Skip to main content

This is a pretty good indication of how our energy debate in America is driven by oil, gas, and coal public relations bullshit not reality.

While our government has been licking around the edges of alternative energy and politely nodding when oil company execs tell us it's not cost competitive yet, Germany has jumped into it in a big way.
The result?

The peak price of electricity over the course of a day dropped 40%, and 25% of their gas generators may be closed.

Why are we still talking about deep water drilling and pipelines for tar sand and shale oil, which are a half step above turning coal into gasoline?

Because only big money can drill oil or turn asphalt into usable fuel, so they can control the supply and therefore price. Once PV's are in place, it's a hell of a lot harder to explain price fluctuations when the ''fuel,'' the sun rays, are constant.

Obama is doing more on this than past presidents, but we need to catch up to Germany, and the sooner we do, the less of a stranglehold big oil will have on our economy and foreign policy, and the harder it will be for power companies to blackmail us for billions and even turn out the lights as they did here in California at the beginning of the Bush administration.

We need to demand that our government get out in front, not just in research and demonstration projects, but in getting these kinds of power plants online and displacing fossil fuel NOW.

Tell the White House and your corrupt Congress critters to build it fast and build it NOW.


The first graph illustrates what a typical day on the electricity market in Germany looked like in March four years ago; the second illustrates what is happening now, with 25GW of solar PV installed across the country. Essentially, it means that solar PV is not just licking the cream off the profits of the fossil fuel generators — as happens in Australia with a more modest rollout of PV — it is in fact eating their entire cake.

Deutsche Bank solar analyst Vishal Shah noted in a report last month that EPEX data was showing solar PV was cutting peak electricity prices by up to 40%, a situation that utilities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe were finding intolerable. “With Germany adopting a drastic cut, we expect major utilities in other European countries to push for similar cuts as well,” Shah noted.

 Analysts elsewhere said one quarter of Germany’s gas-fired capacity may be closed, because of the impact of surging solar and wind capacity. Enel, the biggest utility in Italy, which had the most solar PV installed in 2011, highlighted its exposure toreduced peaking prices when it said that a €5/MWh fall in average wholesale prices would translate into a one-third slump in earnings from the generation division.



Can & should we expand our use of solar to catch up with Germany?

4%6 votes
15%20 votes
23%31 votes
56%75 votes
0%1 votes

| 133 votes | Vote | Results

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  This Should Probably Be Addressed Thru the (5+ / 0-)

    non-fossil-fuel market and its rich owners, like the rest of the climate change issue. Government can't pass progressive legislation at any foreseeable time.

    There's probably not much the market would do for home rooftop solar but there may be programs for businesses that it could create and expand. It'd be a start, and it'd help with driving down costs.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 12:27:37 PM PDT

  •  They've been building solar plants for decades. (10+ / 0-)

    It will take us decades to catch up, so we need to start NOW.

    This is what pisses me off about American society right now. Everybody is out for instant gratifcation.

    Investors, politicians, almost everyone. I'm even guilty of this.

    No one is interested in making stable, intelligent, long-term investments anymore.

    An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail.

    by OllieGarkey on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 12:30:19 PM PDT

  •  That is very dramatic. I wonder what percentage (9+ / 0-)

    of total power consumed, that the 25GW of installed solar panels generate?

    In general, a small additional supply can have a big effect on pricing when it comes to a market with relatively inflexible demand.

  •  Awesome diary, PS. (7+ / 0-)

    I was quite frankly surprised when I read the info above.  
    I knew that Germany had decided to 'go solar' in a big way.  Was waiting to see what the news, if any, would come out of that.
    I believe that the plan is to make Germany almost, or completely solar by a certain date.  Homes would have rooftop solar panels, and businesses would be run by solar.

    What good news, no wonder we aren't hearing about it.

  •  Good news.... (5+ / 0-)

    I hope this gets some press...

    I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

    by beemerr90s on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 12:39:20 PM PDT

  •  we are only stupiderly if we let our (5+ / 0-)

    politicians off the hook. Pity the Tea Buggerers are already running interference for them.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 12:46:16 PM PDT

  •  Here's a great video to go along your (8+ / 0-)

    diary, and supports your main point. The website it's on is very interesting, too, and nicely done with fun, colorful and educationsl graphics:

    „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

    by translatorpro on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 01:02:38 PM PDT

  •  The price of oil and coal is going to go higher (8+ / 0-)

    and the price of solar is going to go lower. That has been a consistent trend for a long time and there is no reason for it to stop. When the price lines cross some time in the next few years there will be a tremendous economic and political conflict which solar will win. The fossil fuel interests are trying to prolong that as long as possible, but they will fail.

    •  it sounds like it already has crossed the line (4+ / 0-)

      in Germany.

      Isn't 99% of the cost of solar just manufacturing and installing it?

      After that, there's no fuel, it just cost whatever it takes to pay  someone to hose the dust off and check the connection every once in a while.

      Once enough people figure that out, it's over for fossil fuels.

      Are you the Andrew Cockburn who wrote THE THREAT?

      I mention that book in my college classes all the time to illustrate the distance between reality and propaganda.

      I read it when I did my first research paper as a college student in 1984.  It was 180 degrees different from what was in the press and on the TV news, but by the end of the decade, that analysis turned out to be 100% accurate and all the mainstream experts were wrong--but still got to keep their jobs for some reason.

      •  I couldn't help noticing the name, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Andrew F Cockburn

        as well.  Are you Andrew Cockburn from Counter Punch?

         A very, very good web site that I read each and every day.

      •  I have heard a prediction that it will cross (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FarWestGirl, translatorpro

        the line in Arizona in the next year. It will take a few more years for the rest of the country.

        In rural India it has apparently already crossed the line. They don't have the transmission infrastructure, so point of use power generation has a big advantage. Villagers are buying cell phones with solar chargers.

        It crossed the line with highway signs years ago. Did you ever notice that all construction signs and most other lighted signs on highways in the countryside are solar powered?

        My guess is that this will sneak up on the elite. People out in the boondocks are going to be the first adopters because of the unreliability of the power system there. The chattering class in New York City is still going to be writing it off when three quarters of the country has gone solar because their power still comes from a big plant.

  •  Can someone explain how the German electric (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, Woody, Cliss, translatorpro

    power market handles PV cost basis?  Are there feed-in tariffs? Also, the futures projections out to 2015 indicate rising prices, at least according to this:

    Power generation revenue margins for German power produced from gas (clean spark spreads) should drop to break-even level by 2015 from an estimated 3 euros/MWh average in 2012 while those from coal (clean dark spreads) could rise to 11 euros/MWh by 2015 from 2 euros in 2012, DBR predicted.

    Its main argument was that gas prices would rise and coal prices fall in the world market, helping the relative economic case for coal burning.

    "Germany last year shut 8 old nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima crisis and installed a strategy promoting the rapid expansion of renewable power.

    DBR said Germany would thus turn into a net importer of 9 terawatt hours (TWh) of power from 2012 onwards compared with its net exports of 14 TWh in 2010, pre-Fukushima.

    This also compared with an already reduced 6 TWh of net exports in 2011 recorded by industry statistics group AGEB.

    It said its assumptions could change if the EU decided on intervention in favour of the CO2 price, the euro zone crisis turned out more dramatically than expected and thus the recession in the region turned out deeper than assumed."

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 01:14:18 PM PDT

  •  ProfessorS - what do they do on rainy days? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 01:17:31 PM PDT

    •  Is this a serious question? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, Jim P, Woody, Wee Mama, Russgirl

      If it is, let me answer with another question: Do you think that a country famous for engineering excellence, that makes BMWs and Mercedes and isn't exactly known for its balmy weather and palm trees hasn't figured that out? Hmm, they are now producing over 20% of their energy with renewables...

      This development has just started, but with 24.5 GW of PV solar capacity installed on more than 1 million roofs in Germany, the first signs of this new industrial revolution can already be observed.
      For example, even during the dark & windy winter month of January, PV solar produced up to 7 GW or 10% of peak-load demand in Germany.
      When a deadly cold wave brought the fossil- and nuclear-dominated energy system of France close to collapse, German PV solar kept many gas- and oil-fired power plants offline, which significantly lowered the spot-prices at the European Energy Exchange.
      Source: Clean Technica (

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 01:38:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  translatorpro - you can't store electric power (4+ / 0-)

        So while in Jan & Feb solar produced UP TO 7GW there were days when I expect that it provided nearly nothing. That is why they have backup gas fired generation. Solar is not a 24/7/365 source of electric power. I am a huge fan of solar and made my first investment in the seed round of SunPower (now the largest US solar panel company) in 1988. I am currently working on a true utility scale power storage technology so I don't ask my rainy day question in jest. I am somewhat familiar with the solar industry in Europe and the solar panels there are just like those in the US, when it rains they produce little or no energy. I commend the Germans for their use of solar, but at this point in the technology life cycle it cannot be the major source of electric power.

        The statement in the title is an oversimplification, there is a hydo method for storing utility scale electric power but it takes some unique topography to make it work.  

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 02:02:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not a scientist, but started getting (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Russgirl, VClib, Cliss, FarWestGirl

          involved in this topic to be able to rebut a lot of the nonsense I was reading about Germany's energy policy last year (after the conservative Merkel government decided to REVERT to the renewables policy that had been introduced back in 2000). I'm an expat living here, so I know a lot about the politics, structures, culture and mentality, but I don't try to discuss the science. What I can tell you is that the Germans are certainly aware that solar will never be a major part of their strategy for the simple physical reasons mentioned above. It is part of a package. What they are doing, though, is maximizing what CAN be achieved at those latitudes, which is private homeowners and small businesses putting solar on their roofs to cover their own needs, and what is left over gets sold back to the grid.  If you are interested in a more in-depth discussion about Germany's vision for their energy future, I would recommend this thread which does contain a discussion about storage, among other things:

          At the following 2 links you can get loads of information through the downloads available at the right

          I also embedded a fun video on solar energy in Germany which contains real numbers for you (you have to be able to read fast, though...) somewhat upthread:

          „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

          by translatorpro on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 02:40:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  it doesn't have to do it by itself (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            you can use "dirty" energy for lulls in solar & wind or when more is needed than renewables can produce.

            Any reduction in the use of fossil fuels is a plus though, and as I mentioned in the OP, significant use of sources like this will reduce the political and economic clout of the oil companies.

            •  That's what they do now. (0+ / 0-)

              Renewables have first priority in the German grid, the utilities are obligated by law to draw on the renewables-generated power first. Naturally, the big utility companies are not happy about it, because they missed the boat when the Renewable Energy Act of 2000 was made law. They are still  fighting it tooth and nail, natch. In the recent, very unusual sub-zero Siberian weather we were having in Europe, 2 or 3 cold power reserve plants (coal, I believe) were fired up at the very end (last day or 2) of the 2 1/2 week snap, but only intermittently as needed. Eventually the plan is to use gas for this - as seldom as possible - since they are much faster to shut on and off again, i.e. much more flexible. The ultimate goal is to not use fossil fuels at all as soon as possible. The only energy resource Germany has in abundance is lignite, which they use, too, but not a large percentage, and a main motivation for their rapid development of renewables is energy independence. And no nukes at all, of course. A recent survey showed that 90% of the German population doesn't want nuclear power!

              „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

              by translatorpro on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 10:50:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  That's the spot price, not the average cost. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Knarf

    End users do not buy electricity on the spot market.

    Adding a ton of spot capacity in the form of solar panels connected to the grid should indeed lower spot prices.  Adding any form of spot capacity would have the same effect.

    If you look at end-user prices here prices have gone up dramatically in recent years, from 0.069 EUR/kWh in 2001 to 0.09 EUR/kWh in 2011.

  •  Our Entire Economy is Based Upon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Dead Plants


  •  A Couple (or Three) Things... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cliss, FarWestGirl

    Firstly the continental US is far better suited to solar generation than Germany.  What works there will work far better here assuming a smart HVDC grid in place. Secondly there are numerous potential workable means for off peak storage such as underground compressed air. Thirdly there is one considerable advantage to having waited to build solar infrastructure which is the technology is still in the steep part of its development curve, meaning investments made too early will likely result in obsolete tech in place. What make sense now is building the HVDC grid to have in place, that's mature technology that will pay almost immediate benefits.

    Waiting for the private sector to build this infrastructure though would be foolish. Businesses will probably never make the required long term investments, particularly given the profitability of the status quo.  This is, or should be, good news- publicly owned generating, storage and distribution infrastructure a la BPA/TVA will deliver all the upside with far less of the downsides of a private sector system.  The government could subcontract aspects the design and construction of the infrastructure to the private sector but to see the maximum potential benefits the infrastructure itself must be publicly owned. Once the price points for solar generated crossover the rising curve for fossil, we the people own our own renewable power system and the private energy companies are facing an inexorably declining market share.  

    Advisors for President-Elect Barack Obama feared the new administration would face a coup if it prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a new report out this morning.

    by Kurt Sperry on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 02:25:49 PM PDT

    •  wouldn't ''obsolete'' tech still be better than (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cliss, FarWestGirl

      fossil fuels?

      I could never understand all the fuss about efficiency with solar, especially for large scale generation since we have more than enough open space in the Southwest and mountain states to spread out more cells to make up for less efficiency.

      I could see efficiency mattering if you wanted to put them on the roof of your car, house, or cell phone, but that's about it.

      •  Good Point (0+ / 0-)

        Efficiency is too broad a term.  A new PV cell that is 2% or even 10% more efficient but costs three times as much is probably a bad investment.  But a new PV cell that is three times more efficient and costs half as much would in fact obsolete existing hardware insofar as it would represent a lost opportunity cost for all investment in hardware installed prior. Once we see the development curve leveling off as all the low hanging fruit is picked there'll probably be little danger of that sort of breakthrough though. Mirror arrays will never be very obsolete as long as you have an efficient way to use the higher energy density they create so that would be another good place to initiate significant investment besides the HVDC grid.

        Advisors for President-Elect Barack Obama feared the new administration would face a coup if it prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a new report out this morning.

        by Kurt Sperry on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 05:49:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nobody can meter the sun, as they say... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    “The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” — Marcus Aurelius

    by LamontCranston on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 04:19:36 PM PDT

  •  If Europe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    wants to be significantly solar powered they'll probably have to set up solar farms in Saharan Africa and somehow carry the energy across the Mediterranean.  We in the US have the desert SW within our own sovereign borders with massive solar development potential.  If we are smart we can put competitive distance between us and most of the industrialized world and at the same time hugely cut our GG emissions.  The US could quite conceivably undergo a genuine long term economic renaissance by this route but expect massive political opposition to any attempt as the status quo remains staggeringly profitable and a renewable public energy infrastructure, while of enormous potential global benefit to the country, would cost trillions and negatively impact some of the richest and most influential political interests we have.  

    Advisors for President-Elect Barack Obama feared the new administration would face a coup if it prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a new report out this morning.

    by Kurt Sperry on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 06:10:35 PM PDT

    •  This is happening. (0+ / 0-)

      I really think lots of Americans (of which I am one, too) underestimate how far along in development technology is in Europe. I often get the feeling the US is stuck back in the post-war (WWII) thinking about Europe and views the inhabitants of this continent as somewhat backward cousins. You guys should get out more! :-D

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 10:59:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One problem with renewables (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is the business model is fundamentally different than fossil fuels, requiring (so far) higher capital investment on the front end but lower cost and revenue in operation.

    From the viewpoint of utilities as basic infrastructure than underpins an economy that is good, but from the viewpoint of a business to maximize revenue, it may not be attractive.

    And that is why mandates are needed to wean utilities off fossil fuels and make the transition to the new model.

    Obviously for numerous reasons it is in the public interest to do so.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 06:49:32 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site