The Sun Shines on Germany

I wrote in April about Germany’s ambitious goal of deriving 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2050.  It seems to me that they’re going to get there a lot sooner than 2050.

Solar electricity world record: Germany cranks half its power with PV was the headline recently from SmartPlanet.  Germany hit a breathtaking 22.15 gigawatts of PV output on May 25th.  There are several astonishing things about that, one of which is that the US may get to 3 GW of installed capacity this year, a drop in the bucket compared to Germany’s herculean output. Why is the US such a laggard?  For one thing, the renewable energy feed-in tariff that Germany pioneered, led by the renewable energy visionary Hermann Scheer, has enabled independent power producers there to build out this enormous capacity.  What’s another amazing aspect of all this?  It’s that the amount of PV available during the day – when power is in greatest demand – actually enables a lowering of peak prices.  That’s unheard of in the power business, but the Germans are doing it, as I pointed out in my post from April about 100% renewables.

As Reuters indicates in its article on Germany’s breakthrough, the 22+ GW of power provided about a third of the nation’s needs on a workday, Friday the 25th, but half the next day when offices and factories were closed.  With Germany’s 29 GW of installed capacity in wind – the largest amount in Europe – there’s really no stopping them from carbon-free power, or, as Hermann Scheer described it, a technology-driven energy economy.

Meanwhile, the Japanese are poised to catch up to Germany and other global pacesetters on renewables.  Japan is about to institute a feed-in tariff of its own that one astute observer, Renewable Energy World, characterizes as nothing less than “…the most significant renewable energy policy development worldwide in years…”  The tariffs are scheduled to come online next month.

How tiresome it is becoming to hear the Big Lie that renewables can’t cut it.  They’re too unreliable, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.

As dessert for this sumptuous meal of renewable news from Germany and Japan, note that the Icelanders and the Brits will be collaborating on the production of geothermal in the UK.  As you probably know, Iceland provides 100% of its power now from two renewable sources:  hydro and geothermal.  They have signed an MOU with the Brits to explore exporting geothermal.  The venerable Fiona Harvey of The Guardian further notes here that there are also “…promising sites for geothermal power spread throughout the UK…”  The problem there is an inadequate level of government support.  The potential and the problems for geothermal are detailed in a report just out from Britain’s Renewable Energy Association.

It doesn’t take a lot to see the benefits of adequate financial support for renewables.  The Germans have proved it.  The Japanese are sold.  The British and many of the rest of us – hello, Congress – seem to still need some convincing that, as my grandmother used to say, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

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