Energy

Al Gore Brags That Germany Powering Itself With Green Energy … For A Few Hours!

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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Former vice president Al Gore is celebrating the fact that Germany briefly got 78 percent of its electricity from green energy sources last weekend. What Gore forgets to mention is that this was accomplished for just a few hours on a really windy, sunny day.

Gore, who’s got investments in green energy and tech companies, used data from the blog Energy Transition. The blog tracks Germany’s use of green energy, and noted that “Germany had roughly 78 percent renewable electricity as a share of domestic demand for a few hours” on July 25th.

Sounds great, but there are a lot of caveats to this “record” green energy day. First off, it happened when a storm passed over northern Europe and caused “considerable wind damage and flooding in some areas.” While northern Europe was being pummeled by fierce weather, southern Germany saw bright sunshine.

“In the north, where it was windy, Germany has most of its wind turbines installed. In the south, it has most of its solar,” according to blogger Craig Morris with Energy Transition. Morris adds that wind, solar, biomass and hydropower made up 47.9 gigawatts, or 78 percent, of Germany’s power demand for a few hours that day.

Germany usually gets most of its electricity from fossil fuels, especially coal. Taking a closer look at the the data from Germany’s grid operator, July 25 saw a massive increase in wind power — probably from the storm — and fossil fuel energy sources were ramped down. Germany was even exporting power at that time, probably to maintain the stability of the electrical grid because wind turbine output can’t be controlled.

Source: Source: EnergyCharts.de

Source: Source: EnergyCharts.de

Morris notes that France was still exporting nuclear power to Germany at that time, despite low prices. This is because nuke plant operators don’t like ramping their plants up and down to compensate for increase green energy production. This means fossil fuels have to be ramped down in order to compensate for the inflexibility of nuclear and green energy.

For years now, there have been reports of Germany getting more than half of its electricity from green energy sources, but like this case, it was usually for just a few hours during the day or night when power demand was low.

In May 2014, for example, Germany got 74 percent of its electricity from green energy sources. Yet even then, green energy only produced lots of electricity for a few hours in the late afternoon. Morris at the time wrote that “[t]his figure is probably a new record. It is also cherry-picking.”

“Over the first quarter of 2014, renewables made up 27 percent of demand (up from 25 percent for 2013 as a whole), but that share generally fluctuates between 10 percent and 50 percent,” he wrote last year.

Germany has also spent hundreds of billions of dollars installing more green energy capacity and converting their grid to support it. A report from last year estimated Germany’s green energy scheme cost the country $412 billion.

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