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2163RE: [hreg] Good Clip on Germany

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  • Michael Christie
    Aug 25, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      Folks,
       
      One thing to always keep in mind is that the transmission lines in the United States do not belong to the people. They are privately owned. Any decision as to expansion or upgrading of these lines will be dependant on corporate boards and managements, based solely on what kind of return on investment they can get. The job that we wish could be done is too large for these private corporations to afford until they can see the return in dollars. They will not (and should not) do it for altruistic reasons. The only other answer is to spend tax dollars. Investment of public money into the infrastructure will require many questions to be answered first (do we just give these corporations the money, or do we take over ownership, or what?). So, the question of how to upgrade the infrastructure goes from the practical to the political. Do you want to spend scarce tax dollars on private corporations to do what they have neglected to do in the past?
       
      As demand for alternate energy grow, these corporations will move in the direction of providing the transmission lines, and at some time in the future, the government will have to share in the costs. But it will be slow. What we as a group, and as individuals can do is to e-mail or write our representatives, and heads of the utility corporations such as Centerpoint, and tell them what we think. You can find the addresses of your state congressmen at www.texas.gov, your federal representatives at www.firstgov.gov. You can find your district numbers on your voters registration cards. I do not know where to e-mail any directors of Centerpoint. Does anyone else know?
       
      As to the marginality of costs for renewable energy sources, cost will go down as more systems are built, as the  factories will be able to take advantage of higher volumes for raw materials to reduce costs.
       
      Michael Christie
      -----Original Message-----
      From: Ooi, Han [mailto:Han.Ooi@...]
      Sent: Monday, August 25, 2003 10:06 AM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [hreg] Good Clip on Germany

      Ok,
        I acknowledge your point.
       
        In my opinion though, I think the practical thing we can do to make renewable energy happen more quickly is to take advantage of the consensus developed after the blackout by pushing to have new high capacity transimission lines built through areas that contains abundant amounts of renewable energy.
       
        I've done a feasability study for renewables and given present technology, they are still marginally profitable to unprofitable right now.  Looking several steps ahead, one of the factors that will greatly affect the cost and feasbility of renewables would be the availability of transmission infrastructure in the regions that they are plentiful.  Our current grid was designed in the age of fossil fuel power generation so much of the main transmission backbone wasn't sited in the areas that are abundant in renewables.  This artificially raises the cost of renewables by forcing the producers to build (long) connections to the transmission arteries.  In other cases, the transmission lines availabe in the area aren't of the highest capacity.  This would act as a constraint on the amount of renewable power that can be feasibly produced and sold.
       
        Transmission facilities (especially new routes) takes decades to build so it would be conceivable that the day renewable power become cost effective against fossil (in the right areas), no transmission facility may exist to carry it.  We can position renewables to succeed quicker by pushing a plan that lays the foundation for its success.
      -----Original Message-----
      From: Roxanne Boyer [mailto:rox1@...]
      Sent: Saturday, August 23, 2003 10:57 AM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [hreg] Good Clip on Germany

      Mr Han,
       
      I think that when the article was talking about the wind industry employing more people than nuclear, it meant that there is a huge investment to have wind power outgrow nuclear power in the future.  It takes a lot of people to build and start up the wind farms.  It doesn't take many people to operate an existing nuclear power plant.  The industry includes production for export as well.  Germany makes many of the wind and solar power equipment that is installed around the world, and it is a strong point of their economy - not a drag on the economy as you assumed.
       
      The first country that develops a renewable energy industry that can deliver power at a cost competitive with fossil fuels will be the leader of the next generation of world economy.  Fossil fuel cost is rising and renewable energy cost is falling - at some point they will cross (refer to my previous e-mails showing about 2025).
       
      I agree with you that transmission and distribution of energy between areas where there is high potential for renewable energy and places where energy is needed will be very important.
       
      -Chris
       
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Ooi, Han
      Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2003 1:27 PM
      Subject: RE: [hreg] Good Clip on Germany

      <<The German wind industry now employs more people
      than nuclear power (an industry that provides 30 percent of the nation's
      electricity) without a commensurate increase in electricity costs.

      Germany now generates 4.5 per cent of its electricity with the wind and
      appears on track to meet government targets of 25 per cent by 2025.>>

      Hmm...it takes more people than nuclear (which produce 30% of energy) only to produce 4.5% of energy??  Maybe this is why Germany's economy is in the dumps.

      <<The main obstacles that keep renewables from producing more than a small
      share of energy in most of the world are lack of access to the transmission
      grid, high up-front costs, lack of information, and biased, inappropriate
      and inconsistent government policies.>>

      Backs up what I said earlier about an integrated grid being crucial for renewables.  You need the grid to transport renewable power from where it is plentiful to where it is scarce.

      <<With a fraction of the wind and solar resources of
      the U.S., Germany now has almost three times as much installed wind
      capacity (38 percent of global capacity) and is a world leader in solar
      photovoltaics as well.>>

      Building photovoltaics in Germany is just plain stupid.  The place is so overcast that people get depressed over there.  Best place in the world for photovoltaics is in eastern Egypt...incidentally the piece of land that Moses and his merry men wandered through.  That part of Egypt gets on average 300 watts/m^2 a year, the most in the world.

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Tom Gray [mailto:tomgray@...]
      Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2003 1:03 PM
      To: tomgray@...
      Subject: [hreg] Good Clip on Germany


      Germany Leads the World in Alternative Energy
      By JANET L. SAWIN New Internationalist (08-19-03)

      Berkeley Daily Planet
      Edition Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2003

      Clusters of tall white wind turbines spin gracefully atop green hillsides.
      Solar photovoltaics (PVs) are integrated into windows and rooftops of
      modern homes, factories and office blocks. Even the old renovated seat of
      government is fitted with solar panels.

      A utopian fancy? No, just Germany today. Remarkable considering that in
      1990 Germany had virtually no renewable-energy industry and appeared an
      unlikely candidate for it. Utility monopolies, entrenched nuclear and coal
      industries and a general conservatism made Germany appear barren ground for
      renewable-energy advocates.

      Joschen Twele, a wind-energy expert recalls: 'When I started my job in wind
      energy [in the 1980s] I thought it had only a chance in remote areas of
      developing countries. So I concentrated on Africa.'

      Yet by the end of the 1990s, Germany had transformed itself into a
      renewable-energy leader. With a fraction of the wind and solar resources of
      the U.S., Germany now has almost three times as much installed wind
      capacity (38 percent of global capacity) and is a world leader in solar
      photovoltaics as well.

      And it has created a new, multibillion-dollar industry and tens of
      thousands of new jobs. The German wind industry now employs more people
      than nuclear power (an industry that provides 30 percent of the nation's
      electricity) without a commensurate increase in electricity costs.

      Germany now generates 4.5 per cent of its electricity with the wind and
      appears on track to meet government targets of 25 per cent by 2025. The
      government also considers solar photovoltaics an option for future
      large-scale power generation.

      What's more, the government recently pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide
      emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, much of this to be
      achieved by switching to renewable energy. Not quite the 60 percent many
      climate-change experts say is required worldwide, but vastly more
      impressive than commitments made thus far under the Kyoto Protocol.

      How has Germany done it?

      The main obstacles that keep renewables from producing more than a small
      share of energy in most of the world are lack of access to the transmission
      grid, high up-front costs, lack of information, and biased, inappropriate
      and inconsistent government policies.

      Germany's dramatic success has been achieved through a combination of
      consistent, ambitious policies designed to address these barriers and
      create a market for renewable energy. These policies were driven by the
      public's rising concerns about global climate change, risks associated with
      nuclear power, and a need to reduce dependence on imported fuels.

      Most significant has been the grid access and standard pricing law, enacted
      in 1991 and inspired by effective Danish policies. Under this law,
      renewable energy producers receive above-market payments for power they
      feed into the grid and the costs are shared among all electricity consumers
      in Germany. These preferential payments for renewables are not considered
      subsidies, but means of internalizing the social and environmental costs of
      conventional energy and providing compensation for the benefits of renewables.

      But some barriers remained. For example, as the number of wind turbines
      skyrocketed in some regions, local opposition and lengthy, complex siting
      procedures had the effect of stalling the development of new projects. The
      government responded by encouraging communities to zone specific areas for
      wind energy--a step that addressed concerns such as noise and aesthetic
      impacts and assured prospective turbine owners that they would find sites
      for their machines.

      To address the start-up costs barrier, the German government has offered
      long-term, low-interest loans and income tax credits to projects and
      equipment that meet specified standards.

      These initiatives have drawn billions of dollars to the renewable energy
      industry, while technology standards have reduced risk and created
      confidence by keeping out substandard machinery. The government has also
      promoted awareness of renewable technologies and available subsidies
      through publications and training programs.

      Such rock-solid policies ended uncertainties about whether producers could
      sell their electricity into the grid and at what price. They also provided
      investor confidence--attracting investment money and making it easier for
      even small renewable power producers to obtain bank loans. Germans from
      diverse backgrounds and income levels have been able to invest in renewable
      energy projects, leading to a surge in installed capacity and associated
      jobs, and reinforcing political support.

      Increased investment has also driven improvements in technology, advanced
      learning and experience, and produced economies of scale resulting in
      dramatic cost reductions. Between 1990 and 2000 the average cost of
      manufacturing wind turbines in Germany fell by 43 percent. Between 1992 and
      2001, PV capacity experienced an average annual growth rate of nearly 49
      percent. German PV manufacturers plan to expand their facilities
      significantly over the coming years to meet rapidly rising demand, a step
      that will further reduce costs and increase employment.

      Germany has demonstrated not only that it is possible for renewable energy
      increasingly to meet the energy needs of industrialized society but also
      that the transition to a more sustainable energy future can happen rapidly
      with political will and the right policies. To begin with, policies must be
      consistent and long-term. On-and-off policies in the US have created market
      cycles of boom and bust, making it difficult to develop strong domestic
      industries. As a result, the U.S. is the only country where total
      wind-generating capacity has actually declined in some years.

      Market creation must also be prioritized. Germany began funding research
      and development of renewable energy in the 1970s but saw little commercial
      development until market incentives were enacted two decades later. Today
      at least 300 companies are involved in supplying solar panels. Last year
      Germans installed more than 2,000 new wind projects, all of them feeding
      into the grid. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Germans own shares in
      wind energy projects, while many own shares in solar PV and other renewable
      projects as well.

      The issue of who owns the production and distribution of electricity is
      highly significant. When a nation's electric system is centralized and
      utility-owned, power is concentrated in the hands of a few, both literally
      and politically. In the U.S., for example, some of the most politically
      powerful voices are those of the various energy-related industries. But
      when almost anyone can be an energy producer, as in Germany, the public can
      play a greater role in decision making, creating a more democratic society.

      Renewables now generate eight percent of Germany's electricity and the
      country has nearly two-fifths of the world's wind capacity. But the share
      of total wind capacity owned by large companies is also rising, as the
      sizes of machines and projects--and thus costs--increase.

      The advantages of shifting away from conventional energy and towards
      greater reliance on renewables are numerous and enormous: climate
      stability, air quality, health, job creation, political and economic
      security, to name but a few. Renewable energy also offers models for
      diverse and democratic ways of producing, buying and selling power. Yet
      change is never easy and there are strong forces globally--including
      politically powerful industries--that wish to maintain the status quo.
      While resistance to change is inevitable, the world cannot afford to be
      held back by those who are wedded to energy systems of the past.

      Janet L Sawin is an energy and climate change writer and researcher based
      at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington DC.





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