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Sun Down On Green Energy

Politics / Renewable Energy Feb 01, 2012 - 12:23 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThe message nailed high on the greasy pole of Great Causes, by small and failing politicians in the 2006-2010 period was that green energy transition is urgent because climate catastrophe is certain unless we cut CO2 emissions by huge amounts, fast. Behind the scenes and off the teleprompters, the real concern of oil at $130 a barrel (the Goldman Sachs nice price for 2012) also powerfully drove the elite stampede for cranking up green energy.

But that was already 2 years ago. Despite record-high autumn and early winter temperatures in most of the Europe and North America, public interest and concern about global warming has plunged. A steady stream of hard-to-ignore reports and studies cast ever rising doubts on the idiot-easy theory that only CO2 causes global warming, and only global warming causes climate change. At the same time, green energy has failed to produce enough energy to cause any real change in consumer society oil habits, and has been ruthlessly used as a financial gimmick for quick profits.

In probably its last, most fervent heartland, the Church of Global Warming is shattering in Germany, where the movement to pump so much government and investor cash into green energy that Obama's "sputnik moment", when the world starts to really kick the fossil fuel habitat, would happen and move into powerful self-sustaining growth. German preachers in the Church of Global Warming, many of them so close to government they were in government, committed Germany to the most radical of all the energy transition plans that exist: by 2020 German CO2 emissions and use of fossil fuels, they hope, will fall 40% against the baseline 2005 year's consumption.

Some analyses of the costs to Germany of the Energie Koncept (renewable energy) plan, demanding almost straight line upward growth of windpower and solar power, suggest they may exceed 400 bn euro for the 8 years to 2020.

Problems are however already stacking up for the New Orthodoxy the same way that Angela Merkel's opinion poll ratings stay flat or decline. The print edition of FOCUS magazine for February 2012 features review and comments on the book "Die Kalte Sonne" ("The Cold Sun") by the new sceptic, and reformed warmist professor Fritz Vahrenholt and his colleague, the geologist and paleontologist Dr. Sebastian Lüning.

Already no. 4 on the Amazon-Germany bestseller list under the category environment and ecology despite the print edition not being in the stores until next week (Feb 7), the book underlines a key basic fact on the way public opinion is shifting in almost every country: Germans feel they had the wool pulled over their eyes by foam-at-the-mouth ranters like Al Gore, using heavily doctored so-called scientific facts from the UN's IPCC. Today, only 31% of Germans think global warming is any kind of a threat; in late 2010, nearly 65% thought it was a serious problem. Between times of course, they were also brought up to steam on the real dangers and costs of nuclear power, including its near-open ended decommissioning costs, triggering massive German popular support to its windpower and solar power program. For the warmists, this was taken as continuing widespread belief in their snake oil theory and a continuing comfortable ride, for them, on the climate change gravy train.

But global warming skepticism has reached a point where today even leading environmentalists are abandoning the movement, as profoundly demonstrated by Vahrenholt’s and Lüning’s book. As the review and articles in FOCUS report, even die-hard warmists are converting, or at least softening their tone as in the case of Vahrenholt, a renewable energy expert and a former father of the modern green movement in Germany.

While he still thinks CO2 is "in the loop" as one driver of climate change, he now dismisses it as the be-all and end-all, and explains - citing some 800 scientific articles, books and publication - why he stopped believing everything the IPCC preached more than 2 years ago. As Vahrenholt says, he was a peer-group expert reviewer of IPCC reports on renewable energy but was shocked by what he found: ‘I discovered numerous errors and asked myself if the other IPCC reports on climate were similarly sloppy.” Digging down the data, he was horrified by what he found.

His bottom line is simple: real climate changing factors, and the trends they produce are far away from the child-like story produced by the IPCC and exploited by green energy promoters, among others.

Along with solar photovoltaic power plants, gaunt but efficient-looking wind turbines dotting the horizon were poster children of Barack Obama's "sputnik moment" for world energy.
Purchases of wind turbines and related equipment will decline at least 18 percent this year and will not return to 2011 levels for at least five years, according to a January 31 Bloomberg New Energy Finance release. Especially in the US and Europe, but also in Asia, overcapacity is the name of the game. Boom turns to bust as the setting sun on a windless day shows the real way forward for Cinderella Green.
For global solar PV cell arrays, the market is now massively oversupplied. A few simple figures show this, for a world solar industry picture where China alone has a current annual output capacity of around 30 000 MW. Along with the world's No.2 producer, Germany, their combined capacity is more than 43 000 MW per year. At previous typical yearly growth rates, their combined production capacity in 2014 might have attained as much as 80 - 85 GW per year, in a literal runaway growth sequence, fed by government subsidies and uncritical investor support.
The real world market picture is very different:
Top 6 solar countries in 2011 by new installations (in MW).                                                                  

Source: IHS iSuppli Research, December 2011.
 2011 Rank                2010    2011        Percent Growth on Year Previous
1         Italy             3,577    6,900                              92.9%
2         Germany      7,408    5,923                             -20.0%
3         US                   915    2,703                             195.5%
4         China              537    1,726                             221.4%
5         Japan              990     1,300                               31.3%
6         France             719       963                               34.0%
World market absorbtion capacity for windpower is estimated at well below the 2011 rate of new installations, about 47 GW, while the world solar cell market's 2011 capacity of about 24 GW is unlikely to be seen again before 2019, according to market analysts. On recent global growth trends, the world's windpower producers, led by Vestas of Denmark, Suzlon of India and Sinovel Wind Group of China had as much as 60 GW-a-year production capacity at end-2011, but some analysts now forecast that world installations of new windfarm power capacity, increasingly located offshore and necessarily high cost, could fall to less than 40 GW-a-year by this year, and stay low until 2017 or later.

The moral of the story is simple: green energy vanity tech is high cost and comes in small servings, unsuited to the vast oil-dependent heartlands of urban-industrial civilization. Using global warming fear to sell the snake oil was the wrong choice - it would have been better to get honest about oil depletion and the high costs, or even the impossibility of replacing current oil production capacity.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2012 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

© 2005-2019 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Bob Smith
02 Feb 12, 16:49
Solar and Wind vs. Oily Ostrcih Mentality

The move to clean energy is not just for worry about global warming, even though NASA's latest study , presented by Hansen this week debunks the denialsts biggest claim, that the sun is causing warming based on normal cycles. The new study shows that warming is increasing even though we are at solar minimum. Cheaper power is the answer. Perhaps you missed General Electric announcement last year that solar power would be cheaper than coal in 3-5 years due to innovation. And you missed that G.E. is putting it's money where it's mouth is, building the largest solar panel factory in the U.S. , or that G.E. has partnered to build the worlds largest wind turbine at 15 Megawatts. Or that several peer reviewed journals have shown that Cadmium Telluride and other solar cell mediums will soon increase solar panel power output by 300% to 900%, while using 1/10 to 1/1000 less Cadmium Telluride, and not having to bring the glass to just short of melting to apply the layers of material. Perhaps you missed that solar is already equal in price with electricity produced by coal plants in California, and that wind has reached grid price parity with coal in states that have poor wind resources. You might too have missed the solar storage advances, that will store energy at unheard of energy densities. Maybe you've missed that new and very very cheap ionic liquid or flow batteries in the lab now are going to pre production in factories, and that they'll enable an SUV to go 700 miles without a charge. You could have missed all of this, I hope you'll check it out. Clean energy will beat coal and nuclear, NOT because it's cleaner, but because it is and will continue to get cheaper, and cheaper. Well distributed alternative energy will close nearly all coal and nuclear power plants in the United States.

05 Feb 12, 02:04
promises promises

Yeah Bob, its all coming.......someday. (and you trust Hanson, that's quaint).

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