The future of German energy storage

Hamburg citizens vote to buy back their energy grid, as factors other than the Energiewende energy policy impact on energy storage in Germany.

Hamburg citizens vote to buy back their energy grid, as factors other than the Energiewende policy impact on energy storage in Germany. Photo credit: Unser Hamburg – Unser Netz

Germany is awash with electricity, yet customer bills remain high. And the chief reason is unprecedented subsidies of over €20bn in feed-in tariffs (FITs) for renewables paid every year. Meanwhile, the country has pledged to retire its entire nuclear fleet and make renewables 80% of the energy mix by 2050, as part of its Energiewende or energy transition doctrine.

With mounting costs and commercial uncertainty for conventional generators, Chancellor Merkel stated at the beginning of her new mandate in September that reforming the Energiewende in some way would be one of her priorities as premier.
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Germany’s Energiewende defended

Amory B. Lovins defends Germany's Energiewende. Photo credit: Rudolf Simon

Amory B. Lovins defends Germany’s Energiewende. Photo credit: Rudolf Simon

A blog article by Rocky Mountain Institute chief scientist Amory B Lovins paints a rosy picture for energy storage by defending the record of Germany’s ‘Energiewende’ strategy for incorporating large-scale renewable power generation.

Lovins contends renewable energy haters have succeeded in establishing three myths about Germany: that it is returning to coal, that its grid is failing to deal with clean power generation and that its economy is straining to support solar, wind and other subsidies.

The 1993 MacArthur Fellow demonstrates how these claims fail to hold up to close scrutiny, concluding that Germany’s energy transition programme is working and deserves closer attention from other countries worldwide. He doesn’t cite energy storage specifically, but the fact that Germany is currently encouraging its adoption as part of Energiewende means good news for the industry for as long as the strategy can be seen to hold up.

Bosch eyes PV energy storage

Featuring Saft li-ion batteries, the Bosch BPT-S 5 Hybrid is aimed at Germany's residential PV sector

Featuring Saft li-ion batteries, the Bosch BPT-S 5 Hybrid is aimed at Germany’s residential PV sector. Photo credit: Saft

All this recent talk of integrated solar and battery energy storage has got a lot of people thinking of market opportunities. Take German manufacturer Bosch, for example, which is now targeting its snapily-titled BPT-S 5 Hybrid system squarely at the residential photovoltaic market in its home country.
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Energy storage a victim of FiTs

Germans are getting paid too little to store energy and too much to put it into the grid, says a top German scientist. Speaking to the BBC, Dr Michael Specht said that energy storers are being unfairly penalised and they should not bear the same costs that consumers of electricity have to pay. The current situation is that an increasing number of individuals, farms, small businesses and co-operatives are making money with generous, guaranteed long-term feed-in tariffs (FiTs).
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Non-nuclear subs run on fuel cells

ThyssenKrupp has launched what has been described as one of the most modern submarines in the world… and it runs partially on a Siemens Proton-Exchange-Membrane-Technology fuel cell system, reports Fuel Cell Today. The U36 is the second boat of the second batch of HDW Class 212A submarines destined for operation in the German Navy.

This class of sub has produced a new record for non-nuclear submarines with 18 days in submerged transit without snorkeling.

German incentives for solar batteries

Germany Trade & Invest, the foreign trade and inward investment promotion agency of the Federal Republic of Germany, has announced it will be opening up an incentive programme for energy storage from May 1.

Details of the programme will be covered at the Batteries Japan 2013 convention and the Fuel Cell Expo, both happening in Tokyo this week.

Germany is pursuing an Energiewende [Energy Transition] policy aiming for de-nuclearisation of the power grid and a number of reductions in damaging gas emissions by a change to renewable energies.

“The policy has progressed well, and the increase of fluctuating renewable capacities is now causing the need for storage and smart grid expansion,” said Tobias Rothacher, Senior Manager Renewable Energies at Germany Trade and Invest.

Renewable subsidies no problem in Germany

Germany’s goal is 80% power generation by 2050. The only sour note is that, according to Bloomberg at least, the increase in feed-in tariffs used to guarantee the necessary investment in wind and solar are costing customers and smaller businesses dear. This, says Bloomberg, will have a general chilling effect on the German economy, effectively being an additional tax. Whether this turns out to be the case, we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, an article in Cleantechnica disputes any idea that there is a general dislike of clean energy subsidies in Germany. Pointing to a series of polls taken from 2011 to June 2012, author Zachary Shahan notes that: “The majority (51–61%) of respondents said that renewable energy growth was ‘too slow’, while another 30-33% said it was ‘just right’. When asked the main reason for hikes in energy prices, only 8% blamed renewables.” The chief culprit? “Corporate greed, monopolies, market failure,” said 34%.