About: Born in the United States, Craig Morris (@PPchef) has been living in Germany since 1992. In 2002, he founded Petite Planète, a translation and documentation service focusing on IT and renewables. He is the author of the book Energy Switch (2006) along with numerous articles in both English and German on energy technologies and policies. He writes every workday at Renewables International – and, of course, he is a frequent contributor to the Energiewende Blog.
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Oxford County, Ontario, has just opened a wind farm as part of a project to go 100% renewables for electricity and heat. Craig Morris visited the project, which could become a role model for the entire country.
This week, German media reported a different angle on the “micro-fissures” now plaguing nuclear reactors in Europe. It seems that the risks have been known for decades. Craig Morris takes a look.
Donald Trump will be the next US president. For too long, climate campaigners focused on policies and technical fixes. It’s time to start listening to the people affected again, rather than talking past them. A view from Germany by Craig Morris.
Nuclear reactors running on thorium are widely held to be inherently safer than the awful pressurized-water reactors we have today. So why don’t we have thorium reactors? A new TV documentary also available online answers the question quite well. Craig Morris sums up the evidence.
The operator of Switzerland’s nuclear reactors, Alpiq, reportedly offered reactors to France’s EDF at no cost or “a symbolic franc.” The French, who have their hands full with their own struggling fleet at home, refused the offer. A potential power shortfall still looms in the background. Craig Morris explains.
Concerns about the cost impact of Germany’s energy transition now include the grid fee. The German Network Agency has clamped down on profit margins for grid operators. Craig Morris weighs in on the debate over whether all these grid lines are needed.
The final report of a Finnish proposal for a pilot basic income project will be out in mid-November. The Germans want to combine eco-taxes with basic income. A new proposal in the US also shows how environmental taxation can be used to redistribute wealth. Low-income households pay a larger share of their income on energy, but wealthy households spend more on energy in absolute terms. And what if we take it a step further and pay back this tax revenue as unconditional basic income (UBI)? Craig Morris explains.
The Chinese aim to boost sales of electric vehicles. The news is a warning shot – and possibly the death knell – for German carmakers, who have relied on the Chinese market for sales of luxury gas guzzlers made in Germany. Craig Morris explains.
The Dakota pipeline protests could be the start of something big. Germany’s Energiewende began as a civil rights movement. Now, Americans are beginning to protest across the country, demanding that the energy sector respect society. Craig Morris asks: when will you join the movement?
A new study conducted by consultancy CE Delft for four European NGOs finds that practically all households in the EU can play a role in the transition. Craig Morris takes a look.
The short answer is no, which is worrying in light of the numerous reports to the contrary. Still, what happened should not be underestimated either: the German states—including ones with giant carmakers—have asked the EU for help in phasing out cars running on fossil fuels… well, sort of. What’s needed is options, as Craig Morris explains.
At present, 21 of France’s 58 nuclear reactors are offline. The country’s power prices have skyrocketed, as have imports. Power from fossil fuel is increasing, and the country has now postponed its plans to implement a floor price on carbon. Craig Morris explains why.
It is often held that citizens get involved in energy coops in order to profit personally. That’s true, but it’s also overrated as a motive. Now, a new study puts the various reasons in context, and gives Craig Morris some hard data for what he says he already knew anecdotally from numerous such projects. The findings may surprise you—and the German government.
The amount reported as the cost of renewable electricity has nearly reached seven cents per kilowatt-hour, almost as much as the lowest retail rates in the United States. Yet, the main price driver is reportedly “falling wholesale prices.” Sound weird? Maybe it’s time to change the surcharge’s name, Craig Morris suggests.
The government’s new 4,000-euro bonus for electric vehicles is a dud. Why are the Germans so reluctant to buy EVs? And why is there is little support for e-bikes? Craig Morris takes a look.
Another setback for the “nuclear renaissance”: Switzerland voted on Friday to focus more on renewables and efficiency. For the first time ever, new nuclear plants are officially off the table—though admittedly, none were planned. The Swiss just “adopted the Energiewende,” writes the Neue Züricher Zeitung. Is no one paying attention? Craig Morris has the details.
Will another coal plant ever be opened in Germany? Only one is currently in the pipeline officially, and it has almost been completed—and could be put into operation soon. So what’s the holdup? Craig Morris takes a look.
German carmakers ignored electric vehicles, banking instead on old diesel. The same firms also failed to see particle filters and catalytic converters coming. Craig Morris takes a look.
The decision to go ahead with Hinkley shows that any technology with a long timeframe is a juggernaut in an energy world of foreshortening planning horizons. But other questions remain open: can an EPR be built at all? Why is new nuclear cheaper outside the UK? And isn’t Hinkley at least a good low-carbon complement to wind and solar? Craig Morris takes a look.
After several years of North Americans criticizing EU biomass policy for leading to imports of wood pellets to Europe, the European Union now complains in the other direction—that the US should stop flooding the EU with biomass. Craig Morris explains.
Household battery storage units connected to solar roofs are about to take off in Germany, according to sector experts. But if storage + solar makes sense, so does storage on its own. Craig Morris explains.
The Governor of New York State says Americans will be reading by candlelight unless nuclear is subsidized. The state’s Public Service Commission (NYPSC) implemented such subsidies at the beginning of August, claiming it “learned a lesson from Germany.” Craig Morris takes a look at the data.
Today, Craig Morris covers the last major new chart in the update of our e-book for 2016. It shows that the worst is over in terms of job losses for coal power—and that there are already far more jobs related to renewables. What it doesn’t show is that Germany will fail to reach its 2020 target for green jobs by a wide margin.
Today, Craig Morris explains our updated graphics on German energy consumption. Private consumers may support the further growth of renewables, but they also make up a relatively small part of total energy consumption.
Today, Craig Morris is back with a new chart added to our e-book this year. It concerns Germany’s development bank—and it stems from coverage of solar in Germany at the Economist.
We have created a slew of new charts in the annual update of this website. Today, Craig Morris focuses on two of them concerning power prices and so-called energy poverty.
This year’s World Nuclear Status Report was published in July. 2015 turns out to have been the best year for new nuclear builds in a quarter of a century, but nothing at all has been completed yet in 2016. Craig Morris takes a look.
What would Brexit mean for the proposed nuclear reactor at Hinkley and England? No one really knew—until the new government in Downing Street announced the refurbishment of its nuclear submarines. Shortly thereafter, London confirmed that it remains committed to Hinkley—before postponing a final decision once again. Craig Morris explains.
On July 1, Agora Verkehrswende officially went into business. A sister organization of Agora Energiewende, a think tank for Germany’s energy transition, Verkehrswende will focus (as the German name indicates) on the transport transition. If the organization truly pursues environmental policy, it will fill a gap. If it mainly concerns itself with industrial policy, it will be redundant. Craig Morris explores the possibilities.
“The duck has landed,” writes California-based energy expert Meredith Fowlie about renewables pushing demand for conventional power at midday below the overnight level. But what Californians call a technical limit is, in reality, a political one, as Craig Morris’s comparison with Germany reveals.
The Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative (TREC) highlights some of the global estimates about payback to communities that allow their citizens to invest in renewable projects. But Craig Morris’s overview of the statistics shows the lack of comparable hard data.
In the first half of 2016, 36.4 percent of the electricity produced in Germany was renewable according to preliminary data. The target for 2020 is only 35 percent – and that figure does not include power exports. Renewables seem to be cutting into both coal power and nuclear; gas is up. Craig Morris explains.
For those of us who call for greater energy democracy, Brexit is a challenge. After all, doesn’t it demonstrate that the public is easy to fool and cannot be trusted to make decisions based on facts rather than emotions? To draw the right conclusions for all of Europe, it helps to understand how the Energiewende strengthened democracy in Germany. Craig Morris calls for more democracy, not less.
Is the media doing a bad job covering climate change and the energy sector? If not, why do so many experts think so? A group of them recently met in Germany to discuss the issue. Between practitioners (journalists) and outsiders (climatologists), what was missing was media analysts. Craig Morris explains.
The Energiewende is a federal energy policy that started off as a grassroots movement. Just a few years ago, investments in the sector clearly revealed those origins. But amendments implemented in 2014 changed the trend fundamentally. If the government does not address the issue soon, one can only include the outcome is intentional. Craig Morris takes a look.
For decades, the Danes have been an inspiration to and role model for German and independent proponents. But the story of what they specifically get right is not well understood in the English-speaking world. Now, American journalist Justin Gerdes has filled that gap with a short Kindle book. Craig Morris says it’s a must-read.
Last Wednesday, the German cabinet finalized the details of what will become known as the EEG 2016. An astonishingly wide range of commenters agree on one thing: it’s bad. By Craig Morris.
In late May, strikes reduced nuclear power production in France. Yet even more plants were offline a few weeks earlier without any strikes at all. German and European renewable electricity may have been one reason why France switched off so many nuclear plants that weekend. Craig Morris takes a look.
The Danes announced plans in May to cut back on the cost and speed of their energy transition. The debate sounds practically identical to the one in Germany, where the government also aims to slow down its Energiewende. But a Danish expert says Denmark remains on course. Craig Morris investigates.
This month, the German government met with state representatives but failed to reach an agreement. The second meeting is scheduled for May 31. At the moment, both sides have simply agreed to disagree. Berlin wants to dramatically slow down the energy transition, and some states will have none of it. Craig Morris explains.
Up to now, public support for wind power has been very strong in Germany. But recent changes to German law have encouraged local groups that oppose wind farms. The relegation of competence from the national to the state level means that smaller groups have a larger impact. Craig Morris explains.
Last week, the EU General Court sided with the European Commission in all respects. At issue were German feed-in tariffs and the industry exemption to the surcharge that finances them. Craig Morris spoke with two of Germany’s experts on the issue: Severin Fischer and Matthias Lang.
In April, a renewable energy auction in the United Arab Emirates produced an astonishingly low price. At 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour, solar power suddenly costs half as much as it did a year ago. It has thus practically reached the level experts hoped for 2030. Craig Morris explains.
After surpassing 80 percent renewable electricity for a few hours last year, Germany may have briefly reached around 95 percent on May 8. But the news is not only cause for celebration – a boundary has also been crossed. We are now entering the hard territory. Craig Morris explains.
Six months after the Chernobyl accident, Klaus Müschen and Erika Romberg – two researchers at the newly founded Öko-Institut – summarized previously published energy scenarios on nuclear in the institute’s Energiewende book entitled Electricity without nuclear. Craig Morris takes a look.
Germany completed its fourth round of auctions for ground-mounted photovoltaics this month, and the government is pleased with the outcome in light of the continued falling prices. The Undersecretary in Germany’s Energy Ministry also speaks of “intense competition” as a positive outcome. The other side of that coin is a lot of losing bids – not to mention those who didn’t bother to take part. Craig Morris explains.
30 years ago, Chernobyl made the public fear radioactivity, thereby setting back the progress of nuclear technology – most articles you read today about the accident probably say something along those lines. For Craig Morris, that reading is a major accomplishment for the nuclear sector. The real story looks much worse.
Don’t add Germany to the list of countries officially considering banning sales of cars running on gasoline or diesel just yet. But several prominent people are pushing the government to take steps in this direction. One of them is Energiewende Undersecretary Rainer Baake. Craig Morris explains.
“Texas and California have too much renewable energy,” writes Technology Review this month. “California has too much solar power,” Vox.com chimes in. Nonsense, says Craig Morris, a political arrangement is being passed off as a technical issue. Stop protecting nuclear and coal; get rid of baseload.
A new piece by German economics daily Handelsblatt claims to shed light on the “dark side” of “Germany’s massive push into renewable energy.” It comes across as a strained attempt to find a cloud hidden behind a giant silver lining. But despite covering the topic quite broadly (the article has around 2,000 words), the article is nonetheless unbalanced: the examples given are unconvincing; the gaps, glaring. By Craig Morris.
On April 1, German coal power giant RWE split into two companies: one, containing conventional energy; the other, renewables. Craig Morris explains.
How can public acceptance of utility projects be increased? Policymakers want to allow citizens to invest in such projects, but the focus is insufficient. Citizens want more than just financial benefits. By Craig Morris.
On Thursday and Friday last week, the German Foreign Office invited dignitaries, business people, and the press to the second Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue. The event was roughly 50 percent larger than in the previous year. And once again, it revealed that not all decision-makers are on the same page when it comes to the global energy transition. Craig Morris explains.
Vattenfall has failed to find a buyer for its coal assets in Germany. The focus is now on alternative models, such as a fund to protect workers. Craig Morris explains.
For the past four years, the average retail power rate in Germany has been stable, even though the share of renewable electricity rose from nearly 25 percent to 32.5 percent. Clearly, renewables are now so competitive that fast growth no longer has a major cost impact – not even in Germany. Craig Morris explains.
Last week, German media reported that the shutdown of a reactor in Fessenheim, France, should have been classified at a level of greater danger. While the German media focus on the event itself, French media have turned the issue into a “he said, she said” dispute. The coverage reveals the tradition of transparency in Germany – and the lack thereof in France. By Craig Morris.
For months, Germany has been debating how to cover the cost of the country’s nuclear waste repositories. Just when you think an agreement has been reached, more proposals are put on the table. Craig Morris explains.
Utilities that invest heavily in renewables outside of their territory often show little interest to do so at home. Craig Morris takes a look.
The news of the recent successful plasma experiment at a nuclear fusion research facility in Germany went wild on social media, but a lot of people wondered what kind of sense it makes for a country with a nuclear phase-out to be conducting research in nuclear fusion. In fact, Germany is a leader in nuclear fusion in two ways. Craig Morris explains.
A company called German Pellets has filed for insolvency. As recently as 2013, it was the largest pellet producer in the world. Low oil prices were given as one reason for this development, but that’s not all. Craig Morris reports.
Natural gas is considered a better complement to wind and solar power than coal or nuclear both in terms of the flexibility of gas turbines and carbon emissions. But gas prices in Germany have remained high in recent years, and the carbon price has been too low to incentivize a switch from coal to gas. Now, there are signs that gas turbines are once again profitable. Craig Morris reports.
Global installation figures are rolling in for wind and PV, and they look fantastic. The future is also bright: the forecast is for further growth. Single countries used to dominate these markets, but increasingly everyone is building. In fact, developing countries now invest more in renewables than the developed world does. Craig Morris takes a look.
We recently wrote about record wind power production in 2015, which was partly due to windy conditions. But a lot of new capacity was also added. Unfortunately, the rush reflects the storm before the calm; the onshore sector in particular fears the switch to auctions. Craig Morris explains.
Two weeks ago, the German Energy Ministry published its official review of the first three rounds of pilot auctions for ground-mounted PV. It is already clear that the policy will be expanded – the shortcomings of the auctions are not even mentioned. Craig Morris investigates.
It’s official: more money was invested in renewables and more generation capacity added in 2015 than ever before. Conventional wisdom has always been that low fossil fuel prices would make renewables uncompetitive even as the cost of renewable energy continues to drop. In that view, fossil fuel prices drive investments in renewables. It’s not happening, however, so maybe it’s time to consider the reverse paradigm: renewables driving fossil fuel prices. Craig Morris investigates.
A new study published by the Öko-Institut investigates Germany’s historical expenses for renewable electricity – and solar power in particular. In passing, the study highlights Germany’s contribution to the current low price of solar power worldwide. Craig Morris looks into the matter.
Last year, wind power production in Germany increased by around 50 percent – and the country already had the third largest fleet of wind turbines worldwide. But the biggest improvement is in minimum power production. Your German word for the day is “Dunkelflaute.” Craig Morris reports.
Last week, we discussed changes in the German power sector in 2015, particularly how Germany is scheduled to overshoot its target for green electricity. Today, we focus on all energy (power, heat, and motor fuels). To our surprise, the target of 18 percent renewable energy by 2020 is not out of reach. Craig Morris explains.
In 2015, Germany added more renewable electricity than ever before in a single year, bringing the share of green power in total supply up to 33 percent. But the government seems keen on slowing down this growth. What is really happening? Craig Morris investigates.
In 2004, Germany adopted a target of 20 percent renewable power by 2020. Critics thought it would be hard to reach. But five years before that deadline, renewables rarely fall below the old target, which has since been raised. Craig Morris takes a look.
A recent editorial at Reuters charged that German nuclear policy is uncoordinated, particularly because the cost of nuclear waste disposal is still unclear. In reality, Merkel’s 2011 phase-out was a return to a former plan only briefly abandoned. And Germany’s phase-out budget looks pretty good internationally. Craig Morris explains.
The Poles have limited power imports from Germany in order to reduce “loop flows” through the country. Now, grid experts at the European Network of Transmission System Operators (Entso-e) warn that the country may no longer have generation and power import capacity to meet demand. By Craig Morris.
Energy poverty is sometimes held to be related to renewable energy. In reality, the cost of fossil energy for heat and motor fuels plays a larger role – as do general poverty levels. Most of all, statistics are hard to compare, and Germany combats poverty, not merely “energy poverty.” Craig Morris takes a look.
Stanford’s Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi made headlines at the end of November for their pronouncement that 100 percent renewable energy is possible in most countries. The publication came out in time for the COP 21 conference in Paris. The findings do not overlap with what researchers in Germany publish. Craig Morris explains.
[UPDATE] Record wind power production put German wind farms in the pole position last month, though critics will still complain that two types of coal counted separately should be counted together. By Craig Morris.
Friends of the Earth International and the Heinrich Böll Foundation (which runs this website) have joined forces to produce an international version of the Coal Atlas originally published in German earlier this year. Craig Morris reports.
The German Network Agency has published an overview of power curtailment in 2014. While the level has reached a new high, it is still in line with what is normal in other countries. Craig Morris takes a look.
People who want to change the world need to understand why some campaigns are successful while others aren’t. One US commentator has investigated the Keystone campaign’s success in this respect. The overlapping with the German nuclear phase-out is salient. By Craig Morris.
Researchers from Fraunhofer ISE have published a new report investigating the net cost of Germany’s energy transition. The good news is that the German government’s current goals are likely to be affordable. The bad news is that 100 percent renewable energy is less so.
Europeans fear that the TTIP free trade agreement between the United States and the EU would water down their environmental standards, but the recent diesel emissions scandal shows that the opposite could be the case. Craig Morris explains.
Germany is the country with the most photovoltaics installed worldwide. A new study now says that solar in combination with batteries would allow a lot more PV to be installed. Craig Morris says the investigation confirms his worst fears.
Like all Western countries, France has an aging fleet of nuclear reactors. If it does not extend the service lives of its existing fleet, it will have to build new reactors. Otherwise, the country will have an undeclared nuclear phaseout. Craig Morris explains.
Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) has added a new section on power trading to its Energy Charts website. Craig Morris says it dispels the myth that Germany is dumping excess renewable electricity on neighboring countries at low prices.
Germany’s eco-tax was successful, but it has not been updated for 12 years. Environmental economists met in Berlin in September to discuss “ecological basic income.” Craig Morris reports.
Swedish utility Vattenfall is looking for a buyer for its lignite assets in Germany. In addition to interest from the Czech Republic, environmentalists would like to take over the assets – in order to leave them in the ground. Craig Morris reports.
The German government has announced the (modest) progress being made with grid expansions. Further delays are expected. Nonetheless, German electricity reliability remains at a high level. But what about those reports of grid operators frantically intervening to prevent blackouts? Craig Morris reports.
As in other countries, German industry can be asked to change power consumption in order to stabilize the grid. Now, it turns out that the policy option is used so seldom that it is to be done away with – another sign that the concern about fluctuating renewables on the grid may be exaggerated. Craig Morris reports.
Foreign onlookers are interested to know what lessons can be learned from Germany’s energy transition. In a recent article, a German energy sector executive drew conclusions for the outside world themselves. Craig Morris can’t follow the logic.
Last week, Germany’s four transit grid operators announced the renewable energy surcharge for 2016. The reactions to it show how confusing the whole matter has become. Craig Morris reports.
Germany opened a giant coal plant last month, but little is in the pipeline at present. Worldwide, coal faces a bleak future – somewhat unexpectedly. Craig Morris reports.
Charges that Germany is cutting down its own and possibly the world’s forests for its Energiewende continue to crop up. But it turns out that the amount used to generate power is small – and almost all of it seems to be waste recovery. Craig Morris looks into the issue.
A new study finds that Germany has physical space for roughly 50 percent more onshore wind capacity than the country would need for 100 percent green electricity – and the official target is only 80 percent. Craig Morris takes a look.
Proponents of renewables (including this website) often praise “energy democracy.” Nonetheless, hard data on the benefits are few and far between. Now, a new study provides an overview. Craig Morris reports.
Some foreign onlookers predict that Volkswagen’s emissions fraud will discredit German climate efforts. German climate campaigners see the event as an opportunity to bring the energy transition to the transport sector, as Craig Morris writes.
The news has hardly been reported in English yet, but the new conservative governing coalition elected in Denmark this summer plans to abandon the country’s ambitious targets for a carbon-free economy. The move could provide a precedent for Germany. Craig Morris reports.
Germany’s energy transition is mainly one thing: an electricity transition. Little is happening with transportation and heat. Now, the German government has proposed new rules for cogeneration. Craig Morris says the reception can be summed up in one word: disappointing.
A recent survey conducted among the German public finds continuing support for the Energiewende. Furthermore, only a third said the cost was too high. Craig Morris says a closer look also reveals that people who already have systems close by are less likely to oppose them.
In a recent blog post, Craig Morris talked about how the Spanish and Italian wind and solar markets have recently collapsed. Today, he turns his attention to the UK, where the future also looks bleak. And he says renewable energy campaigners should demand “fair payment” and reject the term “subsidy.”
While the world celebrates unprecedented renewable capacity additions, there are clear signs that this growth stops for wind and solar at a small share of the market. Italy and Spain are perfect examples for this, explains Craig Morris.
A new study is making the rounds. It puts the price tag for renewable electricity higher than ever before. And it makes the same mistake as other high estimates – no subsequent savings are subtracted from these calculations. What happens if we do that? Craig Morris investigates.
The Swiss and Danish electricity sectors have quite a bit in common. Both are flooded with electricity from all sides. Yet, their power mixes are very different. The Danes have mainly wind and coal; the Swiss, primarily nuclear and hydro. The power lines were mainly built for coal and nuclear. Craig Morris takes a look.
In August, the fifth of five nuclear plants in Switzerland went off-line, but only for two days. There were no blackouts. Craig Morris investigates.
The summer is drawing to a close in Europe, and it was one of the hottest ever. Thermal power plants (coal and nuclear) had to ramp down production in numerous countries due to a lack of cooling water, but the heat also affected solar power production. Craig Morris reports.
Billionaire Bill Gates claimed this summer that breakthroughs are needed for the energy transition and that funding should be diverted from current technologies towards R&D. Craig Morris wonders what would have become of Microsoft if we had waited for Ultrabooks before buying computers.
French think tank négaWatt published a study back in 2011 investigating how the country could switch almost completely to renewable energy. Now, the analysis and an overview of charts has been made available in English. Craig Morris investigates.
Over the weekend, protesters entered coalfields outside of Cologne as a part of the Ende Gelände campaign (loosely translated: “terminal terrain”). The goal is to “keep coal in the ground.” Craig Morris wonders if the event, which unfortunately became violent, is the beginning of a successful divestment movement.
In the first half of 2015, more offshore wind power capacity was added in Germany than the country previously had. The government is reportedly considering raising its target for 2020. Craig Morris explains.
German think tank Agora Energiewende has produced a paper showing the lack of transparency for grid data. Proponents of distributed renewable energy have complained for years that they cannot verify the need for new grid lines. Craig Morris explains.
German retail power rates are high, but industry electricity prices are low. A recent comparison of countries bordering the Netherlands reveals what an outlier Germany is. Craig Morris investigates.
As a part of our annual update, we have created a few new charts and updated some old ones. The Energiewende story has also been updated to reflect the latest data and policy developments from 2014. Craig Morris focuses on a single chart today. Since October, the underlying analysis could have been updated, but – tellingly – no one has seen fit to do so.
In July, Germany may have had more solar power than nuclear power for the first time in history – much sooner than anyone expected. It was a close race, and nuclear is likely to retake the lead for the foreseeable future. Craig Morris explains.
Most of the talk about high energy prices in Germany focuses only on retail electricity rates. But firms pay different power prices, and their expenses on energy may focus more on fossil fuels for heat than electricity. Furthermore, German labor is expensive and may often be a bigger budget item than energy. Craig Morris summarizes the findings of two recent studies.
On July 25, Germany surpassed the old record of 74 percent renewable electricity. But perhaps the most interesting aspect is power trading between France and Germany on that day. Craig Morris explains.
The Carbon Tracker Initiative and Energy Transition Advisors recently published recommendations for fossil fuel companies to manage a future in which their assets will be stranded. Craig Morris investigates.
The WWF and German renewable power provider Lichtblick have joined forces to produce an overview of five ways in which the entire world is transitioning to renewables. Craig Morris reviews the five megatrends, which were published only in German.
In recent years, the increasing competitiveness of wind and solar power has been widely hailed. But there is a cloud to this silver lining – power production does not match power demand. As a result, the actual value of wind and solar power will decrease as we get more of it. Craig Morris says policymakers should pay attention.
The plan to implement a sort of national carbon emissions trading scheme specifically to clamp down on electricity from lignite is now officially dead. Last night, the German government adopted a different plan with a broader focus. Aside from the coal sector, no one seems to like it. Craig Morris investigates.
Because biomass can be used not only to generate electricity, but also as a source of heat and motor fuel, it makes up the largest chunk of renewable energy in most countries by far. Craig Morris says, however, that the growth of biomass is largely over in Germany.
It’s back again – the claim that Germany will rely on foreign base load, especially nuclear, in its energy transition. Craig Morris wonders why proponents of nuclear power understand the technology and markets so poorly.
And then there were eight… This weekend, the Grafenrheinfeld nuclear plant in northern Bavaria will shut down permanently. It is the first nuclear plant to close since 2011.
With Tesla’s announcement of battery storage systems for households, storage for photovoltaics has become a major news item. Furthermore, one of the main questions about the energy transition is how the grid will be stabilized without central power plants. Craig Morris visited German battery firm Younicos and got an answer to this question.
German utilities have gone on a shopping spree, taking over struggling planning firms to gain sorely needed expertise and assets. The trend can be heralded as a sign that these firms are finally taking part in the energy transition – or as a potential threat to the community cooperative movement that fostered the Energiewende all along. Craig Morris says the fate of Prokon is exemplary in this respect.
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) recently deepened its investigation into retail and commercial power customers using solar and battery storage instead of the grid. Craig Morris says the study is especially useful because it shows utilities that fighting the trend will only make things worse.
While Germany roars ahead with renewable electricity, too little is happening with heat and transportation. Now, a study finds that Germany is likely not only to miss its carbon reduction target by the end of this decade, but also the target for the share of renewables in all energy. Craig Morris says the Germans are clearly stumbling through their Energiewende – and that’s good news for other countries going down a similar path.
Today, 12 European Council Energy Ministers signed a joint declaration for closer collaboration in the electricity sector. Craig Morris says it may help assuage criticism that Germany is “going it alone” with its Energiewende.
By 2030, Germany will gradually no longer have to pay for its most expensive solar arrays installed at the beginning of this decade. But the power will probably still be generated. Craig Morris investigates the probable impact.
In a recent study, Berlin-based think tank Agora Energiewende estimated future cost impact of renewable electricity in Germany. One of the assumptions deserves more attention: the shrinking of net onshore wind growth. Craig Morris investigates.
A recent paper by Berlin-based think tank Agora Energiewende finds that Germany is paying now for cost reductions in the future. While other countries can expect rising power costs, German costs will stabilize and then begin to drop in the 2030s. Craig Morris explains.
Reading headlines like “Germany’s nuclear cutback is darkening European skies” makes Craig Morris despair over the state of journalism.
In 2015, the average German household power bill fell slightly from 85 euros to 84 euros per month. What’s more, that level is relatively low compared to US averages. But Craig Morris says comparisons are not easy.
Last year, Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) published a survey of the BRICS countries, revealing their opinions on Germany’s energy transition. In April, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) followed up with a study focusing on developing countries. Craig Morris reports.
What difference does policy make? Craig Morris says that a comparison of the low prices for installed solar arrays in Germany with more expensive arrays in the US is a good way to start answering that question.
At the beginning of April, British climate NGO Sandbag published a press release entitled “For the first time, 4 out of 5 largest EU emitters are German lignite producers.” A shift took place between the fifth and sixth positions because the British Drax coal plant increasingly runs on imported biomass. Craig Morris says paying more attention to producers and less to consumers would help us see the issue in a clearer light.
The British government seems willing to pay high prices not only for new nuclear, but also for renewables. Given the country’s amazing wind conditions, it does indeed seem that the British are overpaying for wind power in particular. Craig Morris thinks he knows why.
The German government wants to limit emissions from coal plants that are more than 20 years old. Why the age demarcation? Why not just limit total emissions – or phase out coal entirely? Craig Morris says some clever Realpolitik is behind it. Best of all, it’s working.
We need to leave carbon in the ground. Yet, carbon emissions are counted at the source of consumption, not the source of extraction. Craig Morris says the different approach would put countries like Scotland, Norway, and Denmark in a much different light.
Over the Easter break, French daily Le Monde reported that an official study for a conference to be held last week was being held back. The energy experts investigated a 100 percent renewable supply of electricity by 2050. Craig Morris got hold of a copy, which still lacks an executive summary. So he wrote one.
The southeastern German state of Bavaria is arguably not much of a team player in the Energiewende. The state government does not want wind turbines, and opposition to new power lines ostensibly to bring in wind power from the north is fiercest among Bavarians. One proposal to fill the power gap is gas turbines. Craig Morris points out a few reasons why the strategy seems unrealistic.
Siemens spent half a billion euros developing the most efficient gas turbine in the world. Last year, it sold no electricity at all, but was only used to stabilize the grid. Now, the unit is to be taken off the market and put into standby reserve next year. Craig Morris says the story shows how important it is not to confuse engineers with policymakers.
Two weeks ago, the German government sent its bill for shale gas production to Parliament for approval. And once again, we read both that Germany has banned and approved fracking. Craig Morris explains what is really going on.
To many people, both inside and outside Germany, the Energiewende seems special. Questions therefore often focus on where the Germans got the idea. Craig Morris says they stole it from an American.
The results of the survey published in German in February were made available in English (PDF) last month. They show overwhelming international skepticism towards the German Energiewende. Craig Morris says the findings are in line with the WEC’s tradition of skepticism towards renewables. And a comparison of previous WEC surveys on the Energiewende is illustrative.
Germany aims to reduce its energy consumption by 50 percent by 2050 relative to 2005. It sounds like a fanciful target, especially if the country continues to grow economically. But in reality, Craig Morris says, there are two simple steps to this goal, which do not seem so magical once you know them.
One of Germany’s political foundations, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, has produced a video in English explaining the term “energy democracy” to North Americans. It was made in cooperation with labor unions and thus focuses on job creation. Craig Morris likes the presentation but fears some main points might not be highlighted enough.
On March 26 and 27, the German Foreign Office held a high-level conference on the Energiewende in Berlin, subtitled “towards a global Energiewende.” Energy Ministers and Foreign Ministers from a number of countries attended. Craig Morris reports.
A paper leaked last week reveals the German government’s plans to clamp down on emissions from coal power. But the plans are not a done deal – the meeting on Thursday, which was originally to be held last Saturday, has been boycotted once again. By Craig Morris.
The 1985 book entitled The Energiewende is possible not only described the problems that the energy transition faces, but also proposed some solutions. Craig Morris describes them.
In his previous post, Craig Morris began his summary of the 1985 book entitled (in German) The Energiewende is possible. Today, he sheds light on how the trend towards large power plants created unnecessary costs in the process – although more efficient distributed cogeneration was an alternative.
In 1985, German researchers at a newly founded institute called Öko-Institut published a book called “The Energiewende is possible” investigating why no progress had been made since the original proposal five years earlier. Craig Morris says the book’s analysis can be summed up in one word: brilliant.
Germany consumed 4.7 percent less energy in 2014. Now, the AGEB – the group of economists and utility experts that collate the official statistics – has published its own explanation. By Craig Morris.
German renewable energy lobby organization AEE has published another meta-study, this time reviewing the wide range of scientific investigations into power storage. As Craig Morris explains, the main finding is in line with other recent publications – storing excess renewable electricity from the summer for the winter will not be necessary for a while.
In December, American citizens petitioned the European Commission to “stop cutting our forests.” It turns out that Germany plays only a marginal role. Craig Morris investigates.
In their last post, Craig Morris and Arne Jungjohann show the impressive overlapping between French and German energy goals. Today, they investigate historic targets for nuclear and renewables in the two countries. One key finding is that French nuclear history is not properly understood.
According to a study published in January, only 29 citizen energy cooperatives were founded in Germany last year. The German Citizen Energy Alliance says the low number is a sign that the energy sector is being handed back to big business. Craig Morris investigates.
Repeatedly, critics of Germany’s energy transition say that France’s transition is a better model to follow. A closer look, however, reveals an impressive amount of overlapping. Craig Morris and Arne Jungjohann investigate.
Green Budget Germany (FÖS), an environmental taxation organization, published an update of its study on the true cost of power in January. Craig Morris investigates.
After an article in Euractiv claimed that the German government had approved fracking, the Guardian made a few phone calls, including to a French campaigner. Craig Morris says that German media have remained silent on the matter for good reason – the news item is a canard.
A study published by German university researchers for German engineering firm Siemens finds that the renewable power installations built since Fukushima have not affected the retail rate, but they have brought down wholesale rates considerably. Energy-intensive industry has benefited the most. But Craig Morris says there is something for the nuclear camp to criticize.
In mid-January, German State Secretary in the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy Rainer Baake spoke at a Handelsblatt conference about the future power market design. We need to get used to a few new terms, Craig Morris explains why.
The City of Zürich’s Environmental Department says that the town is moving further away from the target it adopted in 2008 in a referendum.
As requested by Brussels, Germany is taking the first steps to switch from feed-in tariffs to a system of reverse auctions by 2017. This year, the first rounds will be held for photovoltaics. Craig Morris investigates.
The big news from Germany in the energy sector in January is the government’s apparent rejection of a capacity market. But energy giant E.ON says the issue will not go away. Craig Morris explains why Germany is likely to get a small capacity market through the backdoor.
Two surveys published in January show where the public and the business world perceives shortcomings in Germany’s energy transition. Support remains high, however. Craig Morris investigates.
On 20 March 2015, a partial solar eclipse will pass over Germany. Craig Morris says the impact will provide a glimpse of a future in which most households not only have solar roofs, but also battery storage.
In 2014, installations of new photovoltaic arrays in Germany fell to almost a quarter of the level sustained from 2010 to 2012. Craig Morris says the performance nonetheless remains impressive relative to the size of the German grid.
Preliminary figures show that 2014 was a record year for wind power in Germany. Craig Morris says the performance will unfortunately be hard to repeat.
Unofficial energy sector estimates for Germany for 2014 have rolled in over the past few weeks. Craig Morris provides an overview.
How much of its energy does Germany cover from solar energy, and how much of it comes from lignite? Before you read Craig Morris’s answers, go ahead and take a guess. Maybe you read a number recently?
Have you been naughty or nice this year? If you were the former, congratulations – you just helped the federal budget. As Craig Morris points out, our efforts to do the right thing have a hidden price tag – they reduce tax revenue. Most of all, he wonders why more people haven’t asked for the thing he wants for everyone from Santa this year.
And then there were three… E.ON, one of Germany’s Big Four utilities, is selling its conventional power plant fleet. Is this a special case, or is E.ON setting an example for the other utilities? Craig Morris investigates.
Germany is a bit of a laggard when it comes to electric cars, and the Energiewende has not focused on the transport sector enough. But it seems like this is about to change. Craig Morris investigates.
Last month, BP – the oil company – conducted a survey in five countries bordering Germany to see what they thought about the Energiewende. Craig Morris investigates.
Yesterday, Chancellor Merkel’s cabinet officially adopted a set of new laws to help the country reach its 2020 carbon emissions reduction target of 40 percent relative to 1990. Craig Morris says the winner is… efficiency!
E.ON, one of Germany’s two biggest power providers, announced over the weekend that it plans to sell its conventional power plants and focus on renewables, the grid, and “customer solutions.” Craig Morris says the real message has been overlooked.
This month, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the European Climate Foundation presented a study conducted by Germany’s Institute for Economic Research (DIW). It found that Germany could reduce its carbon emissions considerably and stabilize the power market by shutting down numerous coal plants. Nonetheless, it is unclear whether the government will heed the findings, as Craig Morris explains.
One benefit of Germany’s energy transition is supposed to be technological innovations. The new superconductor currently being tested in Essen is a good example of how the Energiewende could ensure German technological leadership. Craig Morris says the project also shows what the future looks like for large utilities.
Over the past few years, Italy has made tremendous progress with renewables. In fact, despite all the differences, the similarities with Germany are striking, both in terms of progress and obstacles. Craig Morris spoke with Giuseppe Onufrio, head of Greenpeace Italy.
In his previous post, Craig Morris tells the tale of Ecopower, a renewable energy co-op and energy provider. Today, he investigates how it takes part in auctions, the quality of which is crucial.
A cooperative in Flanders is wildly successful. But the Belgian co-op is two things at once: a builder of renewables and a power provider to its investors – a rare combination in Germany. Craig Morris looks at Ecopower’s success.
Last week, the Czech government proposed a bill, which is now to be reviewed in Parliament. The renewables community is speaking of a step in the right direction, but the battle is still uphill, as a sociologist explained at a conference our Craig Morris attended.
A new meta-study published by German renewables organization AEE reviews around a dozen recent studies on power generation costs from both renewable and conventional energy sources. The trend is clear, and one of the studies is a clear outlier. Craig Morris explains.
In his previous post, Craig Morris talks about how the renewable surcharge will drop for the first time in 2015. But there is another interesting aspect to the issue. Germany allows transmission grid operators (TSOs), rather than a government entity, to calculate the charge. For the EU, that distinction is the difference between legal and illegal.
The outcome was roughly predictable at least as far back as January, but today Germany’s four transit grid operators (TSOs) announced the specific figure for the renewables surcharge for 2015. But the decrease is so small that retail rates might not even be affected. Will the government at least admit its new policies are not the reason? Craig Morris investigates.
Increasingly, we read that offshore wind in Germany is getting going. While the news is good, it overstates the role of offshore wind in the country’s energy transition. Craig Morris explains.
The European Commission just gave the go-ahead to a strike price for new nuclear power in the UK – essentially feed-in tariffs. Since it is adjusted for inflation, how can it be estimated over a period of 35 years? Craig Morris investigates.
Over at Renew Economy, our colleague Giles Parkinson reviews a study by HSBC showing that “generators are to be the biggest losers” in the energy transition currently taking place worldwide. Today, Craig Morris talks about what that looks like in Germany.
Regular readers of this blog have a good overview of how North America and the UK view Germany’s energy transition, but what do emerging economies think? The Konrad Adenauer Foundation has taken some comprehensive surveys. Craig Morris investigates.
A new study by Fraunhofer IWES investigates how much natural gas could be offset by renewables and efficiency, and one graphic indicates the implicit message that the energy transition could make Germany independent of gas imports from Russia by 2030. Craig Morris investigates.
As the saying goes, everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. One grid analyst recently told a German grid operator it was time to take action. Craig Morris investigates.
Over the weekend, Germany’s Energieblogger met at SMA’s headquarters in Kassel for a barcamp to discuss the hottest topics in the renewables sector, do some strategic planning, and – most importantly – finally have a face-to-face chat with colleagues they otherwise only communicate with virtually. The group has grown tremendously over the past year and is now a major collective voice for the Energiewende. Craig Morris explains.
Craig Morris just spent three weeks in Berlin and other German cities speaking with a slew of energy experts off the record. Today, he talks about the nervous mood in the wake of the recent policy changes.
A recent article at Grist.com under this subtitle “biomass backward” charges that “the European Union and its well-intentioned clean energy rules” are the reason for “denuded fields in the South.” Craig Morris, himself a Southerner, says something about the situation certainly is backward. But he says progress will require a deal between the US and the EU.
If it takes too much energy to make generators of renewable energy relative to what these units produce, the energy transition will not be possible. A new study by nuclear researchers finds that the need for storage and backup makes the EROI of renewables too low. Craig Morris investigates.
In January, Eurosolar produced a memorandum during the debate about changes to German energy policy. Craig Morris says the discrepancies and overlapping between the memorandum and what actually became law in August shows where there is disagreement and general consensus.
In August, the Bundesrechnungshof (BRH), which reviews the federal government’s finances, found that the Energiewende is proceeding without proper coordination. Up to now, there have only been press reports about leaked versions of the paper, which has yet to be made public. Craig Morris reviews what we know.
A recent Time article entitled “Germans happily pay more for renewable energy. But would others?” has a refreshing focus but makes obvious mistakes. Craig Morris says it also shows how hard a time the Anglo world has properly understanding the Energiewende.
One of the reasons to be a first mover is technological leadership. Germany is recognized as such a first mover in wind power, biomass, and solar. New data reveal the extent to which Germany has succeeded, as Craig Morris explains.
It’s bad news for the folks insisting that renewables are wreaking havoc on the grid – last year, the average number of minutes of power outages in Germany fell below the already leading level of 2012 and below the average over the past seven years. Craig Morris looks into the situation.
Germany may not have much sun, but it is positioning itself to sell products to those who do. But while some solar manufacturers continue to struggle, German patent registrations have boomed in recent years – not only for solar, but for wind power as well. Craig Morris investigates.
This is big news – for the first time, French labour union General Confederation of Labor (CGT) has spoken out clearly for the closure of France’s oldest nuclear plant. The reasons given argue against nuclear in general. Craig Morris investigates.
The German Industry Ministry (BMWi) recently published a chart presenting an overview of the government’s roadmap up to the end of 2016. Craig Morris says it is encouraging to see how much wider the scope is than just the power sector, but he noticed that one thing is still missing.
The EU has provided 1 billion euros in funding in order to leverage another 0.9 billion in private investments for a major new carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in the UK. Craig Morris investigates why Energiewende’s supporters are not more enthusiastic.
The price of solar has plummeted in recent years, but as the share of solar on the grid increases, associated costs will be incurred: idling backup capacity, forecasting errors, etc. Now, leading US researchers have tried to put a price tag on those costs. Craig Morris says the situation they describe for 2027 looks a bit like Germany today.
The Institute for Energy Research (IER) says angst is a main driver behind the Energiewende, which will fail to reduce emissions without shale gas, especially without nuclear. Craig Morris says some critics sound like they are a bit afraid themselves – that the Germans might pull off their transition without fracking or nuclear.
Two German research organizations have investigated claims that low US power prices might entice German firms to relocate. As Craig Morris reports, they found a mixed bag of enticements without a clear signal that German firms should leave.
It’s not easy to assess the impact of the Energiewende on industry. On the one hand, German wholesale power prices are lower than in neighboring countries and falling. On the other, we read that German industry pays above-average prices for power. Now, a study by Green Budget Germany (FÖS) provides a revealing comparison. Craig Morris investigates.
The world counts carbon emissions by country where fuels are combusted, i.e. where the CO2 is emitted. A new study shows how great the differences are when we count products consumed. Craig Morris takes a closer look at how Germany, the UK, Russia, China and France fared in the study.
Over the past decade, German power firms made considerable investments in new conventional capacity. At the same time, German SMEs, energy cooperatives, and ordinary citizens made considerable investments in renewable generation capacity. The result is excess capacity. Craig Morris takes a look at some of the country’s energy experts who did not see this outcome coming.
Depending on who you ask, Germany just imposed a temporary moratorium on fracking or just opened the floodgates for it. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle, with opposing camps reading the worst into the facts for their own political campaigning. Craig Morris says the situation in Ukraine is illustrative.
Reports on German coal mining sometimes depict the destruction of villages as something new – and almost always as an ironic new outcome of the Energiewende. In reality, it’s a continuation of a century’s business as usual. And German citizens are not the defenseless anti-coal victims they are portrayed to be. In reality, it’s not easy to convince local communities affected by mining that renewables are a better option. Craig Morris investigates.
Why was a nuclear phaseout easier than a coal phaseout in Germany? This is one of the most frequently asked questions we hear. Craig Morris has an answer about the historic reasons – and it’s not what you’re expecting. For the potential of a future coal phaseout, he has co-authored a new study.
Biomass is the largest source of renewable energy in Germany, but the German government has scaled back support in recent years. Under the amendments to the German Renewable Energy Act to become law in August, support would be reduced even further. Craig Morris investigates.
The lower house of the German Parliament voted nearly 80% in favor of the proposed amendments to Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG) on the last Friday in June. Craig Morris takes a look at the main changes and examines why some people are upset, and others aren’t.
The recent IZES paper on proposals for Germany’s future energy policy provided an overview of how the switch to reverse auctions might look based on experience in other countries. Craig Morris says the outcome of the switch is obvious. Does it match the German government’s goal?
Bidding processes are used in various economic sectors, and with good reason. But do those reasons apply to the energy sector – and, in particular, to Germany’s energy transition goals? Craig Morris presents the findings in a recent study by IZES.
A recent IZES study discusses specific energy policy models Germany could adopt if it discontinued feed-in tariffs as proposed by 2017. To see what policy design is best, we first have to define the goals. Craig Morris investigates.
By 2017, Germany aims to do away with feed-in tariffs and switch to reverse auctions. A new study by the German Institute for Future Energy Systems (IZES) compares the two policies in a study (PDF in German) published in May. Craig Morris starts an overview of the discussion with the presentation of the background today.
Is Germany building new coal plants to replace nuclear despite the country’s green ambitions? Many observers conclude so. But an in-depth look reveals that the growth of renewables has more than replaced nuclear power over the past decade. Coal is not making a comeback in Germany. However, German policymakers should reduce the country’s coal dependency sooner than scheduled.
Given the continent’s reliance on Russia as a source of natural gas, would it not be logical for Europeans to start producing their own shale gas? After all, we have seen what the effects have been in the US with regards to energy prices. In March, researchers at E3G looked into the matter and found that the success of shale gas in the US is overstated and not transferable to Europe. Craig Morris investigates.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is sometimes touted as a promising technology for the future. But as Craig Morris points out, the technology is nothing new; it simply does not exist the way it is portrayed. Recent events in Canada and the US suggest that Germany’s lack of interest is sensible.
Paris-based renewables organization REN21 has published the latest edition of its annual Global Status Report. The 2014 edition finds that, while Europe and North America have become roller coaster markets for renewables, developing and emerging countries have picked up the slack and could be the future leaders. Craig Morris investigates.
China has set a goal of 12.5 GW of newly installed photovoltaics annually by 2017 – a level equivalent to more than a third of the global market in recent years. Japan is also booming. Craig Morris says the news is more than a light at the end of the tunnel for the solar sector – it’s the end of the tunnel.
Everyone seems to agree that the renewables surcharge in Germany is a bad indicator of the cost of the country’s energy transition. Today, Craig Morris proposes a solution to the communications problem.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation, which also hosts this website, recently produced a 132-page study (PDF) entitled “Energiewende 2.0” on the future of Germany’s energy transition. In a recent post, Craig Morris summarized the findings. Today, he has a bone to pick with its portrayal of feed-in tariffs.
A recent study (PDF) published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which funds this website, describes the debate surrounding the Energiewende. One of the arguments confused Craig Morris, but he was happy to read the author’s description of who’s complaining – and who isn’t.
Industry Minister Gabriel is sticking to his plans to have amendments to the country’s Renewable Energy Act finalized at the beginning of June. His critics charge that he is trying to get around the democratic debate.
The Dutch Green Party wants to have a Green Energy Union for renewables. But Craig Morris says the Dutch are learning the wrong lesson from Germany. He paraphrases Bill Clinton: “Its energy democracy, stupid!”
Over the weekend, there were reports of talks about the creation of a “bad bank” for German nuclear plants, which are to be shut down successively by the end of 2022. Critics charge that the proposal is yet another attempt to privatize profits and nationalize losses. But Craig Morris has a bit more understanding for the firms’ position.
Germany set a new record on Sunday, May 11, by getting nearly three quarters of its electricity from renewable sources during a midday peak. Nonetheless, Craig Morris says the resulting negative prices are both good news and bad news.
On May 1, the entire editorial board at the New York Times published an article revealing an astonishing unfamiliarity with easily accessible facts. The NYT argues that Germany’s energy transition proves that the world needs nuclear. Craig Morris explains.
Last week, the 18th International Passive House Conference took place. As the long tradition shows, this approach to architecture is nothing new; it was a proven success in the 1990s. The building sector unfortunately has not proactively adopted the Passive House Standard, choosing instead to wait until EU law essentially requires it at the turn of the next decade. Craig Morris investigates.
The Heinrich Boell Foundation’s Brussels office has published a study investigating the cost of a transition to renewable electricity. Craig Morris says the study impressively shows that individual renewable technologies are the best option, but he wonders if the study will convince all doubters.
It is ironic that there is so much talk about the Energiewende hurting Germany’s energy-intensive industry, for as Craig Morris points out these firms are the biggest winners in the German energy transition.
There are increasingly reports that the Energiewende is hurting German industry. Yet, such concerns come at a time when the German economy has never looked better. Craig Morris explains.
Foreigners sometimes quote statements made by industry experts and politicians over the past decade to show that the country did indeed conscientiously build coal to replace nuclear. That’s true, but as Craig Morris explains the outcome was that, contrary to these expert expectations, renewables replaced nuclear, so we are now left with excess coal capacity. Part 2 of a 3-part series.
In 2011, Germany switched off 8 of its 17 nuclear plants. Since then, the country has made headlines not only for its campaign to reduce energy consumption and ramp up renewables – the “Energiewende” – but also for increasing production of coal power in 2013. So is Germany’s energy transition in reality more a switch to coal than to renewables? And is renewable electricity incapable of replacing the country’s nuclear power? Craig Morris investigates in part one of a three-part series.
As Craig Morris explained last week, our website underwent its first major revision at the beginning of the year. Today, he presents and briefly explains some of the new charts.
Today, the German coalition is meeting with governors of the 16 German states to discuss details of the highly anticipated amendment to the Renewable Energy Act (EEG). Craig Morris says the public – including the sectors affected – have practically no time to respond. What he really wants – but is unlikely to get – is an estimation of what is needed annually.
The Energiewende continues to evolve, not only with new data, but also with new legislation and new topics. Last month, this website therefore received its first overhaul. Over the next few weeks, we would like to draw your attention to a few of the changes.
One common question from pro-nuclear Energiewende critics is what Germany would look like today if it had not switched off 40 percent of its nuclear capacity in 2011. In recent weeks, we have gotten a taste of the answer: massive voluntary shutdowns of coal and nuclear. Craig Morris investigates.
This week, the European Commission will respond to Europe’s first citizens’ initiative, this time for the “right to water.” Craig Morris wonders whether making your energy is not also a right.
Germans are increasingly investigating “energy poverty” – and discovering that electricity is a smaller item than motor fuel and heat. The State of Baden-Württemberg, where our Craig Morris lives, recently published an overview for the state.
When Germany shut down nearly half of its nuclear capacity in the week after Fukushima, critics charged that the country would only be importing more nuclear power from its neighbors as a result. Craig Morris says it is a physical impossibility.
Over the past month, Craig Morris has commented on the debate surrounding net-metering (NEM) versus feed-in tariffs (FITs) several times in this blog. Today, he signs out of the discussion by pointing out that neither constitute going off-grid.
In social media, one new meme seems to be that Germany is too dependent upon energy imports from Russia to take a strong stand on Ukrainian independence. Craig Morris says those commenters confuse energy with natural gas, and they overlook Russian dependence on Germany and the EU.
The French call it “autoproduction”; the Germans, “own consumption.” Whatever you call it, it’s becoming more popular, which may be why the German government wants to have it cover the cost of the transition as well. Craig Morris says recent policy proposals constitute an about-face and warns against stop-and-go policy support.
Germany’s power plants fired with hard coal might soon run for fewer and fewer hours each year, being increasingly offset by renewables. Now, a labor union has called on power firms to sell these power plants to a “national company” as hard coal is phased out. Craig Morris says the firms like the idea.
On February 13, the Böll Foundation, which funds this website, held an all-day conference on Germany’s energy transition. Craig Morris says one industry representative may have been overly pessimistic about Germany’s early commitment to solar.
By all accounts – you can take the IEA’s recent statements on the matter if you like – feed-in tariffs are the main policy driver behind renewables and photovoltaics in particular. Craig Morris wonders why the policy has such fierce opponents – and why they misrepresent the policy so much.
We live in an age of quickly changing business models, and the trend is clearly towards Big Box megastores – to the detriment of mom-and-pop shops. But Craig Morris says the energy sector is shaping up to go in the opposite direction.
Feed-in tariffs only pay for power produced, which depends on the weather – and no one can guarantee that. So while the foreign press repeatedly speaks of guaranteed profits from feed-in tariffs, Craig Morris says German investors in wind and solar power have a different story to tell.
A giant German wind farm planning firm recently filed for bankruptcy, and the event made headlines. Craig Morris says the press coverage does not always clearly explain the difference between feed-in tariffs and “Genussrechte,” something that does not exist in English but could be translated as “participatory rights.” The event makes him think of an old Jimmy Stewart movie.
Recently, Craig Morris discussed an article that misrepresented feed-in tariffs (FITs). He also spoke with the two people quoted in the article, one of whom felt misrepresented – while the other was a prominent German spokesperson for renewables. He found that people describing policies are actually often talking about the technology effects, which the policies in question do not change.
A few years ago, the City of Gainesville, Florida, drew some attention for its implementation of feed-in tariffs for solar. At the beginning of 2013, the policy was suspended, however. The strangest thing for Craig Morris was not the apparent glee with which some alleged supporters of renewables, including from the solar sector, expressed upon hearing the news. It was their inability to get the story right.
The EU is to have carbon emissions targets, but nothing binding in terms of renewables or efficiency for specific member states. Craig Morris reports on what one energy expert in Brussels thinks the effect might be on the German Energiewende.
The EU’s new targets for 2030 are only for emissions trading. Anything adopted for renewables will not be binding, and we have yet to hear about efficiency at all. Craig Morris says we’re not going to get anywhere until we focus on all three.
Wind and solar power are often considered unreliable, especially by their detractors. But Craig Morris recently realized he needed to change his terminology – after learning how intermittent conventional power plants are.
On Wednesday, the German government is to discuss the new proposals for energy policy revisions. The focus is on price. Craig Morris back-calculated what needs to be done to hit the government’s official targets, for instance for 2020.
International onlookers sometimes wonder when shale gas will get going in Germany. Americans in particular think, based on their own shale boom, that the Germans could reduce their carbon emissions and lower their energy prices with shale gas. Craig Morris says the situation looks much different within Germany.
Two items that make up more than 10 percent of the German renewables surcharge could shrink considerably over the next year, possibly enough to keep the surcharge from rising further. Whether retail power prices rise or fall, however, depends on more factors than simply this surcharge.
In his last installment on Germany’s Network Agency’s Monitoring Report, Craig Morris looks for indications that renewable electricity is wreaking havoc on the grid.
Today, Craig Morris returns to the Monitoring Report published in December by Germany’s Network Agency to discuss what the organization expects over the next five years.
In December, Germany’s Network Agency, which oversees the electricity grid, published its monitoring report for 2013. Craig Morris does us the favor of reviewing the full German edition. Today, he focuses on what the report says about reserve capacity.
Germany has a new governing coalition this year, and the new Energy and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel says the entire Energiewende needs to be relaunched. Craig Morris has no problem with that opinion – as long as we remain focused on the right outcome.
In his last post of 2013, Craig Morris addresses his readers who have accused him of “cherry picking” over the year. He says the fruit from the top tastes the best. We just hope he doesn’t hurt himself up there – and that you don’t either when you’re putting the last decoration atop your Christmas tree. Best wishes for 2014 from all of us at EnergyTransition.de!
Amidst all the hubbub about high power prices in Germany, Craig Morris says we have lost sight of the difference between prices and costs. What matters most to consumers, he says, is power bills.
On Sunday, the key posts were announced for Chancellor Merkel’s new cabinet. Craig Morris says a number of appointments make it clear that the new government aims to do what Germans do best: find a consensus.
A new study released by a major critic of the Energiewende finds that power prices are expected to continue to rise. But Craig Morris is surprised at how low even the worst forecast is. He says politicians are now stepping in to protect consumers now that the biggest hikes are behind us.
At the end of November, Germany’s Thüga Group exported the first hydrogen made from electricity into the country’s gas network at a point in Frankfurt. Craig Morris says the event could be the beginning of something big.
Recently, our blogger Craig Morris stated that both coalition parties have capable proponents of renewables, but he only mentioned one from the Social Democrats. He says he left out the conservative CDU/CSU intentionally – because he was saving the best for last.
Over at the AWEA blog, our colleague Michael Goggin recently wrote of a new record. Craig Morris says the most interesting part was that the data are not publicly available.
In a few weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel could officially begin her next term in office now that the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats have reached a coalition agreement. Craig Morris takes a look at the reactions to the new proposals, which Matthias Lang recently summed up here.
German renewable energy association AEE has produced a simple chart comparing average household expenses for electricity, motor fuel, and heating oil. While everyone is focused on the rising cost of power, it turns out that the other two items have increased faster since 2000. Craig Morris investigates.
The AGEB (Working Group on Energy Balances), which tallies official energy statistics for Germany, expects consumption to increase by just over two percent this year. Craig Morris takes a look at the organization’s overview for the first three quarters.
But because of the way we count carbon emissions, German coal power exports to its neighbors (including France, which is a major net importer of German electricity) will make Germany’s carbon balance look a bit worse than it is in reality. Craig Morris explains.
Sometimes, Der Spiegel misconstrues issues so well that even experts have trouble understanding what is meant. Instead of a full rebuttal, Craig Morris takes a look at the two main claims in a recent article.
The Guardian reported this month on an energy-saving approach to construction. Craig Morris says that, in attempting to present “both sides” of the story, the journalist misses the point.
On November 3, wind power production in Denmark exceeded the level of power consumption. Craig Morris says the event was not even especially exceptional.
At the beginning of the month, Germany’s Focus Magazine reported (in German) that the German Network Agency plans to allow 12 conventional power plants to be shut down. Craig Morris reports.
In Germany, feed-in tariffs for new solar arrays drop each month, but by varying rates dependent upon recent installation volumes. Craig Morris points out that, while German solar proponents mainly complain about the market slowing down, new installations continue to overshoot the government’s target.
Reports have trickled out – and made a bigger splash than the droplets of information may warrant: German energy corporation RWE plans to revise its business strategy. Craig Morris says the new ideas have been obvious for years, but a new ad by the firm shows that the company’s heart still isn’t in it.
German renewables organization AEE has updated and simplified its statistics on green energy ownership. Craig Morris says the new figures are much easier for foreigners to understand.
Germany’s Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt or UBA) has come up with a proposal for a 95 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, far more than the country’s current goal of an 80 percent reduction. Craig Morris points out that the recommendations are intended not only for a German audience.
Recently, our Craig Morris explained that German retail rates are poised to stabilize even if the renewables surcharge continues to rise slightly. Today, he points out why we cannot expect the cost impact of feed-in tariffs to go down until around 2030 – and why that is not such a big deal.
On October 15, Germany announced the renewable surcharge for 2014, which is roughly 1 cent higher per kilowatt-hour than in 2013. Craig Morris says there are signs that an end to higher prices is near. And you don’t have to take his word for it.
The Berlin-based think tank for the Energiewende has published its own proposal for revisions to the Renewable Energy Act, which specifies feed-in tariffs. The renewables community is up in arms. Craig Morris explains.
After the summer break, EU officials are back to work, and their long-awaited plans for state aid in the energy sector are taking shape. Craig Morris says there is good news and bad news – and a lack of clarity.
In his series on how German energy policy needs to change, Craig Morris has focused on keeping costs down, but today he talks about spreading them around fairly. The issue is not just industry exemptions, but also grid costs in general.
In his last post, Craig Morris discussed two market failures and argued that energy corporations need to assume more responsibility for risk in the energy transition. Today, he adds two more market failures and says small investors can shoulder more of the burden, but only if they have more information.
Germany does not yet have a new coalition, but the debate about German energy policy reform is in full bloom. Today, Craig Morris talks about the changes that would affect energy corporations – and can’t help noticing the German penchant for market-based instruments and efforts to limit governmental intervention.
Assaults on the Energiewende continue unabated. Craig Morris says rebuttals are becoming hard to write because the arguments in the original articles do not flow from one to the other.
Recently, the UK’s Sam Friggens spoke of community ownership in Germany as crowdfunding. Craig Morris wondered why he had never heard the Germans call it that, and he could think of two reasons – one small, the other big.
What exactly would a new Renewables Club focus on? Today, Craig Morris takes a look at the World Resource Institute’s proposals, which he finds convincing. But he still has one question.
In a recent (and unfortunately undated) paper, the WRI points out that the world is not on track to slow down global warming and proposes a solution: a new club of nations, whose members would work together. There would be strict requirements for membership as well, as Craig Morris explains.
In his last post, Craig Morris reviewed parts of a US labor union study, whose author calls it a “discussion document.” Craig accepts the invitation – and has one of his own.
A new campaign for renewables in the US focuses on something too often overlooked in the debate there: community ownership. Craig Morris is pleased to see the campaign’s work, but he nonetheless has some things to critique.
At the end of August, the Dutch government announced slightly different targets for renewables, and some interesting details are in the works. Nonetheless, the country still is not on course to meet its target for 2050. For that matter, neither is Germany, as Craig Morris points out.
In mid-August, Germany had its first normal workday on which peak power prices were below base prices, and futures prices are also down. Craig Morris provides an overview and warns proponents of renewables not to rejoice too soon at the demise of conventional power.
A few weeks before the German parliamentary elections, a consumer advocacy group has published a survey of public opinion on the country’s energy transition. The findings are clear: Germans support the goals of the Energiewende. Nonetheless, Craig Morris has some nits to pick with the poll’s questions.
EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger says Germany must review its Renewable Energy Act (EEG) immediately after the elections in September. He specifically has his eye on priority grid access for renewables. But Craig Morris says there is always “too much” renewable power for power firms.
The EU and China have settled their trade dispute over PV imports. Craig Morris says the deal will mainly make people outside the sector happy.
Experts say that industry can help the transition to intermittent renewables by shifting power demand. Now, German think tank Agora Energiewende has published the English translation of its report, which our Craig Morris reviews.
The German Environmental Ministry (BMU) and German industry association BDI have produced a brochure of 22 examples of how creative German companies are striving in the green economy. Craig Morris says the publication shows how focused the German business world is on the energy transition.
An article over at the Economist sums up the obstacles facing offshore wind in Germany fairly well, as a comparison with recent forecasts reveals. But while the report is well researched and accurate, Craig Morris says it nonetheless misses the point by taking offshore wind to be a crucial part of the Energiewende.
On July 5, the German government signed an agreement with the country’s four transit grid operators for citizens to invest in grid expansion. But as Craig Morris explains, not everyone is happy.
How do America’s future environmentalists view Germany’s energy transition? Craig Morris recently spent a day with a group of students from the US and found some things encouraging, others not.
On July 1, the market for lower power consumption rollout in Germany, with firms now being paid to reduce their consumption. Craig Morris provides an overview.
Just a few weeks after complaining about how French labor unions don’t support renewables, Craig Morris now gets to eat his hat. He says he’s glad to do so if it helps get the word out that France’s energy transition will create more than 600,000 jobs by 2030.
Under a recent blog post here, numerous readers commented that green gas could be made from electricity when the price on the power exchange is low or even negative. Craig Morris says that is exactly what will happen – it’s just not “green gas.”
The power exchange in Leipzig, Germany, has published a position paper on the Energiewende in German. Craig Morris sums up the main points.
All eyes are on Tesla as the only car company that is currently making money on all-electric vehicles. Nonetheless, Craig Morris thinks Tesla is coming at the issue from the wrong end.
In the long run, Germany will need seasonal storage of solar power from the summer for the winter. German researchers are banking on “power to gas” (P2G). Craig Morris takes a look at how far away we are.
Last December, the IFEU Institute of Heidelberg co-published a roadmap for the Energiewende. Martin Pehnt, a co-author of this website, helped direct the project. Craig Morris says the ideas are quite practical.
A new study by German think tank Agora Energiewende looks into what solar power with storage would need to cost to be competitive with other optimized growth scenarios. Craig Morris says the findings need to be heeded.
For the second time in 11 years, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria have experienced a “once-in-a-century flood.” Craig Morris takes a look at how nuclear plants in the area are faring.
In May, Rainer Baake and Jennifer Morgan published an article at Bloomberg recommending German renewables policy to Americans. Craig Morris found the reader comments especially interesting, both in what was said and what was completely left out.
Green politician Oliver Kischer has published a critique of the proposals being tossed about for a new power market design, and he comes down heavily in favor of focused capacity markets. Craig Morris takes a look at the reasoning.
The renewables sector is generally open to the idea of capacity payments, provided the design is “focused.” WWF Deutschland has already made such a proposal. Craig Morris provides an overview.
Germany has an “energy-only” power market, meaning that all payments are based on the kilowatt-hour. If a plant does not run much, it earns less – and gas turbines are suffering the most. But as Craig Morris points out, Germany is a bit of an exception within the EU – for how much longer?
In Germany, labor unions are strong supporters of renewables, which is not the case everywhere. A recent paper by a German labor union leader explains the history, which is a good example of the struggle between midsize firms and large corporations, says Craig Morris.
The figures for ownership of renewables in Germany indicate a shift from private citizens, who still make up about half of investments, to the commercial sector. Craig Morris says some people saw this coming.
German renewables organization AEE has published the update of its pie chart of ownership for 2012. Craig Morris explains what the different categories are.
The difference between the price of electricity at times of low demand (baseload) and high demand (peak load) has shrunk dramatically in Germany over just the past few years. As Craig Morris points out, one result is that pumped storage no longer pays for itself.
Nuclear power is often considered “domestic” even when the uranium is imported. Craig Morris can’t help noticing how we are concerned about dependency upon oil and coal imports, but not uranium.
American Ozzie Zehner is looking for “alternatives to alternative energy.” Craig Morris agrees with practically everything he says but nonetheless feels that Zehner’s approach is self-serving. Orgs in the US all protect their own industries. Who is left to call for a true energy transition?
The campaign against coal power continues in Germany. Two new studies come to relatively similar estimates of the number of people who die every year from coal emissions in Germany alone – and one organization says some EU standards are more lax than those in China and the US. Craig Morris wonders whether the various numbers from different studies will convince skeptics.
In a recent paper about Germany’s energy transition, Craig Morris found one particular claim that he wanted to investigate: have the Germans built any coal plants to make up for lost nuclear power since 2011?
In a recent article about the German energy transition, a researcher in the US looks at the challenges Germany faces. But Craig Morris thinks the report says more about Americans than about Germany.
A German NGO has joined the call for a German coal phaseout – and invited a US activist to Germany to raise awareness about where Germany’s hard coal is coming from. Craig Morris wonders whether the discussion is focusing on what’s important.
A recent scientific paper wondered whether the potential of wind power worldwide has not been overestimated. Craig Morris could not help noticing that the calculation was based on something he has never seen it used in the German debate: watts per square meter.
Recently, our Craig Morris did a three-part book review of the original “Energiewende: growth and prosperity without petroleum and uranium” from 1980. He then spoke with one of the authors, Florentin Krause, who had a few bones to pick with Craig’s reading – and with the current implementation of the concept in Germany.
The Anglo world repeatedly reads news about Germany’s changes to energy policy as a sign that Germany is abandoning renewables. Craig Morris says the misunderstanding is cultural; the success of Germany’s switch to efficiency and renewables, macroeconomic.
A recent report at USA Today throws together a lot of disparate problems to explain why renewables are “losing their shine” in Europe. As Craig Morris points out, feed-in tariffs are not subsidies, Europe is not Germany, and we still overlook the main driving force behind the German energy transition.
The City of Los Angeles has announced that it plans to replace coal power with renewables, efficiency and natural gas starting immediately. Craig Morris wonders how doomed coal is in the rest of the US – and in Germany.
Opponents of wind turbines charts that they kill tens of thousands of birds each year. How many birds died from coal plant emissions? The question is rarely asked, but Craig Morris has been following the subject for more than a decade and finds the human death toll from coal power is much bigger than the number of birds killed by wind turbines.
A recent article at Slate.com is a refreshing exception to the frequent misreports. Nonetheless, Craig Morris has a few nits to pick and says that the bad news for Germany is the good news for the United States.
In this final installment looking back on the first book on the Energiewende of 1980, Craig Morris looks at the many things the book gets right and wonders whether it might provide good reasons to finally call for a coal phaseout in Germany.
In the late 1970s, the first major protests against nuclear power had already taken place in Whyl and Brokdorf. Perhaps no other publication better reveals what the arguments against nuclear were back then than the original book Energiewende. Craig Morris was mainly surprised at the early focus on overall efficiency.
The term “Energiewende” did not come about in 2011, but rather in the late 1970s, and it was canonized in an eponymous book from 1980. But a close read reveals that “Energiewende: growth and prosperity without petroleum and uranium” is not about phasing out coal at all – quite the contrary, as Craig Morris reports in this three-part series.
Over at the Washington Post, environmental blogger Brad Plumer rightly points out the social responsibility we have in the switch from old technologies (coal power) to new ones (renewables). Germany has quite a bit of experience switching coal miners to green jobs, and Craig Morris knows the German word for it: Strukturwandel, or structural change.
How much carbon does the average American or European emit per year? How much does the world emit? And if you know the answers to those questions, maybe you can also tell Craig Morris how many tons of nuclear waste the world has? He tried, and failed, to find out.
On the second anniversary of the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Craig Morris talks about what – despite the flood of information – still needs to be better understood and why the debate about our future energy supply should include a peace dividend.
Yesterday, the German government held a press conference on the energy transition, which apparently put a lot of reporters to sleep. During the event, Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier found time to engage in a debate with us on Twitter. Craig Morris thinks he won that debate, by the way. And the real news came out of Brussels, not Berlin: German energy policy may violate competition rules.
Feed-in tariffs are often referred to as a startup mechanism for a fledgling technology (renewables), and it is assumed that they will be done away with at some point. Craig Morris wonders why the nuclear sector now needs them after 50 years of subsidies.
Is Germany not simply switching off its own nuclear plants in order to import nuclear power from its neighbors? It turns out that nuclear plants in neighboring countries have always run at full capacity and simply cannot be ramped up any further to sell more to Germany. Craig Morris discusses the recent findings of a report by the German Institute for Applied Ecology (Oeko-Institute).
Everyone understandably looks towards the future to see how Germany will manage to increase the share of renewables in its power supply, but occasionally it’s worth taking a look back to see how far we have come – far, far further than both critics and supporters expected. Craig Morris takes a look.
How are Germany’s Eastern neighbors Poland and the Czech Republic reacting to the German renewable energy surge? Craig Morris discusses a recent study by the German Institute of Applied Ecology (Oeko-Institute) on the country’s energy transition and its impact on power flows with its neighbors.
Delineating between commercial and physical power flows is not a task for the faint-hearted. Fortunately, researchers have done the work for us – and found that power is sold when it is cheap, not to prevent blackouts. As part of a four-part series, Craig Morris discusses a recent study on this matter conducted by the German Institute of Applied Ecology (Oeko-Institut).
A few weeks ago, German Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier (Christian Democratic Union – CDU) said he planned to redesign German energy policy so that the renewables surcharge passed on to ratepayers would not rise any further. Altmaier provided details last week, just days after the Greens produced their own counter-proposal. Craig Morris takes a look at this proposal.
Germany has been criticized for the impact of its energy transition on Poland, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland, all of which charge that uncontrolled surges in renewables are destabilizing their grids and/or reducing the profitability of conventional power firms. As part of a four-part series, Craig Morris discusses a recent study on this matter conducted by the German Institute of Applied Ecology (Oeko-Institut).
Last week, German Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) and Industry Minister Philipp Rösler (FDP) reached an agreement to scale back industry exemptions to the renewables surcharge, slow down new wind and solar projects, and take money back from existing renewable power generators.