Do our politicians realize that wind and solar are intermittent power sources?

Something I have wondered for a long time: do the politicians who want to go for 100% wind & solar realize that these power sources are intermittent and therefor balancing and/or storage is needed in the transition? When I look at the competencies of the Minister of Energy, his crew and the energy experts among the politicians, then I fear for the worse. The need for balancing/storage is completely absent in the discussion. We only hear that we need more wind and solar in our energy mix, but never about measures to overcome intermittency.

My initial guess was that they don’t realize it, that they consider intermittent energy sources to be dispatchable energy sources and go from there. Then I saw this tweet from the spokes woman of the Minister of Energy. It seems a statement of the Minister himself:

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Building a nuclear power plant for less than one coffee a day?

The European branch of Politico is suggesting a new way of presenting the cost of EU membership: “The Cappuccino Index“.

The Cappuccino Index

Politico ranked the countries according to how much citizens pay for the EU and came to the conclusion that the contribution of the EU countries to the EU is less than the price of a daily cup of coffee by its citizens during one year. The highest value came from Luxembourg with a contribution to the EU of €1.47 per capita per day, closely followed by Belgium with €1.46.

This index seem to be inspired by the new EU campaign, stating that the EU costs its citizens less than a cup of coffee a day. This probably in the context of their intention to increase the EU budget and looking for ways of making it a bit more acceptable to the public, but that aside.

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Renewables covered 100% of energy consumption in Germany (for about 45 minutes)

A curious infographic from the twitter timeline of the Flemish greens (translated from Dutch):


For the first time, renewable energy delivered 100% of electricity consumption in Germany

That struck me by surprise. I was quite busy in the last few days with another project, so I clearly missed the news.

My first reaction was: 100% delivered by renewables, sure, but how many minutes? The second question: when did this happen? There was no date on that infographic, so it was not very clear when this actually happened. I guess it was somewhat before the tweet was posted (January 8), so I went to the Agorameter website and it showed by default the last 3 days (from January 6 until 9). I removed the conventional sources from the graph and to my surprise, I saw no period in which the production of renewable energy equaled consumption.

Not even close.

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Who cares about a lack of PV in December when there is plenty of wind and more sun to come in the coming months?

On the last day of 2017, our Minister of Energy (who is fiercely promoting solar energy) posted a tweet to thank all people who installed solar panel on their during 2017. He got a prompt reaction from someone asking how much electricity those solar panels produced in December. The Minister of Energy replied with this remarkable tweet:

Translated from Dutch:

December 2017 was indeed historically low on sunshine. But there was wind and the sun will compensate plentifully in the coming months #HappyNewYear

Basically, solar energy production sucked really bad in the previous month, but, hey, there was more wind and there is more solar energy to come in the coming months anyway.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I would glad to laugh if it was a joke, but his guy is our Minister of Energy and I am afraid that he was serious about it.

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Could a nuclear power plant be closed when households save 1 percent of energy?

The subject of this post is a statement made in a current affairs program on the Flemish television back in February. In that program there was a debate on smart meters and one of the arguments against was that a savings of only 1% was expected which would not be in proportion to the costs. The reaction was this remarkable statement:

1% savings of energy, if all households do that (we are not even talking about the industry), then you can close one nuclear power plant. That is how much that 1% is.

Apparently, his reasoning was that a 1% savings as a result of that smart meter is already a huge achievement since it would be enough to close a nuclear power plant. Even with some basic knowledge of our energy infrastructure, it should be clear that this is an absurd claim. It didn’t take long before it was debunked, even on national television (which shows that it is an absurd claim indeed).

However, it kept bugging me. How could someone come to this absurd conclusion? I wanted to understand the reasoning that one has to follow to come to such a conclusion. It would be interesting to know where that statement came from, especially because the guy who made the claim is apparently viewed as an “energy expert” of his political party…

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China and India: the new “climate leaders”?

It was with quite some surprise that I read this tweet written by Joeri Thijs (spokesman of Greenpeace Belgium) (translated from Dutch):

India and China are gradually becoming the new climate leaders. Europe urgently needs to step it up a notch.

I was surprised reading such a statement, especially related to China which has by far the highest emissions. Also, their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) basically said (from memory) that it would peak emissions only by 2030 and afterwards work on energy intensity (which doesn’t necessarily mean a decrease in emissions). So how could he consider both countries to be climate leaders in that regard? Especially compared to the EU, which is actually doing something in order to cut emissions.

On the one hand, the comparison seemed ridiculous, but on the other hand, I think I could somehow understand what he means. As seen in some previous posts (like this one), almost half of new solar PV in 2016 was built in China and India was also in the top 5. So if one only focuses on this specific aspect, then it is very tempting to claim that China and India are world leaders in this area.

That is of course only one side of the story and the other side doesn’t look very favorable.

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The “We Close Doel” campaign … and the result is?

Almost two years ago, I wrote a series of posts on the “We Close Doel” campaign of the Flemish Greens. To recap, they ran this campaign to “break the monopoly” of energy provider Electrabel (the owner of the nuclear plants in Doel). They wanted to close the two smallest reactors (Doel 1 and 2) and because the government wasn’t keen on taking that decision (it was decided that these reactors will be kept open longer), the Greens claimed that they would close those reactors since the Government failed to do it. Hence this campaign.

They claimed that people could make the difference by switching from “gray to green”, meaning switching (from Electrabel) to a green energy provider. Participants who signed the petition declared that they would do the switch and also had to provide how much electricity they consumed per year. A counter on the campaign pages then kept tally of the yearly energy consumption of those who declared that they would go fro gray to green. The more kWh on the counter, the bigger the “signal” to Electrabel and to the Government.

What caught my attention during this visit was that no starting date was shown on the campaign pages. This means that visitors didn’t know whether this campaign had just started or it could well be that is at its end. There is no way to know. When I was blogging about this campaign two years ago, this didn’t matter since I knew when it started. Now after those years it seems odd that this campaign page was still there, as if it was still running. The two forms still seem to be active and nowhere was said that this was a campaign of the beginning of 2016 and therefor might not really be relevant today.

More importantly, there was also no mention of the result of this campaign. It has been almost two years ago, so the impact should be rather clear by now. Did the campaign eventually succeed in what it wanted to achieve? Did the Government and Electrabel received some signal? How clear was that signal? How many costumers left Electrabel over this campaign?

Since the Flemish Green party didn’t provide such an analysis, let me just do this for them. Since I started this blog, I am used to figuring out things. Finding an answer to these questions should be rather simple.

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