Monthly Archives: August 2021

Nuclear undercutting wind?

This is already the third post in the series on the tweets of the Belgian Minister of Energy about offshore windmills that were temporary shut down on July 29. The first post was about the “low pricing”, that were in fact day-ahead prices and nothing to cheer about. The second post dug deeper in the statement that Belgium benefited from the import from Germany’s surplus electricity from solar and wind. Yet, when Germany had high production of electricity from solar and wind that day, Belgium had a high production too and it was primarily exporting its own surplus, so there was no import from Germany to benefit from at that moment…

The subject of this post will be the inflexible power source that, according to the Minister, was the root cause of this curtailment. The first tweet didn’t name the culprit, it was in the fourth tweet that she used the n-word (nuclear):

There you have it, today a practical example that shows how our energy system must change and that nuclear energy stands in the way. They simply undercut sustainable CO2-free production. 4/5

There were several charts added to the first tweet to support her claims, however there was no chart illustrating the claim that “nuclear is in the way” (although it would have been pretty simple to do, just show a quasi straight line for nuclear while having a nose dive for wind). If she would have looked at what nuclear did on July 29, this is what she would have seen:

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Belgium benefits “extra” from surplus German solar and wind

Central in the tweet of our Minister of Energy (see previous post) is the role of Germany in the event of July 29, when Belgian offshore windmills were shut down: (translated from Dutch, my emphasis)

Due to a lot of German wind & sun + imports, Belgium has the lowest prices.
Due to negative prices, a shortage of flexibility and storage, offshore wind is currently being shut down.
100% renewable via flex & storage. Look to the future, instead of recipes from the past. 1/5

Followed by (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

Production in Germany: 24 GW wind and 16 GW solar. Belgium benefits extra thanks to its import capacity, flow-based (flow factor competition) and the minram70%. 2/5

As I understand it, (forecast of) surplus electricity by solar and wind from Germany kept Belgian (day-ahead) prices low and Belgium benefited extra from this surplus electricity on July 29 because of its import capacity. Yet, in that same story Belgium shuts down (some of) its offshore windmills.

Do I understand it correctly that Belgium benefited from German import using German solar and wind surplus … just to shut down its own windmills? That doesn’t make much sense. Or is that imported electricity so insanely cheap that it would be more advantageous for Belgium to shut down some of its windmills?

The Minister of Energy provides this chart to support her claim:

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Belgium has the “lowest prices”

When does the good news ever stops? At the end of last month, our green Minister of Energy sent out this cheering tweet (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

Due to a lot of German wind & sun + imports, Belgium has the lowest prices.
Due to negative prices, a shortage of flexibility and storage, offshore wind is currently being shut down.
100% renewable via flex & storage. Look to the future, instead of recipes from the past. 1/5

This is the screenshot:

Tweet TinneVdS 20210729: 1 of 5

It is a thread of in total 5 tweets and the first two detail an issue occurring on July 29 when (some) offshore windmills were shut down. There are several things in this thread to look closer into, but I will solely focus in this post on the “lowest price” claim in the first sentence of the first tweet.

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And the second position goes to … Uruguay

The first place on the list of the 15 countries with the largest share of solar and wind is occupied by Denmark, which is not really a surprise to me. What is a surprise is the second position, occupied by Uruguay with 44% of its electricity generated by solar and wind. When it comes to solar and wind, I heard a lot about for example Denmark, Germany and (South) Australia, but not yet about Uruguay.

That got me somewhat curious, wondering what the story of Uruguay is in order to cope with such a large share of intermittent power sources. I already wrote about the strategies of for example Denmark (having two big neighbors with a lot of dispatchable hydropower to balance out the intermittency on the Danish grid) and Germany (exporting its surplus to the neighboring countries at low to negative prices). Now what is the strategy of Uruguay?

First things first. I know Uruguay is a country somewhere in South America, but that is about it. I wouldn’t be able to point it out on a map, so let’s start there. Uruguay is a relatively small country on the East coast of South America. I colored it in red on this map and also named its two (big) neighbors: Brazil to the North-East and Argentina to the South-West.

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