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.)

Mit Militär gegen die Müll-Mafia

Using the military to police the garbage mafia.

The Italian government announced it will instruct the military to proceed against illegal waste dumping south of Naples, in the region between that city and Caserta.

Spiegel.de said the area has been nicknamed “the deadly triangle” and “fireland” because so much toxic waste is illegally burned there, “estimated at around ten million tons of industrial waste between 1991 and 2013, brought in under cover of darkness by thousands of trucks, though open trash dumps are illegal in the European Union.”

“The garbage business has been a lucrative source of income for the neapolitan mafia since the late 1980’s. The Camorra lets people dump even poisonous garbage, such as asbestos, solvents, car tires and refrigerators, onto the fields and sets it on fire. Companies throughout the entire country would rather pay bribe money to the mafia than hire serious companies to dispose of their refuse.

“This practice not only releases gases that are harmful to health but also poisons the ground and ground water. Many of the crops harvested there contain arsenic and heavy metals. In the region in question, cancer rates are 47% higher than the national average among males and 40% higher among females.”

An English-language Spiegel.de article quoted a mafia whistleblower who said the dumped garbage included truckloads of nuclear waste from Germany. A local U.S. Navy base is said to follow strict rules to avoid the poisons, after the conclusions drawn by a 2011 study they commissioned that was entitled “Drink Naples and die.” The Navy recommends using bottled water for everything and avoiding ground-floor apartments.

(Mitt   meal ee TARE   gay gen   dee   MILL   mafia.)

“Krysha”-Zahlungen

“‘Paving the way’ payments” in Russia. Rapprochement geld, smoothing-the-path-between-us money, also translated as “bribes” according to a Süddeutsche.de article about Germany’s third-largest power company, Energie Baden-Württemberg, saying some German prosecutors have thought for some years now the nuclear power provider used unworkable, improbable “fake contracts” [Scheinverträge] to move money into “shadow accounts” [schwarze Kassen] in Switzerland to form a pool of bribe money doled out to powerful Russian decision-makers, such as politicians or high-ranking military officers, for more access to the Russian nuclear energy and natural gas sectors. At the time, about half of EnBW was government-owned: by an association of county governments from the German state of Baden-Württemberg and by the French “energy giant” EdF, which itself was also “government-dominated.”

EnBW is said to have been aided in these endeavors by Moscow lobbyist Andrej Bykow, transferring ~280 million euros to Mr. Bykow’s Swiss companies over the course of several years.

Süddeutsche.de’s anthropological explanation of krysha said auditors from the accounting firm KPMG found that “questionable contracts with Mr. Bykow and his companies were being used to pay ‘initiation costs'” and that the auditing company’s confidential research had found that depending on the sector such expenses could run to 2% to 5% of the total cost of a project in Russia. That would make Russia one of the least corrupt countries in the world according to the experience of Siemens executives prosecuted for paying international bribes at about the same time: Siemens accountant Reinhard Siekaczek testified for example that, when he managed transfers of approx. $65 million dollars in illegal bribe money through offshore accounts from 2002 to 2006, his unit found that in the most corrupt countries bribes could be ~40% of a project’s budget, while 5% to 6% was about normal. A retired Greek official who was Greece’s defense department’s procurement director from 1992 to 2002 and recently spoke to Athens prosecutors about ~14 million euros found in his secret accounts around the world said from Russian arms deals his kickback was a “very generous” 3%, because 0.5% to 1% was his usual fee.

Germany has some rules against companies’ paying bribes in other countries, even where corruption is supposedly endemic, as can be seen from the billion-euro fines imposed on Siemens for bribery in 2008. Reporting on possible investigations into the corruption is confused by the use of tax investigations to obtain convictions or evidence in non-tax crimes and EnBW is apparently under investigation for a completely different type of tax fraud (the “carousel” sales tax scheme for avoiding value-added tax and/or collecting refunds of advance V.A.T. payments that were never made) now suspected to have become widespread in European electricity trading. Shortly after the utility’s “opaque business deals” with Mr. Bykow became known in 2011, several tax offices told S.Z., they quickly began looking for improprieties.

The passage of years since the start of these investigations, which state, federal and European offices of which types of investigators, and what pieces of this apparently large and sprawling puzzle they were examining, remains unclear to me.

Mannheim prosecutors are said to have been investigating six former EnBW managers and one current EnBW manager since 2012 for tax evasion and “breach of trust” [Untreue] though not for corruption. That could change now that the Karlsruhe tax office has started looking into the questionably documented filling and emptying of the company’s clandestine accounts in Switzerland.

Tax-wise, the power company has already offered to file adjusted German returns for the years 2000 to 2007 and has already transferred an additional 60 million euros to German tax authorities (about what the company saved in taxes by incorrectly labeling some payments to Mr. Bykow as “business expenses,” Mannheim prosecutors said). But new threads to pull keep getting teased out of EnBW’s data.

Süddeutsche.de described a strange nonprofit charity Mr. Bykow founded called “St. Nikolaus the Miracleworker”—whose board members included EnBW managers at times—which made donations to Russian churches, young Russian musicians and Russia’s Air Force, Navy, Border Patrol and “landing troops” [Landungstruppen; amphibious assault?].

“Thus, the Russian Pacific fleet’s submarine squadron Wilutschinsk Kamtschatskij Kraj named a boat after the Nikolaus charity. The charity, in its turn, gave the submarine personnel a minibus and donated a car to their commander, a vice-admiral. For the ‘maintenance of the fighter bomber SU 34, “Holy Nikolaus the Miracleworker,”‘ the foundation donated the construction of a heated airplane hanger. And every year the regiment’s top member received an automobile.”

Though it’s unclear how these arrangements were reached, with Mr. Bykow’s help EnBW ended up receiving military uranium taken e.g. from decommissioned Russian submarines. The utility was said to have used similar methods to increase its access to Siberian gas fields.

(Krysha   TSOLL oong en.)

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)

Rekommunalisierung

“Recommunalization,” remunicipalization. A twenty-first-century response to the twentieth century’s privatization trend. After experimenting with water privatization for over a century, for example, many French towns are now reacquiring privatized, for-profit utilities and turning them back into not-for-profit services.

This accords with the ideas of the great groundbreaking French engineer Henry Darcy who experimented with pipe, sand filtration and spring sources to create a technologically and socially advanced water system for the town of Dijon in 1840, a project he then carefully documented in a beautiful book published in 1856. My Texas colleague Patricia Bobeck translated it into English, including the following:

“As much as possible, one should favor the free drawing of water because it is necessary for public health. A city that cares for the interest of the poor class should not limit their water, just as daytime and light are not limited.”

[The Public Fountains of the City of Dijon, 42.]

Austerity measures may be increasing pressure on governments of financially troubled EU countries to sell off their water and other utilities such as Greece’s recent sale of 33% of the Greek state lottery and gambling organizer OPAP to the Czech-led consortium Emma Delta for 712 million euros (of which 60 million was dividends on profits from 2012). Wikipedia says OPAP is Europe’s largest betting firm and as of 2008 the Greek government only owned 34% of it.

(RAY com you noll iz EAR oong.)

“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.)

Markttransparenzstelle

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:

http://www.clever-tanken.de

http://www.spritpreismonitor.de

http://mehr-tanken.de

http://www.ADAC.de

http://tanken.t-online.de

Spiegel.de 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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