Thursday, March 9, 2023

Electricity Gaps - What Happens When Peak Electricity Demand Exceeds Supply?

The global plutocracy is most insistent that the only solution to their global climate change crisis is to switch the world to green electricity, more or less completely weaning the organ donor class from electricity generated by less acceptable means including fossil fuels and nuclear.  While, as is typical, this appears to be a marvellous solution, in fact, reality is clearly showing that this idea is far from workable.


Electricity demand in Germany is expected to grow over the coming years through the increased use of both heat pumps and electric vehicles.  In the case of heat pumps, the Germany government wants 500,000 heat pumps installed annually between 2024 and 2030 which would result in a total of 6 million heat pumps in the nation.  The German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) has forecast energy demand of 700 TWh in 2030 to meet the needs of 14 million electric vehicles, 15 GW or electrolyzer capacity using 30 TWh and the aforementioned 6 million heat pumps.  


A recent German language McKinsey & Company press release looks at the security of supply of electricity in Germany.  As it stood at the end of 2020, Germany's electricity generation mix stands as follows:


1.) coal 148 TWh (26%)

2.) wind 131 TWh (23%)

3.) natural gas 99.6 TWh (17%)

4.) nuclear 64.4 TWh (11%)

5.) biofuels & waste 57.2 TWh (10%)

6.) solar 50.6 TWh (9%)

7.) hydro 24.9 TWh (4%)

8.) oil 4.9 TWh (1%)


Generation capacity which totals 234 GWe at the end of 2020 was as follows:


1.) wind - 62.2 GWe

2.) solar - 53.7 GWe

3.) coal - 51.3 GWe

4.) natural gas - 32.8 GWe

5.) hydro - 10.8 GWe

6.) nuclear - 8.1 GWe

7.) oil - 3.6 GWe

8.) other - 11.2 GWe


If you have ever flown over any part of Germany, it is shocking to see the ubiquitous use of solar panels on the roofs of residential buildings but it is important to keep in mind that a substantial portion of Germany's energy mix is sourced from solar and wind which comprises one-third of production from nearly half of total generating capacity.  Germany's switch to renewables has helped the nation increase its total capacity by nearly 140 percent since 1990 but has only increased total production by 11 percent, thanks to the intermittent nature of both solar and wind generation. 


This McKinsey study is particularly pertinent given Germany's self-imposed mandate to phase out the use of nuclear power by the end of 2022 which was reset to mid-April 2023 to offset the reduced gas supplies from Russia.  Here is some background information on nuclear power in Germany:


"Germany, until March 2011, obtained one-quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy, using 17 reactors. Just three reactors remain in operation as of October 2022, providing about 6% of the country’s electricity, whilst over one-quarter of its electricity comes from coal, the majority of that from lignite.

A coalition government formed after the 1998 federal elections had the phasing out of nuclear energy as a feature of its policy. With a new government in 2009, the phase-out was cancelled, but then reintroduced in 2011. Eight reactors were shut down immediately, and all were scheduled to close by the end of 2022.

In October 2022, the Chancellor decided that Germany’s three remaining nuclear power reactors would keep operating until mid-April 2023 to offset reduced gas supply from Russia. 

Germany has some of the lowest wholesale electricity prices in Europe and some of the highest retail prices, due to its energy policies. Taxes and surcharges account for more than half the domestic electricity price."

Here are the three remaining reactors operating in Germany, down from 17 nuclear power reactors at the beginning of 2011:



Let's look at some information from the McKinsey report:


1.) Peak load will rise to 120 GW in 2030.  Peak load can exceed currently available capacity by 4 GW in 2025 and 30 GW in 2030.


2.) The phase-out of available power at peak load times decreases from 99 GW to 90 GW in 2030 due to the plans to phase out nuclear and fossil fuel generation.


3.) This means that peak load can exceed currently available capacity by 30 GW in 2030.  Additionally, peak load will exceed available capacity by 4 GW in 2025.  To put this into perspective, the 30 GW electricity gap corresponds to roughly 30 large thermal power plants.


4.) Levers on the supply side including a massive expansion of renewable generating sources are not sufficient if new natural gas-fired power plants are not built and the temporary continued operation of coal-fired plants isn't undertaken.

Let's repeat the key finding of the report:

Peak load is projected to exceed available generating capacity by 30 GW in 2030.  This is termed the "electricity gap" where peak electricity demand exceeds peak electricity supply 


The McKinsey analysis suggests the following potential solutions to the 30 GW electricity gap:


1.) if there is insufficient domestic electricity generation, Germany will be forced to rely on imports.  Currently, the maximum possible hourly import volume was 24 GW and is projected to rise to 35 GW by 2030.  To put this into perspective, in 2022, the highest imported volume was 12 GW.  It is likely that imports could fill 10 GW of the 30 GW shortfall resulting in a 20 GW shortfall.


2.) battery storage could be used as a short-term solution to filling the electricity gap.  By 2030, it would be possible to develop the capacity to store 10 GW of electricity in 8 GW decentralized photovoltaic battery storage systems and 2 GW in large storage batteries, reducing the shortfall to 10 GW.


3.) construction of new natural gas-fired power plants.  Unfortunately, at most, there are only 3 GW of gas-fired plants planned and under construction by 2025.  One of the issues facing gas-fired generation is whether the plants will be able to run on hydrogen and whether cheap hydrogen can be procured.  This means that there is still a shortfall of 10 GW since the nation cannot count on gas-fired generation.


Certainly, at least some of the current coal-fired plants could remain in operation longer than currently planned however, this scenario seems politically unlikely.


The McKinsey analysis recommends that demand control could be used to close the electricity gap as follows:


1.) Electric vehicles:  drivers of EVs could charge with smart charging when electricity supplies are greater than demand.  Bidirectional charging of batteries could also be utilized, giving EV owners the option of feeding energy from their vehicles back into the grid.  Currently, only a fraction of vehicles have this capability and the authors assume that only 25 percent of vehicles will be regularly available for electricity feed-in by 2030.


2.) Heat pumps: heat pumps could be switched off remotely during periods of peak load, however, by law, this can only take place for a maximum of two hours and only if the electricity if obtained by means of a favourable heat pump tariff (i.e. lower priced, subsidized tariff)


In both cases, it is technologically possible for governments and electrical utilities to create a scenario where electricity is rationed to customers to ensure that the electricity gap does not occur, a rather frightening possibility but one that is already taking place in South Africa as shown here where Eskom is "load shedding" in a desperate move to ensure that the electrical infrastructure does not completely fail:

I believe that is sufficient to get the point of this posting across to my readers.  As you can see in this posting (and other postings that I have provided previously), while the concept of a fossil fuel-free, renewables sourced electricity-based future seems idyllic, delivering on the promise of a utopian, greenhouse gas-free future is far from certain and, to be truthful, highly unlikely given the finite amount of electricity that grids will be able to deliver.  Most importantly, we should all be asking ourselves whether we really want to grant the power to turn off our electricity to the ruling class in the name of "protecting Mother Earth" given that such powers could easily be part of a future social credit score system.

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