According to German Greens: “Wind Turbines in Europe do Nothing for Emissions-Reduction Goals »
A summary of an article published by the SPIEGEL ONLINE
The German weekly Der Spiegel is a specialist of inside information and confidential discussions within established institutions. In its February 10, 2009 article (1), it reveals confidential questioning within the “Grünen”. The conclusion: “Despite Europe’s boom in solar and wind energy, CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram.” Thus, the 15 % of renewable electricity claimed by Germany “have only allowed Europe to pollute more”.
The reason: the European trade market of emission permits (ETS). Each time an additional wind turbine is commissioned and produces electricity, the production of a German fossil plant is reduced; but this plant owns an emission credit which can be sold on the trading market, most often in Eastern Europe to a less efficient and more polluting plant! According to an exchange of e-mails between two energy experts of the Green party, revealed by Der Spiegel, “Dear Daniel, sorry, but the law (EEG) on Renewable Energy will have no influence on the climate change, anyway”.
According to the Greens, the ETS carries no incentive, since it operates with a given emission objective: the contribution of a zero-emission facility doesn’t modify the quantity of emission permits, and therefore has no influence on the effective emissions. And this reasoning, obviously valid for wind and solar plants, also applies to hydro and nuclear plants. The German Greens propose to withdraw emission permits from the market each time a new wind turbine or solar plant is commissioned; this, of course, meets strong opposition from the large utilities which have been granted those permits.
In fact, the commissioning of new, zero-emission plants even has a detrimental consequence: a decrease in the price of emission permits, due to the increase in the number of available permits. According to the Greens, this is the cause of the collapse of the price of the emission permits (10,15 €/t in early February) when the experts expected a market price higher than 40 €/t.
Der Spiegel quotes the conclusions of a study ordered to MacKinsey by the German Renewable Energy Federation: in Germany, avoiding one ton of CO2 with wind turbines costs more than 50 € (notwithstanding the above detrimental effect); and somewhere between 300 and 500 € with solar plants: the Greens cited by Der Spiegel conclude: “Do the Greens think that this problem (of climate change) will solve itself if we just screw solar panels onto out rooftops?”. According to this study, the cheapest way to reduce CO2 emissions is building renovations, which may even in some cases be profitable.
“Save The Climate” (SLC) view with some satisfaction that the German Greens are coming closer to their own views:
- The Greens seem at last to recognize the need for a rational approach in order to limit CO2 emissions; this has been the constant position of SLC (2,3)
- And their evaluations of the cost per ton of the CO2 avoided by wind turbines or solar panels, although overly optimistic, are more than twice those of the impact study of the “Grenelle de l’Environnement” (4).