Tuesday, June 9, 2020

GWPF Newsletter - It's Official: Germany’s Green Energy Costs Are Becoming Unaffordable

Greens On Back Foot As Germany’s Newest Coal Plant Opens

In this newsletter:

1) It's Official: Germany’s Green Energy Costs Are Becoming Unaffordable
Bloomberg, 5 June 2020

2) Greens On Back Foot As Germany’s Newest Coal Plant Opens
Financial Times, 8 June 2020

3) Indian Media, Experts Respond To New GWPF Report On Extreme Weather
Business Standard India, 6 June 2020

4) Climate Scientists Praise Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ Science Boost
GWPF Observatory, 4 June 2020

5) COVID-19 Global Economic Downturn Not Affecting CO2 Rise
Roy Spencer, 5 June 2020

6) Michael Kelly: Until We Get A Proper Roadmap, Net Zero Is A Goal Without A Plan
7) China Threatens To Pull Plug On New UK Nuclear Plants
The Sunday Times, 7 June 2020

8) China's Black Recovery: Coal Consumption 8% Higher Than Last Year
Reuters, 7 June 2020

Full details:

1) It's Official: Germany’s Green Energy Costs Are Becoming Unaffordable
Bloomberg, 5 June 2020

The German program that’s spurred the nation’s switch to green power is buckling under the weight of surging costs and needs an urgent fix. That’s the assessment of one of the scheme’s chief designers, Hans Josef Fell.

Designed in 2000 to enable Germany to meet United Nations pledges on climate change, it has pushed renewable energy to make up over 50% of the nation’s energy capacity.

Yet the system’s increasing costs have become glaring in the during the coronavirus pandemic, the veteran Green Party lawmaker said. High and guaranteed payments made to investors in clean power plants are the problem Fell said in an interview.

German power consumers have to contribute to help finance the payments through a surcharge in their monthly electricity bills, and a quirk of how they’re calculated threatens to send the program’s costs skyrocketing, he said.

Power consumers make up the difference between payments made to investors and the wholesale power price. That causes the green surcharge to rise when wholesale prices fall, and they’ve dropped 20% since January as coronavirus lockdowns hit power demand.

“The paradoxical mechanism that’s allowed green power to flourish can also push up surcharges,” said Fell, who now co-heads the Berlin-based Energy Watch Group that calls for a radical overhaul of green finance.

The green surcharge will cost consumers about 26.2 billion euros ($29.4 billion) this year. Fell blames a move in 2010 to speed up green investments by bumping up payments for power generation.

The threat of rising energy costs to the economy prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel this week to include a remedy in a sweeping $145 billion economic recovery package.

At a cost of some 11 billion euros to the budget, the government will cut the green fee by two euro cents for every kilowatt-hour next year.

Full story

2) Greens On Back Foot As Germany’s Newest Coal Plant Opens
Financial Times, 8 June 2020

With Germany facing the possibility of its worst recession since the second world war, public attention is shifting away from the Greens and climate activists.

As protesters unfurl their banner along the canal beneath Germany’s newest coal plant, a barge piled high with coal glides by, the crew whooping and whistling in mockery. It could not be a more potent symbol of the struggle Germany’s environmental movement is facing.

Opposition to Datteln 4, a coal-fired power plant which opened last month in Germany's industrial heartland, was expected to become the latest rallying cry for Germany’s environmental movement. But in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and with recession looming, the fight against the country’s coal lobby has been overshadowed.

“It’s a climate crime, what’s happening here,” says Lisa Göldner, a Greenpeace activist involved in the protests against Datteln 4 as steam billows from the cooling tower behind her. “I see it as part of our job to send messages of hope. But I’m really frustrated when it comes to this. This feels like a lost battle.”

Despite being seen as a leader in climate policy, Germany has long been Europe’s laggard over the use of coal. In January, after years of inaction and rising emissions, Berlin finally proposed phasing out coal by 2038. Shortly after — and before parliament has even passed the coal exit law — Berlin agreed to bring Datteln 4 online.

Full story (£)

3) Indian Media, Experts Respond To New GWPF Report On Extreme Weather
Business Standard India, 6 June 2020

Barely a week after Cyclone Amphan struck the eastern and Cyclone Nisarga the western coast of India, a study by London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has downplayed the impact of climate change over a 100-year period saying that overall rains, drought and cyclones have not seen much deviations.

A woman tries to protect her son from heavy rain as they rush to a safer place following their evacuation from a slum area in Kolkata. Photo: Reuters

Experts on climate science and climate change, however, do not agree with this approach and say evening out trends for large heterogeneous geographical area like India will not give a correct picture.

“The scientific evidence simply does not support the idea of any link between drought and climate change.The IPCC (the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change) was right to express low confidence in any global-scale observed trend,” GWPF said in a study, Weather Extremes: Are They Caused by Global Warming ?, authored by Ralph B Alexander.

Impact of climate change on global environment has been one of the biggest debates with extreme political and activist positions being taken. While there has been the birth of radical movements like Extinction Rebellion, at the other end there are political leaders, like United States President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who have labelled climate change theory a hoax. This, even as the Amazon forest in Brazil and forests in Australia burnt past one year to the World Environment Day on Friday.

The GWPF study cited two different drought indices during the period 1910–2010 for India, a country subject to parching summer heat followed by drenching monsoonal rains. The two indices—Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) which represents both rainfall and temperature, and the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) that relies on rainfall data only.

Negative values in the indices denote drought and positive values wetness. “While both indices are useful, the SPI is better suited to making comparisons between different regions. We see the SPI in India shows no particular trend towards either dryness or wetness over the 100-year period, although there are 20-year intervals exhibiting one of the two conditions; show negative values that denote drought and positive values wetness,” said the study.

The apparent trend of the PDSI towards drought since 1990 is an artefact of the index. “Similar records for other countries around the globe all show the same pattern – no drying of the planet as a whole over more than 100 years,” it asserted.

Jagdish Krishnaswamy, senior fellow, Suri Sehgal Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), however, said this approach was not correct for a large country like India especially since the monsoon was a complex phenomenon with South East Monsoon, North East Monsoon and Cyclones impacting rainfall in the country.

“Indian monsoon has shown a lot of variability even though deviations maybe moderate since the 1950s. There has been a change in frequency and intensity of rains. The Central India, for instance, has lot of hot spots where intense rain has been witnessed,” he added.

Krishnaswamy cites the examples of intense rains of Chennai in 2015 and of Mumbai in 2005. If the overall volume of rains remains the same but there are days of intense rains, then that means there are days of no rains or meteorological drought, he argued.

On tropical cyclones, the GWPF report quotes both the 2012 and 2013 studies of IPCC that expressed only ‘low’ confidence that cyclone activity was increasing over the long term, and that global changes in cyclone activity could be attributed to any particular cause.

Full story

4) Climate Scientists Praise Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ Science Boost
GWPF Observatory, 4 June 2020

Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor

Researchers from the Universities of Princeton, California, Tokyo, Kyushu and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, say the recent hiatus in global temperature increase has led to a surge in climate science.

The global effort to understand the global warming hiatus they say has led to increased understanding of some of the key metrics of global climate change such as global temperature and ice-cover.

Searching for an answer to the hiatus, they say, meant that the scientific community grappled with difficulties with these climate metrics, in particular the fact that they do not unequivocally portray the same story about global warming.

For instance, as the global surface temperature increase underwent an apparent slowdown, Antarctic sea ice expanded, and boreal summer Arctic sea ice declined rapidly, at least until 2007. Hot and cold extremes increased in northern hemisphere continents, and the Hadley circulation shifted poleward.

Many of the changes are not ones expected due to increasing greenhouse gas forcing. For some this called into question the viability of computer models of the climate and whether these changes indicated a fundamental lack in our understanding and ability to simulate radiatively forced changes, or indeed if internal climate variability alone is sufficient to explain the changes.

The researchers point out that since the hiatus was identified just over a decade ago it stimulated advances in our understanding of the multidecadal variability of these key metrics, providing insight into internal climate variability. As well as drawing attention to biases in the temperature record it has also improved our understanding of the role of the tropical Pacific Ocean in mean global temperature. Despite the research progress many challenges remain, especially due to the relatively short timescale of the observations. There are also limitations of climate models in simulating internal, multidecadal climate variability and the way radiatively forced changes interact with that inherent variability.

Data Uncertainty

The short period over which we have reliable observations restricts the number of independent simulations of observed multidecadal variability that can be performed. Uncertainties in the data, such as sea ice extent are very large before the satellite era in the late 1970s.

Other datasets with records extending more than a century, such as global sea surface temperature, have large uncertainties in the first half of the 20th century particularly over the Southern Ocean due to sparse data. Because of these uncertainties, the scientists say, many existing sea surface temperature reconstructions may have underestimated the amplitude of early 20th century natural climatic variations, impeding our ability to understand associated climate changes such as accelerated Arctic warming.

Although recent climate models can simulate the basic structure of internal climatic variability, they underestimate the strength of some important modes of internal multidecadal variability, in particular the oceanic climate cycles. Specifically, the decadal-to-multidecadal component of the North Atlantic Oscillation which has important consequences for the Northern Hemisphere temperature.

As with the recent hiatus, they say, it is inevitable that internal variability will offset and possibly even temporarily reverse the radiatively forced trends for each of these metrics over decadal to multidecadal periods, that is possibly bring on a period of global cooling. The scientific community should be ready for this they imply.

Johnson et al writing a review article in Global and Planetary Change conclude that because of these multidecadal modulations, the trends of these metrics must be calculated over several decades to suppress the noise of internal variability. This is in contrast to the prevailing message before the identification of the hiatus which was the long-term climate warming signal was strong and the “noise” relatively weak.

The hiatus, they add, demonstrated that natural variability of global surface temperature can overcome the effects of radiative forced global warming over periods of about 15 years. For other more regionally confined metrics, this timescale tends to be even longer and may extend beyond available observational records. In other words, we do not have enough long-term data to evaluate natural climatic variability to place today’s change into their proper historical perspective.

Thus, these researchers lay bare some of the dominant memes of climate change regarding its ability to forecast the future. The lesson of the hiatus is that we do not understand internal climatic variability as much as many think we do, and our predictive power is less than many believe.


5) COVID-19 Global Economic Downturn Not Affecting CO2 Rise
Roy Spencer, 5 June 2020

The Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 concentration data continue to show no reduction in the rate of rise due to the recent global economic slowdown.

This demonstrates how difficult it is to reduce global CO2 emissions without causing a major disruption to the global economy and exacerbation of poverty.

After removal of the strong seasonal cycle in Mauna Loa CO2 data, and a first order estimate of the CO2 influence of El Nino and La Nina activity (ENSO), the May 2020 update shows no indication of a reduction in the rate of rise in the last few months, when the reduction in economic activity should have shown up.

I had previously explained why the slowdown would likely not be large enough to affect measured atmospheric CO2 levels compared to natural variations in global sources and sinks of CO2. I calculated that the Energy Information Administration-estimated 11% reductions in CO2 emissions during 2020 would have to be four times larger to stop the rise of atmospheric CO2 over 2019 values (assuming no substantial natural variations in CO2 sources and sinks).

6) Michael Kelly: Until We Get A Proper Roadmap, Net Zero Is A Goal Without A Plan
CapX, 8 June 2020

We cannot risk squandering our nation's wealth on green projects with a low chance of success

The world of superfast computing and miraculous hand-held devices that most of us now take for granted did not appear by accident. It was the product of a very clear roadmap, agreed across the electronics industry from 1970 to 2015. An equally clear and widely agreed roadmap will be essential to achieving the target of a net-zero emission global economy in 2050.

Intel founder Gordon Moore’s empirical observation that the transistor count on chips was doubling every two years, while the chips stayed the same size, morphed into an industry-wide target that held for nearly 50 years. By the mid-1980s, a Technology Roadmap became a feature of the whole industry.

Technical people from all parts of the industry – chip manufacture, the fabrication facilities, the circuit design teams, the power constraint teams and so on – met, debated and produced a substantial report every 24 months that looked out ten years in detail and 20 years and more in overview. These reports described, in great detail for the short term and lesser detail for the longer term, what needed to be ready (researched, developed and available for use in production) by when and by whom. Thanks to this approach, Moore’s Law went from being a description of the industry to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The formal ‘International Technology Roadmap for Silicon’ was the bible of the industry and a clear statement of where the industry as a whole, and every part of every supply chain would need to be, in five and more years’ time, and what needed to be invested by whom and when. It is fair to say that the progress across the electronics sector would have been much less smooth and relentless in the absence of the agreed Roadmap.

The target of a net-zero global economy by 2050 is every bit as complex, and on a much greater scale than the silicon chip industry. But as yet, there are no detailed technology roadmaps for this project. In contrast to the electronics sector, we have a positive tower of Babel – many people are doing their own little thing, but with no sense that what others are doing will be coordinated to make an overall successful whole. One cannot even get a national standard, let alone an international one, for the plug for recharging car batteries!

My own attempt in 2008 to raise research funds to begin to construct such a roadmap to 2050 was rejected by my academic peers as wishful thinking and way over my head in complexity: I think this remains the case today, over a quarter of the way now from 2008 to 2050.

Without such a plan, we face all kinds of trouble in delivering successfully an exceptionally complex project on time and to budget.

Consider the possibilities of electrifying transport and heating as key elements of the 2050 economy. What happens if the electricity grid and distribution systems are ready, but there are not enough materials to make the batteries needed for all the cars? How much further progress can we go with intermittent renewable forms of energy in the absence of an affordable technology that can store the excess electricity at the national scale for use at night and/or when the wind is not blowing? What about weekly and seasonal electricity storage at the metropolitan scale? What are the plans if some elements of the overall package are not available?

A university consortium of engineers has generated a document entitled ‘Absolute Zero’, describing in very high-level terms what an actually zero emissions UK would look like in 2050, and a very high-level description of what is needed. The changes are so draconian, that no Parliament or electorate would vote for it as a way of stopping climate change 20-50 years ahead. ‘Absolute Zero’ is not a roadmap, as no specific projects are described, only generic requirements such as eliminating aviation and international shipping as a part of the UK’s contribution by 2050.

What we need now is a set of interlocking targets for each five-year interval from 2020-2050, along with indicative budgets and who-does-what for each interval. The key issue is knitting all the sub-projects into a united and coherent overall project. Piecemeal activities are certain to fail.

To give an example, it’s now a decade since I first suggested a 40-year project to retrofit all existing UK buildings to reduce their carbon emissions by 80%. So far, less than 1% of the work has been completed. There is no supply chain, no competing firms and no retrofit section in the Yellow Pages. It is now a 30-year programme, costing £700bn per decade, for an 80% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and more for a net-zero target. Who pays, and what of the opportunity cost for the UK in undertaking the exercise, which is only one part of the overall 2050 target?

Suppose we realise in 15 years’ time that the whole net-zero target is an unattainable pipe dream and we call a comprehensive halt: what can we recover from the mis-investments made to date? What if then, when we look back, we realise we should have seen the looming crash coming 15 years prior, and forewarned the nation of the peril of the path then being pursued? Who then will be pursued and sued for negligence at this time?

This prospect could be avoided now with the formulation of an agreed net zero roadmap. We can identify now the big, critical problems and assess when they have to be solved for the project to progress, and whether a real world solution is possible.

Take batteries. It is estimated that current battery manufacturing capabilities will need to be in the order of 500-700 times bigger than now to support an all-electric global transport system. The materials needed just to allow the UK to transition to all electric transport involve amounts of materials equal to 200% the annual global production of cobalt, 75% of lithium carbonate, 100% of neodymium and 50% of copper. Scaling by a factor of 50 for the world transport, and you see what is now a showstopper. The materials demands just for batteries are beyond known reserves. Would one be prepared to dredge the ocean floor at very large scale for some of the material? Should securing the reserves not be a first priority?

At the end of their life these batteries, and the wind and solar power generators, produce more tonnes of hazardous waste per unit of electricity produced than a decommissioned nuclear power plant. How is this factored into the grand plan? Should this problem not be confronted now, and a circular economy developed so that materials are reused as far as possible? Is it economic or not to recycle wind turbine blades?

China has a stranglehold on many of the key materials and will become the OPEC of the (not-so-) green agenda. How would the battery industry evolve so that no one player can hold the world to ransom, in practice as well as in theory?

Secondly, at the UK scale, the cost of electrifying transport and heating is estimated at £3tn over 30 years, or £100bn each year. That is a whole HS2 scale project each and every year, with contingent links between all the years of the project. How will this be funded? How will the budget be controlled, and the project avoid any mission creep? What is the opportunity cost? Does it represent value-for-money?

If the £2tn retrofit of the UK’s housing stock I called for ten years ago had started in 2010, we would have spent around £500bn in the last decade – who would have paid for that?

I think that a robust technology road map for the net-zero emissions global economy of 2050 is an urgent priority, along with an appendix concerning how the UK will play its part in the global project. It does not bode well that the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is trumping expensive green investments where budgets have been set recently in Australia, Germany and California.

The UK has been pressing on regardless of the inaction/counteraction elsewhere. Given that over half the world’s population need more energy per person in the next decade and 80% of that will come from fossil fuels (just as it has over the last 40 years), it is time to stop and review the wisdom of our whole approach. If we squander resources in projects with a low prospect of success, we will have destroyed much of the nation’s wealth as we hand it over to the next generation.

It is important to realise that a routemap is not a straitjacket. The Silicon Roadmap was comprehensively updated every 24 months with intermediate updates on specific aspects.

By the same token, if one concludes that the 2050 Net-Zero Emissions Economy cannot be achieved on scientific, materials, engineering, planning and financial grounds, it would be appropriate to reset the target to one that can be achieved, even at a stretch. With a changing climate, there may come a day when we need to act, just as we needed a Thames Barrier to prevent London flooding. It will be no excuse then that all the money was invested on projects to mitigate climate change, when the very need to adapt will be proof that the mitigation actions have failed.

Rather than simply picking targets and hoping for the best, constructing a robust road map now would point up the problems that actually need solving.

Michael J Kelly is Emeritus Prince Philip Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge.

see also: Prof Michael Kelly: Electrifying The UK And The Want Of Engineering (pdf)

7) China Threatens To Pull Plug On New UK Nuclear Plants
The Sunday Times, 7 June 2020

Britain is on a collision course with China after Boris Johnson approved plans last week to build up alternatives to Huawei in the 5G network, a move that caused a heated cabinet split in the government’s most secret committee.

China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, has privately fired a warning shot at the government, telling business leaders that abandoning Huawei could undermine plans for Chinese companies to build nuclear power plants and the HS2 high-speed rail network. Government officials dismissed the comments as “sabre-rattling”.

In a recent briefing Liu signalled that the decision over Huawei was being seen in Beijing as “a litmus test of whether Britain is a true and faithful partner of China”, words interpreted as a threat by those listening.

China has a minority share in nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell C in Suffolk, both in partnership with EDF of France. But China General Nuclear Power Corporation also hopes to build its own nuclear reactor at Bradwell in Essex, a deal that a full-blown diplomatic war could put in doubt.

Full story (£)

8) China's Black Recovery: Coal Consumption 8% Higher Than Last Year
Reuters, 7 June 2020

Average daily coal usage at China’s six major coal-fired utilities in coastal regions reached about 628,500 tonnes in May, which is 15% higher than in April and also 7.7% more than a year earlier.

China’s coal imports in May fell nearly 20% compared with a year earlier even as demand recovered at power plants and industrial users, customs data showed on Sunday.

Analysts and industrial participants had expected China to tighten coal import rules in the second half of 2020 to support domestic miners, and imports starting in July may drop by as much as a quarter from the corresponding 2019 period...

Electricity consumption has been rising among both industrial and residential users as firms are ramping up production amid the economic recovery after the loosening of restrictions to curb the coronavirus outbreak, while households started to crank up their air conditioning because of warmer weather.

Curtailed hydropower generation, alongside falling water stocks at major reservoirs in the country, also shored up coal demand.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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