2012 Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing was supposedly hoping to get an exemption from Chinese laws preventing foreign companies from owning these sorts of metals warehouses in China.

The U.S.’s Federal Reserve Board could, said, quit extending exemptions that allow banks like Goldman Sachs to invest in nonfinancial enterprises. Though the Fed’s stated conditions in allowing banks to diversify into commodities investment were “only if there was no risk to the banking system” and if the deals “could ‘reasonably be expected to produce benefits to the public, such as greater convenience, increased competition, or gains in efficiency, that outweigh possible adverse effects, such as undue concentration of resources, decreased or unfair competition, conflicts of interests, or unsound banking practices,'” yet many people would say its deregulation achieves the opposite effects, that big “diversified” banks’ risk management still appears to endanger U.S. and world economies and now banks’ having bought up important infrastructure might be presenting them with irresistable temptations such as artificial bottlenecking or even information advantages not all traders always refrain from using.

Update on 25 Jul 2013: The U.S. Senate’s banking committee has criticized that the Federal Reserve is not communicating well with them. However, wrote the F.A.Z., the U.S. Congress could pass its own banking reregulation rules without waiting for the Federal Reserve.

It’s unclear whether shadow trades are involved here, but it’s also unclear why everyone hasn’t gone broke if this is how they’re doing business:

“Industry analysts and company insiders say that the vast majority of the aluminum being moved around Metro’s warehouses is owned not by manufacturers or wholesalers, but by banks, hedge funds and traders. They buy caches of aluminum in financing deals. Once those deals end and their metal makes it through the queue, the owners can choose to renew them, a process known as rewarranting.”

If Goldman is indeed paying aluminum owners, fellow speculators, to rewarrant their metal and leave it in the warehouses piling up rent owed to Goldman, that might indicate some creative profits or at least useful losses are being made.

Aluminum is economically important enough that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has been giving aluminum refineries, notoriously high-volume electricity consumers, various electricity rebates that must be paid for by individual consumers or “ratepayers” in their home electricity bills because, Germany’s government said, the preservation of the aluminium supply was that significant for their economy as a whole.

(SHPOTT mocked.)

Außerbörslicher Schattenhandel

“Off-market shadow trading,” which der Spiegel says is also known as over-the-counter trading, done directly between speculators such as bank traders. May exceed trading in the (regulated) markets.

E.U. and U.S.A. regulators agree that they want to regulate O.T.C. trading. An F.A.Z. op-ed discussing recent U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (F.E.R.C.) fines mentioned that other U.S. financial authorities that could impose fines on international financial companies such as banks include the S.E.C. (Securities and Exchange Commission) and C.F.T.C. (Commodity Futures Trading Commission). It cited a quite-large Financial Times estimate of the size of global O.T.C. trading amounting to well over half a quadrillion dollars.

Regarding shadow-sector speculation in electricity: on 24 Jul 2013 the F.E.R.C.’s fine was upheld to London-based Barclays bank of nearly half a billion dollars to the bank (and $15 million to one manager and $1 million each to three traders) for benchmark manipulation affecting U.S. electricity markets between 2006 and 2008, including taking on-market losses in order to increase the value of off-market O.T.C. bets. Barclays intended to keep fighting the fine, however, and if the bank doesn’t pay it within the 30-day deadline the case could go to a U.S. federal court which could reset the fine. In January 2013 Deutsche Bank negotiated a settlement with the F.E.R.C. for the same electricity market gaming and received a fine of ~$1.5 million. On 24 Jul 2013 JP Morgan Chase was still negotiating with the F.E.R.C. about their fine for manipulating electricity prices in California and the Midwest; originally the settlement was said to be at nearly a billion but Chase succeeded in negotiating it down to less than one billion dollars though so far still more than Barclays’s ~$480 million.

Update on 30 Jul 2013: JP Morgan Chase’s F.E.R.C. fine for allegedly manipulating U.S. electricity markets was negotiated down to $410 million.

Regarding shadow-sector speculation in food commodities: The day before announcing its largest capital collection in its history as a mutual savings bank, on ~28 May 2013 Germany’s fourth-largest bank at the time published an open letter to the consumer advocacy organization saying their bank was joining their country’s second-largest bank and several smaller banks in pledging that they will no longer trade in or sell financial products based on agricultural commodities (such as grains). They recommended other banks also cease doing so in order to keep from driving up world food prices, remarking that investors’ demand to participate in food-based funds is low anyway. D.Z. bank said they have been and will continue to work closely with university academics to study and monitor world agricultural economics and the effects of food speculation. They requested government reregulation of both markets and of off-market trading to re-introduce “position limits” on the amount one entity, such as a hedge fund in the shadow financial sector, could wager on food-based financial products. After deregulation in the early 2000’s, “the speculators’ share in international commodity markets increased from 30% to 80%.”

At the time this D.Z. Bank letter was published, E.U. leaders intended to meet in late June 2013 to agree on regulations imposing these food-trading position limits but, said the head of the bank in question, “the financial sector” had already managed to introduce many loopholes into the drafts— “practically neutralizing the limitations on speculators,” said Foodwatch head Thilo Bode.

(Ow! ss ah BƏZZ lichh ah   SHOTTEN hond ell.)



“Start of construction,” on 10 May 2013 for the world’s biggest solar energy plant so far, at the edge of the Sahara desert in Morocco. Electricity from this plant will eventually be exported to Europe, among other places. The plant should be operational in late 2015. Morocco plans to build five other solar power plants by 2020, for a total output of 2000 MW.

Dii (Desertec industrial initiative), the group behind this 700-million-euro, 160-MW project, is an international nonprofit that helps plan MENA solar energy projects and is headquartered in Munich. The first Desertec project to be built, this Ouarzazate plant was cofinanced by the German government via the KfW development bank group (“credit institution for reconstruction” created as part of the Marshall Plan after WWII and now owned 80% by the German government).

Germany is maneuvering to meet its Energiewende goal of getting ~20% of its electricity from solar power plants in Africa and the Middle East by 2050.

Update on 01 Jul 2013: Temporary setback. The Desertec foundation, cofounder of Dii GmBH, has exited the 20-member public-private initiative effective immediately. The foundation owns the rights to the Desertec name, so this could mean a name change. Süddeutsche Zeitung reported the foundation was unhappy with the industrial consortium’s performance and the F.A.Z. reported “differences of opinion about strategy.”

(B OW! begin.)

“Intelligente Stromzähler nur mit intelligentem Datenschutz”

“Intelligent electricity counters,” so-called smart meters, but “only with intelligent data protection.” German data protection officer Peter Schaar (his official title is Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information) praised some recent developments on the data protection front but criticized weaknesses remaining in protecting e.g. employee data and the data that can be gleaned from smart meters. Schaar has been warning against excessive technology-driven transparency of electricity consumers since at least 2011. His office produced a pro-consumer guideline in 2012 to supplement the 2011 Energiewirtschaftsgesetz (Energy Industry Act) amendments that enabled the smart meters which the smart grid will need for flexible management of renewable energy sources and which so-called “smart customers” are to be able to use to manage their own utility consumption. The guideline points are to flow into law eventually.

(In TELL ee GENT ah   SHTROAM tsay lah  noor   mitt   in TELL ee GENT em   DOT en SHOOTZ.)


Pump storage power stations.” Pumping water into a mountain lake when electricity is cheap, and allowing it to drain out through power-generating turbines when electricity is more expensive, is rather efficient contemporary energy storage (“80% efficiency” for short-term storage of a few hours). Excess electricity is hard to store in quantity and tends to be sold off to neighboring countries instead, so storage issues might be one reason why Germany has quadrupled electricity exports since-and-despite closing eight nuclear power plants in 2011. A more obvious reason would seem to be the success of the Energiewende, large-scale infrastructure investments Germany is making to switch to renewable power sources such as solar and wind.

Of course villagers, fish and tourists near mountain lakes don’t appreciate constant changes in water levels. But the switch to renewable energy sources has undermined the financial benefits of draining lakes every day at lunchtime. Power prices used to peak around noon, so Germany’s >30 pump storage power stations drain their lakes through turbines during daylight hours, pumping the water back up the mountain at night. That demand-driven price spike is now being offset by the daylight collected by solar panels, which private citizens have been encouraged to install on their roofs. Utility companies are starting to not expand, not build, not renovate and shut down their lake storage power stations, as they wait for new technologies.

Next-generation electricity storage options will have to store power not only for hours but also for months, to buffer seasonal fluctuations. Small storage options that, like photovoltaics, can be installed in quantity in e.g. private houses will aid the decentralization trend. Large storage options under discussion include gas chemistry and big hollow concrete spheres lowered to high-pressure depths on the ocean floor: to store energy they would be filled with air and then allowed to refill with seawater, driving turbines.

(POOMP shpy chh ah CROFT verk ah.)


“Power-heat connection.” Some German cities are using waste heat from the cities’ relatively low-pollution gas-powered electricity generators to heat private residences.

(Croft VAIR meh cup loong.)


The “Renewable Energy Act Contribution” or sharing of the investment costs of Germany’s “biggest infrastructure project of this age,” the Energiewende conversion to renewable energy sources. Shortly before Christmas, on 19 Dec 2012, Angela Merkel’s government announced that a record ~1550 companies had received permission to not pay the increased EEG-Umlage contribution for 2013. About 2000 firms had applied for the 2013 rebate; about 500 of these applications were “questionable” and still under review, though not yet rejected. Only 778 companies received the 2012 rebate. The costs resulting from the ~1550 companies’ nonpayment in 2013, estimated by the Green party to be “up to” four billion euros, will be divided up among and paid by private consumers.

Update on 7 Mar 2013: The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court voided businesses’ exemption from sharing the costs of building the new power lines required to connect the new alternative energy sources to the electricity grid. Chancellor Merkel’s government said in response that it will quickly eliminate this exemption (the Netzentgeltbefreiung). The opposition parties welcome the decision.

Update on 09 Oct 2013: The EEG-Umlage paid by private households will go up again in 2014 to 6.3 eurocents per kilowatt hour.’s graph showed it rising from 1.2 eurocents in 2008 to 5.3 eurocents in 2013. Household consumers’ EEG-Umlage is used to subsidize not only a steadily increasing number of businesses receiving electricity rebates from Chancellor Merkel’s government but also to pay the higher kilowatt-hour price guaranteed for twenty years at the subvention in force when the photovoltaic system is installed to people who put solar panels on and around their buildings to feed electricity into the grid. As announced long ago to incentivize folks to install decentralized home solar feeds faster, the guaranteed twenty-year price+ solar subventions are currently being tapered down, steadily reduced in what looks like annual amendments to Germany’s EEG law. The rising Umlage fee compensates in part for falling electricity prices on the exchanges, because of the conversion to decentralized renewables and despite the closure of all of Germany’s nuclear power plants and now, possibly, several coal-fired plants as well. And perhaps also closure of a giant “surface mine” that produces the more-polluting “brown coal” or lignite to run an adjacent coal-fired power plant; the Garzweiler pit is so big it has swallowed 14 villages so far and was scheduled to eat several more.

(Eh eh geh   OOM log ah.)

Stromanbieter wechseln

“To switch electricity providers.” Many industries in Germany have been granted electricity rebates that are ultimately being paid by individual consumers. Some policy watchers are concerned that electricity prices are rising so rapidly in Germany because consumers are on the hook for avoidable surplus costs. Competitive “market forces” are supposed to prevent consumer abuse, yet not enough people are switching providers for the utilities to change their behavior.

On 29 Nov 2012 ZDF heute journal said they’d posted a handy 60-second video showing how to switch to a cheaper electricity provider, and they broadcast a brief clip of it showing a timer counting down from 00:60 to 00:50 while a lady researched electricity prices and contracts. Yet I have searched and searched for this video and can’t find it. ZDF did have a similar video from 22 Nov 2012 online; this one is 2:10 long and only points out pitfalls to look for in the new contracts. Its general advice to consumers: agree to the shortest term possible, don’t pay in advance in case they go broke, beware low initial prices used as bait.

(SHTRRROAM on bee tah   VECK cell n.)


Electricity storage techniques or technology. ZDF heute journal reports that a new storage method is being tested near Stuttgart: excess electricity produced by solar and wind power is converted to methane which can be stored in a natural gas network. When insufficient “renewable” electricity is generated, the stored methane is converted back to electricity.

I found an article explaining that they are using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and then chemically reacting the hydrogen with carbon dioxide to make methane.

(SHTROME shpy chher   TECHH neek.)


“Environmentally-friendly electricity contribution” or “share in the costs”; this is a subvention to build more solar and wind power-generating capacity in Germany. Paid by electricity consumers, this contribution will probably increase in 2013 from ~3.6 to ~5.3 eurocents/kWh, or by an additional ~60 euros per average German household.

On 07 Oct. 2012 the president of the German Federal Cartell Authority asked for this contribution to be modified because he said it will soon be as high as the price of electricity on the Exchange.

Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, the libertarianesque FDP, advertises itself as a party that lowers taxes and deregulates in the interest of simplification (though it appears to me they have trouble finding projects that do this while actually simplifying and while actually benefiting average voters and not e.g. rich people). The FDP has now called to reduce value-added tax on electricity as compensation for the Ökostromumlage. Angela Merkel’s environmental minister (CDU) disagreed, saying he first wanted to find out how their partner party would compensate for the lost budgeted funds. The Green Party said it refuses to lower subventions for alternative power sources.

Update on 10 Oct 2012: Angela Merkel’s environmental minister (CDU) is now calling for a new Ökostromumlage law.

Update on 21 Oct 2012: reports that an internal SPD paper is also calling for a value-added tax rebate on electricity. The paper also calls for student allowances (BAFÖG), the base welfare income for people seeking work (Grundsicherung für Arbeitssuchenden, EUR ~690/month) and housing allowances (Wohngeld) to be “adjusted” for the electricity contribution increase.

(ÖÖÖ koh strome oom log eh.)

Bundesnetzagentur für Elektrizität, Gas, Telekommunikation, Post und Eisenbahnen, BNetzA

German Federal Networks Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railroads, a federal regulation authority tasked with maintaining and promoting competition in “so-called network markets,” according to Wikipedia.

(BOON dess NETZ ah gen tour foor elek tree tsee TATE, goz, tay lay com MOON ee ka TSEE OWN, post oond EYE zen bonn en.)

Leipziger Strombörse

The European Electricity Exchange runs platforms for trading in many power-related markets. It is located in Leipzig and was created by a fusion of Leipzig’s LPX and Frankfurt/Main’s EEX in 2002.

A study commissioned by Germany’s Green Party has announced that while for years now electricity prices have been steadily falling on the EEX, electricity prices have been steadily rising for Germany’s small private consumers. Cost reductions have not been passed along to private consumers and cost increases have. German consumers are paying an estimated EUR 0.02/kilowatt hour too much, totalling three billion euros this year. High-volume customers, such as industrial clients, have meanwhile negotiated lower electricity prices with the utilities and lower environmental contributions with the government. The Bundesnetzagentur has now calculated e.g. that Germany’s biggest electricity customers consume 18% of its electricity but pay only 0.3% of the alternative energy law costs.

Responding to the report, the power companies blamed the flawed system, which they say is politicians’ fault. Also, they say, high prices are caused by taxes and environmental contributions.

ZDF heute journal reports that small private consumers aren’t switching electricity providers enough to create a sense of market competition.


The “energy transition” from nonrenewable energy sources to a sustainable-power economy.

Update on 16 Jul 2013: After Germany began its phaseout of nuclear power by shutting down eight of its seventeen nuclear power plants in 2011 and yet was a net exporter of electricity in 2012 e.g. to France, which kept its nuclear power plants but suffered brownouts, German utility companies are now indicating they are considering shutting down dozens of coal and gas power plants as well because they are not profitable enough in the current renewable energy boom. Power plant operators want to be paid by the government for keeping the power plants available as backups, despite supply-driven reductions in their electricity selling prices. The Bundesnetzagentur can however force them by law to keep the power plants restartable, sans compensation.

(En erg EE venn deh.)


The new “Market Transparency Office,” under the auspices of the German Federal Cartell Authority. The MTO is intended to gather and evaluate data from electricity companies and especially gas stations to ensure there is no price fixing. These data will not be shared with the public. It is not clear whether this new office will be functional or grandstanding.

Update on 12 Sep 2013: Starting today, drivers will have access to the price data ~13,000 German gas stations have been sending to the federal cartel authority [Bundeskartellamt] since 31 Aug 2013. The bundled data are forwarded to several phone apps and “registered consumer protection centers” or “consumer portals” drivers can use to compare gas station prices in real time; price changes are updated to the market transparency office every five minutes. Beta testing is scheduled to end 01 Dec 2013.

The following consumer portals have been approved for this so far: reported another eight “information services” have been approved to help share the price data with consumers and another hundred have applied for approval.

The Green party called this a placebo office, criticizing inter alia that it does not fix inflationary pricing malheurs committed by the refineries (which have the same ownership as some large gas station chains in some cases). Also, it doesn’t cover all fuels or 100% of the market because the smallest gas stations can apply to be exempted. Germany has about 14,000 gas stations, so ~1000 are not participating as the service is launched.

(MARKED trons par ENTS shtell ah.)

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