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Half the news that’s fit to print: Bloomberg tries to make renewables the problem

Posted by Charles II on September 30, 2011

Kari Lundgren and Lars Paulson, Bloomberg:

The 15 mile-per-hour winds that buffeted northern Germany on July 24 caused the nation’s 21,600 windmills to generate so much power that utilities such as EON AG and RWE AG (RWE) had to pay consumers to take it off the grid.

Rather than an anomaly, the event marked the 31st hour this year when power companies lost money on their electricity in the intraday market because of a torrent of supply from wind and solar parks. The phenomenon was unheard of five years ago.

With Europe’s wind and solar farms set to triple by 2020, utilities investing in new coal and gas-fired power stations no longer face stable returns. As more renewables come on line, a gas plant owned by RWE or EON that may cost $1 billion to build will be stopped more often from running at full capacity. It may only pay for itself on days like Jan. 31, when clouds and still weather pushed an hour of power on the same-day market above 162 ($220) euros a megawatt-hour after dusk, in peak demand time.

“You’re looking at a future where on a sunny day in Germany, you’ll have negative prices,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance chief solar analyst Jenny Chase said about power rates in wholesale trading. “And a lot of the other markets are heading the same way.”

31 hours of losses vs 8760 hours per year represents less than 0.5% of the time that the plants are losing money, so Bloomberg is misleading its readers. But it does point to the need for developing load balancing technologies such as capacitor storage, long-distance transmission, and constant power sources like tidal. One could even envision offering energy-intensive producers like aluminum smelters financial incentives for running slightly below normal capacity except when there’s a surge in energy production, then ramping up production to take advantage of the superabundance.

Wonder how much oil company advertising Bloomberg gets.

3 Responses to “Half the news that’s fit to print: Bloomberg tries to make renewables the problem”

  1. jo6pac said

    WOW I’m starting to feel bad for the clean coal people but I’m sure it will pass. Yep, it did. I think it was 2020 when Denmark want to stop using coal and gas just nothing but clean energy. What a concept but when I talk to people about this the comment is but Denmark is small so its easy. This from the people who live in the only country to land on the Moon and the little Rover is still moving around on Mars. How Sad.

  2. MarkH said

    Pity the rich their monopolies are in danger of competition from the free market they have espoused forever. Yes, it’s that nasty Kenyan Anti-Imperialist Socialist trying to put free markets to work. Oh, how they long for their days of private profits and socialized losses.

    It only shows that in time these other energy sources will reduce our costs tremendously while adding to the overall supply of energy a growing world economy will need.

  3. Coal should be phased out, and the Price-Anderson Act — the artificial ventilator/Get Out of Jail Free card that’s kept the nuclear power industry alive — should be repealed. The sooner coal is replaced by wind and solar — which when new battery technologies hit the market could be in two decades or less — the better.

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