Archive for November, 2015

Is there a German Energiewende ?

November 27, 2015



Three professors from the Physikalisches Institut Universität Heidelberg have written a very short article in February 2015, titled “Findet eine Energiewende statt?” Contrary to what one usually reads (i.e. the Energiewende is only seen as implying electricity production), they discuss how the amount of fossil energies in the total German energy consumption has changed between 2000 and 2013. During that period, a solar photo-voltaic capacity of nearly 39 GW, and a wind-turbine capacity of approx. 34 GW were installed, quite impressive numbers (a large nuclear reactor has a 1.5 GW capacity)!

The costs of the PV installations alone installed from 2000 to 2012 are estimated at 108 billion Euro (including the yet to pay amounts for the future feed-in). The total costs of the EEG (Erneuerbare Energie Gesetz) are staggering, and mostly unknown. One estimation by Hermann (2011), actually seen as much too low, gives a total of 350 billion Euro up to 2030; 500 billion probably will be exceeded.

What is the effect of this huge effort? The figure below shows the total energy consumption in Germany from 2000 to 2013. The left scale shows the percentages, with the situation in 2000 taken as 100%. I added the boxes and arrows.


We see that the percentage of fossil fuel energy was about 84% in 2000 and remains at least 80% in 2013 compared to the 2000 reference; actually it is 90% of the slightly lower total consumption in 2013. So in 14 years of extraordinary expansion of renewables there is at best a minuscule diminution of the total amount of fossil fuels used for heating, driving, industrial processes and electricity production (and even an increase in the 2013 percentage).

The professors rightly conclude: “Der bisherige Ausbau der Wind- und Solarenergie ist augenfällig, das bisher Erreichte fällt aber sehr bescheiden aus, gemessen am Gesamtziel einer weitgehend von fossilen Energieträgern unabhängigen Energieversorgung unseres Landes”.

Subsidies for renewable and classic electricity

November 22, 2015

In the debate about wind and solar electricity, the amount of subsidies received by political decision is a hot topic. Usually the pushers of this type of electricity (correctly) insist that non-renewable electricity production is also subsidized, and that objecting subsidies for renewables is a moot point.

In this blog I will use concrete data available from the EIA, as well as a few illustrations from the “At the crossroads: Climate and Energy” meeting by the Texas Policy Foundation. All data refer to the USA, 2013.

Let us start with the EIA table which gives the different subsidies for the fiscal year 2013, in million of (2013) US$.


The “classical” electricity production by coal, natural gas, petroleum and nuclear receive 5081 million$, the renewables 15043 million$.

The next slide of a presentation by James M. Taylor from the Heartland Institute gives a good textual overview:

subsidies_EIAThe last point is especially instructive: coal, NG, petroleum and nuclear receive 5081 million$ as subsidies, but produce 86.6% of the total electricity; wind and solar receive 11264 million$ as subsidies and produce 4.4% ! This means that the wind & solar combined receive 43.6 times more subsidy per unit of electricity produced than the traditional producers!

If you just picture solar subsidies per 1000 MWh produced with the traditional producers, you get that nice pie-diagram (by Taylor):

subsidies_per_MWPer unit of electrical energy subsidies to traditional producers become nearly invisible compared to those of solar electricity!

The official EIA numbers in the table should close the debate: yes, renewables get really high subsidies for their very low overall contribution! The situation in Europe probably is similar to the USA, with renewable subsidies possibly still higher.

German PV producers: you will pay more for self-used solar electricity!

November 2, 2015

The Bundesnetzagentur (BNA) has published a guide to explain the future taxes that must be paid by individual producers and consumers of electrical energy. This provisional “Leitfaden zur Eigenversorgung” is devilishly complicated, as many combinations of producing/consumption and storage are possibly.

1. The big principle

In the future every consumer will have to pay an EEG tax, even if he consumes the electricity that he produces with his roof-mounted PV panels. Until now he paid for his own electricity about 20 (Euro) cents per kWh, to be compared with about 30 cents that the ordinary consumer has to pay. This will change in the future (in three increasing steps: up to end of 2015, 2016 and from 2017 on). The following diagram gives this situation:

abb_1The red circle shows that (starting 2017) the producers of solar, wind or biomass electricity (EE) and those of high efficient combined heat and power installations (KWK) will only have to pay 40% of the EEG tax, all others the full amount (100%)

2. The difficult problem of electricity storage

The new “Leitfaden” considers electricity storage installations as consumers and producers; as a consumer they must pay the tax, and as producers they must ask their clients to do it.

Let us just consider the situation where a PV owner uses his own solar electricity, and adds battery storage to smooth-out the variable production:


Normally, he would have to pay two times: first to store, and then to use! The Leitfaden remarks that this would be rather idiotic, so one of the two taxes vanishes. The 100% amount will change to 40% if the electricity is produced by renewables. This is the minimum amount that must always be payed!

3. The zero-tax exceptions

A couple of exceptions exist: the first is the “island” situation shown in the next figure:


Here you have a consumer whose house is completely cut off from the grid, and must never (even for 15 minutes!) connected back to that grid. His electricity is exclusively renewable, and he may not up it with some other means (as a diesel generator) when the quantity is insufficient. This consumer will pay no tax. But remember: a single kWh coming from outside during the year means he will be put back at the 40% tax level for the full year!

If this user has a one-way connection to the grid, so he might deliver eventual excess renewable electricity to the grid (but never the other way round!) and not asking for the usual  renewable subsidy, zero tax also applies.

Very small renewable installations (de-minimis installations), with less that 10 kW capacity and less than 10 MWh annual energy production will also be exempt from the tax.

4. Storage

The only system of storage that will be treated lightly is the pass-through storage system: the owner takes electricity from the grid, stores it and delivers the same quantity later on. Actually he puts his storage batteries in the hands of an external provider who manages storage and retrieval. This owner will not have to pay for that electricity that transits through his batteries (difficult to see it otherwise!)

5. Conclusion

As said at the start, the “Leitfaden” shows a devilishly difficult future world, and one where tricks and poor morality will blossom, as control and management also will be far from easy (even with smart meters). I guess many PV owners will not take lightly that they will have to pay higher taxes on their home-grown electricity they consume!