Join the “Global Climate March” on November 29, 2015!

Prior to the start of the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris (so-called COP21), activists have launched various campaigns and events on a global scale to express their worries and steer the political leaders towards greener decisions. Among others, a “Global Climate March” will be organized on Sunday, November 29, 2015. This march comprises an impressive number of demonstrations all over the world sending messages to Paris.

One of these demonstrations will take place in Berlin. Check out more information on and join the movement! People everywhere are standing up against carbon pollution, for climate justice and for renewable energy. I will, too, will you?

How Germany is stalling: the story of e-mobility.

Yesterday, ARD (one of the German public TV channels) showed a report about Germany’s state of affairs regarding e-mobility and it was remarkable and more than worth seeing. Ranging from ridiculous sugarcoating by the automobile industry to unbelievable patronage by leading politicians vis-à-vis the EU (and also by the EU) this 45 minute broadcast will either make you quite angry or laugh out loud. You can check it out (in German language) here. I highly recommend watching it.

Decisive day takes different direction than hoped for.

Last night, our chancellor Mrs Merkel as well as the two other coalition party leaders Mr Gabriel (who is also Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy) and Mr Seehofer have reached a compromise and agreed on central aspects for Germany’s transition to renewable energy. Just to twist the knife in the wound, that has been created by this decision, I perceive one point particularly sarcastic in a way: 2.7 GW of coal-fired power plants will be moved into a “reserve”; the initial plan of Mr Gabriel was to put 10 GW out of service altogether, lobbyists from the coal-energy sector immediately claimed that only 6 GW are safe to be completely shut down, now 2.7 are moved to a reserve instead of being cut off the grid for good. Well,… what happened there? You can guess I’m sure. I know that taking those plants into a reserve might be better than having them run at full level but then we were further than that some years ago in regard to willingness to move ahead I feel. It seems ironic that some of those plants becoming part of the “reserve” were meant to be shut down 10 years ago.

There are some good aspects, of course, too, e.g. the decision to truly develop a flexible power market and not introduce a capacity market. Nevertheless, this definitely feels like a loss in regard to climate protection and doing significant steps forward for renewable energy.

By the way, some – maybe meaningful – trivia: A paper was published containing all the points that were agreed upon. Isn’t it really telling that in the whole paper carbon dioxide emissions are labelled CO² instead of CO2? There is no need to comment that I believe.

Another decisive day ahead for Germany’s future energy.

On 1 July, 2015, Germany’s coalition in power will come together to discuss – among others – the recent suggestions for policy development in regard to coal energy. The initial plan put forward by the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, was to levy an additional tax from coal-fired power plants that have a certain age in order to gradually dissolve Germany’s dependency on coal-energy (in this regard check out my posts here and here) and thereby save considerable amounts of CO2 enabling Germany to achieve its corresponding goals.

By now, the Minister has publicly stated that an alternative plan has been developed in cooperation with representatives/representative organisations of either coal-energy plants or Federal States whose industry is majorly dependent on this sector. The plan does not include a new tax but rather a gradual laying in of older coal-energy plants and foresees as well the introduction of new incentive programmes for e.g. household owners. It seems that while this alternative does not achieve as much CO2 emissions as the initial plan it yet entails higher costs.

Therefore, 1 July, 2015 will be a very decisive day for Germany’s future energy, as the directions adopted in this coalition meeting will lay down the basis for further developments in regard of coal-energy.

New developments in the market for solar-energy storage units.

The combination of photovoltaic plants and storage technology has long been one of the most important solutions in regard to the volatility of solar energy: when the sun shines during the day, excess energy is stored for the dark hours e.g. in the evening and night times. Thereby, not only the amount of private (in-house) consumption is increased but also the electricity grid experiences relief. Thus: a very good idea indeed. Unfortunately, so far many have perceived storages as not economically attractive enough.

Change in this particular regard, however, seems to now just linger around the corner and it might entail exciting developments to the market for solar energy storage units. Tesla Motors, an e-car manufacturer, has recently presented a lithium-ion battery named “Powerwall” for domestic use which has been hailed for its very low price by the press: with 3.000 US dollar for 7 kWh it is sold at a price remarkably lower than the current market price for solar energy storage units – among others made possible by Tesla’s mass production. Consequently, Asian manufacturers are expected to adapt their prices soon and hence, “Powerwall” will influence the market for photovoltaic storage units. What is further remarkable about this new Tesla item is the possibility to install it inside and outside – an interesting advantage as outside installation can reduce problems regarding fire hazards.

Apart from all positive aspects, however, some central questions have not been fully answered: what will consumers have to pay for example (particularly after the first load has been sold)? So far only wholesale prices seem to be known and thus, it appears difficult to finalize assumptions about the large-scale effects and the widespread use of “Powerwall” in private households. Moreover, details about costs for e.g. energy management, connection costs and a.c. converter are lacking, at least in precision. How competitive might the price be then if all this is included? What can be said in addition about the cycle life time as an example for technically relevant details?

While of course it would be desirable to claim that a new age of solar battery storages has started with the release of this quite affordable option and it would be more than neat to thereby provide new impetus to the photovoltaic sector again, facing the remaining uncertainties it seems difficult to join media’s jubilation – at least, not just yet.

Problematic zones, Mr Gabriel.

The organisation “energie neu denken” (approx. “re-think energy”) has recently started a campaign to make sure Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Mr Sigmar Gabriel, is aware of the need for a power market that is designed to particularly serve decentrally produced energy – which is typical for renewables. In Germany, the South is known for its abundancy of solar energy while the North is producing more wind energy and thus the design of the power market needs to be able to compensate (hopefully even more) increasing amounts of renewable energy supplied to the system.

In order to take part in the campaign participants can send post cards to the Minister that on the front page displays the question “Kennen Sie Ihre Problemzonen, Herr Gabriel?” (approx. “Do you know your problematic zones, Mr Gabriel?”) and on the back describes the above mentioned situation and the above mentioned need for a fitted design of the power market.
I believe this is a good and quite humorous approach to the subject at hand: first of all, it is interactive! People can directly write to the Minister needing only small effort to do so (the address and text is filled in etc.). Moreover, the campaign strikes with humor. The “problematic zones” usually refer to someone’s body parts that appear to be more prone to chubbiness than others, that is to say body parts that need special attention sometimes in order to stay fit and healthy. While this is of course referring to the power market that needs to be cleverly designed in order to secure a smoothly running system that sustains renewable energy, this notion is, however, to some extent also directed at Mr Gabriel himself, who can be said to have “grown” a bit ever since he started his career as Minister.

So, overall: Interesting choice of words, important topic, catchy campaign. Check it out here (in German) and enjoy.

Back again to uncertainty regarding Germany’s coal energy.

One of Germany’s main newscasts reported about the plans of Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel last night in regard to exiting coal energy. I wrote about that just yesterday here when informing you about the corresponding demonstration against coal energy.

The newscast reflected the crisis meeting Gabriel had invited all Federal State Ministers for Energy to and of course the outcome as well. Unfortunately, our demonstrations didn’t have the wished for effect. In contrast, Germany is back again to uncertainty regarding its coal energy. Apparently, Gabriel mentioned during the meeting that his plans are not set in stone and every minister is welcome to provide alternative plans – which I assume will mainly be done by those ministers coming from Federal States that have a strong coal energy sector such as North-Rhine Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg. Thus, the process started off by the Federal Minister’s plans has now come to a halt and the Ministry will wait for other suggestions and it remains to be seen whether those will truly be better – I fear they won’t.

Demonstrating against coal-fired power plants.

Last week, GerEnergiewende_MFmany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel has published his plans to gradually abolish any energy supply coming from coal-fired power plants. Of course, the coal energy lobby has reacted immediately and has heavily criticised this document. In turn, Mister Gabriel invited all Energy Ministers from Germany’s Federal States to Berlin for a somewhat crisis meeting. The participants of this meeting – ongoing at the moment – were greeted here in Berlin by demonstrators supporting Gabriel’s plans and cheering for a stop to coal energy. As the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is facing the buidling I currently work in I was able to join the quickly drawn-up demonstrations. It will be exciting to see what the outcome of this meeting will be – did Gabriel keep his position, did he get pushed over, did the demonstrations maybe create support for our cause among some ministers? Let’s just hope Gabriel stays on track.

An International Dialogue for a Global Transition to Renewables.

Germany’s Federal Government and German industry associations have initiated an international dialogue to tackle energy-related challenges and make use of the opportunities connected to energy supply. It will take place March 26-27, 2015 in Berlin at Germany’s Federal Foreign Office. Experts from all areas will come together to discuss and reflect new paths, best practices, urgent issues and any related aspects in order to work towards a global solution.

Despite not knowing how efficient and productive this dialogue will prove – and also how reliable it will be in terms of measures potentially agreed upon – I personally welcome this step very strongly. While Germany’s development in the transition to renewables alone is remarkable already (yet not perfect), I share the believe that a true solution has to involve players from all over the world. We can only halt environmental changes and damages if working together. An international dialogue also is a very important signal to all critics who argument that taking action is useless if others / other countries do not join in. Thus, I am very curious to see the outcomes of the event at the end of this week. Bonne chance!

For more information, check out this link.

Green Paper on Germany’s Electricity Market for its Energy Transition

Already last fall, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has published a Greenpaper “An Electricity Market for Germany’s Energy Transition”. To summarize, this Green Paper is meant as a basis for decisions in 2015 in regard to the development of the electricity market. It has to be adapted to a framework that now includes renewable energy sources: As some of the latter ones (particularly solar and wind power) are bound to be fluctuating in their energy output there needs to be a balancing-out of production and use. Several so-called flexibility options exist for this balancing-out and will also develop – ranging from virtual power plants to energy storage. Thus, the electricity market needs to be revised to adapt to this setting and to further the development of a market for the said options (and consequently their development as well).

The question arises: in what way can and/or should the electricity market be developed in order to adapt? And exactly for this decision, the above mentioned Green Paper is supposed to be the basis. Two major options are discussed in this regard: the “Electricity Market 2.0″ or an additional “Capacity Market”.

This so far has been basic background information on the Green Paper and I will try to go into further detail soon. Meanwhile, you can find further information here (German) and download the Green Paper (English) here. My current post also exists to inform anyone intersted that a public consultation is currently run on the Green Paper and any interested party can send in a statement until March 1, 2015.