SPIEGEL Kohler Interview

Fossil Nukes Rod Adams and Barry Brook are happily pointing to a new SPIEGEL interview with German Energy Agency head Stephan Kohler, conducted by the noted enemy of renewable energy Alexander Neubacher.

So I expected to find nothing but the same old anti-renewable propaganda talking points. I was surprised to find that Kohler actually makes some points worth discussing.

For example, Kohler said this at some point:

Nowadays, solar systems are often in operation around noon, when there is high demand for power and the price was high in the past. As a result, conventional power plants can no longer make enough money, which is why existing plants are being shut down and no new ones are being built.

That’s actually correct. Renewable is driving fossil fuel generation out of the market, saving Germany around 6 billion euro in fossil fuel cost in 2011. Actually, eating the fossil fuel plants’ lunch is kind of the point here. So it’s nice to see Kohler admit that the system is working.

Then there is this exchange:

Today anyone can build a solar power system wherever he wants. And anyone who owns one of these systems also has the right to be connected to the grid operator. Just take a drive through Bavaria, and you’ll see entire fields full of solar power plants, even though there is zero consumption there and there is no grid. Solar systems should be expanded only in places where the electricity is needed and there are grids that can absorb it; in other words, in industrial areas, on stadium roofs and at indoor swimming pools. To that end, I would propose that the grid operators provide a map of available grid capacities.

SPIEGEL: So no more subsidies for solar arrays in the countryside?

Kohler: Exactly. A grid map would give us the opportunity to control the installation of additional solar systems to minimize additional grid costs. And it would also give us a tool to finally prevent too much power from migrating into the grid. Under the current circumstances, we have to invest about €28 billion ($36 billion) in the distribution grid to integrate renewable energy, while we have entire areas where there is still available grid capacity.

I agree that it makes sense to build more solar where it needs less new grid capacity built. The way to assure this would be to do the same thing as with wind, where the feed-in tariff already depends on the location. Pay more for locations closer to demand and less for those way out in the countryside, since it takes more money to get the electricity to the consumer in that case.

With solar rapidly approaching the ceiling of 52 GW it does make sense to try to reduce the number of situations where perfectly good low carbon generators need to be shut down because the grid development can’t keep up.

The interview goes downhill from there, with Kohler supporting abolishing the wildly successful Law on Priority for Renewable Energy, calling it “insanity”, and then asserting that adding even more solar and wind capacity will somehow lead to increasing wholesale prices.

But finding one factually correct statement and one proposal remotely worth discussing is already much more than I expected from something published at SPIEGEL by Alexander Neubacher.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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