Wind energy fairytale
Written by Harry van Gelder, De Telegraaf, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 18 October 2014 Translated by Hans Schreuder
The [Dutch] Energy Deal is going to cost the Dutch citizen at least 53 billion euros, without any benefit for the environment. “This is more than the high-speed rail link, the North/South rail line, the Betuwe rail line and the JSF [Joint Strike Force] together,” according to physicist Fred Udo, who amongst others works for the prestigious CERN in Geneva.
According to a number of renowned scientists the fairytale of wind energy will be an onslaught on the buying power of every Dutchman. They’re thinking of at least 500 euro per household per year. “This is the greatest waste of community money ever,” says Pieter Lukkes, Emeritus Professor Economic Geography.
Udo and Lukkes are speaking on behalf of scientists like Kees de Groot, ex-director of the Shell Laboratory Rijswijk, physicist Kees Lepair, economist Hans Labohm, energy researcher Theo Wolters and the Emeritus Professors Frans Sluijter and Ad Verkooijen.
The CPB [Central Planning Bureau] last week announced that the billions to be spent on the Energy Deal will hardly be beneficial for the environment, due to the trade in CO2 rights. Should the emissions of CO2 drops in The Netherlands, then, for instance, Poland (cheaply) buys those CO2 rights and lets its coal-fired power stations there run at full speed.
In Germany, for years the front-runner and light-bearer for the green energy industry, there has been no environmental benefit worth mentioning. Despite the tens of billions [of euros] invested in green electricity, the emissions of CO2 have increased in the past years due to clean nuclear power generators being replaced by wind farms that, during periods of no wind, have necessitated back-up from dirty fossil fuel powered generators. Brown-coal power generators are turning at full speed again. Last year in fact the energy output from those heavily polluting generators was back to 1990 levels.
Prominent German scientists have had enough. This Spring they pleaded for a halt to the billions-usurping “Energewende” [energy-switch], the switch-over from fossil-fuel-powered electricity to wind and solar energy. Costs are rising out of control and deliver hardly any technical innovations or environmental benefits, in the opinion of the commission that was formed by the Chancellor Angela Merkel herself.
The Chancellor did not flinch however. Instead of embracing the report she heavily criticised her own research commission. Just like [Dutch] Minister Kamp (Economic Affairs) did last week with the publication of the barely-positive CPB report.
“Since the turn of the century, under the direction of environmental groups, an enormous publicity campaign has been presented to give the impression that the world will be better off with green energy. Since then politicians are no longer persuaded by any argument to stop it”, says Emeritus Professor Lukkes.
In the meantime the Germans are complaining bitterly. Last year they paid 20.2 billion euro for green energy, while that energy was only worth 2 billion on the energy market. German businesses like BASF, Daimler and BMW are already investing more in the USA than in Germany because the energy costs there are half compared to their own country.
It won’t come to that in The Netherlands. The many billions in subsidies are collected from the public and middle and small businesses. Big companies do not have to pay that tax.
The Cabinet, in negotiating the Energy Deal with employers, employees and environmental organisations, agreed that by 2023 sixteen percent of Dutch energy must be sustainable. To reach that goal, gigantic wind turbine parks must be built.
Turbines at sea will have to deliver 4,450 megawatt (MW), currently 1,000 MW. On shore turbines must deliver 6,000 MW, currently 2,700. That means an extra 1,150 wind turbines on land. Before the end of the year provinces must indicate where they will be installed. Affected communities often protest strongly against the impact on their local environment.
“Wind energy can only succeed if it is heavily subsidised”, says Lukkes. “The subsidy is a perverse stimulant. A kilowatt-hour on the market costs about 5 eurocent. But Kamp guarantees the wind turbine parks a price of about 17 eurocents. The difference, 12 eurocents, is paid for by the taxpayer.
The subsidy stream starts when the turbines are turning. According to the sector, that is already from 2019. But the scientists are not so sure. The sea wind park Barth1, the German show model, is already a year behind schedule due to unforeseen and complex technical problems related to bringing the energy ashore.
Minister Kamp maintains that, by hook or by crook, the expenditure will not exceed 18 billion [euro] of taxpayers money. And that will only happen if costs decrease by 40 percent, says the minister.
“That 40 percent reduction Kamp easily achieves on paper. The minister has removed the connection of the wind parks to the power network in order to achieve the budget. Power network manager TenneT now has to provide the “plug socket” at sea. That means a difference of 20 percent in the cost price. TenneT is of course going to recoup this from the customer. The minister gets a bargain, but not the customer”, says physicist Fred Udo.
Kamp is banking on a higher energy price in 2017 and thus with a lower subsidy. Because he will supplement the market price up to 17 [euro] cent per kilowatt hour. The scientists do not believe in a price increase. This is partly due to the nature of wind energy. Electricity can not be stored in bulk. If the wind blows here, than it blows everywhere, including by our eastern neighbours. In the near future, due to the large number of wind turbines, there will often be an electricity surplus. Already now the Germans regularly have a surplus of wind energy which they deliver to us for next to nothing. The energy profits of the wind parks will thus remain low, according to the scientists. This makes them think that the actual subsidy for sea-based wind turbine parks will not be 18 billion but 30 billion.
Schiermonnikoog [one of the Dutch islands]
Besides, in that 18 billion of minister Kamp, there is no subsidy for the existing and planned parks, such as the Gemini park, being built north of Schiermonnikoog. For Gemini alone a subsidy of 4.5 billion is reserved. Together with the 3 billion subsidy for the existing parks that means the counter stands at 37.5 billion. For the wind subsidy on land a further 15 billion has to be added, reckons Udo.
Thus far the hard figures.
But we’re not there yet. The costs of high voltage cables on land to transport the electricity and the modifications to the distribution centres can not be calculated by the scientists because there are no published numbers. “If I can make a guess, I’d say 7 billion on top of the already 53 billion”, says Udo.
And even then the sums are not complete. The old fossil-fuel powered stations must remain on stand-by, else the electricity supply will fail when the wind does not blow. Due to the subsidised green energy the energy companies are often running at a loss.
The business paper The Economist calculated that in 2013 the largest of Europe’s energy companies have lost around 500 billion in market value compared with 2008. Who pays for the upkeep of loss-making fossil fuel generators? Chance is that will also be born by the taxpayer. The large companies have already been pressing Brussels for a subsidy because they can not keep all of their generators running. [The German province of] Beieren has already purchased a gas electricity generator.
Finally, the government has been generous with discounts.
Until recently, companies and individuals received a tax discount for their investment in green energy. Top bankers like former ABN top man Rijkman Groenink made good money from it.
“Heavily subsidised changes will of course never work. What happens for instance if after fifteen years the wind turbines are broken and the subsidy stops? Does the whole circus start again?” says Lukkes.
According to the scientists the proposed environmental benefits can also be achieved through a sixteen percent energy saving. That is just 1.6 percent per year, they say. They also say that we should have more confidence in technological renewal. “Why should you tie yourself down with billions until 2023?” says Lukkes. “The last years has seen many environmental benefits. Why don’t we concentrate on those?!”