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Power Hardware

Germany Exports More Electricity Than Ever Despite Phasing Out Nuclear Energy 473

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-easy-being-green dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Der Spiegel reports that Germany has exported more electricity this year than ever before, despite beginning to phase out nuclear power. In the first three quarters of 2012, Germany sent 12.3 terawatt hours of electricity across its borders. The country's rapid expansion into renewable energy is credited with the growth. However, the boost doesn't come without a price. The German government's investments into its new energy policy will end up costing hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades, and it still relies on imports for its natural gas needs. It also remains to be seen whether winter will bring power shortages. Is Germany a good example of forward-looking energy policy?"
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Germany Exports More Electricity Than Ever Despite Phasing Out Nuclear Energy

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  • by fast turtle (1118037) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:00AM (#41932501) Journal

    which has exceeded 3 trillion dollars. I'd gladly trade the money spent on war for a stable power grid that doesn't go down at the drop of a leaf

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:01AM (#41932515) Homepage

    Hundreds of billions for something that you can sell and gives the country a renewable supply of energy?

    That's a bargain compared to all the wars, bailouts, pork projects, mansions for the few, etc. the rest of the world is "buying" with it's tax money.

  • Re:But , but (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mnooning (759721) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:20AM (#41932703) Journal
    >Subsidies for oil companies? That is a harmful myth. Being able to subtract losses from profits before paying taxes is NOT subsidizing the oil companies. It has the added advantage of giving incentives to look for more oil.
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:26AM (#41932773) Journal

    1) Based on the summary numbers, Germany basically has the equivalent of 1.4 Gigawatts of spare capacity. Likely more as I'm sure they don't sell 100% of their excess capacity. This works out to enough to power about 1 million American homes.
    2) The cost of the renewable energy looks like it will cost less than the war in Iraq did for the United States.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  • by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:40AM (#41932919) Homepage

    ...just wait until you see how much those non-renewable alternatives like tar sands and coal-to-gas will cost you. And that's before you figure in the cost to clean up the mess they make.

    Remember: deepwater horizon had a wellhead as far beneath the waves as Denver is above them, and the oil itself was farther below the seafloor than the peak of Everest is above sea level. Loooooooong gone are the days when you had to be careful with a pickaxe in Texas lest you set off a gusher.

    Oh -- and it's petroleum that fertilizes our crops and powers our transportation infrastructure, and we've already burned up half of the planet's total reserves. The easy-to-get-to and high-quality half, of course.

    Like it or not, the days of cheap energy are done and gone with. If we're smart, we'll bootstrap ourselves to a solar-based energy system, which won't be cheap, but it will give us more power than any of us can imagine. There's enough insolation just on America's residential rooftops to power the entire planet, for example. If we invest wisely, as Germany is doing, we'll sacrifice a little bit of short-term comfort for a lifetime of luxury. If we invest poorly, as Obama will have us do with his "Drill, baby! Drill!" energy plan... ...well, if we actually follow through with that, we're well and truly fucked.

    Cheers,

    b&

  • Wind = Gas (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AwaxSlashdot (600672) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:40AM (#41932923) Homepage Journal

    Wind power is the best thing ever happened to Gas powerstations manufacturers.
    For every wind farm, you need a gas powerstation of the same size to compensate when the wind is not blowing.

    So, over one year, wind power rejects more CO2 than a nuclear plant of same capacity.

  • Wrong title (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:47AM (#41932989)
    I know the author was trying to tout renewable energy, but the fact of the matter is they turned off their nuclear plants, and ramped up how much coal their burning. Now, you might not like Nuclear, and I could argue with you on that... but coal is far far worse than Nuclear will ever be. This is a net loss for the environment. We need to turn off the coal, turn on the nuclear, and develop the renewable. Nuclear wont last forever, but it's the cleanest fuel we have for now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:49AM (#41933011)

    Wind and solar don't have the capacity and it will take a loooooong road of building for them to even come close to replacing other forms of electricity generation.

    That's exactly what we are trying to disprove. Yes, there are immense engineering challenges, but germany has a long and distiguished history of great engineers and I believe we can do it. It's like the moon landing in the 60s for the US, the goal is distant and we're not exactly sure how we are going to reach it, but the fact that the target stands is inspiring a whole generation of engineers to do what seems impossible. Now, the political challenges are a completly different topic...

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:51AM (#41933039) Homepage

    "and then if you want it from a "green source" cause youre "environmentally conscious", you can pay extra for electricy that comes from a green source...cause it's somehow different from normal electricity."

    And the kicker is they dont change anything other than your bill. You CANT buy only "green" energy unless you go off grid and set up your own solar/wind farm.

  • by cyberchondriac (456626) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:00PM (#41933147) Journal
    You must be the only person on Earth that would equate the Slashdot hive mind with Fox news.
    Ergo I really doubt you have any idea what you're on about. Also, the generalizations are just unfair.

    It's key to note that Germany has exported the most electricity this year despite beginning to phase out nuclear. This bit of reporting sounds a bit slanted to me and designed to preclude the eventual outcome; the story would have a lot more meaning if Germany had had a record year of electricity exportation after most of their nuclear sites are offline. Then they'd really be proving something. And that would be great, but let's not count those chickens just yet. For the record, it's not a matter of me being anti-green, it's me just being cautiously realistic.
  • by w_dragon (1802458) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:08PM (#41933221)
    You're counting the cost of construction of renewables, and ignoring the cost of mining and processing the uranium for the nukes. Unless you know of some 0-carbon mining process the idea that nuclear creates 0 carbon is BS. Wind and solar are actually 0-carbon once built. This is +5 interesting why?
  • by evilviper (135110) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:10PM (#41933243) Journal

    If we want to impact global warming we have to use nuclear power. Wind and solar don't have the capacity and it will take a loooooong road of building for them to even come close to replacing other forms of electricity generation.

    This is utterly wrong. Solar is one of the ONLY technologies that will make it possible to continue energy usage trends for the next century. We couldn't practically build nuclear power plants fast enough to keep up with growing demand. Wind is also a very good option, which should be exploited as much as possible.

    While I support nuclear power plants in general, I'm not so sure Germany made the wrong decision. They made the decision in the wake of the Fukishima disaster, and *if* their investigation determined their own nuclear plants are vulnerable to some natural disaster or another, shutting them down BEFORE a disaster happens is ideal. Waiting until AFTER a disaster happens, and only *then* shutting them down, is the worst possible outcome for everyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:13PM (#41933271)

    Bingo! When the wind's blowing the right direction (usually off-peak) they're dumping electricity for next to nothing - that's why exports (in terawatt hours) are up. They're importing fewer terawatt hours at peak-times at much higher prices.

    Let's see the export/import figures in cash terms rather than terrawatt hours.

    Meanwhile they're still building lignite (brown coal) plants to make up for wind power's flakeyness.
    Regardless of your views on CO2, lignite is dirty shit.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:40PM (#41933565) Homepage

    Germany has a very high standard of living, and is a fairly cold climate. Every time someone mentions the future of energy some American always says that no matter what the only acceptable option is the only that does not involve them reducing energy consumption at all because somehow watts = quality of life.

    The US needs to get its act together on energy efficiency and catch up with the rest of the world. Maybe then people will take energy policy suggestions from the US seriously.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:44PM (#41933591) Homepage

    So it's like planting trees to offset your carbon footprint or buying Fair Trade food. Sure, the actual carbon atoms from the aircraft you were on are not the ones being absorbed by the tree, and sure the actual bar of chocolate you buy might not necessarily contain 100% Fair Trade ingredients. The point is your contribution rebalances the system as a whole by that amount.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:03PM (#41933811) Homepage

    The decision was not just because of Fukushima, it was for economic reasons as well. Nuclear is expensive. It costs a lot to build, a lot to operate safely, a lot to insure, a lot to decommission and a lot to deal with the waste. You can argue that it shouldn't cost that much but the fact is it does. I don't know the history in Germany but the UK government tried to sell the fully functional nuclear plants it built in the early 80s and no one would buy them. In the end they couldn't give them away, they actually had to pay companies to take them and agree to pay all the decommissioning and clean-up costs too.

    There is also the opportunity to get ahead with renewables. The market is rapidly expanding and Germany wants to be one of the big players. High end engineering is their thing.

    With regards to Fukushima the issue is not so much that German plants are vulnerable to large earthquakes or tsunami, it is that even in a modern first world country you just can't trust the guys running the plants. They will grow complacent after decades of safe operation, and they will put profit before safety, and they will probably screw up their handling of a disaster as well.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:05PM (#41933829)

    what they tend to do here (least the places i've lived) instead is you pay the normal rate for juice, however its made locally. and then if you want it from a "green source" cause youre "environmentally conscious", you can pay extra for electricy that comes from a green source...cause it's somehow different from normal electricity. and there was a big scandal recently cause someone found out they were paying the premium and it couldnt be determined just how much of their juice was from the regular old power plant down the road, cause the systems arent seperate.

    Since it's all one big grid, you don't need to know where *your* electricity is generated to know that you're taking advantage of "green" energy. If people are paying for 1MWh of "green" power and some green plant somewhere is injecting 1MWh of green energy into the grid, then they are getting what they are paying for.

    It doesn't matter if most of the power to your house comes from the coal plant down the street and most of the power from the green goes to the industrial plant next door to the "green" plant. Your higher "green" rates are paying for that "green" generator to be hooked into the grid and generating power, reducing demand from non-green sources.

  • by Methuseus (468642) <methuseus@yahoo.com> on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:46PM (#41934279)

    Then explain to me, why, in years that we have a somewhat long period where temperatures range pretty close to 60 here in Florida, does my power bill go to almost nothing? And, when I cover my windows in the dead of winter, the heat runs a lot less? It may get pretty hot in Florida, but it also gets pretty cold in Germany. I also used to live in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. With a well-insulated house up there, your heat or AC ran very little. If you had a badly insulated house (as my friend's parents had) it runs almost constantly. Insulation makes more of a difference than you would believe. I don't understand why I have yet to find a house in this state that is at all well insulated.

  • by rmstar (114746) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:55PM (#41934385)

    Also, the generalizations are just unfair.

    Not necessarily. His point, that whenever evidence contradicts ideology on nuclear matters, supporters of nuclear energy tend to brush away the evidence (and get modded up as a result) is definitively true.

    It's key to note that Germany has exported the most electricity this year despite beginning to phase out nuclear. This bit of reporting sounds a bit slanted to me and designed to preclude the eventual outcome;

    I know that if evidence doesn't fit the model, pro nuke people throw away the evidence (the same way as other right wing, libertarian, religious people do) so this all may be lost on you. The fact is that germany continued to export electricity some time ago despite the fact that 8 of their 17 nuclear reactors were down. A lot of that was sold to France, where the nuclear industry has traditionally had free reign, and yet consistenly (and "misteriously") fails to deliver.

    Reuters on this: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/14/europe-power-supply-idUSL5E8DD87020120214 [reuters.com]

    (There is one error in the article. That fact did not silence critics of the nuclear phaseout. Nothing short of a gunshot will silence the hard-headed pro nuke fools. Not that I advocate that, mind you, just stating an empirical fact).

    Oh, and at some point there was only one nuclear reactor running in Japan. That didn't push them to the stone age nor anything of the sort.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday November 09, 2012 @03:03PM (#41935041)

    Yes, because nobody lived there before air conditioning was invented, or common.

    Life there would be uncomfortable without air conditioning, but it would certainly be possible.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday November 09, 2012 @03:12PM (#41935133)

    I expect by 2020 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house [wikipedia.org] to be the building standard in most of europe.

    You don't have to expect anything, it is a given that this is going to be a legal requirement in the EU by 2020.

  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:33PM (#41937313)

    0.17% isn't much though. That is probably less than the area of Germany taken up by maize grown for biogas, and that certainly doesn't provide 16GW average.

    Also note that the array will actually be more than 100GW peak, and peak will be during daytime when the heavy industry is running.

    It is also slightly unfair that you expect 16GW yearly average. 16GW of nuclear power does not provide 16GW average, because the demand just isn't there at night or during weekends and downtime for inspections can be lengthy.

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