Scenarios for the Energiewende
This week, French daily La Libération expressed its skepticism about a Fraunhofer ISE scenario published last November, but in fact the findings are much in line with another study published last fall by Photon magazine. Meanwhile, Germans are just coming to realize how important international perceptions of the Energiewende are.
Over at German weekly Die Zeit, representatives of the German Development Policy Institute DIE and the World Resources Institute in Washington argue that the German Energiewende should become a priority in German foreign relations: "The public does not realize that the German energy transition has drawn global attention. The restructuring of the country's energy policy has unexpectedly put Germany in the international public eye."
But as an article this week in French daily La Libération shows, the international interest is often quite skeptical. The author summarizes the findings of a study produced by Germany's Fraunhofer ISE in November, which Renewables International praised for having expanded the scope from electricity to include heat. The German researchers proposed a particular combination of technologies to keep costs down roughly to the current level, but the French journalist is not convinced: "the calculation is not obvious and will probably be challenged." Unfortunately, the only reasons the journalist provides pertain to past costs, not costs going forwards. Nor does the French journalist point out that Germany does not actually have a 100 percent renewable electricity target; the target is 85 percent renewable power by 2050. In other words, the 100 percent scenario is actually more ambitious than the actual Energiewende.
Nonetheless, the figures add up and tally with other sources. To start with, Germany will obviously need dispatchable capacity roughly in the amount of its peak demand of 80 gigawatts, so the 70 gigawatts of gas capacity in the scenario may impress the French author ("that's more gas capacity than current French nuclear capacity"), but there is no way around it. Furthermore, the 170 gigawatts of wind power (onshore and offshore) that Fraunhofer says needs to be installed is actually less than the 200 gigawatts of potential that another institute, IWES, estimated for Germany onshore alone. (The full Fraunhofer study is available here in German as a PDF.)
Furthermore, the figure for wind power turns out to be roughly the same in a scenario published by Photon magazine last October. As these proponents of photovoltaics put it, "Expansion of roughly 2 gigawatts of wind capacity per year [the current level, ed.] is not nearly enough." Because onshore turbines are currently increasing their full-load hours, the solar experts estimate that "eight gigawatts of annual capacity could be enough" – which, at 20 years of feed-in tariffs, turns out to be 160 gigawatts. In fact, although they are proponents of solar, Photon actually comes to an estimated requirement of 5.7 gigawatts of new annual PV capacity compared to 11.6 gigawatts for wind power. In other words, the PV monthly is calling for twice as much annual wind as annual solar under specific conditions for a 100 percent supply of renewable electricity.
Fraunhofer is therefore producing statistics that seem bewildering to foreigners but are absolutely in line with a wide range of scenarios within the German research landscape Fraunhofer works within. Clearly, more of this general German environment needs to be made known to the international audience, but of course similar work is also being done in other countries. The French can start with the Négawatt Association. (Craig Morris)