French oil consumption

Plans of the French government to raise taxes on gasoline and diesel have sparked much controversy recently.

Data from the European Commission suggest that consumption of oil products has fallen significantly in the recent past as can be seen from the pictures below.

FR oil consumption 2002-2016

In total, the situation looks as follows. Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, overall consumption of oil products has gone gown.

FR oil consumption all products 2002-2016

Electricity from Fossil Fuels in Germany

The use of fossil fuels for generating electricity has gone down in Germany over the past few years as can be seen in the picture below. The underlying data have been taken from Eurostat.


Fig. 1: Fossil fuel consumption for electricity generation in Germany

As the amount of regenerative energy is increasing, the use of coal and lignite is going down. However, coal still plays an important role as a backup capacity whenever wind and solar energy fail to cover Germany´s energy needs.


Capacity factors for combustible fuels in UK and Germany

Capacity factors for electricity generation with combustible fuels have changed significantly in the past two-and-a-half decades, data from Eurostat suggest.

This is clearly linked to the strong increase of regenerative power sources which leads to longer periods when conventional power generation is running in stand-by mode.

Capacity factor fossile fuels UK-DE-1991-2015-v2

German Electricity from Renewables vs. Consumption in 2016

The raw data for this analysis have been taken from Paul-Frederik Bachs website which provides most valuable insight into renewable energy production in various European countries.

The following picture shows hourly production rates in MWh from wind and PV (lower curve) as well as hourly consumption figures (load, upper curve) . In addition, the 200-h moving average is shown, depicting the regular consumption patterns and the irregular production pattern of wind and PV.

DE load wind pv in 2016

Only rarely do the peaks of renewable production get near the lower ends of daily consumption.


German Wind Energy Production in 2016

The picture below shows the hourly production figures of wind energy in Germany in 2016. The underlying data are taken from Paul-Frederik Bach´s ample collection of data on green energy production in various European countries.

The mean hourly production during that period was 8765 MWh with a standard deviation of 6865 MWh. The minimum and maximum values were 135 and 33626 MWh, respectively.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron launches GE 9HA gas turbine

Andrew J. Lammas VP of Engineering Power Generation in front of 9HA Turbine test rig

Andrew J. Lammas VP of Engineering Power Generation in front of 9HA Turbine test rig

Nicholas Newman 29 May 2015

It is designed to power a city the size of Birmingham with 400,000 households from its output of 397 MW for the turbine on its own or a whopping 570 MW in the combined cycle. Not surprisingly, the GE 9HA gas turbine is the size of a house; its technological component parts certainly impress the onlooker.Belfort – 28 May 2015-French economy minister Emmanuel Macron came to the launch of GE’S latest gas turbine, the GE 9HA gas turbine at its Belfort complex in South-Eastern France near the Swiss border. He said about the 9HA launch, “It is a great day for French industrial expertise and innovation.” This device is not only the latest but also the biggest new gas turbine of its kind in the world.

About GE’s  9HA Gas Turbine


Throughout the 9HA, there are hundreds of sensors, which enable real-time performance analytics and optimize its use conditions accordingly. GE claims that such features mean unmatched efficiency, easier maintenance, and lower operating costs.

In addition, Victor Abate, CEO, Power Generation Products at GE Power & Water says. “Our 9HA advanced technology helps to drive leading performance, lower emissions, and improved project economics.” He claims that the 9HA is nimble for such a large beast, able to achieve full output in a mere 28 minutes, compared to a similar sized coal turbine, taking up to one hour to reach full output. For a machine this size, this is a record. This means that it is not only ideal for base load generation, but also responding to rapid market changes because of the fluctuations in demand caused by renewable generation.


Victor Abate President GE Power Generation Products, said, “GE 9HA gas turbine took a team of 1800 employees three years of intensive development and €100 million to create on the assembly line and test bench capable of building and testing these giant turbines.” Though each turbine weighs as much as an Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet, it is constructed with a micron-level precision by specialized technicians and engineers with precision tools.

The market for GE’s  9HA Gas Turbine

“Already, there are nine confirmed global orders for the GE 9HA gas turbine, three from the US, 4 from Europe and Russia and 2 from Japan,” said Francois Cavin General Manager GE Products Finance. In addition, there is interest from Turkey for three turbine plants.

A second device is due to be delivered to THK-16 OAO gas power plant in Kazan, Tearstan  in Russia, as part of plans to improve power system reliablity,

The first production model 9HA leaves for northern France in a special convoy, leaving the Belfort plant on June 25th. It will be one of the largest road transport operations in European history. For the journey, the turbine will be mounted on a 100-meter long platform and travel first by road, then down the Escault River towards the North of France. It will take approximately two weeks of high-precision transportation to move this giant turbine from Belfort’s factory to EDF’s Bouchain power plant, near Lillie and the Belgium border.


The plant is located where Europe’s cross-border interconnectors serve not only the French, but also the Belgium and English markets, making it an ideal location to supply peak power in all those markets. The new-generation GE model will be installed at an existing plant at Bouchain by 2015 when an existing coal-fired thermal power plant is phased out. The plant will cost 400 million euros ($536 million), EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio has said. The project is part of a “strategic partnership” with GE and aimed at modernizing EDF’s thermal plants by 2023.

For more about the GE 9HA Gas Turbine

Specific Energy Production II – Wind and Solar PV

In one of my previous posts I took a closer look at the specific energy production of both nuclear and hydroelectric energy. We saw that there are significant differences between the two.

In the recent past other energy sources have continuously gained ground against them. In particular, wind and solar PV are considered to be production modes of the future, and maybe one day they may be the backbone of our energy-hungry society. However, for the time being, we are still far from this point. One of the reasons is that both of these renewable energy sources do not provide the necessary stability which is cruciall for running the power grid of a post-modern information society.

Now let us look into the details. First we consider wind energy which has seen breathtaking growth rates in terms of installed capacity. However, installed capacity is not the last word when is comes to the actual performance of a particular production mode. Fig. 1 shows the average figures for wind energy for the period 1996 to 2010.

Fig. 1  Sspecific energy production in MWh/MW inststalled for some selected countries.

Fig. 1 Sspecific energy production in MWh/MW installed for some selected countries.

Germany, one of the countries with the largest installed capacity, is doing significantly worse than the other countries shown in the picture. Overall we observe that  the specific production figures are well below the ones we calculated for hydroelectric energy (Specific Energy Production – Nuclear and Hydro).

Fig. 2 provides the same data for some countries which recently have done a lot of effort to promote the use of solar PV. Again, Germany is the performing worse than its competitors which in this case does not come as a surprise since sunshine hours are much more abundant in Spain and Italy. The data represent average values for the period 1990 – 2010.

Fig. 2  Specific energy production for solar PV

Fig. 2 Specific energy production for solar PV

Solar PV is no match for wind in terms of specific output. To produce the same amount of energy in MWh one has to install a much larger capacity of solar PV than wind mills, since the former ones have an average specific output corresponding to only 54% of wind energy plants.

Similarly, the specific output of wind mills is equivalent to roughly 58% of the one for hydroelectric plants. Quite astonishingly, a similar relationship exists between hydro and nuclear with the specific output of hydro corresponding to about 50% of the one for nuclear plants.

In a nutshell, in order to obtain the same production figures as nuclear power installations one needs to install almost seven times as much capacity of solar PV and more then three times as much capacity of wind generating power.


Are Europe’s gas power generators turning into zombie companies?

“Gas power is losing money hand over fist”

By:Nicholas Newman 12 March 2013

It appears that Europe’s gas generators are in danger of turning into zombie companies, [i]suggests Hugh Sharman Owner, Incoteco (Denmark) ApS. [ii] They finding it increasingly difficult coping with the market created by uncontrolled expansion of “free” but heavily subsidised renewables and the dumping of cheap imported coal from the United States. Unfavourable market conditions and negative gas power generation are forcing companies to lose money hand over fist, suggests Guido Custer Managing Director at Delta Energy.

Gas plants in crisis

This is particularly the case in both Holland and Germany which is full of zombie gas power plants. It is not surprising we are hearing about gas power plants like Dong Energy idling its brand new Rotterdam plant for most of the time. It is cheaper for Dong Energy to buy imported German wind and coal generated electricity at €45 per megawatt hour than produce it themselves at €50 per megawatt hour. Throughout Europe, we are seeing plans to moth ball gas plants by major utilities such as E.on, Statkraft, GDF Suez SA and Centrica Plc. Whilst, Gabrielle Seeling-Hochmuth, head of gas strategy at Vattenfall’s gas competence centre, suggested, “that the company is unlikely to invest in new gas capacity until the 2030s”. [iii]

An oversupply of conventional power

Currently, in both in Germany and the Netherlands, both countries are facing a dire oversupply of conventional power capacity. [iv] In Holland, this is due in part to a gas power plant building boom by investors keen to take advantage of the countries natural gas resources. Their ambition was to turn the Netherlands into a major exporter of power to the rest of Europe. As a result, the country is facing an oversupply of conventional generation capacity made worse by the country’s encouragement of biomass, wind and solar power.

At the same time in Germany, the policy of giving renewables the highest priority in supplying the market when it comes to despatching power, and the very success of the €4 billion a year subsidies to promote renewables, has drastically shrunk the market for gas power stations. On sunny and windy days, onshore wind and photovoltaic meet over 85 per cent of Germany’s mid-day electricity needs reports Renewable Energy World. This is despite Germany closing nearly a third of its nuclear power plants reactors in spring 2011, it exports electricity to its neighbours – and indeed sold more abroad in 2012 (23 gigawatts) than ever before. [v]So industry analysts are suggesting Germany is dumping its power on its neighbours.

Cheap coal in Europe has dramatically increased the output from coal generation dramatically. As a result, this is drastically reducing the demand for gas generation in many states. This has resulted in numerous gas plants operating in the red in France, the Netherlands, Spain and the Czech Republic, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In Britain, gas generation is barely breaking even. It is not surprising operators are making a dash away from gas; after all, they are not charities.

The creation of zombie power companies?

“In fact, most of Europe’s major generators are turning into zombie companies, saddled with huge debts and heritage assets that are fast turning into liabilities,” suggests Hugh Sharman. Unfortunately, this dash away from gas is causing a problem for Europe’s energy leaders concerned about such issues as competition, stability and security of power supplies. Since if there is not adequate conventional reserve backup capacity to deal with lack of wind or sunshine for several days, then Europe faces the threat of continent wide blackouts.

Need for reform?

It has been suggested by various energy leaders, including Guido Custer that something must be done to end this cycle of zombie failure for gas generation and ensure that there is an adequate supply of reserve conventional capacity available. Guido Custer has proposed at Flame a series of measures to ensure adequate investment in maintaining current capacity and encourage new investment when it required. Certainly his proposals for a minimum price for the emissions trading system and widening the scope of members of European emission trading system sound reasonable.

A solution?

However, it is expected that many European governments will look not look kindly at lobbying efforts by the power sector for further subsidies known as capacity mechanism, given the current recession. [vi] Instead it would be more politically practicable for policy makers if government’s reduced subsidies for renewables and fixed the European emissions trading system so that gas is on a more equal footing with coal, renewables and nuclear. Unless something is done, the prospect of zombified European power companies could be a serious prospect. Even so, it looks like the size of Europe’s gas generation portfolio will be in future years, considerably reduced.

[i] Zombie Company is a media term for a company that needs constant bailouts in order to operate, or an indebted company that is able to repay the interest on its debts but not reduce its debts. There are several types of zombie companies. The term regained popularity in the media during 2008 for companies receiving bailouts from the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). A 2002 New York Times article about Japanese companies kept on “life-support” with loans include a headline that stated, “They’re Alive! They’re Alive! Not!; Japan Hesitates to Put an End to Its ‘Zombie’ Businesses

Specific Energy Production – Nuclear and Hydro

Here are some considerations on the specific energy production of nuclear and hydroelectric power plants (MWh produced per MW installed). The data are based on IEA publications comprising the top producers within each sector (2010 data).

Specific output of nuclear power plants

Fig.1 Specific output of nuclear power plants

The figures for nuclear vary between 6 and 8 GWh per MW installed capacity. Fig. 2 shows the situation for hydroelectric plants.

Fig. 2  Specific production hydro

Fig. 2 Specific output hydro

Again, the figures refer to the top producers in the world. The variations in specific output are much more pronounced for hydro than for nuclear. This variability may be due to varying water levels which tend to have a strong impact on production levels. In absolute numbers nuclear is the clear winner, outperforming even the top hydro producer Brazil.