That a host survives a parasite isn’t evidence that the parasite does no harm

Just a short post on the reliability of power supply and the energiewende, which is the subject of the 7th myth of the Greenpeace brochure: “The Energiewende burdens the energy network with serious problems” and debunked as follows (translated from Dutch):

The German electricity network is one of the most reliable in Europe. While the share of renewable energy increased incredibly in recent years, the number of outages decreased year after year. A stable network and renewable energy sources can thus go together.

Evolution of number of minutes power outages (2006-2013). Reliability of the network and the growth of renewable energy go hand in hand. Source: German Energy Transition

Evolution of number of minutes power outages (2006-2013).
Reliability of the network and the growth of renewable energy go hand in hand.
Source: German Energy Transition

Which is true. The German electricity network is one of the most reliable in Europe and the down time decreased year after year, despite the larger share of renewable energy. Until now a stable network and renewable energy sources can go together.

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect it. That a host can survive a parasite without being killed in the process, isn’t evidence that the parasite doesn’t do any harm. It can be entirely possible that the person carrying the parasite doesn’t even notice it of even feels excellent at the time. But what for example if the host’s health is affected by a disease and/or the parasites getting more numerous?

The growing share of renewables has already an effect on the wellbeing of the grid. I already mentioned things like the need for (fossil fuel) backup power, the decrease in efficiency of those power plants, the increased export of energy produced at a time there is no need for it, the increasing cost of energy,… More directly related to the stability of the grid is the increase of the number of interventions needed to stabilize the grid. Just look at this graph of the interventions of second largest grid operator TenneT:

One would almost think that something special happened in 2011… 😉

Remember, the Germans are not done yet. They want 40% renewables in 2020 (from 26% in 2014) which probably means an increase of those interventions. When no extra balancing measures are taking and fossil fuels squeezed out of existence, what does this mean for the balancing power of the grid? Sure, they can export more surplus power abroad, but some of these neighbors are already fed up by the dumping of energy and placing power blockers to protect their own grid. Germany’s current strategy is exporting its balancing problems abroad, but this will get even harder in the future because its neighbors are eager to follow its example and are increasing their share of renewables without equally increasing their balancing capacity.

When it is sunny and windy in a weekend, it probably will be the same for its neighbors and those will also have energy to spare, but no one to export it to because they are confronted with the same problem. When it is winter, therefor wind and solar energy are sparse, it will be the same for its neighbors. Where will be that energy come from when fossil fuels are getting tossed out because wind and solar is “replacing” fossil fuels? Will all those countries shut down their economies at times when wind and solar are not up to pace?

So yes, at this point the parasites aren’t visually influencing the behavior of the host yet, but what will happen when their share grows and the host undermines its own balancing capacity, as are its neighbors that are affected by the same parasites?

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4 thoughts on “That a host survives a parasite isn’t evidence that the parasite does no harm

  1. manicbeancounter

    In general there are a number of measures that could be used to determine if a power supply network has improved or not over time. You rightly point to the number of grid interventions to show that stability requires much more work.
    Other measures could be in the costs to the customer – whether households or commercial. Electricity price inflation has been far greater than general inflation due to the renewables transition.

    Reply
  2. poitsplace

    I knew it was already bad, but I didn’t think they were having to grab the system by the balls three times a day to keep bits from crashing. They’re already having to tap into institutions’ backup generators…there’s not much flexibility left in the system. If industries put out something as blatantly misleading as this green propaganda there would likely be an active legal investigation. But…they’re just a non-government organization with “no skin in the game” and no price to pay for being wrong.

    Reply
    1. trustyetverify Post author

      There is still flexibility in the system. Their strategy of exporting power abroad works, but the balancing part by fossil fuels (mostly coal and in lesser extent lignite and gas) will get ever smaller over time.
      In this chapter they didn’t actually lied, they were just selective with the truth. They are not the only ones. The media and politicians are doing exactly the same.

      Reply

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