Alexander Neubacher is a German journalist who has won the “Helmut-Schmidt journalist prize”, named after a former German chancellor for work about health insurance, as is explained at his author biography page here. That page also tells us that Neubacher is born in 1968, has studied economics and journalism, and is working since 1999 for the economic section of SPIEGEL magazine.
I have not read his recently published book “Ökofimmel”, but from descriptions I understand that it is a critical look at verious German environmental policies that Neubacher thinks are failures.
Neubacher has a Twitter feed here.
His latest anti-solar propaganda piece recycles the same old talking points. Solar is expensive. The sun doesn’t shine at night. Exactly what one would expect from anything with the byline Alexander Neubacher.
It does contain some remarkably easily refuted errors, though. For one, there is this:
Photovoltaic power plant operators and homeowners with solar panels on their rooftops are expected to pocket around €9 billion ($11.3 billion) this year, yet they contribute barely 4 percent of the country’s power supply, and only erratically at that.
Actually, the latest reports say that solar contributed 4.5% of all electricity in the first six months, with generation at 14.7 TWh, up 50% from the same period in 2011, when 19 TWh were generated over the whole year.
So the figure “barely 4 percent” is not factually correct, though it is at least close.
Neubacher then asserts:
For the same amount of money, wind power produces about five times more energy than solar power.
That can’t possibly be true. Solar feed-in tariffs even in the highest bracket are now at 18.92 cents. For wind to be five times as cheap it would need to be generated at 3.704 cents. But the tariffs for wind are at 8.93 cents in Article 29 of the law on the priority for renewable energy (EEG).
Maybe there is some misunderstanding involved on my part, but solar five times as expensive as wind seems to be way off base.
Then Neubacher cites a study by a Professor Erdmann without giving a link that predicts some interesting developments for the surcharges:
An environmental surcharge known as the EEG contribution, which is already added to German energy bills, will rise sharply. This renewable energy surcharge currently amounts to 3.59 cents per kilowatt hour. Chancellor Angela Merkel previously promised to cap it at 3.5 cents, but Erdmann’s calculations show the EEG contribution jumping to “over 10 cents per kilowatt hour,” or nearly three times what the chancellor pledged.
While I have not yet heard of this particular study before, I know that every additional GW of solar added at the much lower prices of 2012 adds 0.035 cents to the surcharges, as explained in research by Prognos AG.
So to get the surcharge up from 3.59 to over 10 cents, we would need 183 GW of new solar capacity. That would be great if it happened, including the fact that electricity would become more expensive, since higher prices mean less energy consumption. I recall that Germany has introduced an ecotax with the express purpose of raising energy prices. And of course getting another 183 GW would bring total capacity to over 200 GW, which would deliver over 40% of current electricity demand.
However, the recent legislation actually caps solar feed-in tariffs at 52 GW of capacity. Another 25 GW will add 0.875 cents to the surcharges, not over 6 cents as Neubacher seems to think.
Finally, I was rather surprised to read the assertion that the solar lobby has taken over the FDP, the party of the minister of economics and labor Rösler:
During the current legislative term, though, it seems Asbeck’s heart lies mainly with the FDP, the junior partner in Germany’s current governing coalition. In September 2009, two weeks before Bundestag elections, Asbeck hosted a fundraising dinner for the FDP and its leading candidate, Guido Westerwelle, at Solarworld’s Bonn headquarters. Asbeck was then quick to “use his good FDP contacts,” reads an intranet page accessible only to members of the German Solar Industry Association, the industry’s lobbying group.
Anybody who thinks that the FDP is a friend of solar in Germany seems to be rather disconnected from reality. The FDP has been opposed to the law on priority for renewable energy in the first place, and minister Rösler is leading the efforts to cut back on the solar feed-in tariffs.
I for one have a very different view of the FDP, making it a priority for me to make sure I vote for somebody else next year.