Only 60 days of water left

The energy and climate newsreel: Severe drought in Brazil, PV in downturn, nuclear companies continue to sue

Rougher and Rougher Parts of Brazil Are Sitting on Their Hands. After the state of Sao Paulo, the neighboring states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais are now increasingly affected by the worst drought in 80 years. 77 million Brazilians could be affected by the extreme drought, including the inhabitants of the big cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, who could compete for water from the same river systems in the future.

Sao Paulo’s water supplies could be completely exhausted in 60 days, not a single drop would then come out of the pipes, warns the Oded Grajew of the "Network Our Sao Paulo" (Speech Nossa Sao Paulo). The worst thing was that there was no plan B for water supply. Poor, children and old people were the first to suffer from the water crisis, but in the end the entire economy of the city. "What frightens us is the passivity of society and the authorities in the face of this enormous catastrophe", writes Grajew.

Only 60 days of water left

Durre in Brazil. Image: jnoonline.com

It is not only the urban population that is feeling the effects of the three-year drought and the record summer of 2014; agriculture and energy supply are also being affected. Farmers complain corn dries up in fields, hydroelectric plants shut down. Erdol production is also affected by the durre, as the REPLAN refinery, which processes 20% of Brazil’s crude oil, depends on water supply from the drying Jaguari River.

The water crisis in Brazil is a result of climate change, combined with the consequences of deforestation and the lack of environmental policies. Already on 26.January, residents of Sao Paolo protested against the inaction of the governor of Sao Paulo, Geraldo Alckim. At the beginning of the year, in the midst of the Durre, Alckim also relaxed the protection requirements for springs, river courses and forests, bringing them into line with the new Forest Act of 2012.

California is also likely to face a fourth year of durre. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides a rough portion of the fresh water supply, is a good eighth as thick as in normal years. California’s capital, Sacramento, reports driest January since weather records began in 1877.

Criticism of the expansion corridor and tender model of the EEG amendment

Renewable power could be cheaper today without a cap on expansion. That is the conclusion of a study prepared by Uwe Nestle of Energy and Climate Policy Consulting (Enklip) on behalf of Greenpeace.

"The cost mountain that the federal government wanted to overcome with the latest EEG amendment was already a thing of the past in 2013. No new mountain of costs can be expected even if favorable RE technologies are expanded much faster than the federal government has specified. Economically, everything speaks for the removal of the expansion limits for onshore wind and photovoltaics", it states.

The targeted average remuneration for onshore wind energy and photovoltaics of 12 cents/kWh was already achieved in 2015 with accelerated expansion, but not until 2018 with capped expansion, as envisaged by the EEG. With an addition of 1500 megawatts more than planned by the federal government, the share of renewables in electricity consumption could be increased by 5% by 2020. This will help compensate for the decline in coal-fired power generation envisaged in the Climate Protection Action Program 2020. The EEG levy would only increase by less than 0.5 cents/kWh as a result.

According to Nestle, the Climate Protection 2020 action program is based on two incorrect amptions: a price for CO2 certificates of around 14 euros per ton, which will not be achieved in the foreseeable future, and an electricity share from renewables of 40.7%, which does not take into account the 2014 amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) with its limits on expansion. With the amendment, only a share of 36 to 38% could be achieved.

In 2014, not even the specified expansion corridor for photovoltaics was reached. Turbines with a total capacity of 1900 MW have been installed, the Federal Network Agency announced. This means that the PV market has shrunk by 43% compared to the previous year. Already in 2013, the addition of 7600 MW had collapsed to 3300 MW. According to the will of the federal government, 2400 to 2600 MW should have been newly installed in 2014.

The slump in the German solar market continues to cause poor economic conditions in the solar industry. For example, the Freiburg-based solar factory, which has been in business since 1996, filed for insolvency, and the solar technology manufacturer SMA announced that it would cut 1600 jobs, or about a third of its workforce. Only SolarWorld AG was able to increase its group-wide sales of solar power modules and kits by 55 percent to 849 MW, according to preliminary figures for the 2014 fiscal year. Solarworld doubled sales in the USA, but also saw growth in France, the UK and Japan.

The tendering model for open-space photovoltaic systems, which has been in force since February and will initially be tested in a pilot phase, continues to attract criticism. After that, tenders are also to be introduced in other areas, such as for wind farms.

While the BSW-Solar criticizes that the tender volume for open space PV with 1.2 GW in the next three years is far too small to reach the expansion corridor, representatives of energy cooperatives complain that the model makes it considerably more difficult for them to access projects. "Small energy cooperatives will have a hard time competing against big companies", said the Chairman of the Board of the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation, Eckhard Ott, at the Federal Congress of Cooperative Energy Transition in Berlin.

In order to participate in a tender, the cooperatives have to invest money and work in planning in advance, without knowing whether they will be awarded the contract in the end. Nicolai Ferchl of the Heidelberg Energy Cooperative therefore called for special rules for small players, such as separate allocations or reimbursement of planning costs, in the event that the bidding cooperative was not awarded the contract.

In the wind sector, the representatives of the cooperatives were concerned that the tender model would hinder the regionalization of the energy supply if the price of electricity was the only deciding factor. Wind-rich locations in the north were thus favored, but this also led to a further burden and ultimately to higher costs for the transmission networks. There was also strong criticism of the abolition of the basic electricity privilege in the 2014 EEG. Direct consumption of electricity by members of energy cooperatives became hardly worthwhile in this way.

A declining levy for electricity from renewable sources could lead to a reduction of the levy on 1. The new marketing rules of the Federal Network Agency, which came into force on February 1, contribute. Renewable electricity can now be traded on the electricity exchange on a quarter-hourly basis. Flexibilization is intended to improve sales lots and thus ease the burden on the EEG levy. By the beginning of May at the latest, transmission system operators must provide information on the volumes of electricity marketed in this way, broken down by wind power. photovoltaic electricity and electricity from other sources.

Wave of lawsuits by German nuclear companies

RWE, Eon and EnBW have sued the federal and state governments for around 882 million euros in damages for the temporary shutdown of the oldest nuclear power plants in March 2011. Vattenfall, as an international group, wants to take the German government to an international arbitration court over the nuclear phaseout. The Biblis investigation committee is still looking into the extent to which politicians willingly provided the legal basis for the German companies’ claims for damages.

In addition to claims for damages, Eon last week filed an appeal against the end of the Gorleben interim storage facility. In order to store not only spent fuel elements in the interim storage facilities of the respective power plants, but also processed nuclear waste, these facilities had to be expanded accordingly. Eon does not want to bear these costs and argues that an adequate interim storage facility is available in Gorleben, and an "Alternative interim storage exclusively politically motivated" is.

In this way, the company is once again torpedoing the work of the Nuclear Waste Disposal Commission, which is supposed to reach a consensus. "If the repository commission does not clearly declare that on this basis no further participation of the nuclear lobby in the commission is possible, it makes itself unbelievable", said the chairman of the German Environmental Foundation before the meeting on Monday. However, Eon, RWE and EnBW are now threatened with defeat in their lawsuits against the nuclear fuel tax, which has been in force since 2011. According to Maciej Szpunar, Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, the tax does not violate EU law. But a final ruling by the ECJ is still pending.

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