Some of the new numbers for 2012 are out and they add emphatically to Germany’s clean energy resume. In fact, they’re a critical affirmation of the doability of the Energiewende, which came under unprecedented attack last year — not least from the ranks of Germany’s own officialdom.
An incredible blow to Energiewende nay-sayers – Germany’s export of electricity hit an all-time high: 23 gigawatts thermal, which is more than in the previous record year 2008. This is incredible information, coming a year after the shut down of a third of Germany’s nukes. 23 GWt is roughly the ouput of 8 or 9 nuclear reactors. Remember the schwarzseher crying to high heaven about blackouts and prostrate industry that the nuclear shutdowns would cause? Well, Germany doesn’t have too little power.
Yes, industrial heavy-hitter Germany is managing just fine with a power supply based on weather-dependent onshore wind and PV. In fact, another hot-off-the-presses and not unrelated acolyte: Germany set another record for total exports this year of over €1.018 trillion. The Energiewende and the price of its renewables obviously isn’t hurting German competitiveness on the world market. (In fact the price German industry pays for electricity has dropped from the pre-Fukushima price of 54 euros per megawatt to 45 euros now.) It will be interesting to see how much of that export surplus came from Made-in-Germany renewables. I’ll update when I know.
Among the most important figures are those for onshore wind and photovoltaic, the pillars of Germany’s Energiewende and the new basis of the country’s clean power supply. The expansion of onshore facilities continued even if – a result of several slow-wind months – its overall production decreased by a bit. It now accounts for about 35% of all renewable electricity production. Onshore remains the workhorse of Germany’s clean energy switchover and will be for years to come, this much is now beyond dispute. Given these numbers, it’s high time that the federal government revise its low-ball projections for onshore’s potential in the near-, medium-, and long-term future. It has, very consciously, way underestimated what onshore wind can do.
Even though PV, onshore wind’s partner, is more expensive and still lags behind in net production, its supply jumped an astounding 51% in 2012 from 19.3 in 2011 to 28.5 GWt. And this despite the slashed incentives late in the year, which did slow PV’s dramatic ascent in the final quarter, but not by that much. This surge, of course, is a result mainly of PV module prices nosediving — as much as 90% over past years.
Interesting to note is that the other renewables — bioenergy, offshore wind, geothermal, CSP, biomass, and others — hardly budged last year or the year before. Offshore has been a tremendous letdown accounting for less than 1% of what onshore delivers and costs much much more, to say nothing of its need for expensive, additional grid corridors. Bioenergy had a bad year in general, perhaps not fully deserved, which is material for an upcoming post.
In total, Germany's share of renewably produced electricty jumped from 20% in 2011 to 23% last year.
But don’t expect the doubters to cheer all this news: every extra kilowatt-hour of renewable that enters the mix is one less the fossil and nuclear suppliers sell. The onshore and PV bonanza may be good news for the Energiewende and even German industry in general, but it’s very, very bad news for the hangers-on of yesterday’s energy regime.
Lead image: 2012 via Shutterstock
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