Nuclear fusion power has been the dream of many since the 1950s and on Wednesday German scientists took one step closer to making it possible.
German scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Greifswald, joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, injected hydrogen into the Wendelstein 7-X fusion device and heated the gas into plasma for a moment, according to the press release.
The device will not produce energy from the plasma, but the experiment is the first of many that could prove whether the design is capable of being used as a power plant. If so, it could answer one of the many questions surrounding nuclear fusion.
Only the ITER project, a tokamak, is thought to be able to produce plasma that supplies energy, according to the press release. The experiments begun Wednesday could prove that stellarator designs could produce comparable heat- and plasma-confinement.
Scientists working on the Wendelstein 7-X will perform similar experiments, heating gas to plasma and holding it in stasis, over the next four years, slowly increasing the temperature and the time of the discharges, according to the press release.
Eventually, in about four years, the Wendelstein 7-X will test its full heating power (20 megawatts) and discharges lasting 30 minutes………
Nuclear fusion is seen as a safe, efficient form of nuclear power and has been proposed as an eventual replacement for oil and fossil fuels, according to the press release.
But critics have pointed to the mounting cost of a technology that is still under development and likely remain unavailable for decades. Investments for the Greifswald fusion device have surpassed €1 billion over the last 20 years, CBS News reported.
The ITER project recently announced in November that it would take six years longer to construct than previously thought and would require additional funding from the €5 billion estimate in 2006. Science reports current estimates place the ITER project needing €15 billion. http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2016/0203/How-Germany-took-big-step-toward-nuclear-fusion
Environment state secretary Jochen Flasbarth, who described the situation in Asse II as “disastrous”, told journalists in Berlin that the current plan was to store the Asse waste, once retrieved, with the high-level radioactive waste for which the government is still searching a site…….
The Asse case shows how difficult it can be to undo a decision related to nuclear waste storage. It will take longer to retrieve the waste than it did to dump it
Why Germany is digging up its nuclear waste, By PETER TEFFER , EU Observer, WOLFENBUETTEL, GERMANY, TODAY, 2 Feb 16 “….. in hindsight, the Asse II salt mine should never have been used in the 1960s and 1970s as a site to dump nuclear waste, said Ingo Bautz of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection………To anti-nuclear activists, Asse is a prime example of government not listening to citizens’ concerns. “Incidents were predicted,” said Wolfgang Ehmke, activist in the Gorleben region.
But the waste had to be stored somewhere, so the voices that warned against selecting Asse II were ignored.
“The potential risks for the future were accepted,” Bautz said, during a recent press visit to the mine organised by Clean Energy Wire, a non-profit group supported by the Mercator and European Climate foundations.
Road signs, deep underground
Until 1978, low and intermediate-level radioactive waste was stored in Asse II, the only such site in Germany.
Ten years later, the operator of the mine discovered leaks of radioactive brine. But it was not until 2008, when media reported about it, that the leaks became public knowledge.
The German government took control of the mine and tasked the Federal Office for Radiation Protection with its decommissioning.
The office concluded that the risk of groundwater contamination was too big, and the only truly safe option was to retrieve all the waste from the mine and store it elsewhere. In all, 126,000 containers filled with contaminated clothes, paper and equipment were stored in Asse, the office said.
“This task is very difficult,” said Bautz, who joined journalists to travel into the mine, 658m below the surface.
The lift plunged to the bottom at 36km/h. Inside the mine, the temperature was about 30C even though it was freezing above ground.
The mine is so large that workers have to use cars to get around. In one tunnel an LED road sign typically found in residential areas tells drivers to watch their speed……..
Since the mine is over a century old, it needs to be protected against a collapse or flooding. It will also need another lift to use for retrieving the waste.
And because of safety regulations regarding evacuation, only 120 people can be down in the mine at the same time. Workers are monitored for any exposure to radiation……..
In 2011, the EU adopted a rule obliging each country that has produced nuclear waste to have policies on how to manage their waste. Last August, all member states were due to report about their national programmes for the first time.
Germany told the commission it planned to put “all types of radioactive waste in deep geological disposal facilities with the aim to guarantee isolation from the biosphere in the long term, thus ensuring the safety of man and the environment without any need for maintenance”.
Environment state secretary Jochen Flasbarth, who described the situation in Asse II as “disastrous”, told journalists in Berlin that the current plan was to store the Asse waste, once retrieved, with the high-level radioactive waste for which the government is still searching a site…….
The Asse case shows how difficult it can be to undo a decision related to nuclear waste storage. It will take longer to retrieve the waste than it did to dump it…….
This is second part in a two-part series about Germany’s nuclear waste. Part one was about how Gorleben refused to be the country’s permanent waste repository. https://euobserver.com/beyond-brussels/132085
Radioactive waste dogs Germany despite abandoning nuclear power https://www.newscientist.com/article/2075615-radioactive-waste-dogs-germany-despite-abandoning-nuclear-power/ Major problems at a salt mine where 126,000 drums of radioactive debris are stored are fuelling public distrust of long-term waste disposal plans, reports Fred Pearce from Asse, Germany
Half a kilometre beneath the forests of northern Germany, in an old salt mine, a nightmare is playing out. A scheme to dig up previously buried nuclear waste is threatening to wreck public support for Germany’s efforts to make a safe transition to a non-nuclear future.
Enough plutonium-bearing radioactive waste is stored here to fill 20 Olympic swimming pools. When engineers backfilled the chambers containing 126,000 drums in the 1970s, they thought they had put it out of harm’s way forever.
But now, the walls of the Asse mine are collapsing and cracks forming, thanks to pressure from surrounding rocks. So the race is on to dig it all up before radioactive residues are flushed to the surface.
“There were people who said it wasn’t a good idea to put radioactive waste down here, but nobody listened to them,” says Annette Parlitz, spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), as we tour the mine.
This is just one part of Germany’s nuclear nightmare. The country is also wrestling a growing backlog of spent fuel. Continue reading
Germany Tests Fusion Reactor, But Will Abandon Nuclear By 2022 The Daily Caller ANDREW FOLLETT , 18 Dec 15 Germany tested an experimental fusion reactor last week, but the country is set to abandon conventional nuclear fission power entirely by 2022 in favor of solar and wind.
German engineers from the Max Planck Institute have successfully activated an experimental nuclear fusion reactor and successfully managed to suspend plasma for the first time. The reactor took 19 years and €1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to build, and contains over 470 tons of superconducting magnets, all of which need to be cooled to absolute zero.The reactor passed the major technical milestone of generating its first plasma, which had a duration of one-tenth of a second and achieved a temperature of around one million degrees Celsius. If the reactor fulfills the research team’s expectations, it could demonstrate the first stable artificial nuclear fusion reaction within the next year.
Germany launches world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor The rocky road to nuclear fusion power, DW, 18 Dec 15 Innovative designs using modern superconductors are supposed to bring us nuclear fusion power plants soon – some optimists say. Fusion experts predict, however, that a practical application will take many more decades. Nuclear fusion is considered a potential energy source of the future. It’s clean nuclear energy. But what is it, exactly and why is it so difficult to generate? Let’s start with the difference between classical nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.
Nuclear fission means that radioactive isotopes, like uranium or plutonium are being split up and turned into other highly radioactive isotopes that then have to be deposited or reprocessed.
Nuclear fusion means that two isotopes of hydrogen – called deuterium and tritium – merge together – they “fuse.” And that leaves behind only non-poisonous helium and one single neutron, but no nuclear waste.
Huge amounts of energy caught in a plasma
Nuclear fusion takes place in the sun for example – or in a hydrogen bomb – and that’s the big challenge for engineers – how do you control the high energy fusion process in a power plant?
That’s what scientists have been working on since the 1960s. One model-fusion-reactor called Wendelstein 7-X has just started operating in the northern German town of Greifswald. It is not designed to generate a nuclear fusion reaction yet – so far it’s just a specific reactor design that’s being tested.
What all fusion reactors have in common is a ring-shaped form. The idea behind it is to take powerful electromagnets and create a strong electromagnetic field, which is shaped somewhat like an inflated bicycle tube.
That electromagnetic field must be so dense that when it is being heated by a microwave oven to about one million degrees centigrade, a plasma will emerge in the very center of the ring. And that plasma can then be ignited to start the nuclear fusion process.
Research reactors show what’s possible
In Europe, two prominent fusion experiments are under way. One is Wendelstein 7-X, which just generated its first helium plasma last week – albeit without actually going into nuclear fusion. The other one is ITER – a huge experimental project in southern France, which is still under construction and won’t be ready to run before 2023.
ITER is supposed to do real nuclear fusion – but only for short periods of time, certainly not for any longer than 60 minutes. And ITER is just one of many steps towards turning the idea of nuclear fusion into a practical application.
Are smaller, alternative designs feasible?………
Hot, hot, hot
The heat is also problematic. In the core of the nuclear-fusion plasma, the temperature would be around 150 million centigrade. This extreme heat stays put – right there in the center of the plasma. But even around it, it still gets seriously hot – 500 to 700 degrees at the breeding blanket – which is the inner layer of the metal tube that contains the plasma and which will serve to “breed” the tritium that is needed for the fusion reaction.
Even more problematic is the so called “power-exhaust.” That is the part of the system, where the used-up fuel from the fusion process is being extracted – mostly helium. The first metal components hit by hot gases are called the “diverter.” It can get hotter than 2,000 degrees centigrade.
The engineers are trying to use the metal tungsten, used in old-fashioned light bulbs – to withstand such temperatures. They have a melting point of around 3,000 degrees. But there are limits.
“In the case of ITER we can do it, because the heat is not there constantly. Only one to three percent of the time, ITER will eventually be running.” Hesch says. “But that is not an option for a power plant, which has to run 24/7. And if someone pretends to build a smaller reactor with the same power as ITER, I can definitely say – there is no solution for that diverter-problem.”
Several decades to build a real power plant
Nonetheless Hesch is optimistic that the development of nuclear fusion power reactors will go ahead – but not quite as fast as some of the industry optimists predict.
“With ITER we want to show that fusion can actually deliver more energy than we have to put into it to heat the plasma. The next step would be to build an entirely new fusion demonstrator power plant, which will actually generate electricity.”
The engineers are already working on the designs now. They will have to learn lessons from ITER, which is scheduled to start operating in 2023. Taking the necessary time for design, planning and construction into account, it looks very unlikely the first nuclear-fusion power plant will be up and running much before the middle of the century. http://www.dw.com/en/the-rocky-road-to-nuclear-fusion-power/a-18927630
Belgium ‘playing Russian roulette’ with relaunch of nuclear reactor, says fuming Germany, Rt.com 16 Dec, 2015 Belgium, plagued by a series of nuclear mishaps in recent years, has restarted its ageing Tihange 2 reactor after a nearly two-year shutdown. Neighboring Germany is angered by the relaunch amid fears it could result in a Fukushima-style meltdown.
Belgian power utility Electrabel says it put Tihange 2, first launched in 1983, back in service on Tuesday night “in complete safety.” But officials in adjacent North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany’s most-populous state) say there’s a storm brewing, recalling the fact that three of Belgium’s seven reactors were closed at one point, in two cases due to the discovery of micro-cracks in Tihange 2’s reactor casings.
“The Belgian government is playing Russian roulette. Tihange is a reactor in ruins,” North Rhine-Westphalian Environment Minister Johannes Remmel said Tuesday, according tosudinfo.be.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s economy minister, Garrelt Duin, also warned against the relaunch of Tihange, calling it “a big mistake.”
Four of Germany’s 10 biggest cities (Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen) are in North Rhine-Westphalia. The city of Aachen, only 60km from Tihange, said it had explored legal options to stop the reopening of the reactor, but those efforts were in vain.
“To restart a reactor that has cracks is irresponsible and dangerous. Given the proximity to the border, the German government should have long been working towards its closure,” Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, spokesman for the German Green Party said in a statement, according to AFP.
“If a failure of the reactor tank leads to a nuclear accident, Germany would also become highly exposed to radiation due to the persistent wind from the west,” she warned.
Growing safety concerns have fallen on deaf ears in Belgium, however. ……https://www.rt.com/news/326086-nuclear-reactor-relaunch-tihange/
This Is How You Decommission a Nuclear Power Plant [great photos] German Chancellor Angela Merkel called time on nuclear energy in her country in 2011, after a tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima power plant in Japan, causing a major radioactive leak. Almost five years later, that process is in full swing – with an estimated cost of up to €77 billion ($84 billion). The operation to decommission Germany’s Greifswald nuclear power plant is described by German energy officials as the largest project of its kind in the world. Once the largest power plant in the former East Germany, Greifswald was closed in 1990 during German reunification. This is how it is being made safe. Bloomberg Tino Andresen , 10 Dec 15
Alexander Jones Germany’s nuclear plant operators are seeking public agreement on how to manage the burden of decommissioning the country’s atomic power stations. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government decided in 2011 to phase out nuclear power by 2022 in light of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. ……..
The decommissioning process could force those footing the bill to set aside anything from €25 billion to €77 billion, according to scenarios.
Germany’s Economy Ministry believes that utility companies do have enough funds to pay for the shutdown and cleanup of nuclear power plants……..
Depending on the severity of contamination, some of the components will go on to be housed in temporary disposal sites before a final storage solution is found….http://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2015-12-10/this-is-how-you-decommission-a-nuclear-power-plant
Germany’s RWE splits to better absorb cost of nuclear plant closures , Reuters, 1 Dec 15
* Nuclear provisions will remain with parent group
* Plans follows spin-off by larger peer E.ON
* RWE shares close up nearly 17 pct
* Utility being advised by Goldman Sachs (Recasts, adds fund manager, details)
By Christoph Steitz FRANKFURT, German utility RWE moved to restructure its businesses to better absorb the cost of nuclear plant closures on Tuesday, sending its shares up nearly 17 percent, their biggest one-day gain in seven years.
To extract funds from its healthier businesses, Germany’s second-biggest utility will hive off its renewables, grids and retail units into a separate entity and sell a 10 percent stake in an initial public offering late next year.
It said it would keep its conventional power generation business, including its remaining nuclear plants and the liability for their shutdown, hoping to avoid a political stand-off over nuclear provisions that led peer E.ON to backtrack on a similar plan.
RWE’s Chief Executive Peter Terium was tight-lipped as to why the group decided to split now, a year after larger peer E.ON said it would spin off power plants, energy trading and oil and gas activities into a separate unit, Uniper.
Analysts, however, said RWE’s plan should ease concerns in Berlin, which has been worried that utilities would not honour the costs of Germany’s policy to close its nuclear plants by 2022. Political pressure forced E.ON to change its plans and take back its German nuclear plants along with the 16.6 billion euros ($17.6 bln) in provisions…….
Squeezed by a decline in wholesale power prices and a surge in renewables, German utilities are struggling to make money operating coal- and gas-fired power plants.
In addition to falling prices, the utilities have suffered from concerns over their ability to come up with as much as 80 billion euros in combined funding to pay for shutting down the country’s nuclear plants by 2022….. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/12/01/rwe-restructuring-idUSL8N13Q2CP20151201#CbUEEVuQLV8LBJoJ.97
Germany expecting nuclear utilities to pay the costs of decommissioning and disposal of radioactive trash
Germany: Utilities Must Shoulder Nuclear Phase-Out Costs http://www.powermag.com/germany-utilities-must-shoulder-nuclear-phase-costs/ 12/01/2015 | Sonal Patel Germany’s nuclear power–producing companies will be able to shoulder the costs of the nuclear phase-out—including costs for decommissioning and the disposal of radioactive waste. That’s according to the country’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, as it published the results of a “stress test” on October 10. The government on July 1 reaffirmed that energy companies must bear the costs of dismantling their nuclear plants and concluded in October that reserves set aside by EON SE, RWE AG, Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG, Vattenfall AB, and Stadtwerke Muenchen GmbH of €38.3 billion ($41.98 billion) are within various scenarios examined during the stress test.
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Germany decreed the phase-out of all its nuclear capacity by December 2022. It shuttered eight reactors in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and this June it closed the Grafenrheinfeld plant (Figure 3). Eight reactors remain open.
The government-commissioned study, prepared by auditing company Warth & Klein Grant Thornton AG, breaks down expected costs across five different categories, from dismantling to final storage. It finds that cost estimates made by companies are higher than the international average. Dismantling costs in Germany are estimated by the companies at €857 million ($939 million) per reactor compared to between €205 million ($224 million) and €542 million ($594 million) in other countries. If nuclear plants are dismantled in “an efficient manner,” overall costs could be slashed by about €6 billion ($6.5 billion), the auditors also said.
“We do not consider the scenarios requiring the highest provisions to be likely to materialise, as they are based on the assumption of major losses being incurred by the companies over a long period of time,” Minister Sigmar Gabriel said. Gabriel noted that the Federal Cabinet will soon establish a commission to review financing for the nuclear phase-out to adopt draft legislation on extended liability for the dismantling of nuclear power plants and the disposal of nuclear waste. The results of the stress test will be made available to the commission.
Minister signals German trust could handle nuclear waste storage http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/11/29/uk-germany-nuclear-decomissioning-idUKKBN0TI0MH20151129 Germany could share responsibility for phasing out nuclear power with energy firms by setting up a publicly managed trust, the environment minister said on Sunday.
Barbara Hendricks’ comments to Deutschlandfunk radio follow calls by Germany’s top energy firms utilities on Berlin to help handle the country’s nuclear exit and set up a trust for decommissioning plants and the storage of radioactive waste.
A government-appointed commission is tasked with recommending by early 2016 how to safeguard the funding of fulfilling the exit.
The use of a public trust is one option under discussion and closely eyed by investors, as utilities would then have to transfer certain assets, most likely cash and minority stakes.
Chancellor Angela Merkel accelerated the shift away from nuclear power and fossil fuels towards renewable sources of energy such as wind, hydro, solar and biomass power afterJapan‘s Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Germany’s “big four” utilities – E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall – have already set aside nearly 40 billion euros ($42 billion) to fund the decommissioning and waste disposal but say they cannot handle the problem on their own. Hendricks said half of provisions could remain with the utilities to pay for the dismantling of the nuclear power plants.
“And yes, if the other half was put into a publicly managed fund, so that the finances were available for finding and establishing sites for storage, then that would be progress. I would agree to that.” (Reporting By John O’Donnell and Christoph Steitz)
Germany’s planned nuclear switch-off drives energy innovation, Guardian, Jennifer Rankin , 3 Nov 15
While Britain visualises a nuclear future, Angela Merkel’s aim of replacing it with renewables by 2022 is well under way Hinkley Point will be the first nuclear power plant to be built in Europe since the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima reactor in 2011. But while the British government sees nuclear energy as a safe and reliable source of power, Germany is going in a different direction.
As a result of the Fukushima, Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to switch off all nuclear power by 2022 and fill the gap with renewables – a process known as theenergiewende (energy transition).
Germany’s push for renewables grew out of the anti-nuclear protests of the 1980s and currently more than a quarter (26%) of its electricity comes from wind, solar and other renewable sources, such as biomass, although 44% is from coal. The country’s government wants to increase the share of renewables in electricity to 40% to 45% by 2025.
No other country of Germany’s size has attempted such a radical shift in its power supply in such a short space of time. Described by Merkel as a herculean task, the transition is Germany’s most ambitious economic project since die Wende – the phrase used to describe the fall of the Berlin wall and subsequent reunification of east and west – with an estimated cost of €1tn (£742bn) over the next two decades.
However, Reinhard Bütikofer, the Green party’s spokesman for industry in the European parliament, said the really “mind-blowing” energy transition is happening in the UK, where the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset will cost electricity customers at least £4.4bn in subsidies. “They are cutting down on solar, PV [photovoltaics], purportedly for cost reasons, while on the other hand they pledge to guarantee the nuclear industry and energy price twice the market price for the next 30 years. That’s crazy.”
The energiewende is not uncontroversial, not least due to the rising cost of subsidies paid by ordinary bill payers, which has triggered complaints that poor households are subsidising affluent dentists to put solar panels on their roofs. But the transition is not opposed by Germany’s main business lobby, the BDI, despite lingering concerns about what the transition means for the country’s manufacturing base at a time when confidence in the Made in Germany brand has been knocked by the Volkswagen scandal.
“There is broad consensus in society on the political targets – to reduce CO2 and increase energy efficiency and the share of renewables,” said Carsten Rolle, the BDI’s head of energy and climate policy………
Germany’s dash for renewables has helped to create new industries. About 370,000 Germans work in the renewable energy industry, twice the number who work in fossil fuels, according to the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a green political thinktank.
The north German port city of Bremerhaven has staged a partial revival, after decades of decline following the collapse of the shipbuilding and fishing industries in the 1970s and 1980s……..
Bütikofer said it was a myth that the push to renewables was putting German companies out of business.
“The industrial Mittelstand has always persevered, moved ahead of the curve by being more effective than others,” he said. He believed that from damaging firms, the energy law can stimulate energy efficiency. “[The energiewende] is nudging sectors of German industry towards more ambitious innovation and I think that is the name of the game for future competitiveness.” http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/02/germanys-planned-nuclear-switch-off-drives-energy-innovation
But here’s the thing about the Germans: They knew the energiewende was never going to be a walk in the forest, and yet they set out on it. What can we learn from them? We can’t transplant their desire to reject nuclear power. We can’t appropriate their experience of two great nation-changing projects—rebuilding their country when it seemed impossible, 70 years ago, and reunifying their country when it seemed forever divided, 25 years ago. But we can be inspired to think that the energiewende might be possible for other countries too.
In a recent essay William Nordhaus, a Yale economist who has spent decades studying the problem of addressing climate change, identified what he considers its essence: free riders. Because it’s a global problem, and doing something is costly, every country has an incentive to do nothing and hope that others will act. While most countries have been free riders, Germany has behaved differently: It has ridden out ahead. And in so doing, it has made the journey easier for the rest of us.
Germany Could Be a Model for How We’ll Get Power in the Future
The European nation’s energy revolution has made it a leader in replacing nukes and fossil fuels with wind and solar technology.National Geographic, By Robert Kunzig Photographs by Luca Locatelli
OCTOBER 15, 2015 “….. Germany is pioneering an epochal transformation it calls the energiewende—an energy revolution that scientists say all nations must one day complete if a climate disaster is to be averted. Among large industrial nations, Germany is a leader. Last year about 27 percent of its electricity came from renewable sources such as wind and solar power, three times what it got a decade ago and more than twice what the United States gets today. The change accelerated after the 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, which led Chancellor Angela Merkel to declare that Germany would shut all 17 of its own reactors by 2022. Nine have been switched off so far, and renewables have more than picked up the slack.
What makes Germany so important to the world, however, is the question of whether it can lead the retreat from fossil fuels. By later this century, scientists say, planet-warming carbon emissions must fall to virtually zero. Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, has promised some of the most aggressive emission cuts—by 2020, a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels, and by 2050, at least 80 percent…….. Continue reading
Germany Could Be a Model for How We’ll Get Power in the Future
The European nation’s energy revolution has made it a leader in replacing nukes and fossil fuels with wind and solar technology. National Geographic, By Robert Kunzig Photographs by Luca Locatelli OCTOBER 15, 2015 “…..Germany’s Audacious Goal
Fell, who was installing PV panels on his roof in Hammelburg, realized that the new law would never lead to a countrywide boom: It paid people to produce energy, but not enough. In 1993 he got the city council to pass an ordinance obliging the municipal utility to guarantee any renewable energy producer a price that more than covered costs. Fell promptly organized an association of local investors to build a 15-kilowatt solar power plant—tiny by today’s standards, but the association was one of the first of its kind. Now there are hundreds in Germany.
In 1998 Fell rode a Green wave and his success in Hammelburg into the Bundestag. The Greens formed a governing coalition with the SPD. Fell teamed up with Hermann Scheer, a prominent SPD advocate of solar energy, to craft a law that in 2000 took the Hammelburg experiment nationwide and has since been imitated around the world. Its feed-in tariffs were guaranteed for 20 years, and they paid well.
“My basic principle,” Fell said, “was the payment had to be so high that investors could make a profit. We live in a market economy, after all. It’s logical.”…….
The biogas, the solar panels that cover many roofs, and especially the wind turbines allow Wildpoldsried to produce nearly five times as much electricity as it consumes. Einsiedler manages the turbines, and he’s had little trouble recruiting investors. Thirty people invested in the first one; 94 jumped on the next. “These are their wind turbines,” Einsiedler said. Wind turbines are a dramatic and sometimes controversial addition to the German landscape—“asparagification,” opponents call it—but when people have a financial stake in the asparagus, Einsiedler said, their attitude changes.
It wasn’t hard to persuade farmers and homeowners to put solar panels on their roofs; the feed-in tariff, which paid them 50 cents a kilowatt-hour when it started in 2000, was a good deal. At the peak of the boom, in 2012, 7.6 gigawatts of PV panels were installed in Germany in a single year—the equivalent, when the sun is shining, of seven nuclear plants. A German solar-panel industry blossomed, until it was undercut by lower-cost manufacturers in China—which took the boom worldwide.
Fell’s law, then, helped drive down the cost of solar and wind, making them competitive in many regions with fossil fuels. One sign of that: Germany’s tariff for large new solar facilities has fallen from 50 euro cents a kilowatt-hour to less than 10. “We’ve created a completely new situation in 15 years—that’s the huge success of the renewable energy law,” Fell said.
Germans paid for this success not through taxes but through a renewable-energy surcharge on their electricity bills. This year the surcharge is 6.17 euro cents per kilowatt-hour, which for the average customer amounts to about 18 euros a month—a hardship for some, Rosenkranz told me, but not for the average German worker. The German economy as a whole devotes about as much of its gross national product to electricity as it did in 1991.
In the 2013 elections Fell lost his seat in the Bundestag, a victim of internal Green Party politics. He’s back in Hammelburg now, but he doesn’t have to look at the steam plumes from Grafenrheinfeld: Last June the reactor became the latest to be switched off. No one, not even the industry, thinks nuclear is coming back in Germany…….
Germany’s big utilities have been losing money lately—because of the energiewende, they say; because of their failure to adapt to the energiewende, say their critics. E.ON, the largest utility, which owns Grafenrheinfeld and many other plants, declared a loss of more than three billion euros last year.
“The utilities in Germany had one strategy,” Flasbarth said, “and that was to defend their track—nuclear plus fossil. They didn’t have a strategy B.” Having missed the energiewende train as it left the station, they’re now chasing it. E.ON is splitting into two companies, one devoted to coal, gas, and nuclear, the other to renewables. The CEO, once a critic of the energiewende, is going with the renewables.
Vattenfall, a Swedish state-owned company that’s another one of Germany’s four big utilities, is attempting a similar evolution. “We’re a role model for the energiewende,” ……..
Vattenfall, however, plans to sell its lignite business, if it can find a buyer, so it can focus on renewables. It’s investing billions of euros in two new offshore wind parks in the North Sea—because there’s more wind offshore than on and because a large corporation needs a large project to pay its overhead. “We can’t do onshore in Germany,” Wiese said. “It’s too small.”
Vattenfall isn’t alone: The renewables boom has moved into the North and Baltic Seas and, increasingly, into the hands of the utilities. Merkel’s government has encouraged the shift, capping construction of solar and onshore wind and changing the rules in ways that shut out citizens associations. Last year the amount of new solar fell to around 1.9 gigawatts, a quarter of the 2012 peak. Critics say the government is helping big utilities at the expense of the citizens’ movement that launched the energiewende.
At the end of April, Vattenfall formally inaugurated its first German North Sea wind park, an 80-turbine project called DanTysk that lies some 50 miles offshore. The ceremony in a Hamburg ballroom was a happy occasion for the city of Munich too. Its municipal utility, Stadtwerke München, owns 49 percent of the project. As a result Munich now produces enough renewable electricity to supply its households, subway, and tram lines. By 2025 it plans to meet all of its demand with renewables……
Though Germany isn’t on track to meet its own goal for 2020, it’s ahead of the European Union’s schedule. It could have left things there—and many in Merkel’s CDU wanted her to do just that. Instead, she and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, head of the SPD, reaffirmed their 40 percent commitment last fall……..http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/11/climate-change/germany-renewable-energy-revolution-text
Renewable Energy In Germany Generated Almost Double The Amount From Nuclear http://cleantechnica.com/2015/10/29/renewable-energy-in-germany-generated-almost-double-the-amount-from-nuclear/ by Jake Richardson Originally published on Solar Love.
PV solar power generation in Germany is already 5% higher in the first nine months of this year than all of last year. Germany’s PV systems generated 33,193 gigawatt hours of solar electricity through the end of September, according to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries. Wind power in the first nine months of 2015 has generated 52% more than it did in all of 2014. 59,006 gigawatt hours has been produced, according to the same source.
114,723 gigawatt hours of electricity in Germany came from renewable sources in the first nine months of 2015, which was almost double the amount produced from nuclear sources. Additionally, some electricity prices have decreased from the previous year. For example, the cost of peak load power is nearly at 2002 levels.
This is all good news….the crazy thing about it is that you probably won’t hear about it anywhere but niche news sites like this one. This media oversight is a tragic deficiency, but the fact that Germany has come so far so rapidly confirms the effectiveness of renewables. This is not a small country like Costa Rica achieving 100% electricity from renewables for two months for 4.8 million people. Germany’s population is about 80 million!
Switching gradually from nuclear to renewables for such a large nation is very obviously a tremendous undertaking. How far along the path is Germany now? Some might say it won’t and can’t happen soon, but it seems to be progressing well.
Given that the price of PV solar power systems continues to drop, will there be an even greater acceleration in the rate of solar adoption? Price has been one of the major barriers, but is no longer nearly as much a factor. Another has been the lack of backup power or energy storage, but that one is being diminished too by the fact that the energy storage industry is growing quickly.
It should be pointed out that the decision to decrease reliance on nuclear power and increase investment in renewables was done before the most dramatic drop in solar power and the emergence of energy storage solutions. It will be fascinating to see how much more German renewable energy will grow in the next several years.
Germany Says Utilities’ Reserves Adequate for Nuclear-Power http://www.wsj.com/articles/germany-says-utilities-reserves-adequate-for-nuclear-power-exit-1444464002 Exit In wake of Fukushima, country plans to exit nuclear power by 2022 By STEFAN LANGE And MONICA HOUSTON-WAESCH Oct. 10, 2015 FRANKFURT—German utilities’ reserves for the country’s planned exit from nuclear power are adequate, the ministry for economics and energy said, citing a government-commissioned report on the matter.
“The affected companies have fully covered the costs with the designated provisions,” economics minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement.
The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy had called for the stress test to determine whether utilities’ reserves are up to the task of financing nuclear waste and the decommissioning of plants. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would exit nuclear power by 2022, taking utilities by surprise. In the interim, politicians have voiced concern that nuclear operators could try to duck the long-term costs, leaving taxpayers with the bill.
Existing reserves for the country’s nuclear exit amount to €38.3 billion, the report said. In a worse-case scenario, costs could come to as much as €77 billion, however this assumes an average interest rate of a negative 1.6% until the year 2099, a highly unlikely event, the report noted.
Utilities have said that since the government supported the construction of nuclear facilities, it should also participate in dismantling them. Earlier this month, the economics ministry dashed those hopes.
“There will be no state assistance,” a ministry spokeswoman said on Oct. 5.
Separately, Germany’s cabinet is due to pass a draft law within days, giving utilities longer-lasting liabilities for the costs of a nuclear exit. In mid-September, shares of RWE AG and E.ON SE, the two largest utilities in the country, plummeted over 10% amid speculation that initial results of the test showed utilities’ reserves were inadequate. At the time, Mr. Gabriel said no preliminary results were available, and that the stress test was just one factor of many in determining future policy.
At the end of 2014, E.ON had earmarked €16.6 billion, while RWE set aside €10.4 billion in reserves for the nuclear exit.
“In real terms, these are the highest provisions for an asset like this on the planet,” E.ON chief executive Johannes Teyssen said in September following his company’s decision to retain its German nuclear operations. E.ON has three nuclear plants in operation and minority stakes in a number of others.
Mr. Teyssen made the comments after the company scrapped plans to shift its nuclear operations to a new company, Uniper. E.ON will proceed with plans to split, moving conventional power, trading and exploration and production to Uniper, but E.ON will keep its German nuclear operations, it said. At the time, the company also said it expected a substantial net loss for the full year.
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