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Here are the latest numbers for energy production and consumption in Germany, courtesy of AG Energiebilanzen e.V. (except for the % of consumption figures which I calculated):

Generation mode  Production% of consumption
2012 2011 2012 2011
Brown coal159.0 TWh150.1 TWh26.7%24.9%
Hard coal118.0 TWh112.4 TWh19.8%18.7%
Nuclear99.5 TWh108.0 TWh16.7%17.9%
Gas70.0 TWh82.5 TWh11.8%13.7%
Wind46.0 TWh48.9 TWh7.7%8.1%
Biomass36.0 TWh32.8 TWh6.1%5.4%
Solar28.0 TWh19.3 TWh4.7%3.2%
Hydro21.2 TWh17.7 TWh3.6%2.9%
Mineral oil9.0 TWh6.8 TWh1.5%1.1%
Domestic waste4.9 TWh4.8 TWh0.8%0.8%
Other26.0 TWh25.6 TWh4.4%4.2%
Total production617.6 TWh608.9 TWh103.9%101.0%
Net import-23.1 TWh-6.3 TWh-3.9%-1.0%
Gross consumption594.5 TWh602.6 TWh100%100%

As you would expect from the discussion of suppressed daily peaks, a major increase for solar and lesser changes for other renewables perfectly balance a drop in gas. You also see a drop in overall consumption (including losses and power sector own use), which is about the same as the drop in nuclear power generation. but what's really glaring is a jump in exports, with a corresponding increase in coal power generation, especially brown coal ( = lignite and sub-bituminous coal in English terminology).

The brown coal increase is mostly temporary. In August last year, two new high-efficiency power plant units started service (ones capable of rapid power variation, adapting to the new high renewables penetration reality). Although the addition of these unneeded new dirt-burners was at least compensated by the closure of older plants with a corresponding capacity, those closures didn't finish until the end of last year. But, temporary or not, this increase had a significant contribution to wholesale price reductions, too.

The development on the hard coal front, however, is expected to get worse this year. You may recall that in 2007, German energy giants promised 26, then 40 new coal plants to replace nuclear capacity. When I asked Where is my coal renaissance? two years later, I judged this "a campaign of wishful thinking ... meant to pave the way for the few plants they will actually be able to realise, in the struggle to maintain market share". Indeed most plans were scuppered, but each of those few remaining are still too much, and most are expected to come on-line this year: 5.3 GW is to be added while only 1 GW is promised to be closed.

In the real world, the consequence will be a dumping on power markets which further depresses wholesale prices. In the world of politics, I expect that the effect will be further attempts to blame the feed-in law and kill it before the federal elections in autumn. However, unless they can retroactively eliminate the 20-year fixed rate guarantee for renewables producers (rather unlikely), I don't see how the over-production would go away – and I think the continued low wholesale prices will ultimately hurt the energy giants with their shiny new coal plants.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 25th, 2013 at 07:20:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is old news, but the picture isn't complete without the addition of the grid issue. On the system level, now that the scaremongering about threatening power shortage due to nuclear shutdowns and intermittent renewables doesn't work any more, attacks against renewable expansion now focus on the ability of the power grid to distribute temporary local peaks in production (like strong winds over the North Sea). Most of these attacks are grounded in a biased to highly misleading interpretation of current events (see Enron's disciples in Germany? for an example). However, it's worse that the assessments of future network capacity utilisation (prepared by grid operators) include forecasts of too high coal-fired plant production, higher than even the government plan. So who is really clogging up lines?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 07:50:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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