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Energy policy of Germany after Fukushima

September 26, 2012

Dear friend of Technical English,

There are several posts at this blog devoted to power engineering. In order to gain more details concerning the topic visit About the blog. There you will find the full list of such posts. Because of interest to the subject another new technical text is offered below for studying and discussing. Improve your Technical English, enrich your vocabulary in this area, write comments expressing your opinion about the future of electricity supply. Indicate your opinion on  renewables VS nuclear power plants. Uncover new technical terms in TrainTE Vocabulary


Germany’s energy policy after Fukushima

 Composed by Galina Vitkova

Energy Concept 2010

Before FukushimaGermany had ambitious energy targets. Its Energy Concept 2010 approved an extension of the operating times of the 17 German nuclear power plants (NPPs) as a bridging technology for renewable energy supply.

The energy and climate package of 26 November 2010 (Energy Concept 2010) comprised four key elements:

  1. Allocating additional generation quantities to the German nuclear power plants, leading to an average extension of the plants operating time of 12 years;
  2. Adding provisions for the transposition of the Directive 2009/71/Euratom, containing further safety requirements for nuclear power plants. Member States should have brought into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 22 July 2011;
  3. Approving (on 28. 09. 2010) the new nuclear fuel rod tax law introducing a tax on nuclear fuel rods, aimed at raising EUR 2.3 billion per year;
  4. Approving (also on 28. 09. 2010) the law on a new Energie- und Klimafonds (Energy and Climate Fund – EKFG), creating the special energy and climate fund for the promotion of environmentally friendly, reliable and affordable energy supply.
Map in French of the German nuclear power plants

Map in French of the German nuclear power plants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Energy policy shift 2011

Legislative changes following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011 (energy policy shift 2011) stopped the nuclear extension. An amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) stipulated the immediate shutdown of eight power plants and set down a phase-out of the remaining nine nuclear power plants until 2022.

Under these circumstances the German Energy Agency (dena) presented a new study examining the consequences of the German energy policy shift and challenges lying ahead. The Agency predicts that electricity prices will considerably rise until 2050 and conventional power plants will still be needed to a large extent to ensure the security of supply and balance relative to the increasing amount of intermittent renewable energy input.

The intermittence of photovoltaics (PV), for instance, is illustrated on http://www.sma.de/en/company/pv-electricity-produced-in-germany.html, Performance of Photovoltaics (PV) in Germany.  On the site you can see at any time the total output of all PV plants in Germany installed up to the specified cut-off date. At present the total installed capacity of PV plants in Germany amounts to 29 GW. The examples of their generation in profit (in 2012) and low (in 2011) yield days are given in the table below (see also Intermittence of renewables).

Low yield days

Profit yield days

01.01.2011 3 GWh 0.1 hours daily 25.05.2012 179 GWh 6 hours daily
17.03.2011 8 GWh 0.28 hours daily 24.05.2012 165 GWh 6.7 hours daily
30.07.2011 37 GWh 1.28 hours daily 27.06.2012 119 GWh 4 hours daily

 The study was carried out related to the Germany’s target to increase the share of renewable energy sources in the electricity supply to at least 80% until 2050.  When preparing the study dena cooperated with the RWTHAachenUniversity. The study was accepted by RWE AG.

According to the study the installed power capacity in Germany will amount to 240 GW in 2050 in total, with 170 GW of renewable power plants and 61 GW provided by conventional fossil-fuelled power plants. It means that conventional capacity will only decrease by 37% compared with 2010. By 2050 efficient gas and coal-fired power plants will provide roughly 60% of secure electricity supply, whereas renewable power plants deliver 24%.

To ensure the security of electricity supply 49 GW of new conventional power plant capacity is needed preferably by 2020, at the latest by 2030.

According to dena unless additional power plants are built, Germany will import approximately 134 TWh or 22% of the electricity consumed by 2050.

In view of the above need for new conventional power plants and possible imports, the expansion of the grid infrastructure including the connection of offshore wind farms, spinning reserve energy and new storage capacity, enlargement of the existing distribution and transmission grids electricity prices will greatly rise until 2050.

Functioning internal European electricity market

As of 2020 it will increasingly come to situations in which the renewable power production exceeds the demand. The excess of renewable electricity for which there is no demand in Germany or abroad may reach 66 TWh or 15% of the electricity generated in Germany until 2050. So, without a new market design, renewables would not be competitive by 2050. The Agency therefore demands a complete overhaul of the EEG that promotes the input of renewable energy into the German grids by granting fixed feed-in tariffs. These tariffs are higher than the electricity prices at the exchanges. For these reasons it proposes a European capacity market to encourage and stimulate investments in power plants that provide secure capacities.

Nuclear power plant "Kernkraftwerk Emslan...

Nuclear power plant “Kernkraftwerk Emsland” (Photo credit: flokru)


AtG – Atomic Energy Act (Atomgesetz – AtG)
dena – German Energy Agency
EEG – Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act
EKFG – Energy and Climate Fund (In Germany)
NPP – nuclear power plant
PV – photovoltaics


Related articles


100% integration of renewable energies?

August 13, 2011
1 Comment

Composed by Galina Vitkova

The Renewables-Grid-Initiative (RGI) promotes effective integration of 100% electricity produced from renewable energy sources.


Energy Green Supply

I do not believe in this statement RGI. I am sure that it is impossible from technical and technological points of view. Simply remind the very low share of renewables in entire production of world electricity (3% without hydroelectricity), very high investment costs and very high prices of electricity produced from renewables nowadays.

Concerns about climate and energy security (especially, in the case of nuclear power plants) are reasons supporting the efforts for a quick transformation towards a largely renewable power sector. The European emissions reduction targets to keep temperature increase below 2°C require the power sector to be fully decarbonised by 2050. Large parts of society demand that the decarbonisation is achieved predominantly with renewable energy sources.

Illustration: Different types of renewable energy.

Different types of renewable energy

Renewables advocates do not speak much about real solutions of real greatly complex problems of renewable sources. Very often they are not aware of them. Even if renewable energy technologies are now established and appreciated by officials and green activists as a key means of producing electricity in a climate and environment friendly way, many crucial problems remain unsolved. Additional power lines, which are needed for transporting electricity from new renewable generation sites to users, raise negative impact on the environment, including biodiversity, ecosystems and the landscape. Furthermore, electricity surpluses, produced by renewables when electricity consumption is very low, causes enormous problems with storage of these surpluses. Besides, there are serious problems with dispatch controlling of a power system with the great penetration (see Variability and intermittency of wind energy in Number 31 – Giving a definition / July 2011) of renewables. On the whole, three the most important problems are waiting to be solved and each of them demands massive investments:

  • building the additional electricity transmission lines in a great amount due to numerous and dispersed renewable sites;
  • accommodation of electricity storage needs in the case of electricity surpluses from renewables;
  • integration of intermittent sources of electricity production in scheduled control of power grids.

Thus, concerns about the impacts of renewables integration in European power systems need to be carefully studied, fully understood and addressed.

Let us closely consider the issues of building new transmission lines. In the coming decade thousands of kilometers of new lines should be built acrossEurope. Renewable energy sources are abundant and vary, but they are mostly available in remote areas where demand is low and economic activities infrequent. Therefore, thorough strategic planning is required to realise a new grid infrastructure that meets the electricity needs of the next 50-70 years. The new grid architecture is supposed to enable the integration of all renewable energy sources – independently from where and when they are generated – to expand the possibility for distributed generation and demand-side management.

Grid expansion is inevitable but often controversial. The transmission system operators (TSOs) need to accommodate not only the 2020 targets but also to prepare for the more challenging full decarbonisation of the power sector by 2050. The non-governmental organisations (NGO Global Network) community is still not united with respect to supporting or opposing the grid expansion. A number of technical, environmental and health questions need to be addressed and clarified to improve a shared understanding among and across TSOs and NGOs. RGI is trying to bring together cooperating TSOs and NGOs.

The grid expansion could be accomplished by means of overhead lines and underground cables. Both of them may transmit alternative current (AC) and direct current (DC). In the past it was relatively easy to select between lines and cables:

Cables mainly used in the grid for shorter distances mostly due to being more expensive and shorter technical lifetime (50% of overhead lines) whereas overhead lines were used in another cases. Nowadays the situation is more complex since more options and more parameters should be considered. In the future cables will prospectively be even more utilised as development is going towards higher power levels.

Cables have higher public acceptance because of their lower disturbance of natural scenery, lower electromagnetic radiation, avoidance of wildlife, higher weather tolerance. The overhead lines unfortunately disturb the scenery and seriously influence wildlife and protected areas.

The grid development for expanding the renewables by means of overhead lines endangers bird populations inEurope. High and large-scale bird mortality from aboveground power lines progresses due to:

  • Risk of electrocution,
  • Risk of collision,
  • Negative impacts on habitats.

And that all makes up a significant threat to birds and other wildlife. For these reasons Standards to protect birds (Habitats and Birds Directives) are being worked out. 

Moreover, the European Commission is currently working on a new legislation to ensure that the energy infrastructure needed for implementing the EU climate and energy targets will be built in time.


Intermittence of renewables

June 30, 2011

Composed by Galina Vitkova

Everybody knows that renewables are expensive, sometimes very expensive and make electricity price go up. For example, in the Czech Republic the expansion of building solar photovoltaic installations, donated from the state budget, caused increasing electricity price over 12 %. Another example of increasing the costs is given in the table below.

Increase in system operation costs (Euros per MW·h) for 10% and 20% wind share[7]



















Nevertheless, only few people are aware of great intermittence of renewables, which excludes their usage as a main source of electricity generation not only nowadays, but in the future too. Actually no technical and industrial society can exist and develop using unreliable and intermittent power supplies. Nothing in our integrated and automated world works without electricity, this life-blood of technical civilisation. Just imagine what would happen to a society where electricity supply is turned off only for a short time, possibly every week, or if the power is cut for a whole fortnight or more. Life stops, production ceases, chaos sets in. And this is exactly what could arise if we bank on renewables. Thus let us take notice of features specific for wind and solar (photovoltaic) power installations, which are typically built in Europe. 

A straight line projection from where we are t...

Image via Wikipedia

The entire problem with renewables is that they are perilously intermittent power sources. The electricity produced using them is not harmonized with the electrical demand cycle. Renewable based installations generate electricity when the wind blows or the sun shines. Since the energy produced earlier in the day cannot be stored extra generating capacity will have to be brought on-line to cover the deficiency. This means that for every renewable based system installed, a conventional power station will have to be either built or retained to ensure continuity of energy supply. But this power station will have to be up and running all the time (i.e. to be a ’spinning-reserve’) because it takes up to 12 hours to put a power station on-line from a cold start-up. Thusly if we want to keep up continuity of supply the renewable sources result in twice the cost and save very little of fossil fuels.

Wind power is extremely variable. Building thousands of wind turbines still does not resolve the fundamental problem of the enormous wind variability. When days without significant winds occur, it doesn’t matter how many wind turbines are installed as they all go off-line. So, it is extremely difficult to integrate wind power stations into a normal generating grid.  

Solar energy is not available at night and cloudy days, which makes energy storage the most important issue in providing the continuous availability of energy. Off-grid photovoltaic systems traditionally use rechargeable batteries to store excess electricity. With grid-tied systems excess electricity can be sent to the transmission grid and later be settled.

Renewable energy supporters declare that renewable power can somehow be stored to cope with power outages. The first of these energy storage facilities, which comes to aid the thousands of wind-turbines motionless when winds do not blow and solar installations without generating when the sun does not shine, is the pumped water storage system. However, this claim is not well-founded for the following reasons:

  • In most countries of Europe pumped storage systems are already fully used for overpowering variability in electrical demand, and so as a rule they have no extra capacity for overcoming variability in supply due to the unreliable wind and solar generation systems.
  • Pumped storage systems have limited capacity, which can be used for electricity generating  for just a few hours, while wind or solar generation systems can go off-line for days or weeks at a time.
  • Pumped storage systems are not only hugely expensive to construct, the topography of european countries ensure that very few sites are available.

As for flywheel energy storage, compressed air storage, battery storage and hydrogen storage each of these systems is highly complicated, very expensive, hugely inefficient and limited in capacity. The hydrogen storage is especially popular and hyped among proponents of renewables. The hydrogen, produced and stored when renewables generate more electricity than it could be used, is supposed to propel vehicles and generators. Unfortunately these hydrogen powered vehicles and generators are only about 5% efficient. In addition, hydrogen storage vessels are highly flammable and potentially explosive. Practically nowadays there is no energy system available that can remotely be expected to replace renewable energy resources in a large scale, while they are out of functioning.

In numerous publications about renewables we are chiefly informed about expanding and increasing investments in renewables, multiplying their installed capacity and volumes of produced electricity, everything in absolute values, without comparing these indicators with values of other resources, especially when they speak about volumes of production. In the table below you find comparable values of volumes electricity produced by nuclear power plants and renewable installations. Look it through and have your own opinion of the problem.

Comparison of nuclear and renewable electricity producing by top nuclear electricity producers (TW·h-year/% of total electricity production in the country)




Nuclear  2007

Wind Power

Solar Power

1 USA 2009




2 Japan 2008




3 Russia 2008




4 Germany 2010




5 Canada 2008




Conclusion: Common people must know and must interest about situation in producing and supplying electricity. Only then they will be able to enforce on the governments to make rightdecisions in order to ensure stable supplying electricity, without which modern civilisation cannot exist and improve.


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