TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 2)


Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 12: My conclusion



In this second part I will continue the “Energy” discussion of part 1.

2.4. Single European electricity market

At page 25 the report says that a single European electricity market is imperative. As the whole agenda goes more to the individual user/consumer, and in later economic considerations tells us of the importance of going local, this seems a logical clash. A single European market could well seriously limit the freedom of the small local producers and at least put them under pressure to aggregate into major corporations….

2.5. Oversupply of renewable electricity.

I congratulate the authors to point to this problem, which has become sort of a German nightmare: if a certain amount of renewable producers is exceeded (some papers set the limit at a number equal to the capacity factor), invariably there will be moments where the total renewable electricity produced exceeds the national and often also the neighbouring demand. When this happens, either electricity prices go negative (i.e. the client is paid for accepting it), or the renewable producers must be shut down. This happens more and more often with wind turbines, and Germany is asking for every PV installation of the future the possibility to remove it from injecting its electricity into the grid (a smart meter can do this).

Now Rifkin’s company has a model called KomMod which they applied to Luxembourg, and they found that producing all electricity by local renewables (as suggested by some “experts”) is not the best solution: they find that 70% local and 30% imports make more economic sense.  But their model makes an assumption that rises all hairs on my head: they assume (page 34) that when there is a local overproduction of PV and wind electricity, the oversupply can be sold without any problems to Luxembourg’s neighbors (the “international market”). This certainly will not be feasible: when a such sunny and windy situation happens, it will not be restricted to tiny Luxembourg, but will cover a great part of our neighbors, who would have the same excessive production.

2.6. Resiliency of the electricity grid.

The report sees dangers to the grid nearly exclusively coming from weather extremes, thought to be the consequence of the assumed climate change. This is a very short view, as the resiliency of the future smart grid will be more compromised by hacking or digital failure and operator errors  than by storms (all serious papers on extreme weather shows that these phenomena have not significantly increased). Somewhere in the report it is assumed that in case of danger, the multiple local producers can be islanded, i.e. shut off from the big grid so that they may continue to deliver electrical power to their local environment. This is indeed an interesting feature, but there is nothing new here: all major grids in activity today are heavily meshed, and there are multiple possibilities to isolate a part causing problems from the rest. A cyber-attack on a smart grid will try to make all communications inside the Energy Internet impossible (for instance by massive distributed DoS (denial of service) attacks, so that the islanding commands will be blocked.

2.6. Standardization and USEF

The smart grid has multiple connectors and bridges, and without standardization of many technological and economic aspects the European wide market will be impossible. We see today that countries like Poland (and also Luxembourg at its Belgian border!) install phase-changers at their borders to forbid excessive incoming electricity which would destabilize their grid. This is a horror vision for the TIR agenda. The somewhat fuzzy USEF model is suggested to solve all these problems. Besides buzzwords, the report does not show clearly the details of this future (based on so-called transactive models). The concluding part nevertheless contains a very sound recommendation concerning standards (page 56): “closely follow standardization efforts, influence but do not lead”!

2.7. The end of feed-in tariffs

The report contains a small bombshell (page 47) by insisting that FiT (feed-in tariffs) that are today taken for granted by solar and wind electricity producers are not sustainable and “are not likely to be a key part” of Luxembourg’s future smart energy system. Ouch!!!


The “Energy” part ends at page 67; the last pages give the conclusions of the TIR people. One recurrent problem is the naivety and ignorance concerning electricity storage. For instance at page 48 the authors recommend that Luxembourg should increase its storage potential beyond the existing pumped storage (i.e. SEO Vianden). Now since a couple of years Vianden does not store electricity in the usual manner, storing the excess during low demand and releasing it when demand is high. These times are well past; Vianden today is nearly exclusively a grid balancer, stabilizer and regulator, trying to solve some of the problems caused by Germany’s intermittent wind and solar electricity. It does not store surplus electricity to re-inject during low wind or sun-poor days. At page 39 they recommend to “enable storage flexibility through the use of gas grid”. Is this a power-to-gas suggestion? Are they aware of the efficiency costs of the conversions power -> gas -> power ?

Luxembourg should be a first mover installing a nation-wide smart grid, a give the other European countries an example (page 53). But stop: did the report not say at page 56 “…influence, do not lead” (see end of paragraph 2.6 of this blog). Strange logic, indeed! But maybe this is the price to pay when a report is written by a multitude of people without a very tough supervision!


This is the end of my comments concerning the chapter “ENERGY” of the TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016 report.

(to be followed)

7 Responses to “TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 2)”

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