Love A Good Graph!

The following two graphs drifted across my internet horizons yesterday.

The first show the spot price for electricity in Germany four years ago (2008):

Note the trough over night, matching limited demand, and how things ramp up to 9am, then stay at that level until starting to decline in early evening.

The second graph is the same spot price earlier this month:

Again the trough over night and the peak up to 9am. However, things then get very different! After 9am the price collapses back to the 4am level, and doesn’t start to rise again until 5pm.

What explains this difference? In the time between these two graphs ~20Gw of solar power have been installed. On a sunny day, or at least a day on which it is sunny where solar is installed, power is generated cheaply enough to make it impossible to charge more.

As noted in the original article:

But there is one further salient feature in the comparison of the chart from 2012 with the one from 2008. Last week, the spot price did not dip below 35 euros per megawatt-hour, whereas prices started at 20 euros – nearly half as expensive – four years ago. Over a 24-hour period, the price of power on the spot market is indeed lower today than it was back then, but how do we explain the nearly doubling of power in the middle of the night? Given that baseload demand has hardly changed, it must be assumed that power companies are charging more in times of lower demand now that they cannot make their old profits during daylight hours.

Which makes it pretty clear that the market still isn’t really working. My question would be: how long until renewables (and presumably storage) make uneconomic to continue to burn things to generate power? If i was running a conventional power company, with a large investment in machinery required to put geology into the air, i’d be nervous

[Most of the obvious rebuttals to statements about this not being feasible are answered here. Spot prices (current and historical for europe are available here.]

The big question is why this isn’t happening in other markets? All the talk of Japan suffering power shortage during the hot summer days seems to be babble that could be addressed, at least in part, by installing gigawatts of solar / wind. The sooner they get started the sooner they be shot of Tepco!

4 thoughts on “Love A Good Graph!

  1. What I heard (or rather read) is that germany wants to build hybrid plants. Solar + Gas, so in the time where there is no sun, they use gas (or what else) to compensate for this.

    Biggest problem with any solar or wind plant is, that you cannot really store the electricity. Especially with wind, you really cannot plan when the wind blows, literally. Batteries are out of the question, the only solution would be some alternate storage, eg using this electricity to pump water into storage and then use this water to create electricity.

    I read in an article, Ireland wants to do this. Damn I should keep those articles so I can post them when I need them.

    • The gas storage capacity in Germany is said to be ~4 months, and the longest gap that they’ve seen in renewables producing is on the order of a couple of days. I’d say it makes sense to move towards a world where they rely on renewables for the vast majority of their production, and fall back to gas for peak demand. The story with gas has always been that it’s quick to bring online… guess we’ll see.

      Storage is certainly an unsolved problem, except as you say, for things like pumped storage. However, in version of the work this isn’t such a huge problem as the solution is actually to use less, rather than bring supply up to an ever higher level. Matching consumption to supply is only good for maximising the profits of the (fixed cost) producers. Fuck ’em, i say, hard.

      Read the article about Ireland doing pumped storage. Doubt it’ll happen – they’re short of capital right now.

      Someone needs to explain to me what, beyond the political, stops Japan from adopting a mix of renewables (geothermal, tidal, solar (solar in tokyo, and all points west during summer, come on!), wind, hydro). The larger the mix the easier it is to build a percentage of baseload.

      Say this can’t be done is no longer viable, the lights are still on in Berlin and Tokyo… but currently for very different reasons!

      • I have my doubts with geothermal and tidal. Both are very high maintenance.

        And seeing japanese politicians back-paddle and agree to put up less nuclear plants. Doubt that will happend. Mostly cost wise, already built, will run for long time, hope nothing happens. Sick thing, sadly.

        Just yesterday on TV, they should what would happend if the same shit like Fukushima happens in Fukui-ken. Well, that sure is a blast if the center of Japan is all radiated …

        • High maintenance… yep, that’s true, but neither of them are likely to render large parts of the country uninhabitable if something does go wrong.

          My the real problem for politicians right now is that the reactors are all turned off and nothing particularly bad has happened. The obvious conclusion is that the prior usage was extremely wasteful, and only really benefitted the large producers.

          It doesn’t bearing thinking too much what happens if there is a similar issue anywhere near biwako – no water supply for most of the kinki region.

          It’s going to be really interesting to see how they manage a local level rebellion against restarts… hard to see it being possible in the face of public opposition, but does the public really have the balls to demand a new deal?

Wise words...

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