From Reuters we learned that Germany has created a plan to rein in its surging electricity costs. Germany’s political parties have agreed to limit the growth of renewable energy sources and reform controversial financial incentives for the sector by this summer in an attempt to slow down the rise in electricity costs for households and give the large utilities more time to adapt their business models. One of the first things they will do is reform the renewable energy law (EEG), which has sent power costs for consumers soaring because of generous incentives for solar and wind power. Consumer electricity bills have almost doubled to an average of 300 euros ($410) per megawatt-hour (MWh) over the past decade and are now the second-highest in Europe behind Denmark. The goal is to gradually reduce subsidies for all renewable technologies and do away with some of the grants. At the same time the agreement stipulated that the German government will not change any existing schemes that had been paid out or are already running. See also EurActiv, Expensive renewable energy is threat to industry: German minister, EurActiv, Germany to cut energy rebates for industry, renewable subsidies and Deutsche Welle, Germany to charge fee for off-grid electricity.
In a related post Der Spiegal informed us that those German wind farms are not all that profitable, to the chagrin of investors. The recent bankruptcy news of Prokon, which operates 50 wind parks in Germany and Poland, makes transparent the often fragile nature of Germany’s wind energy industry.
Investments in renewable energy were supposed to be a sure thing, with wind park operators promising annual returns of up to 20 percent. More often than not, however, such pledges have been illusory — and many investors have lost their principal to boot.
In courts around the country, complaints are mounting from wind park investors who haven’t received a dividend disbursement in years or whose parks went belly up. Consumer protection activists are complaining that many projects are poorly structured and lack transparency. In the renewables sector, fear is spreading that the Prokon bankruptcy — combined with plans for a reduction in the guaranteed feed-in tariff recently released by new German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel — could scare away investors.
Climate Spectator reported global wind capacity increased 12.4% in 2013 led by China and Canada. Total installed wind power capacity increased to more than 318 gigawatts, up from 283 GW at the end of 2012.
China’s installed wind capacity was 91.4 GW at the end of 2013, up from 75.3 GW at the end of 2012. Some 16 GW of new capacity was added in 2013, the largest amount anywhere in the world. Canada installed 1.6 GW of new capacity, more than the United States. Emerging markets also showed a steady stream of installations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the data showed, while Europe’s growth was more sluggish.
Wind energy faces an uncertain future in the US according to Hydrogen Fuel News. The growth of wind power in that country has been supported by the generous federal Production Tax Credit. This was designed to promote the adoption of wind energy and make the US an attractive market for energy developers specializing in wind. However, this tax incentive expired at the beginning of this year after Congress determined the initiative was no longer financially sustainable. According to the post, this move has put the future of wind power in the US in a very difficult place financially.
The expiration of the Production Tax Credit has created a degree of uncertainty among investors, further limiting the financial support that had been coming into the wind sector….There are a record number of wind projects currently under development in the U.S. Most of these projects had been receiving support from the Production Tax Credit. Without this support, many of these projects are expected to remain under development permanently or otherwise abandoned….Without the guaranteed support of the federal government, investors have become very cautious when it comes to wind power.
REneweconomy suggested renewable energy could double its share to 30% of global energy by 2030. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched REmap 2030, a roadmap showing how the world can double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. The project focuses on 26 countries and will eventually include individual reports for each country, which will be published later in the year. The project says it is offering “realistic renewable potential” that exists today but, in fact, insists it is possible to even go beyond 30% of total energy output.
…the report shows that early retirement of fossil fuel plants, a greater model shift in transportation (towards bicycling, walking, and mass transit), greater electrification, industry relocation, and breakthroughs in cleantech could lead to about 50% renewable energy share by 2030.
In a related post, International Science Times told us about another roadmap to get the US to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and DailyFinance discussed 3 corporations that are already using 100% renewable energy (Nokia, Intel and Green Mountain Coffee).
From The Truth About Cars we discovered Royal Dutch Shell projects a nearly 0il free transportation sector by 2070. A new Shell report entitled New Lens Scenarios sees passenger road transportation being “nearly oil-free” by the year 2070. The world’s population will grow to 9 billion people by 2050 and by 2070 electricity and hydrogen will be the primary means of fueling road transportation. The futurists at Shell envision two possible outcomes, which they call “Mountains” and “Oceans” which the post summarizes as follows:
In the Mountains “lens”, existing governmental and economic power structures are maintained, natural gas will become dominant by the 2030s and demand for liquid fuels will go down. A more urban population will drive much less, about 1,200 miles a year, and use public transport and bicycles more. This lens sees economic growth stagnating and the world failing to meet the target of no more than a 2 degree centigrade rise in average global temperatures.
In the Oceans lens, Shell predicts a changing economic structure to one that is more accommodating of compromise. The world in this more collective scenario would be a more prosperous one, but also more volatile. Dwindling resources of food, energy, and water become the new priorities. Solar and renewable energy becomes more dominant, though fossil fuels will still be used and as with the other scenario, global warming continues.
In Australia, solar and wind are now cost competitive with fossil fuels reported Climate Spectator. That country’s Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics has issued a study finding that even without a carbon tax in place solar PV and onshore wind power would be close to competitive with fossil fuel alternatives. The Bureau found that during 2013 there were significant reductions in the cost of energy of solar technologies and onshore wind primarily due to changes in the fixed and variable Operations and Maintenance costs for these technologies.
Wind energy could endanger the US electric power grid noted Hydrogen Fuel News. A new report from North Carolina State University and John Hopkins University says future of wind in the US could be in jeopardy due to the lack of an appropriate energy infrastructure. The problem stems from the intermittency associated with wind energy generation. The report suggests the uncontrollable and unpredictable nature of wind amplifies the problems associated with the ability of the existing grid to support electrical power generated by wind and may actually further destabilize the grid. Wind is not as reliable as other forms of energy (eg. natural gas, coal, nuclear) and thus is not able to produce enough electrical power during a period of high energy consumption. The report suggests that a grid dependent on wind for its electricity will not be able to operate effectively, leading to brownouts and blackouts. See also the Los Angeles Times, Power struggle: Green energy versus a grid that’s not ready.
The National let us know that India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be increasing their renewable energy capacity. India has set a target of 29.8 gigawatts in additional renewable energy capacity by the end of 2017, taking its total installed capacity to almost 55 GW. In the UAE, the various emirates have individual plans for renewable energy. Dubai has announced a target of generating 5% of its total energy through renewables by 2030 and Abu Dhabi has plans for 7% by 2020, which would make for 3 GW more of renewable energy in the UAE.