Quo Vadis? ZDF Wiso documentary Black-Out

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By Kalte Sonne

As soon as the programme was available in the ZDF media library, there was a first wave of indignation against the documentary, which dealt with the energy transition in Germany and a possible blackout. Above all, the effects on the economy and society were presented. Some of the well-known energy transition protagonists were annoyed, such as the omni-present Claudia Kemfert. She was staged for the interview with slightly disturbing pictures, because she leafs through her own beforehand! Book in an archive. Well, what did the makers of the film do? They have contrasted different positions and statements. The viewer can then get an idea for himself, because plenty of facts are provided for the respective statements.

Example 1:

Claudia Kemfert raves about new smart systems that are intended to compensate for the volatility of renewable energies. It brings a digital, flexible, smart power system into play. Question: Does that already exist? Her answer: No, that would have to be built up quickly now. In other words, Claudia Kemfert knows that the energy transition in Germany needs such systems and doesn’t say a fuss about it for years? So, these systems still do not exist 20 years after the start of the energy transition? That was a first Wow effect.

Example 2:

We still have storage facilities, says the energy economist. Too little memory would be a myth. OK, with pumped storage, you would still have to do something, push it still behind. Shortly afterwards, a pumped storage plant from Thuringia comes into the picture, of which Germany would have about 30, but you would need 300. Perhaps a request from Kemfert would have been helpful, where the 300 should actually be built in Germany? But it gets even better. Shortly thereafter, Professor Harald Schwarz (BTU Cottbus) calculates that the current German storage systems will last 30-60 minutes in the worst-case scenario. That doesn’t sound like anything else. Two other people discredit themselves in the interviews in the next examples.

Example 3:

On the one hand, this is Patrick Graichen, former head of Agora-Energiewende and since the end of 2021 State Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs. He seems to have learned a new word and that is “mindset”. He uses it umpteen times. We have to change our mindset, says Graichen. It was no longer BER Airport or Stuttgart 21 station that should be role models, but other projects. This is followed by an interesting statement. We would have to plan, build and approve much faster. Right, he says it in that order.

Did he have the Tesla approach in Grünheide in mind? The order is not quite right, and it was/is highly risky for Tesla. Which company already has the money for a possible dismantling of buildings in the absence of approval and can deposit it as collateral?

But it gets even better with the outlook in terms of power consumption. Germany could cover this future additional consumption with wind and sun, says Graichen, only to stress the need to build gas-fired power plants a short time later. What now? Graichen is also bothered by the fact that network operators are so very cautious. Everything would always be so terribly secured. Bad. How good that employees of network operators repeatedly have their say and describe the situation of what has been going on in terms of the network for some time. It’s like someone standing on the platform and getting closer and closer to the incoming train, says a manager of the network operator Amprion.

Example 4:

In between, the professional activist Jan Hegenberg (the Graslutscher/Volksverpetzer) is questioned from time to time. Like Graichen, he finds the “mindset” in Germany bad. You just have to have confidence that somehow everything will work out, he says. Germany is the “most porcelain-kitschy country in the world,” according to the activist.

Unfortunately, he does not bring concrete figures in his interview, only that sun and wind would complement each other splendidly. And at sea, wind power plants almost reach base-load capability. Does Hegenberg know Statista’s figures? Accordingly, offshore wind turbines in 2021 came in the best case (far from the coast) to 4,500 hours of full load. Unfortunately, that’s only half of the year. In coastal locations, the value drops to 3,200 hours, which is only a third of the annual hours. But basically, says Hegenberg, we have so much coal-fired electricity in the grid. Has the coal phase-out possibly not yet reached him?

In any case, the primary energy demand will decrease in the future, says Hegenberg, because more and more are being electrified. Cut – the next scene is BASF in Ludwigshafen. There, Lars Kissau from BASF explains the harsh reality. He calculates how much electricity BASF alone would need if they wanted to convert everything there to electricity. Kissau also makes this calculation for the entire chemical industry. Accordingly, this sector alone would require an amount of energy that is as high as the current total consumption in Germany.

It is a pity that neither Graichen nor Hegenberg were confronted with these figures. But this will be due to the sequence of interviews. But their statements were enough to embarrass them on TV.

Overall, the editorial staff of Wiso does a lot of things right here. It juxtaposes points of view, it questions, and it provides figures. That is precisely the task of journalism. The insulted reactions of some now show that hit dogs just bark. The programme can still be seen in the ZDF media library until 01.08.2024. It is likely to cause some discussion in the near future.

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