Monthly Archives: February 2017

A future for solar energy in the Netherlands: fact check or wishful thinking?

The subject of previous posts was a statement in the second energy fact check of the “factchecker energie” from the Energy Agreement of the SER (Social Economic Council of the Netherlands). The question that get answered in this second fact check is whether solar energy has a future in the Netherlands. This post will focus on how this is answered.

Reading the fact check, it appeared overly optimistic. As with other communication on renewable energy, the author only highlights the positives and ignores the negatives.

This is how the fact check continued (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

The central planning bureau (CPB) has recently published a report which concludes that solar energy will have a marginal role in the future European electricity supply and wind energy will play an important role. In the most optimistic scenario, solar power fills in up to 8% of the electricity demand. According to the analysis of the CPB, this is mainly because it is so difficult (expensive) to bridge the difference in summer and winter revenues.

Prof. Dr. Wim Sinke of ECN made several remarks on this CPB study. He points out that the CPB is too pessimistic about the cost of solar electricity and is still insufficiently sensitive to the rapid developments in the field of power-to-heat, power-to-gas and power-to-products. The CPB looks only to the electricity system, but not enough to what’s called system integration. By the way, the CPB points in his study also to its limitations, such as the fact that because of the followed methodology, electricity storage cannot properly be taken into account, and it indicates that follow-up study is needed.

If I understand that correctly, the CPB doesn’t believe that solar energy will have much of a future in the Netherlands, but the author of this fact check thinks otherwise. This because:

  1. the CPB is too pessimistic about the cost of solar power
  2. there are rapid developments in the field of solar energy
  3. electricity storage is not properly taking into account in the CPB report.

While that might all be true, it is only half of the story.

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Do wind and solar “complement” each other during winter?

The second fact check of the “factchecker energy” of SER is titled: Is there a future for solar energy in the Netherlands?. Although the author of this fact check admits that solar energy only has a very tiny share (0.1% of the energy consumption) and it needs to be balanced by other flexible energy sources, he is very optimistic about the future. His “fact” check seem to rely on future developments related to solar energy.

As a whole, it seems a quite bland and overly optimistic fact check, but there was one statement that caught my attention (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

There is a factor of ten difference between summer and winter output of solar panels. What the share of solar power in the electricity mix will be, will depend to a large extent on the developments in electricity storage (for short and longer periods) and of the expansion of the electricity connections with other countries. Wind power and solar energy complement each other in that respect: the supply of wind power is higher in the winter when the supply of solar energy is lower.

That is an interesting statement. Apparently wind energy produces more power in winter and this compensates for the loss of output of solar cells during the same time. I decided to have a look at the data to find out to what extent “wind complements solar”, but also the significance of this phenomenon in a continuous working grid.

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Half News: (installed) capacity of wind energy has overtaken coal

From the half-news department comes the article titled Capacity of wind energy has overtaken coal in De Morgen (the Flemish Guardian).

Wind energy overtakes coal - De Morgen , February 9, 2017

This is how it is explained (translated from Dutch):

Last year, the installed capacity of wind power in Europe surpassed that of coal. This according to figures from the industry association WindEurope.

In terms of capacity, only gas-fired power plants preceded wind energy.

The source was an article with the same title from Belga (a news agency) and it was copied verbatim by a huge flock of news sites in Flanders.

The article in De Morgen jumped out as a sore thumb: it appeared in the section “Science”. Probably copied by a “science” journalist who had no clue that comparing installed capacity of wind with coal is meaningless and a direct comparison of the two is misleading.

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Breaking windows for a better economy?

Factchecker energie SER

Last week, I came across the “factchecker energie” from the Energy Agreement of the SER (Social Economic Council, the Netherlands). The goal of this fact checker is to give, ahem, “objective information about sustainable energy to civilians and companies”, because the “heated discussions on this subject are not always based on facts”.

Nice to hear that they care about the facts, but it is a pity that, as usual, only the facts from one side are provided.

This post will be about the first fact check from a series of (currently) five and is called Episode 1: The Energy Agreement is good for the economy (attention, Dutch ahead). This is how it starts (translated from Dutch):

What are actually the benefits of the Energy Agreement?
The Energy Agreement contributes to an affordable, clean energy supply for the Netherlands. […]

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