I came across an article that I think ties in with the co-generation discussions we have been having here recently. An article on the Greenzone website reports that 16% of German companies produce their own electricity last year, rather than buying it from the grid, with another 23% considering moving to in-house generation.
The driving force behind this trend is the high price of electricity in Germany, which is making strong efforts to become free from coal and nuclear as sources of electricity production. There are also government subsidies in place that reward companies that reward energy efficiency and production of electricity from renewable sources.
I wonder what this trend will do to the retail prices of electricity for domestic users. I hear that energy poverty is a pressing problem in Germany, with hundreds of thousands of households struggling to pay their utility bills. Here’s an article on that topic titled “Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good” from Der Spiegel which discusses some of the expensive consequences of moving to renewable electricity sources.
This year , German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26 billion) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just over €3 billion . . . Solar panels and wind turbines at times generate huge amounts of electricity, and sometimes none at all. Depending on the weather and the time of day, the country can face absurd states of energy surplus or deficit.
If there is too much power coming from the grid, wind turbines have to be shut down. Nevertheless, consumers are still paying for the “phantom electricity” the turbines are theoretically generating. Occasionally, Germany has to pay fees to dump already subsidized green energy, creating what experts refer to as “negative electricity prices.”
On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.
If there is still an electricity shortfall, energy-hungry plants like the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Hamburg are sometimes asked to shut down production to protect the grid.
Reliable and efficient energy storage technology would help a lot in this scenario. I would expect that Germany will be looking at any available technology that will help them in making renewables more affordable, and of course, in the future LENR could be an attractive alternative to the traditional alternatives.