Germany weighs rationing to stabilize green power grid

By P Gosselin on 19. January 2021
Is the German model America’s future?

Putting matches in charge of fighting gasoline fires? Even more interference appears to be the German government’s approach to solving the power grid mess that its earlier meddling created in the first place.

Germany struggles to keep the lights on, looks for a law to prevent its power grid from crashing.  

Before the days of climate alarmism and hysteria, the job of deciding how to best produce electricity was left to power generation engineers and experts – people who actually understood it. The result: Germany had one of the most stable and reliable power grids worldwide.

Green energies destabilized the German power grid

Then in the 1990s, environmental activists, politicians, climate alarmists and pseudo-experts decided they could do a better job at generating power in Germany and eventually passed the outlandish EEG green energy feed-in act and rules. They insisted that wildly fluctuating, intermittent power supplies could be managed easily, and done so at a low cost. 

Blackouts threaten

Fast forward to today: The result of all the government meddling is becoming glaringly clear: the country now finds itself on the verge of blackouts due to grid instability, has the highest electricity prices in the world, relies more on imports and is not even close to meeting its emissions targets.

Germany’s rickety and moody power grid now threatens the entire European power grid stability, as we recently witnessed

The need for “smoothing out” demand peaks 

So what solution does Berlin propose today? You guessed it: more meddling and interference, more outlandish bureaucrat solutions. Included among them are shutting down the remaining baseload coal-fired and nuclear power plants, and relying even more on the power sources that got the country into its current mess in the first place.

And new are restrictions as to when power can be consumed by consumers and industry! Energy rationing and targeted blackouts.

Hat-tip. Tichys Einblick 

Cutting off e-vehicle battery chargers and industry

To deal with the power grid problems, Germany’s Economics Minister Peter Altmaier presented a draft law that would allow electric utilities “to temporarily cut off charging power for e-cars when there is once again too little electricity available”, an idea known as “peak smoothing”. 

‘Shutdowns due to power shortages have been practiced for some time. Aluminum smelters, for example, have to put up with having their power cut off for limited periods of time,” reports Tichys Einblick. “These, like refrigerated storage facilities, consume great amounts. It’s a dangerous game because after three hours the molten metal has solidified and the factory is ruined.” 

Situation now “too critical”

The situation in the German power grid has deteriorated so much that Tichys Einblick also comments: “The situation in the power grids has become too critical. The only thing that helps are abstruse ideas like: ‘You are not allowed to refuel your car from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day!’”

 A law that would allow for “peak smoothing” has been demanded by power utilities for some time now as they struggle to keep the increasingly wind and solar powered grid from careening out of control and into blackness. In other words: targeted blackouts.

And as Tichy Einblick mentions, the increasing number of cars on the market will only serve to cause more extreme power demand peaks. Currently Germany is set to make a major push into electric mobility this year. 

No electricity for up to 2 hours a day

In the proposed draft law, which has since been recalled because it was deemed so embarrassing, it was written that “controllable consumption facilities” would be able to receive no electricity for up to two hours per day if there was a threat of overloading the grid.

 

‘This includes charging stations for e-cars as well as heat pumps, which can already be temporarily disconnected from the power supply,” reports Tichy.

More burden on power grid 

Currently there are only 33,000 electric car charging points in Germany, a country with over 50 million cars, and the government plans a vast expansion in the future, yet isn’t sure what that infrastructure should look like. It’s a policy of going  full speed in total blackness and hoping there won’t be a brick wall in the way.

Government admits it’s not going to function

Tichy comments further: “The German government has recognized that in the future electricity system, it will no longer be possible to satisfy every demand at all times. Therefore, the control of the consumer side should be put on legal feet.” […] “ 

‘Controllable consumers such as heat pumps, electric heaters and wall-boxes, i.e. charging stations for e-mobiles, would then be switched off variably at times.”

This is the sorry state of Germany’s once highly regarded power grid.

Doughnut Economics: Seven ways to think Like a 21st century economist

0108 – It is always encouraging to see some of our younger Nanaimo councillors advocate for more progressive legislation to deal with our social and environmental challenges. At the same time an overreach could stretch the limits of the possible. I humbly suggest the recently adopted the “Doughnut Economic Model” as a cohesive vision for all the city initiatives and planning processes, is unreasonably ambitious.

The Author

The 2017  book “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist”,  by the Oxford educated philosopher economist Kate Raworth, steps outside  classical economic and social models including socialism, capitalism, and various mixtures of the previous, claiming they have failed to strike a balance between growth, environment and economic equality. The fundamental theme is philanthropic and in her own words: 

The central premise of Doughnut Economics is that humanity’s 21st century goal should be to end poverty for all, and do so within the means of the living planet. Ensuring everyone in the world lives well above the Doughnut’s social foundation (in terms of healthcare, education, housing, food, water, energy use, mobility, and so on)”

Pointedly the author has conceded that the text is contradictory as economic growth is requirement to attain her goals. However, the most discerning critiques generally focus on the author’s idealistic economic and social ambitions, without any constructive and practical recommendations on how to reach these objectives. The strongest underlying weakness for Nanaimo is the unexpected consequences of adopting an untested model which in the view of some, it is more a prayer than a contract.  

The Nanaimo Council Motion

Which brings me to the reason for this letter. When Nanaimo council made a value judgment and advocated one economic philosophy over another it is a bit like advocating the advantages of one religion over another, always controversial but no clear answers. Among others, Council could have considered any number of economic models including the Keynesian, developed as a result of the great Depression, or the Marxist Engels model during the industrial revolution. Even the United Nations is hard pressed to endorse one model over another. Which makes   Nanaimo Council arguably adventurous to adopt the “Doughnut model” and at least theoretically, all future decisions according to the motion should align with the new model.

The Mayor was generous to allow the motion to be moved and seconded. It is no small consequence, no matter how appealing, to introduced a new economic philosophy and compel all of council, staff and Nanaimo to fall in line. I don’t think there was any serious discussion on some of the more controversial points:  

  • Is this the right model and is there any corroboration evidence if it is practical at the municipal level?
  • Is it democratic to have all of council, and the community they represent embrace a new philosophical economic model?
  • is council stepping outside their legislative limits ? (note education and healthcare are Provincial government responsibilities)
  • What are the long-term financial implication 
  • Is it in the taxpayers’ interest?

Summary

 Clearly some councillors were uncomfortable with the motion and requested a staff report. That in itself would have been a challenge. How do you judge and provide guidance for the application of a new untested economic philosophy in the context of every day realities of a municipal administration? 

The current health crisis has changed the dynamics of municipal administration and Nanaimo has many challenges. With this in mind, I suggest council deal with the practical aspects that fall directly under their legislative control rather than promote a new untested philosophical economic model that has many serious application flaws.

 Jack de Jong