Study proposes ways to reduce costs of Energiewende
Agora Energiewende, an independent think tank for Germany's energy transition, has published a new study that proposes ways of making the country's switch to renewables less expensive.
It is often claimed that Germany has no roadmap for its energy transition, but that's not true – the BMU Leitstudie is the roadmap. The new study (in German) produced by Consentec on behalf of Agora bases its assumptions on that official roadmap.
The study pursues two scenarios, the first of focusing on tailoring new renewables to demand and the second focusing on wind power mainly in the north. The general assumption is that power should be generated where it is cheapest. For instance, solar should go up in sunny areas, and wind turbines in windy areas. Taken to its logical conclusion, solar would generally not be built in Germany at all, with Germans instead importing their solar power from the Sahara – exactly what proponents of Desertec argue.
The two scenarios for wind power in the study: on the left, the government's scenario for 2033 (reference scenario); in the middle, distributed power;and on the right, a focus on the best locations. The purple bubbles represent how much would need to be newly installed where.
In contrast, the study confirms what Renewables International has been saying all along (see the numerous contributions from our guest author Bernard Chabot) – distributed renewables close to where power is consumed is cheaper than the focus on the least expensive locations with the best wind and solar conditions. In other words, onshore wind turbines spread across the country – even in areas of relatively little wind – is a less expensive option than filling up the North Sea and the Baltic with offshore wind, at least in the case of Germany, where the grid is already congested with wind power in the North.
While the focus on areas with moderate wind would mean that far more turbines would have to be installed, the study points out that the distribution across the country would mean that the grid integration would be much smoother – not only in terms of grid upgrades, but also in terms of the amount of renewable power that would be lost when too much is generated at a particular location at a time and in terms of the backup capacity needed. As proponents of renewables have been pointing out for decades, the wind is always blowing somewhere, so the larger you make your supply of wind power, the better.
For instance, only 2 to 3 terawatt-hours of power would be lost in the scenario of distributed power production due to excess renewable production; Germany currently consumes around 600 TWh of power per year, so these losses would be less than 0.5 percent of total power production. When the focus is on the best locations, however, as much as 14 TWh of access power might be lost.
In addition, a scenario focusing on the sensitivity of photovoltaics looks into what might happen if PV in combination with battery systems takes off. The results are expected to be published in April 2013. (Craig Morris)