Thursday, July 14, 2011

Germany Plans Boom in Coal-Fired Power Plants…while we close ours

Could this, a quiet retreat into coal in the past years by environmentalist Germany, here and here, and more recently here, be what Peabody Energies is thinking of, when purchasing Australia’s Macarthur Coal at an opportune time during the introduction of a carbon tax?
From the grand central of Green utopia, the country who spent $41.2 billion on renewables in 2010, mostly solar. From the country described by Bjorn Lomborg as having spent $75 billion on subsidising solar panels, the net effect which will be to postpone global warming by the end of the century by seven hours. From this country, Germany, Spiegel Online has been for years exposing the deficiencies and hypocrisy of alternative energy, describing a frenzy of building coal fired power stations already in 2007:Utility companies want to set up a total of 26 new coal-fired power plants in Germany during the coming years.But the new plants are a big business opportunity for Germany’s four major energy providers, Vattenfall, RWE, E.on and EnBW. Coal imports from South Africa or Poland are relatively cheap and can be used to produce electricity and heat at a high profit. In this way, the companies intend to secure their dominant position on the German market for decades to come.They want the planned power plants to help bridge the electricity gap that will inevitably arise in coming years due to the phasing out of nuclear energy.And German politicians are explicitly encouraging them to do so. Both Merkel and Gabriel have an interest in the power plant construction boom.For Merkel, the case is clear-cut: New power plants will secure thousands of jobs in GermanyThe projects resemble a giant program for the stimulation of the economy.

The power plant operators plan to invest more than €30 billion ($40 billion) in construction and infrastructure….Jobs are also a strong motivation for Gabriel and the SPD. Workers in the energy sector, who are members of the powerful trade unions for mining, chemistry, energy and services, are traditionally SPD voters.Merkel and Gabriel seem confident that in the end, it will all fit together somehow: the new power plants, securing jobs and climate protection goals. The future will sort everything out, they hope.Gabriel plans to use sophisticated technology to curb the emission levels of the new coal-fired power plants. The assumption is that modern power plants will be able to channel their CO2 emissions into giant subterranean deposits within 10 years at the latest. Such “clean coal” technology, as it is called, would then be made mandatory for all coal-fired power plants. But Gabriel knows very well that Germany is still a long way from an across-the-board use of the new technology.
In 2011, the contradictions and ideology gridlock are evident, but don’t change the need for electricity:BERLIN, July 4 (Reuters) – German power producer EnBW will not replace nuclear power plants with new coal or gas plants after lawmakers approved an exit from nuclear energy last week. Coal was not an option because it lacked support due to its contribution to greenhouse gases, chief executive Hans-Peter Villis said on Monday.

[BUT...]Energy association BDEW estimated that 8-17 gigawatts of new capacity — mostly greenhouse gas-generating gas and coal-based — will have to be built over the next decade to counter the volatility of green power and to make up for lost nuclear capacity.New Scientist last week, confirms fossil fuel’s bright future in Germany for decades to come:Either way, however, it seems unlikely that electricity from renewables alone can completely cover the 40 per cent of electricity now generated from a combination of nuclear and renewables before the last nuclear station closes.
That’s because renewables requires far more generating capacity than the technology it replaces as wind and solar are intermittent.Germany will plug the gap by building coal and gas-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 20 gigawatts for cloudy or windless days. Opposition to carbon capture and storage in Germany – where the technology is seen as an excuse to justify continued reliance on coal – means the carbon emissions from these plants may not be collected.So it appears that the country will at best have about the same level of zero-carbon generation in 2020 as today – 40 per cent – and that emissions may rise in the interim.

So Germany, after decades of building intermittent power sources from solar and wind allegedly to avert climate catastrophe, sees no alternative but to build vast numbers of coal and gas power stations for base load hitherto provided by nuclear, while Australia boldly goes forth to shut down our baseload coal power industry and start building intermittent solar and wind.

Whether you believe in catastrophic global warming or not, this is complete madness.

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