The affordability of 100 percent renewable power
The scenario we have described this week for a completely green power supply in Germany focuses on technical feasibility, mentioning the cost impact only in passing. Today, I share some of my thoughts about the affordability of the scenario and make a final call for questions I will post to the researchers next week.
The study seems to have focused on electricity somewhat in isolation. In reality, electricity competes with other sources of energy on the heat and transport markets. The study assumes, however, that 612.4 TWh of power would be consumed in a year, as the legend shows at the top of the visualization – roughly the same amount as is consumed today. A discussion of the cost should, however, include electrification in other sectors. As mentioned on Wednesday, account is taken of electric mobility and heat pumps, but is that all?
Denmark, for instance, plans to use excess renewable power to generate heat, which can be stored easily, and there is quite a bit of heat demand in Denmark. But the legend does not show anything that seems to resemble the storage of excess electricity as heat. Likewise, “batteries” could include electric vehicles, but it is questionable whether enough electric cars will necessarily be parked at a charging station when power from the grid needs to be stored. These cars might be on the road, for instance, or simply parked somewhere where they cannot be charged at that moment.
What about electrification in industry – and while we are at it, isn’t there a lot of potential for demand response, particularly in industry?
Perhaps it is worth keeping in mind that Germany does not have a goal of 100 percent renewable power, but rather of 80 percent, with a 60 percent renewable energy target overall. Furthermore, it would hardly make sense to go 100 percent renewable for electricity without even addressing heat and transport.
In this respect, the study is obviously a simplified investigation of the power sector in isolation. Given the obvious complexity, the simplification seems justified. But when we discuss financial feasibility, we should also keep in mind that the electrification of other sectors offers some affordable options.
I will be back next week with some thoughts on the discussion in the comments about Germany getting six times more wind power from 10 percent fewer wind turbines, and I will also be speaking with the makers of the study to clear up a number of questions I have – see the list below. If you have a question you would like included, please use the comments box below, and I will consider adding it to the list.
- Are the production and consumption data extrapolated from a previous year or years?
- Why was the failure of the “largest power plant in Europe” assumed when no such plants would exist in Germany under a 100 percent renewable scheme?
- What specific assumptions are made about electrification, such as in industry?
- What do you mean by “solar arrays and wind turbines have faster reaction times” than 30 seconds in stabilizing the grid frequency?
- How is dispatch coordinated? Is it still market-based?
- What is the role of demand response?
- What are the assumptions about power imports/exports?
- How much electricity is lost as excess production?