Monday, July 09, 2012

The "Green Curse" Hitting Australia and Germany

Australia's carbon tax and renewable energy target are conspiring to wreak a perfect storm of green misery on Australian power utility customers. The article excerpted below only scratches the surface of the problem for Australia.
The operator of the eastern Australian grid, the Australian Energy Market Operator, has already announced that the average output of wind farms is about 30 per cent of installed capacity. But because wind is an intermittent energy source, AEMO will only count between 3 and 8 per cent of installed wind capacity towards the capacity it needs to keep on hand at all times.

This adds up to a lot of wind farms which have to be built almost in addition to the conventional, fossil fuel network. Because their output can vary wildly, wind farms have to be backed up by conventional generators kept on standby.

The backup generators will mainly be open-cycle gas turbines that can be powered up and down quickly, as opposed to the much larger and far more efficient closed-cycle gas turbines.

Enter the carbon tax, which is set at an internationally high price of $23, which will rise to $29 by 2015 before then probably falling to a $15 floor price. Even at $29, the price is still not high enough to force a switch to cleaner gas for baseload plants. But combined with the alternative energy target the overall result has been to discourage investment in baseload plants in favour of the least efficient ways of generating power; wind farms and open-cycle gas plants.

A further complication has been the splitting of the renewable energy target into a small-scale and large-scale target, with the small- scale target resulting in the installation of numerous, highly inefficient micro-scale photovoltaic systems.

This is all set to get worse. In dollar terms, of the $320 or so added annually to power bills by green initiatives, about $200 is due to the carbon tax and the rest due to renewable energy, according to some estimates. Renewable energy is set to increase its share of the costs, although to date voters have been in favour of this form of energy without realising how much it costs them.

All of this adds up to a looming policy disaster, which has to be sorted out quickly, by completely rethinking our approach

... _FR
We hear much more about Germany's energy woes, of course. Germany is the keystone of Europe, the driving force of the EU's economy and the central nexus of the European power grid.

We are learning -- bit by bit -- just how badly Germany's government has miscalculated in its headlong rush into the green quagmire...
Photovoltaics are threatening to become the costliest mistake in the history of German energy policy. Photovoltaic power plant operators and homeowners with solar panels on their rooftops are expected to pocket around €9 billion ($11.3 billion) this year, yet they contribute barely 4 percent of the country's power supply, and only erratically at that.

When night falls, all solar modules go offline in one fell swoop; in the winter, they barely generate power during the daytime. During the summer, meanwhile, they sometimes generate too much power around midday, without enough storage capacity to capture it all. The distribution network is also not laid out in a way that would allow the country's thousands of owners of photovoltaic arrays -- a term used to denote an installation of several panels working together -- to feed into the grid as well as draw power from it.

To keep the lights on, Germany ends up importing nuclear power from France and the Czech Republic. Grid operator Tennet even resorted to tapping an aging fossil fuel-fired power plant in Austria to compensate for shortages in solar power.

...subsidies for renewable energy, including an expansion of the power grid, will saddle energy consumers with costs well over €300 billion ($377 billion).

An environmental surcharge known as the EEG contribution, which is already added to German energy bills, will rise sharply. This renewable energy surcharge currently amounts to 3.59 cents per kilowatt hour. Chancellor Angela Merkel previously promised to cap it at 3.5 cents, but Erdmann's calculations show the EEG contribution jumping to "over 10 cents per kilowatt hour," or nearly three times what the chancellor pledged.

...Unfortunately, solar arrays provide peak performance only with maximum light exposure when the sun is at the perfect vertical angle and the modules at the ideal temperature -- in other words, under laboratory conditions. In reality, all of Germany's photovoltaic arrays together generate less power than two nuclear reactors. And they can't even replace those reactors unless they have enough storage capacity available. The figures on peak performance of photovoltaic arrays lead to misunderstandings, the German Physical Society writes in an expert opinion, stating, "Photovoltaics are fundamentally incapable of replacing any other type of power plant." Essentially, every solar array must be backed up with a conventional power plant as a reserve, creating an expensive double infrastructure. _Spiegel

H/T Earth's Energy blog

Intermittent unreliable forms of energy such as big wind and big solar, bring too many problems to the grid. Wise governments would be more concerned with the reliable and affordable provision of abundant power, and less concerned with the phantasms of doom dreamed up by tenured academics, government bureaucrats, and green ideologues of the lefty-Luddite dieoff.orgy persuasion.

Government policies are leading many western nations into a costly quagmire of de facto energy starvation.

Wise persons had best plan ahead for the predictable results of foolish government policies.

Xtra Special Bonus: This graphic-rich article describes the growing importance of electricity to European industry.

If -- as seems inevitable -- the growing use of intermittent unreliable sources of electrical energy in Europe drives overall costs of electricity up at the same time as such use drives the quality of European electricity downward, it can only be anticipated that industrial concerns which are currently situated within EU countries, will more often choose to re-locate elsewhere. (We have already seen the beginning of this unfortunate exodus.)

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