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The German government is engaged in increasingly heated negotiations with energy companies in an effort to stop them closing carbon-emitting power plants which have been rendered unprofitable by the national renewables policies. Last week power giant RWE grumbled that many of its coal and gas power stations "are no longer …

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German solar-energy costs are four times that of an expensive new nuclear plant. The two new nuclear power plants in Finland produce as much energy as the entire solar energy sector in Germany.

The so-called environmental lobby is killing European industry. Energy prices in countries pushing the renewable fairytale are skyrocketing compared to that of countries with more sane energy policies.

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Holmes

Dragooned by Greenery

In truth, the recurrent panic spasms about "nucular energy" that can be reliably detected in Germany, Austria and Luxembourg are an interesting sociological phenomenon; what are are the historical reasons for them?

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Mushroom

The costs for nuclear plants always leave out the massive subsidies routinely given to the industry and largely ignore the costs of decommissioning and dealing with the waste. Even then they overrun massively and seeing as you cite Finland: how about the clusterfuck of the recent reactor build there?

The current noises coming from RWE, E.ON, et al. are timed to coincide with the German election and also as part of the ongoing fight about lost profits as a result of the current's government decision initially to extend the lifetime of nuclear power only to turn 180° within a year.

Renewable energy is far from a fairy tale; it is simply a requirement in countries without their own energy reserves. German industry is largely being shielded from price increases which are pushing consumers hard. Indeed some German companies are taking advantage of the situation to produce their own energy. German policy will no doubt be reformed after the election but nuclear is not an option. As retroactively adjusting feed-in tariffs would most likely be legal, electricity is going to continue to get more expensive (at € 0.25 / kWH it's already eye-watering) but plenty of adjustments can and will be made. Shale may well become an option in Europe but even without it, the possibility of synthesising transport fuel using renewable power is starting to look cost effective and would be a good way to handle the surplus production on windy, sunny days.

Furthermore, it's worth noting that even with such expensive electricity, inflation in Germany is significantly below that in the UK, where the chances of the lights going out are even higher despite the pro-nuclear lobby.

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I agree, I have been green since before it was "the in thing" but have always thought nuclear power has an important part to play. Renewables also have a place but current policy is insane, we need a joined up policy and to stop being green just because it is fashionable and ticks boxes.

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The plant at Olkiluoto still isn't finished. It was meant to go online in 2009, it will now be ready no sooner than 2015. It was budgeted at €3 billion, it is currently estimated at €8.5 billion and the two main contractors are suing one another for compensation.

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Re: nuclear is not an option

All the better for France, which is making money selling "nuclear" electricity to Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, Spain and probably Switzerland as well.

I find the current green arguments in Germany quite hypocritical. If they really don't want anything to do with nuclear, then they should not purchase electricity from a country they know produces it via the process they denounce.

Instead, they just pass off as airhead NIMBYs.

Personally, I am pro-ecology. I do not like seeing useless damage to nature and I would prefer that humans in general treat their only home with a bit more respect.

However, I do not expect our society to exist on anything but nuclear energy in the future. We require much to much power to rely only on solar and wind. Fusion will be the savior, when it comes. In the meantime, instead of grumbling about how nuclear is a danger to future generations, let's find a solution. Thorium reactors, for example.

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"The so-called environmental lobby is killing European industry. Energy prices in countries pushing the renewable fairytale are skyrocketing "

There's actually nothing wrong with pushing renewables sensibly as long as you have nuclear baseload. What's really screwing the German consumers is (a) too much 'pushing' of renewables. Solar prices are coming down so subsidies and advantages to solar should be reduced accordingly. (b) the nuclear plant closure means baseload capacity has to come 100% from fossil fuels.

Greens cannot have their cake and eat it. they need to choose, fossil fuels or nuclear, they can't have the 'neither' option*. because 'neither' would mean blackouts and 3rd-world standard of living.

*For now at least, and given (non-)advances in other technologies such as fusion, that's going to be the case for a couple hundred years or so.

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This "the possibility of synthesising transport fuel using renewable power is starting to look cost effective" will be one of the most important discoveries ever. Electricity + CO2 + H2O = O2 + fuel

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Re: nuclear is not an option

" In the meantime, instead of grumbling about how nuclear is a danger to future generations, let's find a solution. "

It's funny how a fossil fuel plant doesn't have to prove it isn't a danger to future generations (when we all know it is), yet nuclear plants, though they kill fewer people per kilowatt hour than any other mainstream power generating method (yes, and that includes the crappy old plants when they go wrong), have it all to do.

Surely the solution is to stop being hysterical about nuclear power and see it for what it is: the *only* current method to power our civilisation reliably without having to release vast tonnages of carbon into the atmosphere.

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"Greens cannot have their cake and eat it. they need to choose, fossil fuels or nuclear, they can't have the 'neither' option*. because 'neither' would mean blackouts and 3rd-world standard of living."

That is what some of the more radical environs actually want.

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Mushroom

Re: Dragooned by Greenery

Probably has something to do with being on the front line of a potential nuclear war for 50 years. Also West Berlin served as an incubator for many different ideologies & world views.

I love the Green's. NUKES BAD during cold war era, fair enough if thats your view. Now with rising energy costs, more people to feed (and keep at a higher standard of living) and less resources to do it with nuclear power is now a greener alternative in most of the west.

However 40 odd years of "NUKES BAD" means the Greens will not listen no matter what argument (less co2,price etc) is put forward. Simply put if it ain't renewable they won't back it. Even if renewable means panels, shipped from China, that only produce energy 50% of the time and struggle to pay back the energy cost to make them. Oh and that Chinese energy used to make them? Comes from coal with no scrubbers and not just normal coal i imagine the Chinese still use the crap coal the DDR used to use which is even worse.

Germany could go for Greenpeaces ex-founders solution of wood burning (with replanting behind) but the Greens will protest that despite it being carbon negative (burn 1, plant 2) as you cannot cut tree's down EVER!

I wonder how that Green MP got from Brighton to the fracking site? must of been a long ass bike ride!

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Re: nuclear is not an option

@smartypants

It's not (just) about nuclear proving it is safe. It is about the cost. Dounreay hasn't generated a single KWh since 1977 yet it won't be returned to normal site until 2336 (no, that's not a typo).

If you factor in the full lifetime cost of ownership nuclear is expensive. Your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will be paying for your electricity today.

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Re: nuclear is not an option

"All the better for France..."

and the Poles - they are building a nuclear power station which will be closer to Berlin than the closest German nuclear power station (now closed down, of course). In return for closing down the nuclear power stations and accepting the prospect of higher prices and increased likelihood of power cuts, the Green party promised that everyone could feel safer - try telling that to Berliners now.

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FAIL

The green lobby is frequently either ignorant or conveniently forgets about base-load.

Nuclear is great for base-load whereas Solar and Wind energy are never going to be suitable.

What nuclear and coal or bio-mass fire thermal plants are not good at is responding quickly to peak demand. So it's going to have to be CCGT for this. And the network is going to need nearly as much capacity from these plants as it has from intermittent renewables.. Plants which will spend much of their life idle.

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If this is your game, you'd probably electrolyse water into hydrogen rather than make long-chain hydrocarbons.

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Perhaps we should create a pre-historic reservation where people who believe this can go and live out the rest of their very simply lives without energy?

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Re: Dragooned by Greenery

@Destroy: This is open to more historical analysis but more or less the following happened:

* The green movement in Germany started in force as an antiwar / anti nuclear armament movement. This was in the beginning of the 80's nuclear arms races. Classic German joke at the time: How far are German cities apart? One megaton.

* The antinuclear movement gained momentum because of several nuclear cover ups and highly contagious issues: Nukem in Hanau, reprocessing plant in Bavaria (Wackersdorf) etc.

* In the 90s, measurements for radiation exposure during nuclear transports were covered up.

* There had been several scandals regarding older nuclear plants and the storage facility in Aahaus. One prospective nuclear plant had been planned in an earthquake zone on the Rhine.

In general, it is a vicious circle: Nuclear plants were not shut down due to resistance to the construction of newer plants. These older plants developed problems which were then used as reasons not to build newer and better ones. The nuclear industry did its' share by producing scandals and by being happy to continue to work with the old long depreciated plants, thus increasing profits. Also, many people do not learn enough physics to grasp a basic understanding of nuclear physics.

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Anonymous Coward

There are four nuclear plants in Finland. Why call two of the new is beyond me. The fifth under construction, and one more planned.

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Re: nuclear is not an option

IMHO we (germans) should pass a law forbidding direct or indirect import of power generated by "outlawed" technology (soon nuclear). Granted, that will result in the "winter of dead grandmas" as soon as the "coal generated energy" is also outlawed but that is a small price to pay for getting rid of the Greenies

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Happy

Closing the power plants.

It is time for the operators of the coal fired, gas fired and nuclear power plants to start to shut down. This may cause the price of electricity to increase more but that is the price of progress. Or the government may be required to buy and operate these power plants even at a lose until a method of storing the electricity generated by solar and wind can be developed. Private operators cannot be expected to operate these conventional power generators at a lose so either the government buys them or pays the private companies to operate them more or less on a contract basis. Personally I would prefer for the private operators to get out of the business totally. Let industry (all industry) be operated by the government for the benefit of all. If there is no need to have all the investors to demand a profit then the profit could be used to reduce the tax burden of the citizens of the country. If the trillions of dollars from the private sector was returned to the public health, retirement, and living conditions could be improved for the citizenry of the whole country and at a lower tax rate in addition. There would be no need for unions or strikes because the wages would be guaranteed to each citizen when they come of age.

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@Mike Richards

Very true, but regarding the budget I feel the problem is not with the reality but with an over optimistic original budget and time line. It happens in IT all the time and mostly the feeling is that the original budget was made by good who then fell a sleep and stupid people did not follow his guidelines.

How Areva and Siemens managed to fuck it up I do not know. perhaps they thought Finland is somewhere in Africa with no winter, no regulations, no inspections. no laws and cheap labour. Who knows, they have had problems from the very beginning just trying to build the building. It is the first and most modern plant so far and somehow the "Dreamliner" comes to my mind.

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Childcatcher

Re: Dragooned by Greenery

Germany could go for Greenpeaces ex-founders solution of wood burning (with replanting behind)...

Georgia (the US state, not the nation) is doing just this. They are moving to wood-burning power plants in conjunction with wind in a state that is firmly to the right of political center. It makes financial sense. Whether this would also work for Germany is beyond me, but it can be done.

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Re: nuclear is not an option

@mmeier

A law to prevent the import of electricity generated by whatever means would contravene the Single Market and, therefore, never pass. However, what is increasingly likely is getting consumers to buy from utilities that do not buy, say power from French nuclear plants. This is much the same as labelling food as not being genetically modified.

Of course, there are scandals related to this such as hydro-power generated from water storage pushed uphill by nuclear plants. But, over time, the push-pull effect dumping cheap surplus renewables and refusing to buy surplus nuclear power is likely to have a significant effect on surrounding markets: the build-out of both solar and wind in France in the last couple of years is impressive as EDF realises it has to adapt, it is already buying German solar power in the summer which means it needs to worry less about the problems finding water to cool its nuclear stations.

Now that the row about solar panels has been solved with China we can expect continued expansion especially in the areas suitable for solar South of the river Main. By 2020 we could be looking at regular shutdowns of power stations in the summer months. though we will need more for those cold, dark, calm winter days.

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This "the possibility of synthesising transport fuel using renewable power is starting to look cost effective" will be one of the most important discoveries ever. Electricity + CO2 + H2O = O2 + fuel

Currently, it is not cost-effective because all the power produced by renewables can be sold on the market. Once renewables become competitive enough to have to compete then dealing with any surplus (unsold) production becomes economical. This might well start to happen before 2020 because LPG is likely to remain significantly cheaper than petrol.

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Re: Closing the power plants.

This sounds rather familiar could it be.... Communism !!!??

Well to the tune of the simpsons did it I am going to say the Soviet Unions' done it

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Re: nuclear is not an option

@Clark:

I know. But I would very much like to see the Greenies ANSWER for what they are doing to Germany with their stupid plans and ideology. And such a law would prevent the greenwashing.

What we WILL get around 2025 (at the latest) is a nation where:

Industrie that needs reliable and affordable power has left for states like Sweden/Norway (already happening)

Business that needs reliable power (like data centers) end up "everywhere BUT germany) - also already happening

A "nannycraty" that makes "Demolition Man" look like Utopia - google "Eintopfsonntag"<<<<VeggieDay

A nation that is either the laughing stock of europe since it dances around claiming "we use 100 percent clean energy" while buying (at high prices) from outside OR that faces power rationing, brownouts and in the winters a well above west european rate of elderly people dying.

Actually the latter would be preferable since that might result in the greenies getting Hemp delivered free of charge. But it won't be the THC heavy type of hemp...

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Re: nuclear is not an option

@Monett

The german Greenies ARE a bunch of NIMBYs with some Luddites and Fanatics thrown in for good measures. To see a nice example of green "intelligence" look up "Datteln 4". Short version:

A new plant (D4) was build to replace three older units at the same site. Some laws/rules where not uphold. Now instead of putting a heavy fine on e.on and change the rules (quite possible) the Red/Green government stopped this because the Greenies screamed "evil, evil, evil" So the three older, dirties and less efficient plants are still operating. Originally only until end of 2012 (Decree of the green Ministry of Environment) now with special permits until 2014.

Now comes the yoke: D1/2/3 (and D4 if it ever goes online) produce power for - The german train system!

About 20 percent of the used power. That's why the greenies where willing to "allow a longer operation time", otherwise their beloved trains would have stopped working.

And don't get me started on the "A30 -> A2 link" in Bad Oeynhausen:

"Umweltschutz für jede Schnecke und der Mensch bleibt auf der Strecke"

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Re: nuclear is not an option

"If you factor in the full lifetime cost of ownership nuclear is expensive. Your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will be paying for your electricity today."

Dounreay? You cite Dounreay? Do you really think that the bellweather standard of how cost effective a nuclear plant can be to run and to decommission?

The choice is simple.

1) Fossil fuels, poisoning the atmosphere with climate changing emissions

2) Nuclear

3) Bye bye to power when we need it for the forseeable future.

Those are your three choices. When talking about costs, please DO factor in the cost of continuing to change the composition of the atmosphere, or the cost of returning us to the effing stone age with daily blackouts.

FFS

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Re: Dounreay

Erm... try again. DFR shut down in 1977, but PFR (also at Dounreay and was a 250MWe plant) was shut down by the Tories in 1992 for NO reason at all, apart from they thought it would get them the green vote.

And Dounreay will be decommissioned to an interim end state (all but the sphere and a couple of buildings) by 2025/6. Yes, the sphere and those other buildings will remain for a few hundred years, but they require virtually no maintenance and are not a drain on resources that you seem to imply.

Actually, thinking about it, I'm not sure that the sphere will last even that long before they tear it down.

As to the cost, decommissioning is factored in to every single design these days. And it isn't just "well, in 50 years we'll be able to do THIS!", it is a case of "we can decommission these stations with current techniques and it will cost ££ now and £££ in 50-80 years time." So the price of the leccy that the stations produce ha sthe decommissioning cost factored in. It gets paid to the producer who then puts it into a special decommissioning fund. We used to have one like that run by the government, but Gordon Brown decided that it was a waste to have that money lying there, he spent it instead.

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@Aldous Re: Dragooned by Greenery

Small point, but how does one get to be the ex-founder of an organisation?

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What they want to do is make money, and they will.

Electric demand is inelastic - people just want to turn the lights on, and prices charged are largely a a fixed rate per MWh.

So when you shut down enough thermal plants to supply only 90% of the required power on windless nights, the wholesale cost for power does not merely double, it goes up 10 fold, or more.

California went through this:

"The California electricity crisis, also known as the Western U.S. Energy Crisis of 2000 and 2001, was a situation in which California had a shortage of electricity caused by market manipulations, illegal shutdowns of pipelines by the Texas energy consortium Enron, and capped retail electricity prices. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_electricity_crisis

My guess would be that these companies are playing more honestly than the Americans were, so they will try to contain price hikes to an average of 3x or so.

$0.60+ USD per kWh in Germany is the result.

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Holmes

Re: What they want to do is make money, and they will.

Why are "market manipulations" and "capped retail electricity prices" seen as separate items in that paragraph?

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Re: What they want to do is make money, and they will.

"California went through this"

The snag is, it is not a simple free market in Germany - providers cannot simply pass on wholesale energy price increases to consumers as there are constraints in the maximum price increases that can be applied during a contract.

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Ramp up hydrogen creation

Germany already does this on a smaller scale. They create hydrogen when there is an energy surplus. This hydrogen is mixed in with the gas fed into peoples homes so they use it to cook and heat their homes.

If they just ramp it up, they can use the energy surplus created by the fossil plants for this, keeping them profitable and while they do create pollution they also help reduce the consumption of natural gas, which largely offsets this pollution.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ramp up hydrogen creation

I cant find any information on the efficiency of this system, do you have any details?

It also appears to be very small scale (360kW at the moment) so I don't know if it would scale to the GW level.

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Re: Ramp up hydrogen creation

Please explain how burning coal (or, in Germany, more likely lignite) to generate electricity, to split water, to generate hydrogen, to replace methane as a fuel (which produces a fraction of the CO2 emissions of coal, never mind the other junk that burning coal pushes into the atmosphere) "offsets this pollution".

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Re: Ramp up hydrogen creation

"They create hydrogen when there is an energy surplus. "

Perhaps you'd care to do the calculations? Sadly the end to end efficiency of multiple conversion phases is pitiful, and so renewable hydrogen (using current technologies) is simply irrelevant to grid scale applications. Particularly unhelpful are the energy demands of gas compression and losses on decompression.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Ramp up hydrogen creation

What for? Because natural gas is not already too dangerous, so we add a spritz of hydrogen to make it more explosive?

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Re: Ramp up hydrogen creation

Electrolysis of water and CO2 is currently too expensive to be competitive with gas as gas, but more than competitive with petrol and diesel when sold as LPG because of the difference in tax treatment. Source, in German pp.5 Of course, tax treatment will change quickly if we all start switching to be LPG!

Also, if shale gas takes off in Europe, or even if the Americans get around to exporting it, the calculations will change again. But often, just the existence of other possibilities is enough to drive down prices: such has already been the effect of shale (and Norwegian) gas on long term contracts with Gazprom. These kind of changes are at the core of dispute of the power oligopoly in Germany: new technologies strongly favour smaller, decentralised production but their business models favour large, centralised production. Expect more propaganda from all sides as this rolls on.

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SBU

The answer is obvious...

Start investing in more sustainable green power.

Replace coal/gas fired power stations with HFR geothermal power stations. The construction costs are similar to coal fired power stations. The running costs are lower than any other type of power station. The footprint on the planet is smaller than any other type of power station. The emmisions are near zero. Thier operation does not create waste products. They provide baseload power 24 hours/day. As a green/renewable powersource they get priority on the grid.

Seriously, this is a solved problem, I wish people stop whining like a bitch and just get on with implementing it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The answer is obvious...

HFR - Hot Fractured Rock. I wonder when the protests will begin...

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Re: The answer is obvious...

Whilst it's very good, and very G. It doesn't have the scale required, typically plants are in the tens of MW range rather than the GW required.

There's also fracking involved which appears to be non-G.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The answer is obvious...

Geothermal has it's problems - some of them similar to fracking...

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Re: The answer is obvious...

Geothermal and Germany only share the first two letters. Not much geothermal activities and the last tests at "artificial" geothermals (similar to fracking in the method) where "sub-optimal" to be polite.

Water can do a bit more but try building a dam, a "in river plant" (or even enlarge one) and it's "Greet the Greenie protesters", We had this Müsli recently when an old unit got replaced/enlarged. From the "Luddites" to the "the poor fishies" group all the nuts and flackes where out in force

Hydrogen actually has limits on how much can be added to the CH4 (natural gas) system. So using "green" energy to produce CH4 is a better way. But even that has problems since the pipeline system is not big enough as a storage and the "Greenie special" of the "fast, easily regulated gas fired powerplant" is a myth. Either you burn the stuff in a conventional plant with steam turbines and get basically the same startup times as a coal plant (Heating up the steam is the time consuming part) OR you use what is essentially a gas turbine with all the nice side effects (heat, noise)

Unless someone comes up with a reliable storage that can cover weeks (We had basically six weeks dropout this winter from solar and wind) the classic power plants are needed

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WTF?

Re: The answer is obvious...

Nope, this should be a solved problem, but the Greenies refuse point blank to allow anything other than their current mania. Right now they only want Wind and Solar - everything else is the work of the Devil and Cannot Be Permitted.

The problem is the idiot greenies and BANANAs* who simply aren't interested in solutions, and are intent on shouting down every single attempt at actual solutions because they don't precisely match their fatally flawed preconceptions - flawed because none of them have any idea what "national scale" actually means.

They simply aren't interested in a reasoned discussion of "Here is the problem, what solutions can we afford, how can we move towards the final goal without bankruptcy and death?", they are simply Against. Against what? Well, everything.

The problem of Low-Emissions electricity supply in Europe is relatively easy to solve, if we actually wished to do so. It looks very much like our current mix, just replacing the coal with nuclear. Simples.

Or at least it would be if we'd started building them a few years ago. Now, we're simply utterly screwed.

* Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything

Oh yes, Solar-Electric has no place at all in northern Europe. The Sun doth not shine enough here.

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Re: The answer is obvious...

Yeah - I am sure that German companies like EON, despite all their years of experience in power generation and distribution have failed to asses the profitability (with the subsidies for green projects) of the various types of power generation.

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Re: The answer is obvious...

They built their power plants before the government came up with the notion of feed-in tariffs to encourage green energy production.

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Anonymous Coward

We in Germany have forgotten that most of the world is in a much worse situation than we are. So until we are being reminded we'll squander our resources on stupid things like using solar energy in a country that is mostly cloudy. When the other countries catch up with us, we'll be 3 years behind in the energy domain.

And... the European Community plans to count nuclear energy as green: http://www.focus.de/finanzen/news/subventionen-fuer-akws-eu-bereitet-die-rueckkehr-der-atomkraft-vor_aid_1047880.html.

So with that all countries in Europe except Germany will have nuclear energy.

Some decisions as a state have to be taken without the influence of the folk.

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It will happen here too.

In fact we're already seeing that in the insistence by potential builders of new nuclear plant for guaranteed prices. Renewable fans claim this shows how expensive nuclear is but what it actually shows is the concern in the industry that wind and solar will get to sell any energy they produce by law AND hoover up ROC payments from other plants leaving no profit left for fossil or nuclear plant.

Renewable policy is forcing other power off the grid when renewables aren't capable of picking up the slack.

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Re: It will happen here too.

Renewable policy is forcing other power off the grid when renewables aren't capable of picking up the slack.

Precisely.

Now maybe the power companies could have managed for another year or two under the current circumstances. But given that politicians tend not to react unless there is a crisis, the power companies have chosen to precipitate the crisis now when it won't wreck too much of the economy as opposed to later when it certainly will.

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