Separating Fact from Fiction In Accounts of Germany’s Renewables Revolution

Amory Lovins l RMI Blog  15 August 2013

RMI Blog

I recently wrote about—and debunked—the renewables “disinformation campaign” that spreads misinformed and falsely negative stories about the growth of renewable energy. A special focus of such disinformation has been reportage on Germany’s efficiency-and-renewables revolution. The impressive success so far of the German Energiewende (energy turnaround) is an important existence proof for the world, because Germany is cloudy, high-latitude, heavily industrialized, highly competitive (it rivals America’s merchandise exports with one-fourth its population), and the world’s fourth-biggest economy.

Perhaps because German success would therefore belie the supposed necessity of fossil-fuel and nuclear energy, some media regularly report the Energiewende’s failure or supposed impossibility. As I highlighted, Germany’s renewables revolution is in fact highly successful and strong as   ever, but that hasn’t stopped three myths from gaining traction in the media: 1) Germany’s supposed turn back to coal, 2) how renewables undermine grid reliability, and 3) how renewables subsidies are cratering the German economy. None of those are true, and here’s why.

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Wind power one of cleanest energy sources over lifetime

Toxic energy producers and conservative lawmakers have launched a wholesale attack on renewable energy. But the truth is renewable energy is safer, and better. We can lower our greenhouse gas emmissions by choosing a future that is, in part, blowing in the wind.

EWEA Blog l Tom Rowe   24 July, 2013

Greenhouse gases produced over the lifetime of a wind turbine – including for its manufacturing and installation – are less than that of fossil-fuel based energy sources and most other renewables, a new study from the US shows. Only ocean energy (wave and tidal) and hydropower have lower emissions than wind...

...a charge often leveled by anti-wind energy groups is that the manufacture and erection of wind turbines creates emissions on a scale that belies the idea that wind power is clean.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that wind energy‘s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are a small percentage of those of fossil fuels, lower than nuclear, and even lower than nearly all other renewable energy resources. From cradle to grave, coal-fired electricity releases about 20 times more greenhouse gases per kilowatt-hour than wind or solar, for example (based on median estimates for each technology).  See the study for further details.

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Every energy industry gets support, not just renewables

Renewable energy subsidies reality check. Who gets subsidies, why, and where they really go. Why are Republicans screaming about useful subsidies to renewable energy, but not about outrageous subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear- proven failures in the race to prevent global warning, failures in the safety department, and failures in saving the consumer anything of value? It's impossible to agree with the author's claim that nuclear is reliable, but he is dead on on subsidies and the Price-Anderson Act. 


"...Nuclear generates just more than 19 percent of U.S. electricity, and like natural gas and coal, does it reliably. But your electricity bill does not include the cost of loan guarantees required for investors to back new nuclear plants (that average 250 percent in cost overruns). They are loan guarantees, just like Solyndra received, but for a lot more money. Nor does it include most of the $100 billion-plus projected costs to dispose of the waste - wherever it eventually winds up. It doesn't include subsidies paid to mine uranium in the Southwest. And it doesn't include the costs to treat Americans stricken by cancer from the uranium tailings left behind.

And who pays the insurance for a catastrophic accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack? Mostly, you do. That's right: the Price-Anderson Act caps company liability at just more than $12 billion, with taxpayers on the hook for the rest. For comparison, cost estimates for the Fukushima earthquake-tsunami-meltdown run up to $250 billion over just the next 10 years. The Price-Anderson Act was passed in 1957. The first U.S. nuclear power plant opened in 1958. Without Price-Anderson, there would never have been a nuclear industry."

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The World's First Baseload (24/7) Solar Power Plant

Spain's Gemasolar continues to exceed expectations and point the way toward a renewable energy future. With a capacity factor of 75% it easily tops the world's large hydroelectric dams, and equals and exceeds that of nuclear power:

"According to a 2003 study by Clemson University Prof Michael Maloney in 2003 the capacity factor of nuclear reactors in Japan, France, and the US were in the 65% to 72% range and the worldwide load factor was 69.4 percent."

The future is here, and it's only getting more efficient. Exploration of, investment in, and use of new renewables can pry us away from our toxic energy addiction. Let's invest in an energy infrastructure that will leave an inhabitable planet; that will provide jobs that will last boosting failing economies. The pressure to change will not come from politicians indebted to industry, or industries milking the bottom of the subsidies barrel for dead end technologies. It must come from us. We are the ones who will pay for it. Let's insist our money be an investment in the future. We must choose energy generation that will allow a future we can live in.

Tony Seba  Forbes GREEN TECH 

In the future solar power plants will be as plentiful as personal computers or cell phones are today and they will generate energy on demand. Today I have witnessed the future of energy: a solar power plant capable of generating solar electricity around the clock.

Located in the Spanish province of Andalucia, Torresol Energy’s Gemasolar is the world’s first utility-scale commercial baseload solar power plant.

Torresol Energy, the company that built Gemasolar is a joint venture between Spanish infrastructure giant Sener and Masdar – Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company.   During my visit to Gemasolar I met with Santiago Arias, Torresol’s Chief Infrastructure Officer and one of the co-founders of the company.

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Germany sets new solar power record, institute says

One of the reasons Germany will be successful in phasing out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy is that they are actually trying. They are putting their minds, and their money, to the task and investing in the future. In this, they will not only ensure their success, they ensure that success will be profitable. Renewable energy technology and expertise is the capital of the future. Why not make money saving the planet instead of destroying it?

Erik Kirschbaum l Reuters  28 May, 2012

(Reuters) - German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts o f solar power fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs.

"Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity," Allnoch told Reuters. "Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over."

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day...

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Amory Lovins: A 50-year plan for energy

TED talks: Ideas worth spreading l Amory Lovins  May 2012

In this intimate talk filmed at TED's offices, energy theorist Amory Lovins lays out the steps we must take to end the world's dependence on oil (before we run out). Some changes are already happening -- like lighter-weight cars and smarter trucks -- but some require a bigger vision.

In his new book, "Reinventing Fire," Amory Lovins shares ingenious ideas to for the next era of energy.

What if we could make energy do our work without working our undoing?” (Amory Lovins)

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Alice Slater: Sustainable Energy Will Bring Peace on Earth

Alice Slater l  Left Forum   March 18, 2012     Despite promising reports and overwhelming factual evidence that it is eminently possible to wean ourselves off of polluting and death delivering energy systems—fossil, nuclear, and industrial bioma...

How Loud is a Wind Turbine?

Are wind turbines noisy? Possibly, but probably not as noisy as you think. A look at wind turbine noise. Not perfect, but neither is your refrigerator. And, while yes, consider the source (GE is not unbiased), the information is simple and clear, and presented in a straightforward way. Don't dismiss the future because it's in its infancy. Renewables have only room to grow. And, they grow better, less expensive, more efficient, almost as we speak. Our traditional energy sources are dirty, dangerous, and ruinously expensive. They are falling apart, and they threaten to take the entire planet with them.

Change is not always easy, the sailing is not always smooth, but renewable energy has long since proved it offers a viable present solution for our energy crisis. Imagine what it will be in the future!

GE Reports l How Loud is a Wind Turbine?

Because wind turbines are such a great source of clean, renewable energy, they’re usuallygreeted with a great deal of enthusiasm. But some complaints have been made that they can cause too much noise for residents living within a mile of the blades.

So just how noisy are these turbines?

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Path to the new energy era: Rocky Mountain Institute

Rocky Mountain Institute l November 2011 Contents   About Reinventing Fire 4   Letters from Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist 7 Michael Potts, CEO and President 8   RMI’s Work   Reinventing Fire 10  Transportation 12  Bui...

A Ticking Atomic Clock: Nuclear Power vs. Efficient Homes

Sustainable home energy efficiency? Or, dangerous, expensive, dead end nuclear power? Sound like a loaded question? Well, it is. Read article below to see why. 

Over the next 20 years, the power plants that produce one-third of the nuclear energy in the United States will reach the end of their operational lives. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, other countries (SwitzerlandGermany) are reconsidering their commitments to nuclear power. In the U.S., Michael Levi asks in this Slate article whether we can shift from nuclear to other fuel sources for our power generation.

But we’d like to present an alternative option to the discussion. If we use power more efficiently, particularly in our homes, we can avoid replacing these aging nuclear power plants entirely.

For half the cost of a new nuclear power plant, we can retrofit 1,600,000 homes for energy efficiency and save the same amount of energy. Retrofitting the houses would create 220,000 new jobs – that’s 90 times more jobs than you’d get from the replacement nuclear power plant.

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Nuclear Power is not the Answer