Germany: Naïve stress test?

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By Kalte Sonne

By Dipl.-Phys. Ulrich Waas

According to the announcements of the Federal Government, the renewed “stress test” is intended to clarify whether the power supply can be secured in the coming winter even if all gas supplies from Russia fail, difficulties in the electricity supply in France and shutdown of the three still running NPPs in Germany. For this purpose, the focus is on the continued operation and recommissioning of – often old – coal-fired power plants. Possibly this could be achieved, even if the willingness of coal-fired power plant operators to do so without significant public subsidies, especially for recommissioning, seems to be low so far.

But the winters after that will certainly come – isn’t it very naïve to organize the stress test only for the coming winter? Is it not necessary to deal seriously and carefully with the following questions before practically CO2-shut down free energy sources for good?

The majority see the goal of achieving climate-neutral power generation and the economy as soon as possible. – But how long will it take until a solution without coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear energy is found in the event of a significant increase in electricity demand – doubling to tripling due to the conversion of energy consumers to climate neutrality?
Optimists expect about 15 years, realists rather about 30 years. Until last year, even prominent optimists of the energy transition (Rainer Baake, State Secretary under Trittin, Patrick Graichen, State Secretary now under Habeck) wanted to massively build natural gas power plants as a “bridge technology” (additionally around 50,000 MW!!!), as they do not see a sufficient solution for the large-scale storage of energy from wind and sun by 2035.

(https://www.agora-energiewende.de/veroeffentlichungen/klimaneutrales-deutschland-2045-vollversion/, p. 39

But what is to replace natural gas as a bridging technology? 

At present, Habeck is focusing on closing the gap with the continued operation of old coal-fired power plants and dispensing with six NPPs that can be used again immediately or relatively soon. Although the use of these NPPs compared to electricity from coal reduces emissions per year by around 70 million tons of CO2 would be reduced. 

What does this mean for the climate protection goals, if this is not only done for one winter, but for 13, 14, …. Years of going on like this? That would be around 1 billion tons and more CO2emissions in addition – would that be acceptable for Greens?

Habeck emphasizes again and again that despite the continued operation of coal-fired power plant, the climate protection goals would be met. But how is this to be achieved? – There is still no comprehensible information on this, but at most vague sayings. – Once again on the agora study already mentioned, to which energy transition strategists such as Baake and Graichen referred last year that climate neutrality is feasible by 2045: Of course, the expansion rate of wind turbines and photovoltaics was exhausted there to the limits of optimism and partly beyond, assuming the most favorable conditions. Where should an even faster expansion come from now? As an example, it should be remembered that the last wind rotor blade factory in Germany recently closed.

Or do you hope that somewhere on the world market you can get large quantities of natural gas per year again? This would then buy away the natural gas that poorer countries urgently need because they are easier to use. Or should the ban on fracking in Germany be lifted in order to replace coal with gas again? – There are votes in the government coalition for this and that, but a calculated and critically examined program for energy security. – So far, no indication!!

Result

Obviously, it would be important to clarify these and other questions about energy supply, technical and economic feasibility, the supply of raw materials and the establishment of a social and political consensus soon. 

Is that only achievable in less than five months now? Or wouldn’t the hope of this be a sign of denial of reality?

Wouldn’t it be better to buy time until at least the beginning of 2024 to present and discuss the answers to these questions more seriously, i.e., without pretextual technical bogus arguments and without pre-determinations? 

You can then see what has happened in the meantime and no longer have to decide so strongly on the basis of hopes.

Why would it be intolerable for such an approach to change the Atomic Energy Act and order some new fuel elements? – Sure, you can understand the plight of Michael Schroeren, former spokesman for Federal Minister Jürgen Trittin, who tweeted these days: “I have fought for almost 50 years for the phase-out of nuclear power. Now, just before the last ones go off the grid, I won’t let the success steal from me.” 

But can this be the decisive criterion in the debate on how we could still avoid a threat to the energy supply?

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