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Germany's Glut of Electricity Causing Prices To Plummet

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the these-low-low-prices-come-with-a-trail-of-blood dept.

Businesses 365

WIth an interesting followup to the recent news that Germany's power production by at least some measures was briefly dominated by solar production, AmiMoJo (196126) writes Germany is headed for its biggest electricity glut since 2011 as new coal-fired plants start and generation of wind and solar energy increases, weighing on power prices that have already dropped for three years. From December capacity will be at 117% of peak demand. The benchmark German electricity contract has slumped 36% since the end of 2010. "The new plants will run at current prices, but they won't cover their costs" said Ricardo Klimaschka, a power trader at Energieunion GmbH. Lower prices "leave a trail of blood in our balance sheet" according to Bernhard Guenther, CFO at RWE, Germany's biggest power producer. Wind and solar's share of installed German power capacity will rise to 42% by next year from 30% in 2010. The share of hard coal and lignite plant capacity will drop to 28% from 32%.

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This just illustrates (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#47339441)

This just illustrates that carbon tax is too low

Re:This just illustrates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339459)

does the price at the household meters go down too?

Re:This just illustrates (2)

Shimbo (100005) | about 2 months ago | (#47339521)

If it doesn't it's time to switch supplier. If they all hold their prices, then they risk being investigated as an illegal cartel. So, maybe not immediately but it creates a downward pressure.

Re:This just illustrates (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339557)

switch supplier

You mean switch bill-printer, right? The supplier won't change - that's one of the great cons of the privatisation of utility suppliers.

And any as multi-billion dollar corporation kno, the "risk" of being investigated for pretty much anything is part of business. The laws are phrased vaguely enough that all that really matters is the bias of the judge, which will be reflected in how he/she interprets the facts and the law. A good lawyer goes a long way to making a particular view easier to swallow, ofc.

5 people think: "We'd all remain more profitable and minimise our risk if we kept prices high." That's easy. Don't even need to meet up to see that's obvious. Market's captive, baby.

Re:This just illustrates (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339643)

"You mean switch bill-printer, right? The supplier won't change - that's one of the great cons of the privatisation of utility suppliers."

While the source of the energy YOU use isn't known, your energy supplier has to feed enough net energy into the grid to account for the use of its customers. So when I go to the supplier that buys it energy from some nukeplant, I actually may use most of my energy from my neighbours solarpanels, but on the total grid all is accounted for. So what is the problem with "bill printers"?

Re:This just illustrates (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 2 months ago | (#47339665)

Some places, even here in the US, have a choice of electrical provider, it is VERY rare, but does happen.

Re: This just illustrates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339965)

How? The monopoly of one electrical pole, one electrical service to a block, one electrical system to a town, given monopolies to an area, bought monopolies, to a county, etc, where states grant sales to the best pocket stuffers, and we the customer, utilizer have a choice? Where? How? Brand X is owned by brand Y, so what choice?

Re:This just illustrates (5, Interesting)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#47339757)

That is incorrect. In many countries, such as my own (Finland) you can actually choose which power provider to use.

My bill basically consists of two parts. One comes from utility provider providing power transmission wires to my home (which I cannot choose for obvious reasons) and one comes from the provider of electrical power to the grid (which I can choose from anywhere in Finland).

I live in city of Tampere, and buy electricity from provider in Kouvola (https://www.kssenergia.fi/). The distance between our cities is several hundred kilometers, but this works because electric grid is unified, and what actually happens is that provider feeds a certain amount of energy into the grid, and whatever energy I take out is billed according to our contract. Provider is required to feed this much power (+ certain surplus for transmission) into the grid at its local exchange. This creates competition between electricity generating companies while transmission fees are monitored by government to ensure that they are in line with spending and do not abuse the monopolistic rights (since they are the only provider in the area for obvious reasons).

This system enables healthy competition for power providers without upending utilities.

Re:This just illustrates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339915)

And still, your actual provider does not depend on who you pay. You can buy "100% renewable" and get your electricity from a coal fired plant next door regardless. The grid is not a pool. That's just an abstraction for consumers. Location matters.

Re:This just illustrates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339985)

As you've clarified, the various providers are required to feed into a common grid which is managed by government and is required to accept input from all sources dictated by government. Two things:

1) This is not privatisation but Italian corporatism, where the private sector collects profits but the government is responsible for preventing losses which detriment society.

2) This isn't choosing where your power comes from - that would be terribly inefficient - just apportioning sources for total power in the pool.

Consider what happens if the provider which is cheapest at source also involves the greatest total distance to homes and businesses.

Re:This just illustrates (2)

DemoLiter3 (704469) | about 2 months ago | (#47339597)

All suppliers in Germany are abided by law to add taxation to the end-user prices. Taxes and fees, most prominently the renewables subvention fee were rising rapidly in the last years, while raw electricity price on the bill was slowly decreasing. Yes, all suppliers in Germany will be raising or at least holding prices, and the only criminal cartel involved here is the govenrment. Good luck investigating those guys.

Re:This just illustrates (5, Informative)

DemoLiter3 (704469) | about 2 months ago | (#47339575)

The average household electricity prices in Germany were at ~29 eurocents per kWh in 2013 and they are rapidly rising 5-10% per year. The "price drop" the article describes is the drop in the electricity exchange market (EEX) prices, which indeed went down from something like 5.5 cents to 3.75 cents in the last years. The reason is the massive influx of highly subventioned solar, wind and biogas-generated electricity. At times when the renewables production spikes, the electricity is "sold" at negative prices - i.e. whoever takes it, gets paid.

For the end user, the falling market prices are pretty much irrelevant, since the end price contains the averaged difference fee ("EEG-Umlage") between the subventioned price and the market price - the lower the market price, the more the end users have to pay to get the subventioned price to the level defined by law. The more renewable energy is produced, the more they have to pay in total.

The other side of the issue is that the commercially operated conventional power plants cannot competitively operate against prices deflated by subventions, so many operators announced to scale down their capacity and close many power plants. In many cases, brand-new gas-fired plants with very high efficiency are affected, of all things, because of the rising gas prices. This however plays against the renewable energy plans, since exactly these gas-fired plants are direly needed to keep the grid stable in presence of highly fluctuating renewable inputs. Currently there are talks about introducing subventions for the conventional gas- and coal-fired powerplants in order to maintain their generation capacity. The subventions of course will be forwarded to the end user.

Re:This just illustrates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339653)

> The more renewable energy is produced, the more they have to pay in total

With this logic and 0.29EUR/kWh it really makes sense to invest in your own personal renewable energy source.

Re:This just illustrates (5, Insightful)

DemoLiter3 (704469) | about 2 months ago | (#47339759)

Great idea, but it has too many mistakes:
1. Most people in Germany do not have their own house, but live in rented apartments. They have no possibility to install any kind of power generator, renewable or not.
2. Even if you have your own house, you cannot install for example a wind turbine or a biogas tank - these are only allowed at a minimum distance to living areas.
3. So, the only option is the solar power, but its output is fluctuating, so you need capabilities to equalize it, either:
- keep a connection to the grid (which brings you back all kinds of taxes and fees back, also see the next point)
- have a battery storage - for a househould it would require a battery the size of a shipping container and cost 1-2 million euros and wear out within few years. Remember, you need a storage capacity to last through the winter, where there is barely any solar output.
- have a backup generator running on diesel or gas - possible to combine with a heating boiler, there are solutions on the market like that, but then again you will need to pay additional taxes for electricity generation from gas, pay for gas, deal with the waste heat when you don't need it and I don't think any solution will readily run without grid connection
4. Starting from this year, the regenerative energy produced for self-consumption will be also subject to the EEG surcharge (the money that goes to the subventioning the renewable energy production) in Germany.
When you realize that it's cheaper for you to live off the grid you will realize that it's cheaper not to live here at all.

Re:This just illustrates (3, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 months ago | (#47339845)

A whole house backup battery costs a few thousand Euros and will last decades. Electric vehicles are pushing the price down further as used packs become available and production ramps up.

Re:This just illustrates (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#47339763)

Most Germans live in cities where such investment is impossible.

Re:This just illustrates (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 2 months ago | (#47339687)

At times when the renewables production spikes, the electricity is "sold" at negative prices - i.e. whoever takes it, gets paid.

Why would suppliers provide electricity at negative prices? Can't they just waste it somehow, just install a bunch of resistors in a big swimming pool and run the excess electricity through there?

Of course storing it for later use, for example by pumping up water that can be routed through turbines later, would be even better but would also require a serious investment. But certainly from the provider's point of view, simply wasting it is better than selling at negative prices?

Re:This just illustrates (2)

damienl451 (841528) | about 2 months ago | (#47339749)

They already do it, but negative prices are a rare occurrence and it's probably not worth investing in additional capacity. Storage and reducing production are both more expensive than paying people to accept the extra electricity. In a way, this is the same as installing resistors, except that you're just letting other people dispose of the electricity without incurring capital expenses yourself.

Re:This just illustrates (5, Interesting)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#47339781)

No. Energy generation is a very difficult thing in that entire grid must stay within certain tolerance levels. We're talking about gigawatts per hour, so your swimming pool would have to be a size of a large lake or two and would obviously not be worth the cost.

They used to pump electricity up into potential energy water storage in some places, but those have been in dire need of upgrades and for some fucked up reason (which is an apt summary of the entire Energiewende really) are not supported and are actually closed down. All while new coal and gas is being massively built up so that they have hot reserve ready to go for the renewables fluctuations.

Re:This just illustrates (2)

sourcerror (1718066) | about 2 months ago | (#47339973)

No. Energy generation is a very difficult thing in that entire grid must stay within certain tolerance levels. We're talking about gigawatts per hour, so your swimming pool would have to be a size of a large lake or two and would obviously not be worth the cost.

Or you need a lot of small swimming pools. My water boiler uses so called "night current" which is sporadic excess electricity sold at a discounted price. (I live in Hungary.)

Re:This just illustrates (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339791)

Just a quick FYI, because you keep using that word: "Subvention" is subsidy in English.

Re:This just illustrates (2)

Fuzzums (250400) | about 2 months ago | (#47339663)

Really? "The new plants will run at current prices, but they won't cover their costs"
And you wonder if the prices go DOWN?

Sure they can go down and most definitely some companies go bankrupt but count on it the prices will go up after that...

Re:This just illustrates (3, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 months ago | (#47339685)

This just illustrates that carbon tax is too low

Ah, looks like we've run into another person who believes that human misery is the way to go. How's the plan for excessively high energy prices working out for various countries anyway? And do you believe that you can build a world on expensive energy, expensive food, and expensive bare necessities without causing massive suffering to people.

Re:This just illustrates (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339825)

And do you believe that you can build a world on expensive energy, expensive food, and expensive bare necessities without causing massive suffering to people.

Ah, looks like we've run into another person who believes that externalizing costs the way to go.

Re: don't be short-sighted (2)

fygment (444210) | about 2 months ago | (#47339943)

what it means is we need better ways to spread resources. If Germany could export that power to places that have a lack of power generation capabiity, that would be ideal, no? Same applies for crop surpluses, etc.

We need a better global infrastructure not more taxes that, like all taxes, will not benefit who they are supposed to.

Another misconception bites the dust (5, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 months ago | (#47339455)

People here keep saying that Germany is adding coal capacity to make up for the closure of nuclear plants, but actually they are reducing it over time. Yeah, in the short term there are more plants, but that is just so they can get running before taking the old ones off line. After that the total capacity will be lower.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339493)

Except that Germany mostly uses brown coal in it's coal plants which pollutes the environment the most. It's the dirtiest form of energy production. Lot's of CO2 and Sulphur products.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (3, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 months ago | (#47339605)

Except the sulphur (and fly ash) gets scrubbed. I believe that may even be a legal requirement in Germany.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339725)

Indeed, there are actual environmental laws in Europe. ;) German power has always been a serious issue to the neighbors and friends. You see I'm on a roll today.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (2, Informative)

Andreas Mayer (1486091) | about 2 months ago | (#47339669)

Except that Germany mostly uses brown coal in it's coal plants which pollutes the environment the most. It's the dirtiest form of energy production. Lot's of CO2 and Sulphur products.

Plants in Germany are filtered. I don't know of any problems with sulfur. In fact, sulfur in the air is a lot less than in the 1980s.
(According to Wikipedia, modern plants filter out 99.5% of ash and 90% of sulfur dioxide.)

Though you are correct in that they produce more CO2. (Wikipedia says typically 850–1200 g CO2 per kWh compared to 750–1100 g CO2 per kWh for black coal.)

Obviously we need to move away from fossil fuels. Hence wind and solar.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (0)

torsmo (1301691) | about 2 months ago | (#47339887)

Well, lignite does have high sulphur content, but anthracite is expensive (and also produces more CO2), and producing coking coal requires peteroleum.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (3, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 months ago | (#47339599)

In what year is it predicted that Germany will generate fewer kWh of power from coal than it did in, say, 2005? Will we have to wait until 2050 or something for this long-promised decrease?

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (4, Informative)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 2 months ago | (#47339767)

In what year is it predicted that Germany will generate fewer kWh of power from coal than it did in, say, 2005? Will we have to wait until 2050 or something for this long-promised decrease?

I don't think anybody can give you am exact date on when coal power will be phased out but the energy transition effort enjoys fairly broad support among the German public even if it is expensive so I expect it will continue. Also, there is now a strategic security/economical/political dimension to the energy transition for Germany much like there is for the USA concerning Oil independence that has only been reinforced by the Ukraine crisis. The Germans also tend to think in terms of decades rather than fiscal quarters like many Americans seem to do. Germany has gone from renewables being 6.3 percent of the national total in 2000 to about 25 percent in the first half of 2012. That's an increase of about 20% in 12 years so if we are insanely optimistic and assume a linear progression they should be at 50% renewables in c.a. 2028-30. The future of the energy transition project depends on several factors (apart from politics and economic issues of course), chief among them are things like the speed and extent of the transition to electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, how the transition to wind and solar goes and perhaps most importantly the level of progress on projects to store excess energy. The last time I checked the Germans were planning to store energy initially by producing hydrogen which will be used to supplement natural gas (which in turn requires modifications to the gas mains) and how much success they have with projects to store energy by producing methane from carbon dioxide (which a Nature article I read claimed they plan to eventually scrub from the atmosphere) and the hydrogen generated with excess solar/wind energy (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org] ). I seem to remember there are already a couple or so industrial scale P2G methane plants on line but they are still somewhat experimental.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 months ago | (#47339883)

Around 2020.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339745)

I've heard that one before. In europe, we've got our share of "temporary bridges" built after "world war II" that were definitely going to be replaced in a few years by a definitive solution and they were still used in the 21st century. We also have temporary taxes (every new tax for decades has always been introduced as temporary) that were never repelled. And now, we have temporary coal power.... I'll believe it when I see it.

Re:Another misconception bites the dust (3, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#47339785)

Hasn't been seen so far. Germany is building new coal and has taken many older plants out of mothballed status since Fukushima and planned closure of the nuclear power plants.

Perhaps in very distant future, they will start reducing the dependence on coal. Right now, German coal buildup is a massive manna from heaven for power plant building companies in what is otherwise a very challenging market outside China.

Aluminium (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47339461)

Set up aluminium plant that can absorb any surplus capacity.

Re:Aluminium (1)

durrr (1316311) | about 2 months ago | (#47339511)

Doesn't work very well:
http://www.spiegel.de/internat... [spiegel.de]
In short, the aluminium plants can't work on unstable grid power.

Re:Aluminium (3, Informative)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47339529)

Abrupt power glitches are a (different) problem, but I'm sure that can be solved, and/or that plants can be upgraded to handle them better. The article is also talking about the rolling mill snagging, where I was hinting at the aluminium electrolysis, which is very much insensitive to these glitches.

Re:Aluminium (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 months ago | (#47339515)

Set up aluminium plant that can absorb any surplus capacity.

They'd be far better off if they could figure out how to store the surplus.

Stored energy is the big answer to variable sources. And it doesn't have to be batteries. There are many ways to store energy. Potential energy in the form of gravity has so far been one of the most practical. Usually it has been large volumes of water pumped uphill to storage, which then runs back down during peak periods to generate more electricity. But one current project pumps water OUT of a large tower in the ocean, and allowing the water back in is what generates the electricity. It's still the same basic concept: stored potential energy.

Re:Aluminium (2)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47339545)

Aluminium is a good (compact) way to store electricity. Of course, you can't easily convert aluminium back to electricity, but you can turn off the plant to free more of the existing electricity for other consumers.

Re:Aluminium (1)

ibwolf (126465) | about 2 months ago | (#47339737)

...but you can turn off the plant to free more of the existing electricity...

No you can't. Aluminium plants take time to shut down. A sudden loss of electricity will destroy the equipment used to smelt it. So you'd need many hours to wind production down and then many hours to get it started again.

The last thing any aluminium smelting plants wants is downtime. That is why they are run 24/7. Shutting them down takes a very long time and costs a lot of money.

Re:Aluminium (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 months ago | (#47339611)

But one current project pumps water OUT of a large tower in the ocean, and allowing the water back in is what generates the electricity.

Either that, or - luckily for the Germans - Holland is right next door!

Re:Aluminium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339671)

What has the French president to do with this?

Re:Aluminium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339833)

That would be Hollande not Holland. Unless you insist on translating family names.

Re:Aluminium (1)

swb (14022) | about 2 months ago | (#47339659)

Pumped water is nice if you have the geography, but what about hydrogen from electrolysis? Convert it to methane and add it to the natural gas network.

It makes the most sense with renewables like wind or solar when there's no grid demand but conditions are favorable for generation. In those conditions its free energy and the inefficiency of generation really doesn't matter. You could also use it as a grid sink for non-renewables in situations where it would be less practical to spin down other sources only to spin them back up soon after and waste energy in the process.

Another useful work option for excess capacity would be for desalination in arid areas.

Re:Aluminium (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47339873)

Pumped water is nice if you have the geography, but what about hydrogen from electrolysis? Convert it to methane and add it to the natural gas network.

Hydrogen from electrolysis is horribly inefficient to begin with. Pumped water has far better payback. They don't have city-sized fuel cells to pump that hydrogen back into, so it has to get converted (more energy) and then used in ways in which it is not needed. If you're going to make it at all, it should get used in ways in which natgas is used, but without actually being made into natgas.

Re:Aluminium (3, Informative)

nojayuk (567177) | about 2 months ago | (#47339703)

Storage costs money. Lots of storage costs lots of money. Storage wastes energy too -- pumped hydro, the cheapest form of bulk energy storage has an input-to-output efficiency of about 65 percent. Baseload coal, gas and nuclear generation doesn't need storage to be useful and meet demand 24/7/365 unlike intermittent renewable generating capacity, but no-one ever adds the cost of storage to the cost of renewables when comparing prices.

Re:Aluminium (1)

nadaou (535365) | about 2 months ago | (#47340017)

> Storage wastes energy too -- pumped hydro, the cheapest form
> of bulk energy storage has an input-to-output efficiency of
> about 65 percent.

yeah, but that excess production was free, so even if you lose some
of it in the efficiency losses it's still a net gain, just less so.

which is still good.

Re:Aluminium (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47339865)

They'd be far better off if they could figure out how to store the surplus.

Well, not really. Aluminum replaces steel, so you don't need as much steel production if you're producing Aluminum. More and more cars are being made out of Aluminum, which Germany has traditionally purchased from the USA. I would presume they've upped their production capacities since the nineties, when they bought pretty much all of it from Alcoa, but there's probably still more demand. So really, what is Aluminum production but energy storage? It's stored in the form of order.

Re:Aluminium (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339615)

Guess where the largest German aluminium plant is. Right next to the "coal triangle" Cologne-Aachen-Mönchengladbach in Neuss.

Monopoly (1)

jiriki (119865) | about 2 months ago | (#47339467)

"The profit margin for eight utilities in Germany narrowed to 5.4 percent last year from 15 percent a decade ago. "

Well, the big four utility companies had a 15% profit margin ten years ago, because they had a monopoly. So it's a good thing to see their profits drop.

You cannot move to a more decentralized model of power generation without huritng the big players, can you? And of course they are complaining about it.

hrm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339469)

That's odd, in Australia our prices have gone up to make up for losses from increased solar installs.

WTF? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339481)

Lower prices???? In what world?
The prices per kW/h have risen year after year in Germany. How do I know this? I'm living in fucking Germany and get a higher bill each and every year.
RWE is one of the greediest bitches in Germany. They even have the audacity to ask the government to pay for the save destruction of their own nuclear plants, after receiving subsidies to operate them and extracting as much money as possible for their own pockets.

Re:WTF? (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47339491)

They are talking about the prices after December when the new plants come on-line. They're also talking about wholesale energy contracts. As a consumer you pay more for electricity, but you also pay other fees and taxes that aren't necessarily going down.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339525)

If wholesale energy costs are going down, but the consumer prices are going up, then the profits are raising at lot.
It's simply dishonest from RWE to complain about low wholesale energy costs. Why? Cause the rabbit hole is deeper. RWE actually BUYS energy from the European Energy Exchange in Leipzig like everyone else. Yes, they sell too, but they profit from lower prices like every other company. They buy at low prices and then sell them outside the EEX for quite high prices. It's market manipulation that even cause the attorney general and the antitrust division to start an investigation.

Re:WTF? (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47339561)

It depends. Because of the increased usage of solar and wind, the grid needs more upgrades, and part of the consumer bill goes to such investments. Also, government taxes could go up. And there's no problem with buying low and selling high, as long as they are not using unfair business practices to block competitors from doing the same thing.

Re:WTF? (3, Insightful)

Sarius64 (880298) | about 2 months ago | (#47339647)

As long as the government can feel good about itself, why should they care if you can barely afford food?

Re:WTF? (5, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#47339799)

That is an apt summary of Energiewende. It's a "feel good" policy that came after Fukushima, and resulted in a massive build up of coal and gas plants under the guise of "get renewables".

And now you pay so much for electricity, that you actually have energy poverty in Germany - state where there are people who are too poor to afford electricity. In a modern Western country. It's a god damn insanity, but Greens get to feel good about being on the forefront of renewables. Poor be damned, as usual

Re:WTF? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47340013)

I think this is exactly the right diagnosis of the Energiewende. Basically, it's a loss in every way: Emissions are worse, prices are higher, more coal is being burned than ever before. But yes, there is a fairly large group of wealthy people on the political left get a warm feeling about it, because when they were teenagers, they had a great time protesting against nuclear power. Now that they're influential and wealthy voters, they finally get to have the thing they wanted when they were teenagers: a Porsche, and a shutdown of nuclear powerplants.

Re:WTF? (2)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 2 months ago | (#47339813)

It depends. Because of the increased usage of solar and wind, the grid needs more upgrades, and part of the consumer bill goes to such investments. Also, government taxes could go up.

And there's no problem with buying low and selling high, as long as they are not using unfair business practices to block competitors from doing the same thing.

There are and always will be people who notice the most minute increase in electricity or gasoline prices but think nothing of spending a fortune on, say, cigarettes, holidays, restoring a classic car, buying a caravan or keeping a bunch of pets but the original poster [slashdot.org] nevertheless has a point. A disproportionate amount of the costs of the energy transition has been offloaded on German consumers. The argument has been that this is being done to save jobs, keep industry competitive, blah, blah, blah..... While the proportion of energy costs in the average household budget may be fairly low it is still unfair to make the consumer pay more than his/her share.

Re:WTF? (1)

StormReaver (59959) | about 2 months ago | (#47339577)

Lower prices???? In what world?

I think they're talking about the prices they can charge other utility companies. Consumer prices will continue to rise, because corporate greed will never decline.

Re:WTF? (2, Informative)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#47339807)

Actually the prices are rising because government has made some pretty insane requirements of those companies. They are basically building a completely new power grid in the country which is costing them billions upon billions, on top of building up renewables and coal and gas needed to provide hot reserve for the renewables.

They certainly are posting good profits on all of this, but they're not in a good spot right now with massive investments they have to make and all the subsidy mess that is going on with renewables and grid buildup.

Re:WTF? (1)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | about 2 months ago | (#47339651)

The prices per kW/h have risen year after year in Germany.

kWh, dammit. Go learn some very basic physics, or you won't even understand what you are being billed for.

Re: WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339695)

OP posting. Sorry. You are entirely correct. Shame on me. I should know better. Dang. Don't know why I wrote it that way.

Re:WTF? (3, Informative)

brambus (3457531) | about 2 months ago | (#47339657)

I'm afraid it's a bit more complicated than that. The EEG is currently running a dangerous experiment with a highly questionable outcome with the German electricity grid and economy. The EEG guarantees renewables a feed in tariff for the next 20 years to make them appear to be ultimately profitable and forces grid operators to take the electricity regardless of the spot price on the market. Grid operators must then direct traditional plant operators to either throttle or even shut down to keep the grid stable. This is a problem for plant operators, because power plants are forced to operate fewer hours of days (prolonging amortization and ROI on the plants) and are forced to operate less efficiently (you know what it takes to restart a brown coal plant [youtube.com] ?). And what if at some point the grid operators get too much energy from renewables? More than they need or can handle? Well, they transport [youtube.com] or even sell it abroad to the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech republic, often at negative prices, meaning, Germany pays for the others to take it. But if you remember, they were forced to purchase the energy at the renewable plant operator (solar or wind) at a guaranteed feed-in tariff, so who's paying for the difference? Partly the taxpayer and partly the grid operator, which is also one of the a reasons why their profit margins are thinning. Sooner or later this mix will blow up into German's faces, but unfortunately, the political elite is in denial, the media fuels an anti-corporatist frenzy and common people who don't know much about how electricity generation, distribution and marketing work such as yourself are simply taken along for the ride on the lie train. And unfortunately, there is no practical solution in sight [youtu.be] .

Re: WTF? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339729)

Oh noes. Poor RWE. Can we donate to help this prime example of an altruistic company?

Let me guess. You are working for them or another energy company?

You know after 30 years of taxpayer funded nuclear plants, taxpayer funded nuclear transport, taxpayer funded nuclear subsidies and demanded taxpayer funded deconstruction, while privatising billions in profits and negligence of grid maintenance, energy companies still have the audacity to complain?

The mega profits of the energy oligopoly using dirty plants are thinning. Oh noes. Teh horrorz.

Decentralised, green energy production gets the subsidies nuclear companies have been used to. Oh noes. That's just so cruel. How could they dare to?

Seriously. Take your RWE, Vattenfall, Avacon, etc and shove them where no sun shines.

Re:WTF? (1)

Razed By TV (730353) | about 2 months ago | (#47339931)

So have the plant operators put the extra energy in some batteries and stop crying about it already. In a 100% renewable system, you're going to need battery/fuel capacity for when the sun is down and when the wind doesn't blow. Store the energy when it's cheap and plentiful, don't run your plant full throttle, and move staff over to monitor energy storage. If there is really such a surplus, make hydrogen, get in bed with VW for a fuel cell vehicle, do something. I really can't believe that the best they can come up with is to pay someone to take it from them.

Lower prices than other places (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 months ago | (#47339847)

Sadly other places have the same rises and some surpass Germany. It's as if Enron wrote the Standard Operating Procedures for "electricity traders" worldwide and now pointless middlemen infest most electricity industries.
It sucks immensely.
For example, Australia has much lower wholesale electricity prices than Germany yet has much higher retail prices than Germany with the distributors blaming their con on increased infrastructure. That price gouging has driven residential solar to around a two year payback when sized appropriately for consumption.

So not a total ripoff anymore? (5, Informative)

Skylinux (942824) | about 2 months ago | (#47339487)

So instead of extremely high prices we are going to get high prices? Awesome!

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]
Lists an average price of 26,4 ct/kWh for 2012 in Germany. RWE.de gives me a current price quote of 25,72 ct/kWh.
The average in Europe is 18,4 ct/kWh.

Power may be cheaper on the exchange but the consumer is still getting shafted.
The only people who will profit from this are energy traders and power hungry corporations. They currently pay ~15 to ~12 ct/kWh.

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339535)

You are right that energy traders and power companies trade at around 12 - 15 ct/kWh, but your conclusion couldn't be further from the truth. 12-15 ct/kWh is close to the actual cost of producing the power. The difference to the retail price is only taxes and EEG-Umlage. So the profiteers are the government (through high taxes) and the operators of solar and wind power stations. who are subsidized through the EEG-Umlage because they still cannot produce power at competitive prices. That's the reason why power is so expensive, the price needs to be inflated artificially because otherwise renewable energy would not be competitive.

Re: So not a total ripoff anymore? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339741)

Wrong. The price at the EEX is 4 cent per kWh. That's what RWE buys energy for. Nuclear energy is only competitive due to high subsidies and no tax on nuclear fuels. Which is a subsidy, too. Remove all nuclear subsidies, demand the money back, tax them properly and all of the sudden nuclear energy is the most expensive one. That's the big lie of the big four energy company. Renewable energy is not expensive.

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339619)

>>German power for delivery next year, a European benchmark, slumped to a nine-year low of 33.65 euros/MWh

That is less than 4 €cent /kWh. What you are paying are the oligopol-rip-off prices. It has nothing to do with the cost of electricity. If anything your consumer-without-alternative-prices will go up to make up for lost profit.
You have been conditioned by propaganda (e.g. that nuclear is somehow cheap when in fact unsubsidized nuclear is most expensive form of energy, but it traditional made RWE&Co a lot of money so they propagandized the shit out of it) to believe that your prices are so high because of renewable energies. In fact you as a consumer have been ripped-off by the greedy energy conglomerate.

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339867)

In fact you as a consumer have been ripped-off by the greedy energy conglomerate.

RWE's ROA is 2.5%; how is that "greedy"? How low would you like the ROA to be?

but it traditional made RWE&Co a lot of money so they propagandized the shit out of it) to believe that your prices are so high because of renewable energies

Yes, they make less money with an inefficient and costly way of generating energy, and yes, they "propagandized" that fact. How dare they tell the truth when it contradicts your ideology!

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339949)

an inefficient and costly way of generating energy which is making the selling price of electricity take a huge nose dive. yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

at some time you are going to have to make the math of this work and reassess your thinking on this one. or your brain might explode.

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 months ago | (#47339623)

The average in Europe is that low mostly because of some Eastern European countries with big old Soviet power plants that sell power cheaply. The average would be considerably higher than 18,4 ct/kWh if you removed Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and the Baltic countries from the calculation.

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (1)

jaseuk (217780) | about 2 months ago | (#47339645)

In the UK I'm paying 0.15 Euros a KW/h (Including Euro Tax, without "standing daily charge", but before some discounts). I may have overlooked the soviet power plants somewhere.

Jason.

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (5, Informative)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#47339823)

I live in Finland and pay around 10 eurocents.

We have a sane energy policy though, and rely heavily on nukes and hydro.

http://www.investinfinland.fi/... [investinfinland.fi]

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (0)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 months ago | (#47339941)

As I said, ex-Soviet countries...

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339681)

Slashdot, a place where no matter what, whiny manchildren can complain about any fucking thing.

Re:So not a total ripoff anymore? (1)

GNious (953874) | about 2 months ago | (#47339841)

Just looked up the prices back home (Denmark):
  0.274 - 0.35 EUR/kWh

Not sure Germans have anything to complain about :)

Prices still keep rising (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339489)

The big four energy companies try everything to save their profits (which are shrinking, the horror), so the prices keep going up while energy can be bought for cheaper and cheaper.
They say that it is because of the solar power and its subsidies, but if you do the math, prices should be going down even though subsidies keep growing. The problem here is that the math gets a bit complex: solar and wind power has a minimum price associated with it. If the prices at the exchange sink, it is more expensive for the state to pay the minimum price. Therefore, the "tax" for the subsidy goes up.

Increased production, or reduced demand? (3, Informative)

LordLucless (582312) | about 2 months ago | (#47339501)

The production figures in this article are all given as percentages of demand - not the actual amount generated. There's two reasons Germany could suddenly be producing an excess of energy: supply has increased, or demand has dropped. A quick Google shows German production has dropped 6% in the period 2004-12 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org] ).

So the reason isn't that Germany's renewable plants are producing an abundance of power - it's that people are demanding less power; presumably because they cannot afford prices that are among the most expensive in the world ( http://www.contactenergy.co.nz... [contactenergy.co.nz] )

Re:Increased production, or reduced demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339539)

it's that people are demanding less power; presumably because they cannot afford prices

or they are reducing their energy demands on an intelligent way : better insulation for example.

Re:Increased production, or reduced demand? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 2 months ago | (#47339937)

or they are reducing their energy demands on an intelligent way : better insulation for example.

Right. Its not for the obvious reason that follows well known economic laws.. its for the hard to swallow reason that people are more intelligent now.

Europe's moral high ground? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339517)

Allows them to enjoy the products of mining and heavy industry, while lecturing the rest of the world about carbon emissions.

Higher prices for me... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339523)

Funny, I just got a letter stating my (Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany) energy prices will rise on August 1st to 27.42 cents per kWh. That translats to 37.43 US cents per kWh. This price will remain in effect until December 2015. Nice.

Re: Higher prices for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339675)

Yes consumers have to pay for this energie strategie while corporations don't pay any energie in Germany.
In the mean time my bill is going down because of cheap imports from Germany.

some don't agree with that (3, Informative)

wm2810 (742833) | about 2 months ago | (#47339637)

http://srsroccoreport.com/germ... [srsroccoreport.com] :
Since the introduction of the Renewable Energy law in 2000 aimed at replacing coal and gas-fired as well as nuclear power generation by so-called renewable energy sources, the household price for electricity has jumped by more than 200%. German customers now pay the second-highest electricity prices in Europe. At the same time, the task of stabilizing the grid against the massive erratic influx from solar and wind power plants that produce without regard for actual need has pushed the operators to their limits.

One of the major problems with wind and solar is that the projects aren't commercially viable without huge Govt subsidies including long-term contracts by energy utilities to pay 2-4 times the going wholesale electric rate for solar and wind generated power.

Re: some don't agree with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339753)

Nuclear energy wouldn't be viable without subsidies either.

Don't fall for the propaganda and lies of the 4 big energy companies in Germany.

Original post: absolute lie?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339879)

Average German family pays $129 for their electricity bill, 3x higher than average US family
Source: http://www.voanews.com/content/green-energy-expansion-in-germany-comes-at-a-hefty-price/1858699.html

This seems "German prices are plummeting" story seems to be either a lie, or propaganda by the Green party.

A political opportunity arises! (2)

Grindalf (1089511) | about 2 months ago | (#47339677)

This is clever! The German people should be able to undercut the rest of the world with their manufactured products. Cheap 3 phase nuclear electricity should be the goal of every nation, so that fully automatic production of goods frees the people from the slavery and drudgery of repetitive jobs and can fund a new system of benefits for those who do not work that is effective and complete, and start a new “knowledge based economy” for those who do have the mindset to enjoin! If only we the people have to foresight to invest in 3d printing and factory robotics. Then there will be no unemployment or employment, just humans and droids! We move ...

Prices ridiculously low (2)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 2 months ago | (#47339697)

Chemical engineer here. The industry prices for electricity have become so low that it doesn't even make sense to heat up the reactors using turbine-generated steam any more. It's ridiculous. It's cheaper to buy the electricity to generate the steam!

Redundant Generating Capacity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339755)

The problem is wind and solar are useless for base load so there have to be fossil fuel plants able to cover 100% capacity when the sun isn't shining and wind is not blowing at the right speed. It is worse than that because all of those fossil fuel plants have to be kept hot at standby because solar and wind can quit suddenly. With this set of assets, it is obvious there will be a sunny day when the wind is just right and too much power is available. By the way, a combination of coal fired generation and renewables will produce more CO2 than a natural gas combined cycle plant.

ronscubadiver.wordpress,com

America could have been there long ago (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47339793)

But republicans killed Carters plan for energy and ripped out the solar he installed at the white house and sucked oils cock like a 20 dollar crack whore.

Can't wait for self generation... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 2 months ago | (#47339797)

These markets are being screwed up by politics... both international and domestic.

If we self generate then the powers that be can sit on it and spin... I really can't wait.

"Capacity" (1)

cirby (2599) | about 2 months ago | (#47339869)

"From December capacity will be at 117% of peak demand."

Ignoring, of course, that when talking about solar/wind power and "capacity," the actual output is, to say the least, variable.

They had the big headline recently about how much they generated during one hour of one day - but for some reason, they didn't mention all of those cloudy and windless winter days where effective output was a tiny fraction of that - and they had to use lots and lots of coal to make up the difference.

Baseline power? (1)

gatzke (2977) | about 2 months ago | (#47339881)

Sunny days they make tons of "free" electricity.

On cold dark winter nights, where does the power come from?

They can build backup plants that run on coal/gas typically operating under nameplate capacity or they can buy nuke power from the French.

Oh, the irony...

Like Ontario Canada (1)

fygment (444210) | about 2 months ago | (#47339987)

A province that, because it has little storage capability, has a rigid hydro system geared to meet peak demand and 'dump' power during low demand periods. It's a province that has paid others to take its surplus power.

A solution to both Germany's and Ontario's problem is creating storage capability, and that needs innovative research world-wide. Sadly, the focus is mostly on new ways to _produce_ power. Go figure.

Common mistakes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47340007)

Burn that coal and irradiate your atmosphere 100 times more than a nuke, brilliant! Nuclear design mostly frozen for 50 years, brilliant! What we need is World War 3, that'll get people in gear.

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