Germany’s Green Utilities Lose Cash As Country Ends Unilateral Global Warming Policy

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Germany’s largest green power company posted falling earnings Monday, prompting the country to back further away from supporting wind and solar power.

The green energy utility Innogy saw its earnings fall by 18 percent in 2016, according to The Financial Times, due to “low wind levels,” higher than expected upgrade costs for the power grid, and a cut in green energy subsidies.

Now it seems Germany will cut green subsidies even more.

“I am firmly convinced that the path of national climate targets is wrong,” Peter Altmaier, Germany’s Minister of the Chancellery, said in a speech to an energy conference last week, adding it would be “difficult to cancel existing goals” and international agreements were the future of global warming policy.

Altmaier said Germany’s global warming goals had been “over-ambitious” and even counterproductive in many cases. Germany has been scaling back subsidies for green power since its legislature voted to abandon them in July.

It’s another blow to Germany’s “Energiewende” plan.

In early March, an architect of Germany’s global warming plan called it “a disaster” that’s cost too much money. Germany is estimated to have paid over $1.1 trillion to support green power.

Germany’s “Energiewende” aimed to boost the amount of wind and solar power to fight global warming, but the country’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions haven’t significantly decreased and may have actually gone up due to the inherent unreliability of wind and solar power.

Germany’s even had to pay wind farms $548 million in 2016 to switch off to prevent damage to the electric grid, according to a survey of power companies by the newspaper Wirtschaftswoche. Germany also halted construction of offshore wind turbines.

“[E]ven if we triple wind energy capacity, power generation will remain near zero when the wind stops blowing,” Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, a professor who was once the head of green energy for the Germany utility RWE, said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper. “The situation is similar for solar energy, especially at night. Solar energy only works full-time 8% of the year.”

All of Germany’s subsidies and support for green energy have sharply increased power prices, with the average German paying 39 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity. The average American only spends 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour by comparison.

Germany’s power grid almost collapsed in January due to poor performance from wind turbines and solar panels, according to data from a major trade union. Wind and solar power plants under-performed that month because of cloudy weather with little or no wind, setting the stage for massive blackouts. The country’s power grid was strained to the absolute limit and could have gone offline entirely, triggering a national blackout, if just one power plant had gone offline.

As a result of green energy’s rampant unreliability, Germany plans to cap the total amount of wind energy at 40 to 45 percent of national capacity, according to a report published by the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung. Germany will get rid of 6,000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2019. Germany was forced to re-commission coal power plants to simply keep the lights on. The country’s green energy plans calls for the shut down of 30 such power plants by 2019.

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