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Ce blog rassemble une séléction de mes textes. L'approche est plurilingue et interdisciplinaire. Les sujets sont internationaux et concernent notamment la durabilité, l'économie, la politique et certains aspects sociaux. Bonne lecture! - JJ Bürger -

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Renewables reach "only" 82% in Germany


Several well-known news sources, such as Bloomberg and The Guardian, announced last month that electricity from renewable energy sources (RES-E) had reached the remarkable level of 100% of power consumption in Germany during some hours on Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2016.

To be more accurate, let us have a look at what they said in detail.

- Bloomberg stated that RES-E reached 45,5 GW on that day, while power demand was 45,8 GW (RES-E thus reaching 'only' 99% of demand). At the same time, according to Bloomberg, 7,7 GW of conventional plants still continued to produce electricity, due to market opportunities for exports and system backup needs. Therefore, the Bloomberg authors expressed doubts concerning the feasibility of a real 100% RES-E share in German power generation "anytime soon".

- The Guardian only mentioned Germany's "100% RES-E" briefly, in the context of an article on the Portuguese power system running on 100% RES-E for 107 consecutive hours in May 2016. However, Portugal features relatively large hydro capacities compared to its overall consumption, which is not the case for Germany. Indeed, according to its latest RES-E progress report to the European Commission, Portugal's renewables reached 27 TWh in 2014, which was 52% of power consumption. Out of that, 12 TWh came from hydro, which means hydro covered 23% of Portuguese power consumption in 2014. For comparison: Germany's share of hydro was only around 11% in 2014 and 2015 (while RES-E in total were 28,6% of demand in 2015, by the way), which may suffice here to illustrate the smaller role hydro power can play in Germany as a renewable backup source of energy.

Thus, already the original stories included (implicitly or explicitly) the need to differentiate, instead of just applauding the "100% RES-E" headlines.
But we might have to add yet some further differentiation: the source which both articles were referring to, prestigious German think tank "Agora Energiewende", had to rectify the announcements. Instead of "giving the impression that the German power consumption had been covered for some hours by 100% RES-E", updated figures some days later showed that the RES-E share was "at around 82% at best" during certain hours of 15 May 2016. In their statement, Agora Energiewende deplored that their figures had sometimes been interpreted in a way that neglected the provisional character of their real-time calculations.

This shows how right news sources like the Guardian and Bloomberg are to pursuit a differentiated approach. After all, the RES-E debate needs sincerity instead of claiming victory too early. Even though that might mean that the perfect solution for a permanent 100% RES-E system still needs to be found...