Schweinsgalopp

“A pig’s gallop.” Quick and dirty.

This week the supermajority coalition was in a hurry to pass Sigmar Gabriel’s reforms to Germany’s switch to renewable energy sources. The Bundestag vote was scheduled on Friday, 27 Jun, and the Bundesrat vote two weeks later.

But on Friday, 20 Jun, the E.U.’s competition commission threatened to torpedo the reform. On Monday Sigmar Gabriel’s state secretary went to Brussels with a revised draft, and returned with four demands from Joaquín Almunia. Sigmar Gabriel’s ministries decided they could implement three of them, though at “enormous extra costs for industry,” but not the fourth, which was to exempt imported electricity from the renewables contribution.

Meanwhile, it was Tuesday, 24 Jun, and the Bundestag’s Law and Consumer Protection committee had no draft to analyze for constitutionality and consumer protectiveness. The ministry wanted to try to get them copies of ~200 revised pages by Tuesday afternoon; the Law and Consumer Protection committee said that was too much to get through in time for a vote on Friday.

The Bundestag’s Economy committee also had no draft of the law when they met to analyze it on Tuesday.

Though the Bundesrat doesn’t have to pass the reform law, the federal states can delay it there as well.

If the reform law doesn’t get passed in time to go into effect by 01 Aug 2014, companies that use high volumes of electricity will not be able to apply in time for their 2015 exemptions freeing them from contributing to the switch to renewable energy sources.

Update on 25 Jun 2014: The S.P.D. and C.D.U. were able to deny the opposition’s request for a hearing to discuss the complex new changes because the opposition is so tiny that its right to such hearings is not guaranteed under German law. It looks like the Bundestag will pass this reform despite not understanding it.

Update on 27 Jun 2014: The committees waved the changes through. The Bundestag passed the reform package. A C.D.U. politician said, “After the reform is before the reform.”

Update on 09 Jul 2014: The superministries reached an agreement with Joaquín Almunia on the fourth of the competition commission’s four last-minute demands. Germany will start paying the eco premium for green electricity imported from E.U. countries, starting in 2017, but for no more than 200 megawatts.

(SHVINE’S gall OPP.)

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.)

Einheitsstecker

Uniform plug.

The E.U. agreed on a universal adapter for recharging electric cars!

They’ve even chosen the model: in German it’s called the “Type 2” or “Mennekes” plug.

(EYE n heights SHTECK ah!)

Wasser|Wasser-Wärmepumpe

Water/water heat pump, which can be used e.g. for heating a residential home via groundwater according to one German manufacturer.

The U.K. government announced that to reduce its dependence on natural gas it will incentivize development of carbon-neutral water-based networks that bring heat to multiple buildings. From any body of water, such as rivers or lakes, that is exposed to sunshine the networks will take water, filter it twice, remove the extra heat via heat exchangers, concentrate that heat to 45°C via “reverse refrigeration” and pipe it to nearby buildings.

If the water is taken from a river, the current can be used to generate the electricity running the system.

England’s first such network will serve ~150 homes and a hotel|conference center in South London, said Energy Secretary Ed Davey (LibDem). He has asked the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change to draw up a map of England showing where such water-energy networks can be built.

(VOSS ah   VOSS ah   VAIR ma POOMP ah.)

Energiewende-Bremse protestieren

Protesting a brake decelerating the Energiewende, Germany’s switch to renewable energy sources and more energy independence.

Tens of thousands of people protested creatively in several German cities on 22 Mar 2014 because they are afraid the new oppositionless grosse Koalition government wants to slow down Germany’s switch to solar and wind power, and delay the shutdowns of coal and nuclear power plants. Protesters interviewed said governments should speed up the switch to renewables, not slow it down.

The first draft of the new coalition’s Energiewende reform is supposed to be ready in early April 2014.

(En nog EE venned ah   bremz ah   pro tess TEA ren.)

Induktive Ladesäule

“Inductive loading column,” a wireless recharging station for at least one German factory’s fleet of electric cars. You back the car into the column. Then, magnetism! The car’s batteries recharge in about six hours.

(In duked YVES ah   LAUD ah zoy lah.)

44%

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 Spiegel.de. 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.)

Kaverneninspektion durch Kameras im stillgelegten Atomkraftwerk Brunsbüttel

“Camera cavern inspection in Brunsbüttel’s shutdown nuclear power plant.”

Cameras lowered into one of six underground concrete chambers to inspect barrels of nuclear waste impermanently stored under the offline Brunsbüttel nuclear power plant found another ~18 that were rusted. >600 barrels of nuclear waste are stored at Brünsbuttel. Rust was found on about one-quarter of the 70 inspected so far; some drums were so rusted their walls had breached, said ARD tagesschau.de. Schleswig-Holstein’s environmental minister Robert Habeck (Green party) said the video inspection showed that corroded drums are not “isolated outliers” [Einzelfälle] as some previously claimed, “that it’s not one barrel or a few barrels that are beset but that in fact this is a systemic problem.”

The drums were only intended to be kept in short-term storage at the plant but have now been there for thirty years. Fixing the problem will be difficult: a special crane will have to lift each barrel and put it in a new container, without breaking the damaged drums and without exposing workers to leaking radioactivity. Once in new containers the nuclear waste can be moved to permanent storage, but Germany has no permanent nuclear waste storage sites yet.

(Caw VERNE nen inn spects yoan   dooichhh   COM air oz   imm   shtill g’leg ten   ah TOME croft vair k   BROONZ bittle.)

Verbrennungsmotor

Combustion engine.

Auto experts at the recent Geneva Auto Salon said German car manufacturers will be making cars with combustion engines for the next fifteen years or so. They went on to list every conceivable reason for why there aren’t more electric cars in Germany except the one that was the subject of a credible critical anecdotal article recently about trying to test-drive BMW’s new electric car and being unable to find places to recharge it around Hamburg, a city so large it’s also a state.

The author and his family used phone apps to find car recharging sites provided by several major German utility companies only to discover the rechargers weren’t there, weren’t connected up yet, didn’t recharge on weekends, only accepted payment from cards it took fifteen days to acquire, didn’t recognize the code on a payment card the utility expressed to the author, were on a 20-cm concrete pedestal which meant you could only drive close enough to use them on days the business next door was open.

(Fair BRENN oongz moe TOR.)

Grosse Kohlelition

Grand “coal”-alition.

Since the 22 Sep 2013 Bundestag election, Germany’s second-largest political party, the socialist S.P.D., has had a new boss: Sigmar Gabriel. He managed to get his party to agree to form a grosse Koalition with Chancellor Merkel’s largest political party, the conservative C.D.U. (and its Bavarian state branch, the C.S.U.), even though this effectively eliminated opposition from the Bundestag and usually causes the S.P.D. to lose voters after unethical compromises of its core principles. After delivering the S.P.D., via much talk, singing rousing songs and an up-or-down vote on whether to rule, Mr. Gabriel became the deputy chancellor of Germany and took on two cabinet ministries: Economics and Energy. He announced he would “reform” Germany’s switch to renewable energy sources, the awesome Energiewende, to cap government support of solar and wind power because he wanted to reduce electricity prices for consumers. The reporting indicated Mr. Gabriel has no plans to significantly reduce the C.D.U.’s exemptions, “industry privileges,” granted to high-volume electricity-consuming companies, which goes up by about 1000 companies/year and which the E.U. competition authority has said if not stopped or at least better organized may be reason for that authority to kill the Energiewende entirely. In fact, ZDF heute journal correspondent Stefan Leifert said, the new minister has refused to specify which important industries will get which rebates to their contributions to the Energiewende.

Mr. Gabriel’s hand-picked successor as head of the S.P.D. is a representative of coal workers, from the Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie (IG BCE, “industrial union for mining, chemistry, power”).

Because Bavaria has been investing in biofuel systems, the C.S.U. was not 100% behind kneecapping the Energiewende when Mr. Gabriel submitted his reform proposals on 30 Jan 2014. Bavaria’s Economy & Energy minister Ilse Aigner (C.S.U.) explained that biomass electricity generation is a reasonable alternative for times when there are low quantities of sun or wind.

(GROSS ah   COAL a lee tsee OWN.)

Aufs falsche Pferd gesetzt

Some insight into why left-leaning governments along the very densely populated Ruhr river, even under an S.P.D. + Green party state coalition government such as that of governor Hannelore Kraft (S.P.D.), might persist in doubling down on the “losing bet” on coal-fired power plants: financially-strapped town governments, such as the city of Essen where the huge utility RWE is headquartered, are heavily invested in private utilities’ stock. Essen bought almost 19 million shares of RWE stock in 2007 at ~75 euros and was still listing the stock in its books as worth 75 euros though they were trading at 27 euros when ZDF heute journal reported on this last month. Update on 01 Apr 2014: Essen adjusted its books to reflect its RWE stock’s current trading price, because new rules required the city to do so, and consequently lost 680 million euros on paper. Essen’s capital has now shrunk to ~15 million euros. The city estimates it will have debts of 18 million euros at the end of 2014 and >50 million at the end of 2015 and 2016 (2015 and 2016?). FAZ.net said other Ruhrgebiet cities invested in RWE stock as well.

The city utilities of the towns of Essen, Dortmund, Oberhausen, Bochum, Dinslaken and Duisburg along the Rhine and Ruhr rivers formed an entity called the Stadtwerke Konsortium Rhein-Ruhr which in 2011 bought 51% of STEAG (“the Anthracite Electricity Co.”), a company that operates coal-fired power plants, for a total of 1.2 billion euros in borrowed money.

Academics interviewed on ZDF heute journal said Germany’s energy future is in decentralized renewables, especially solar power and wind. They worried that the utilities stock the financially imperiled Ruhrgebiet cities have borrowed money to invest in wasn’t just tempting city and state governments to make questionable environmental policy but that they would acquire so much debt throwing good money after bad to subvention the old coal power plants that the towns might never recover financially.

Update on 21 Nov 2013: An expert opinion report found that ex-governor of Baden-Württemberg Stefan Mappus (C.D.U.) overpaid by ~780 million euros when he bought into private energy utility company EnBW in 2010, negotiating a shares purchase package for 4.7 billion euros. The report was commissioned by the Stuttgart prosecutors’ office. N.B.: Mr. Mappus was succeeded in office by Winfried Kretschmann, Germany’s first Green party governor, as a result of the fierce protests against the Stuttgart 21 train station expansion project (C.D.U.).

Update on 28 Feb 2014: RWE lost 2.8 billion euros in 2013. This is its first loss year in sixty years. The majority of the losses are from write-downs on gas and coal-fired power plants. It had calculated that its conventional large coal-burning power plants would be selling electricity at 50 euros/megawatt hour in 2014/2015 that it’s selling for 35 euros because of Germany’s investments in decentralized renewable energy sources. RWE’s stock price was almost 29 euros though because shareholders were expecting the news, a trader said.

Update on 04 Mar 2014: RWE’s C.E.O. Peter Terium said at a press conference that the utility “made mistakes too” and was late to invest in renewable energy sources, “perhaps too late.”

Perhaps one-third of their large coal-burning power plants is not earning enough from electricity sales to cover operating costs. The company is 30 billion euros in debt. They said they will have to make cuts, including cutting 10% of jobs by the end of 2016 which is a clear dog whistle to the S.P.D, and asked the German government to help them out of their dead end. The chair of the Mining, Chemistry, Energy union where the new general secretary of the S.P.D. used to work, who is also the new general secretary of the S.P.D.’s life partner, called for the government to support RWE’s request for more government support. Payment for maintaining offlined unprofitable coal-burning power plants would not be a subsidy, said RWE’s C.E.O.

Update on 12 Apr 2014: Spiegel.de reported that Wirtschaftswoche reported that Handelsblatt Online reported that the just top twenty municipal governments owning the most RWE stock lost 2.5 billion euros on paper in the recent write-down to the stock’s current trading price. Essen lost 680 million euros. Mülheim an der Ruhr lost 480 million. “The stock price adjustment is bringing some of them to the verge of bankruptcy.” Also, RWE’s C.E.O. Peter Terium recently confirmed that the utility might issue new stock to get fresh capital, further pushing down the price of its old stock. Wirtschaftswoche and/or Handelsblatt said the affected North Rhine-Westphalian “counties” [Kreis] include Hochsauerland, Rhein-Sieg and Rheinisch-Bergische and the affected North Rhine-Westphalian regional authorities [Landschaftsverband] include Westfalen-Lippe and Rheinland.

No one has explained yet how RWE could be so massively in debt yet 2013 was its first loss year since World War II, unless they’re saying the utility did it by hiding losses on paper while hoping for government support. A 03 Mar 2014 article headlined “Complaining as a Strategy,” in which Spiegel.de said C.E.O. Peter Terium still lacked a plan for bringing the utility giant forward into greatness, cited an RWE presentation dated February 2014 that said the company had debts of ~19 billion in 2008 which increased to ~30 billion euros in 2013. It said it appears the management has cut costs and already budgeted in government aid it expects to receive by explaining how poorly the company is doing, but it still lacks a plan for getting out of the “vale of tears.” Laudable investments in decentralized renewable energy sources such as “Blockheizkraftwerke [decentralized combined heat and power station units], Solarspeicher [storage units for solar energy] and smart home concepts” cannot offset the huge losses from investments in giant dirty power plants.

(Ow! fss   FALL shah   FEAHD   geh ZETTS t)

“Wenn das Angebot erst einmal in dieser Breite vorhanden ist, dann wird die Nachfrage sich einstellen”

“When supply is available in this [amplitude/latitude], then the demand will adjust,” transport minister Peter Ramsauer (C.S.U.) said at the May 2013 electromobility summit in Berlin, explaining how supply was going to drive demand for electric cars in Germany. Though his government certainly wanted more electric cars on German roads, they said they would continue not giving individual consumers subventions or tax rebates for purchasing the expensive but environmentally friendly vehicles. Only ~7000 electric cars were registered in Germany (pop. ~80 million). Electric car prices in Germany were considered high by consumers and everyone—government, car makers and consumers—agreed there weren’t many models to choose from. Auto manufacturers at the government-hosted electromobility conference said on 27 May 2013 they hoped to increase the electric car models for sale in Germany to ~15 by 2015.

Update on 26 Nov 2013: Norway is promoting electric cars more than any other country in the world, with free downtown parking, free downtown recharging, no taxes on purchases of new electric automobiles (omitting 25% V.A.T., import fees and tariffs, import customs charges), no highway tolls and permission to drive in bus lanes. Rich in oil and water, Norway has been selling the oil internationally and using the water to create free electricity for electric cars at home, to meet the country’s 2017 carbon emissions reduction goals. The ~5 million Norwegians own about 14,000 electric cars, which have become the most popular vehicles people are applying to register there, unseating the Volkswagen Golf.

(Ven   doss   ON geh boat   eahst   moll   inn   dee zah   BR-R-R-IGHT ah   foah hond en   issed,   don   vee ahd   dee   NOCHH fr-r-rog ah   zichh   eye n shtell en.)

Dann doch!

“Well, okay then.” Actually, this is yet another thrilled German headline about the warming of diplomatic relations between Iran and the U.S.A. The wonderful détente is very exciting. Hopefully, now, we can all get rich together, a wish expressed by my Iranian kitchenmates at German university ten years ago.

A recently published “history of Iran for beginners” said the country had ~38 auto manufacturing companies, presumably in response to international sanctions. Perhaps innovators like Google or Tesla could work out deals with some of these groups to supply novel parts for renewable-energy car projects. There could now be excellent internationally sponsored engineering programs at Iranian universities, and training exchanges around the world.

(Don DOCK.)

 

Incendies vs. départs de feu

ASN.fr 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.

Erdgaspreis

Price of natural gas. A March 2013 article in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal mentioned that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said the Libor benchmarks manipulation scandal came to their attention after “firms and traders” were sanctioned for reporting false data to energy index compilers in attempts to manipulate natural gas prices between 2003 and 2005.

(ED gauze prize.)

Ölpreis

In 2011 a Goldman Sachs study apparently stated that market speculation had indeed helped drive up the price of oil for consumers. In 2012 U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Bart Chilton said, “Using the Goldman Sachs research figure, and multiplying 10 cents times 233.9 million, would mean that theoretically there’s a ‘speculative premium’ of as much as $23.39 a barrel in the price of NYMEX crude oil.” Mr. Chilton has also said that the commodities business is a possible loophole for banks in the U.S.’s new frequently-postponed “Volcker rule” intended to reseparate banking from investment gambling.

Potential oil bottleneck points persist in privately held and/or operated oil infrastructure. Oil traders now own oil refineries. Pipelines are included in the infrastructure large banks have somehow acquired part ownership of. U.S. bank Morgan Stanley invested in the “global oil tanker operator” Heidmar in addition to “fuel chain supply manager” TransMontaigne. An F.A.Z. article described how the world’s three largest oil trading firms, Switzerland-based Gunvor, Vitol and Glencore—”prescient” commodity markets pioneer Marc Rich’s old firm—work today, supposedly on the basis of fast-computer-based price arbitrage rather than speculation. Moving into production, Glencore is now invested in oil wells, coal mines and metals mines, after its late-2012 fusion with Swiss competitor Xstrata.

Apparently a landmark 2003 U.S. Federal Reserve decision allowed U.S. investment banks to start “trading oil cargoes.” In July 2013 the Fed announced it was “reviewing” that decision. Though Fed deregulation may have unleashed the Wall Street side of recent international commodities speculation problems, the Fed probably cannot fix it now without simultaneous coordinated reforms from other regulators around the world.

(ILL prize.)

Schwimmender Gashafen als Anlandepunkt für internationale Flüssiggastanker

“Floating gas harbor as a landing point for international liquid gas tankers.” Steve Coll wrote that the first liquid natural gas (L.N.G.) contract was signed between Britain and Algeria in 1961, with conversion plants and transport ships that used refrigeration. Figuring out how to engineer natural gas into liquid forms made it possible to ship it cheaply around the world and created an international gas market. Initially the big oil companies searched for and developed gas fields outside their home countries, liquefying and exporting Middle Eastern and African natural gas instead of the pre-shipping method of just burning or flaring it off at the wellhead because building, protecting and maintaining pipelines requires quantities of time, money and cooperation that companies and countries aren’t always prepared to invest. Later, fracked gas from doing… terrible things to domestic rock was sold in the new gas market created. Much initial L.N.G. tech investment was driven by South Korea and Japan’s need for power, Coll wrote.

South Korean shipyards are now building giant floating harbors where international L.N.G. tankers can dock and unload. These giant floating harbors—they must be interesting-looking!—can be sailed around the world. They will make it possible for countries that previously had no natural gas or were dependent on e.g. one pipeline to buy gas at relatively competitive international prices. Might also reduce the total number of lands willing to frack themselves to a few fracking “specialist” countries.

(SHVIM men dare   GAUZE haw fen   olz   ON lond ah POONKT   foor   internot SEE OWN ALL ah   FLOOSS ig gauze tonk ah.)

Baubeginn

“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.)

Pumpspeicherkraftwerke

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.)

Netzentgeltbefreiung

“Network fee exemption.” All electricity consumers in Germany have been sharing the costs to build alternative power sources and now to build new power lines to connect alternative power sources, such as the wind parks out in the North Sea, to the power grid. All electricity consumers in Germany? Well, not quite. Businesses that consume a lot of electricity have been getting exemptions from the government, and those businesses’ unpaid share of the costs has then been redistributed among everyone else, mostly private individuals and families. On 06 Mar 2013, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court overturned the rebates to high-volume electricity-consuming businesses from the shared costs of building the new power lines, saying the Energiewirtschaftsgesetz [Energy Industry Act] does not allow this exemption.

Update on 14 Jul 2013: The E.U. is investigating the legality of high-electricity-consuming businesses’ exemptions to the German EEG-Umlage and Netzentgelt (this investigation was started in March). If the competition commissioner decides the rebates were impermissible, they might even be eliminated with retroactive effect, leaving companies owing millions of euros. State aid to companies in Europe must be approved by the E.U. commission, said Manager Magazin, to prevent competitive distortions.

Update on 26 Aug 2013: There’s still a paucity of power lines connecting the North Sea wind power parks to the mainland grid. Two of three finished German windparks are connected to the mainland. Not only are power line builders behind on connecting existing ocean windmills, but the maps in German television news show there’s so much more area there that has been zoned for windparks yet to be built, which will also have to be connected up. They’re looking for investors. A “Cuxhavener Appell” was signed by investors in North Sea German wind parks seeking planning security. Chinese companies might be very good at building this infrastructure.

Update on 13 Dec 2013: The E.U. Commission has initiated proceedings against Germany’s EEG-Umlage because of the hundreds of rebates to it that were granted to high-power-consumption businesses. Multiple countries filed complaints about it in Brussels, saying the German exemptions to its own law distorted competition in the domestic European market. The formal start of the proceedings is scheduled for Wednesday, 18 Dec 2013. Experts writing opinions for the E.U. competition authority’s investigation said the rebates to companies were a problem but the payments to small renewable-energy feeders contributing electricity to the system were “not overcompensated,” meaning fine, Süddeutsche.de reported. A German Green party member of the European Parliament accused E.U. energy commissar Günther Oettinger (German CDU) of using the E.U. competition authority’s (understandable!) problem with CDU-granted exemptions to the EEG-Umlage to try to endanger Germany’s entire investment program in renewable power sources, rather than work with Brussels to eliminate the sole sticking point, one that his party would be rather well-placed to fix. Süddeutsche.de said there was great opposition in the European Parliament to the Commission’s announcement that it would try to declare Germany’s entire Renewable Energies Act an impermissible subvention, rather than just the exemptions granted to it “which Berlin has steadfastly refused to touch.” Mr. Oettinger should send a clear message to Brussels that Berlin is now willing to talk about reducing the exorbitant exemptions, the Green party said.

Update on 14 Dec 2013: Spiegel.de reported that E.U. competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia is trying to hurry up and change the E.U.’s Energiewende model before the E.U. election in spring 2014. He will announce plans on Wednesday, 18 Dec 2013, they said, for auctioning off renewable energy subventions (“market premium” model) rather than guaranteeing them (“fixed premium”). His preferred model has been shown to result in the E.U. in countries’ building fewer renewable energy generation sites than planned.

Spiegel.de said it saw internal E.U. documents indicating the following troublesome European components in the competition commissioner’s plan for changing E.U. renewable energy policy. The promised fixed prices for purchasing clean electricity for a defined number of years that have resulted in so much renewable energy construction in Germany are “a thorn in the eye” to Mr. Almunia and his Competition office, said Spiegel.de. Instead, he wants electricity to be purchased from renewable energy generator operators at market prices plus a premium decided in an auction-type process. To keep the premium as low as possible, construction of new renewable-source generators is to be opened up to competitive bidding, with the contract awarded to the builder offering to accept the lowest premium on the electricity their site will produce. Spiegel.de pointed out this adds obvious uncertainty to the apparent profitability of building new renewable energy generators, large and small, but also less obvious uncertainty, such as: companies that win these auctions could go bankrupt, leaving the rewewable energy infrastructure construction project and/or electricity seller high and dry in future years.

According to its new coalition government agreement, Germany had planned to switch to the electricity market price + premium model, but not before 2017 and then “only if certain relevant pilot projects were successful.”

Spiegel.de said some members of the E.U. Commission felt Mr. Almunia’s “market premium” model was suitable for Europe, now, and some felt it may be suitable for countries in which the switch to renewable sources [Energiewende] is well-established but not for countries starting out on that path. In his draft guideline, which he’s trying to push through before the springtime election, he changed a definition that might make Germany’s success in this area an obstacle for member states attempting to replicate it: the definition of a mature technology was changed from a certain percentage of the electricity consumed by a country to a certain percentage of the electricity generated by the entire European Union. “Solar, wind (on land and sea), hydropower and biogas plants already exceed Mr. Almunia’s limit” in the E.U., Spiegel.de said, meaning that “in future they could only be supported [subventioned] by competitive bidding” even in countries just starting down that path, even in countries less wealthy than Germany.

In addition to creating a high impediment for countries in which technologies redefined as “market-mature” have not yet been built to competitive levels, Spiegel.de quoted opponents to the measure as arguing, this “direct marketing” model allegedly doesn’t work as promised. “Small electricity operators will need a marketer to sell their electricity,” and this marketer could go bankrupt, after which the operators couldn’t sell their electricity and would lose their right to a subvention [Förderung]. Banks would see the increased risk and raise interest rates on loans for constructing renewable energy sources. Building new renewable generators would become less attractive, meaning the market premium would have to go up for construction to occur: in the end, this model could prove more expensive than Germany’s current system (now being copied by over a dozen E.U. member states Spiegel.de said) while resulting in less construction of the new infrastructure.

(Nets ent GELT beh fry oong.)

Kraft-Wärme-Kopplung

“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.)

EEG-Umlage

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. Tagesschau.de’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.)

Stromspeichertechnik

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.)

Ökostromumlage

“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: Tagesschau.de 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.)

Energiewende

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.)

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