German Solar Subsidies: “Costliest mistake in the history of German energy policy”

SPIEGEL ONLINE has a surprisingly accurate take on the true cost of the German solar subsidies. Snippet on the “Costly Mistake“:

(…) A new study by Georg Erdmann, professor of energy systems at Berlin’s Technical University, reveals just how far Germany’s current center-right governing coalition — made up of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) — has strayed from its own self-imposed goals. Erdmann has calculated the effects that the latest changes to the EEG will have between now and 2030. He believes that 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.

The study is all the more interesting because Erdmann himself is a member of a panel of experts the German government appointed a few months ago to monitor Germany’s transition to renewable energy. Though the panel is expected to deliver its conclusions at the end of this year, it already seems clear that Erdmann considers solar energy subsidies a hindrance rather than a help in Germany’s phase-out of nuclear energy.

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.

1 thought on “German Solar Subsidies: “Costliest mistake in the history of German energy policy”

  1. It may be some time before the German people understand that a very serious and expensive mistake has been made. When they finally do understand, we should say, “I told you so” and point out exactly how we knew it was a mistake. Unless that is done so that people will learn the need for careful analysis before making decisions, large-scale mistakes will continue.

    It continues to astound me that energy systems are implemented before doing the math. It seems that people assume that good feelings and intentions are sufficient to assure success without the bother of a careful analysis.

    Perhaps this is a good place to reiterate what Lord Kelvin said. He said that knowledge that cannot be expressed in numbers is not knowledge; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but it is of a meagre and unsatisfactory sort.

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