Transition from nuclear power to renewables- problems to deal with

There are good reasons for California to phase out nuclear power, Huffington Post, Johann Saathoff,MP German BundestagCoordinator of energy policy for the Social Democratic Party in the German Bundestag  07/22/2016 “……..In Germany the transition to renewable energies is proceeding although there are challenges to overcome. Two thirds of electricity in Germany is currently generated from renewables. We do not expect demand for electricity to fall in the future. Coupling the electricity market sector (including electric mobility) and the heat market will create overcapacity. This will be a good thing and any overcapacity can be put to good use in the electricity market.

One of the greatest obstacles at present to expanding renewables is the failure to expand existing and build new power grids. The energy transition and the decentralised production of electricity involves the need to adapt the entire power supply system in Germany and renew large parts. Up to now power stations have been located in the vicinity of the major power consumers; in future power stations will be much smaller and distributed throughout the country. They will also not supply electricity on a continuous basis. Sector coupling between the electricity market, heat market and mobility means that fewer networks have to be built since part of the electricity can be consumed locally.

It is important to ensure, however, that security of supply is guaranteed as the production of renewable energy increases. There is therefore a need for an intelligent grid with intelligent, i.e. controllable, electricity meters at least for the big energy consumers. Up to now the production of electricity has been geared to consumption. In the new energy world it will be possible to adjust the consumption curve to the production curve. It will be possible, as an example, for cold stores to be cooled down further at times when there is too much power in the grid. They will not then need any power if a few hours later there is too little power in the grid. For the operator of the cold store there will be a commercial incentive in the form of lower prices if he adjusts the way he runs his cold store to comply with the electricity market.

The cold store would thus function as a type of energy store. This, along with other storage systems such as pumped hydroelectric and compressed air energy storage, chemical storage and power-to-gas and power-to-heat plants, will become increasingly important with the growth of renewable energy and in the context of supply security. In the transitional phase, security of supply can be ensured locally by small modular gas power stations.

In Germany there is a broad consensus in society in favour of the phasing out of nuclear power by 2022. The reasons for phasing out nuclear power for us are the same as in California and elsewhere: the lack of a solution regarding the storage of nuclear waste, environmental damage and the risk of accidents. The danger of an accident comes from human error in operating the plant, a lack of maintenance and wear. In the past there was also a failure to properly appreciate the danger of terrorist attacks. These dangers apply to the plant itself, to the energy supply for the region in question and to the nation as a whole. Phasing out nuclear power and changing over to decentralised renewable energy removes a central target of attack from potential aggressors. Thus the energy transition also contributes to national security.

There may be a consensus within society in favour of the energy transition and the resulting structural changes that are required, but the state needs to be proactive in the process in order to ensure that this consensus is maintained. This means that people employed up to now in the nuclear sector must be given prospects for the future and those regions which have benefitted in economic terms up to now from nuclear power stations must be shown other options for economic development. One way would be to provide incentives in these regions for building production facilities for storage systems, cabling, wind farms or parts thereof.

One possibility for ensuring people’s support for the energy transition is to encourage them to be actively involved in citizens’ energy companies. This means they have a direct stake in the commercial success of the energy transition. In addition or perhaps alternatively the local authorities as the real agencies responsible for providing public services and representatives of local citizens, should hold large stakes in these energy companies. In this way all citizens participate in the energy transition, not just those who can afford to invest…..


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