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So why Nordstream2? I don't have links, but I've read that the need for Nat gas was because the nukes were shut down.  It seems that Germany could have been near carbon free with nukes, wind, and solar but chose to save money by importing nat gas, which from any source is not only CO2 producing but any escaped gas is a worse greenhouse gas than CO2.
by StillInTheWilderness on Mon Sep 27th, 2021 at 07:13:35 PM EST
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Coal is still playing an important part with phaseout not until 2038, almost two decades from now.

The figures are from 2018-2019:

Coal in Germany

Power generation from coal has long served German industry, and despite Germany's reputation as an ecological role model, the cheap, carbon-intensive fossil fuel is still an important pillar of the country's power supply. Hard coal and lignite have a share of 35.3 percent in German power production (compared to 35.2% from renewables, 11.7% from nuclear and 12.8% from natural gas in 2018). Altogether, the energy sector is responsible for a large share of Germany's greenhouse gas emissions (37 percent).

A phase-out of coal power is at the heart of debates on how Germany can reach its climate targets, particularly after the Ministry for Environment warned in autumn 2017 that the country was falling short of its 2020 emissions reduction target by a wide margin.

But since the beginning of 2021, coal generation is rising again:

Germany 2021: coal generation is rising, but the switch to gas should continue

As news across Europe shows, a combination of factors is seeing coal powered electricity generation on the increase. Simon Göss at cr.hub, writing for Energy Brainpool, takes a close look at what's going on in Germany. The post-pandemic demand bounce-back, low generation from wind due to calm weather, and record high gas prices have made coal more competitive. That's even with rising prices for CO2 and record high prices for coal (caused by supply restrictions due to strikes and weather events in Colombia and Australia). Coal's return is helped by gas prices in the EU tripling since the beginning of the year due to the cold winter and spring, low storage levels, fewer deliveries from Russia and more LNG deliveries going to Asia. But it is unlikely to be a sign of coal's return, says Göss. Coal generation is still below 2019 levels. And the generation costs of hard coal-fired power plants are in most cases still higher than that of modern and efficient gas-fired power plants*. Meanwhile, lignite-fired power plants are still slipping into loss which should mean its replacement either by higher gas generation or higher electricity imports.

*ADDED Friday 24th Sep: Simon Göss explains that as of 24/9/21 gas prices topped 70 EUR/MWh. That means coal is now cheaper than all gas plants in Germany. How long this lasts, only time will tell. The expectation is that once the gas shortage ends and its price drops below 40-50 EUR/MWh and with carbon staying at its current level, the switch from coal to gas will continue.

by Bernard on Mon Sep 27th, 2021 at 09:05:34 PM EST
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Will China's move against coal power improve its image in EU?
QUESTIONS REMAIN whether he meant China will cease financing coal plants overseas or merely stop building them construction, a far less impressive pledge.

South Korea and Japan said earlier this year that they would stop funding financing coal-fired power plants abroad. Together with China the three Asian countries account for 95% of all foreign financing for coal-fired power plants worldwide, according to a report by Georgetown University.

Chinese companies to build 700 coal plants in and outside China, 2017
P&E sales and "domestic aversion to coal"

reference (not Georgetown)
Global Energy Monitor
--Global Coal Plant Tracker

----Global ownership of coal plants, by nation of incorporation
----New Coal Plants by Country (MW), 2000-2021
operating in India+China, outside India, outside China (ROW total, ROW by nation)

by Cat on Tue Sep 28th, 2021 at 02:59:28 AM EST
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Good question. I think what is driving North stream is to prevent a disruption in gas supplies.

Gas powered plants are flexible and can be turned on or off as the system demands it. It is therefore - together with oil and hydro - very useful as top load, no matter if you are running lots of base load in the form of nuclear and coal, or intermittent in the form of solar and wind.

So even though just above 10% of Germanys electricity is from gas, it is an important part. North Sea gas is running out, UK and Netherlands that owns most of it and uses gas heavily can be expected to prioritise themselves. Pipelines through Ukraine has a political risk. LNG from US is expensive and also has a political price. So North stream it is.

Better alternatives would be pumped storage or otherwise try to eliminate the need for gas, but that is not the course Germany has set.

by fjallstrom on Tue Sep 28th, 2021 at 11:16:02 AM EST
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Another bad result of Brexit.
by StillInTheWilderness on Tue Sep 28th, 2021 at 07:53:53 PM EST
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I think it might be worth pointing out that the concept of "base load" and "variable (top) load" are the result of conscious decisions made during the development of the electrical power system.

If you build a thermal plant (coal, oil, or nuclear energy with steam boilers and turbines), you run into a problem in that the components do not like to cycle from hot to warm to hot to warm. Thermal cycling like that causes them to wear out.

The solution to that is to develop a tariff or rate structure that encourages customers to use electricity during times when there is excess. For example, at night or on weekends, when traditional factories are closed. You end up with a situation where factories operate 24/7 because the cost of the overtime wages is offset by lower electricity cost. You encourage people to charge their electric cars at night "because the cost of electricity is lower then." But that is the result of how the rate structure is set up in order to protect the generating plant infrastructure.

Another way to approach it is to accept that the availability of electricity will vary depending on sunlight or wind, and to develop a rate structure that reflects that variability. Such a tariff encourages customers to deal with the variable supply by implementing demand management. Most factory operations, with the exception of certain types of furnaces (that do not like to be thermally cycled), can be curtailed or modified to align with variable electricity supply. Certainly most households can do the same thing.

The bottom line is that it is important to keep in mind that the idea of "base load" is an artificial construct that is in place primarily to protect a certain technology choice. That is why you need a natural gas supply: to protect the old-fashioned thermal plants that should now be retired.

by asdf on Thu Sep 30th, 2021 at 06:03:57 PM EST
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Comparison of Solar and Wind Power Generation Impact on Net Load across a Utility Balancing Area

For office buildings and utility the type of electric load can be an issue.

LED lighting is quite different from fluorescent lighting requiring load ballast.

by Oui on Thu Sep 30th, 2021 at 07:18:16 PM EST
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Right, there are tons of articles on this topic.

The details of the engineering problem are more complicated than just achieving a sufficient net energy supply. The article mentioned above lists

  • bulk energy
  • frequency regulation
  • primary frequency response
  • secondary frequency response
  • tertiary frequency response
  • inertial service
  • operating reserve
  • system restart
  • voltage support
  • capacity

Even this is a limited list, because it leaves off issues of rate equity, emergency response times, security, and a host of other things...
by asdf on Thu Sep 30th, 2021 at 10:56:16 PM EST
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The impact of growing IT sector electricity demand

IT sector electricity demand is expected to grow by 50 percent by 2030, reaching a total of 3,200TWh, according to a forecast that looks at the main - certain - IT technology developments and considers the progress and challenges on an electricity usage level.

by Oui on Sat Oct 2nd, 2021 at 01:09:52 PM EST
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Another way to approach it is to accept that the availability of electricity will vary depending on sunlight or wind, and to develop a rate structure that reflects that variability.

Replace "electricity" with "energy" and you're talking about the world we used to live in for thousands of years all the way until late 19th - early 20th century. Should be achievable. Again.
by pelgus on Fri Oct 1st, 2021 at 06:24:48 AM EST
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Memory Lane just 80 years ago ...
by Oui on Fri Oct 1st, 2021 at 10:50:02 AM EST
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by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 08:44:37 AM EST
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