German Physical Society: New Study on Future Energy Supply Challenges

Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (German Physical Society – DPG) presented a new study on challenges the future energy supply in Germany is facing, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) writes. The study reportedly concludes inter alia that CCPP technology does not live up to expectations.

In view of the efforts to limit global warming to below 2° C and a rising electricity demand, DPG believes that energy in Germany will still be provided by fossil fuels, nuclear energy and renewables for at least the next two decades to come, with varying contributions of each of these energy forms. Nuclear power is considered not yet dispensable for the energy supply as it provided 23% of the energy consumption and half of the baseload power, Wolfgang Sander, chairman of DPG said. Besides, nuclear power plants could react quickly to demand fluctuations caused by the intermittency of wind and solar power.

While nuclear power is being expanded in other countries, the studies examines the challenges for the energy supply in Germany based on the current legal framework whereupon the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) stipulates a phase-out of nuclear energy. Please note that in its coalition agreement, the ruling CDU, CSU and FDP government declared that it wanted to negotiate an extension of the operating time of the 17 German nuclear power plants and is currently in the process of doing so. Chancellor Angela Merkel invited the head of the four major utilities for nuclear talks.

In a phase-out scenario, DPG says, nuclear power could only be replaced by fossil power plants. Hence, CO2 emissions had to be greatly reduced in order to meet the climate targets. This would only be possible with CCS technology (carbon capture and storage). While carbon capture posed no technological problems, carbon storage was a different matter. It was not yet foreseeable whether CO2 could be stored in way that ensured it was not emitted.

Until the middle of the century, nuclear fusion might be well developed enough to provide another option alongside renewables to generate CO2 free energy, Mr Sander says.

Among the renewables, DPG calls wind power the most promising energy, whereas DPG experts are skeptical about solar power in Germany due to the low sunshine duration. At any rate, wind and solar power require efficient energy storage facilities and low-loss grids.

It is important to recognize that the expansion of renewable energy created a complex system with regard to generation, demand and storage, Mr Sander stressed. The wrong conclusions could easily be drawn, he added, pointing to the combined heat and power plant technology (CHP). DGP found that the overall energy consumption for CHP could be higher than for a separate generation of heat and power, despite the fact that the fuel utilization (Brennstoffausnutzung) was less efficient.

According to FAZ, the DPG study does not want to make recommendations, but DPG hoped that politicians would draw the right conclusions.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 23 June 2010, page 7

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