Europe’s energy calamity offers a global teaching moment – do not try this at home

There is a website that shows European power prices in the day-ahead market. It is a beauty – a simple map of Europe, with each country’s name and a single power price below. To make it even simpler for us that qualify as the ultra-lazy, the countries are colour-coded by price, higher prices denoted by a different colour. A pretty palette of blues shows prices in the happy 0-50 Euro/MWh range, and prices that exceeded that range shifted to a kind of soft orange colour. 

Back in September, the site began showing some discomfort – various countries began appearing in more of an angry orange as prices crossed 120 Euros. Days later, prices edged into the 130s, and the first flushes of red appeared like little faces choking on a bun. 

Days later, some countries blew past red and into a new colour scheme of flourescent pinks and purples as power prices hit 200 Euros/MWh, then an angry North-Sea-sky deep blue grey at the 280 mark. 

Last week, the whole freaking thing went black as power prices surpassed 300 Euros. The graphic artists presumably threw up their hands and walked out. Subsequent to that, energy news reported that French prices had hit 1,000 Euros one day, but alas I did not visit the site that day to see what they had come up with. 

Welcome to the new energy world, as pioneered by Europe.

Before rambling further, I will point out one discrepancy – on the day that all of western Europe registered black, one country did not: Poland. The country relies on coal for a substantial portion of its power, and ironically that blackest of black products kept Poland from that darkest category.

The International Energy Agency followed up on this theme a few days later, releasing a report called Coal 2021. In it, the IEA – an organization that has recently been cuffed about the ears in a significant way for not speaking singularly about the energy transition – has a few curt section titles: “The 2020 collapse in coal demand turned out to be smaller than anticipated.” And: “Coal-fired power generation is set to reach an all-time high in 2021.” And: “Coal production is set to rise to its highest ever levels in 2022.”

I point out the European map and oddball coal statistics because these are the bookends of the current ‘energy transition’. Europe has spent hundreds of billions on wind and solar and is turning its back on coal as fast as it can. It is also split in half on nuclear power, with a significant number of countries (including Germany) standing by their abhorrence of it, and the other half planning to build new reactors (most notably the Netherlands, who just committed billions to new projects).

The result of Europe’s experiment is a mind-numbing (and soon body-numbing) energy shortage on all fronts: not enough power (from wind, nuclear, coal, natural gas, or anywhere), not enough natural gas, not even enough coal.

A month ago, the 30,000+ gathering of the globe-trotting jet-set elites at COP26 brought forth almost nothing except two very watered down pledges: to work towards phasing out coal, and to get rid of “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. 

Mere weeks after that two week festival, we now know that coal usage is accelerating, and that much of Europe is introducing brand new fossil fuel subsidies in the form of capped utility bills for consumers (rioting citizens throw off a lot of heat which is, you know, bad for warming). Not a lot to show for the party, except one great big valuable lesson: ideology is easy, governing is hard.

Here’s a quick example why: Advocates make a big deal of installed renewable energy capacity. It is easy to find for example that Britain has over 20 Gigawatts of wind power installed. Britain’s consumption is about 40 Gigawatts. Big progress! One day last week, that installed capacity was generating 0.8 Gigawatts. The 20 could not be counted on, so it had to come from somewhere else. Other countries, or hydrocarbons. “Someday we will have batteries!” you can hear them shout from under a pile of blankets. Yes. And some day every earthling will have an air conditioner and a heater, and energy consumption will be twice as much as today, and intermittency will be an even bigger problem, because there isn’t enough raw material to be had to develop enough batteries to last for weeks on end as would be needed in periods of extreme weather.

A great deal of harm is going to come to a lot of people and budgets this winter, but the world owes Europe a big thank you – one country or region had to put the ‘as-fast-as-we-can’ energy transition into motion in order to show the world what it looks like when frightened people try to rewire the world too quickly. The other 7.5 billion people can learn from their experiment without having to go there. Some won’t learn until the whole roof collapses – Germany, Belgium and California are all shutting down reliable baseload nuclear plants and replacing them with bets on sustained windspeed; these will all provide further disastrous case studies for students to mull over for decades.

Unfortunately, there remains the nasty fact that the world is short of all hydrocarbons as a result of the aforementioned rapid energy transitionists’ demand that hydrocarbon investment evaporate. A lot of very unhappy people are going to have to deal with the consequences of that. But at least we can all learn from the experiment. 

Pick up “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” today, before it’s illegal! Available at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

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2 Comments

  1. John Chittick says:

    I’m not sure Western Europe has learned anything from green theocracy (as a poor substitute for electrical engineering and economics) let alone the rest of the bankrupt developed western welfare states. Even France, with its enviable 75% nuclear grid is supposed to be reducing that in favour of unreliables. France’s grid was the UK’s most reliable baseload and back-up for their proud and unreliable green monuments (bird slicing, bat chomping eco-crucifixes in Delingpole’s words). I suspect that the modern day Eloi responsible for electing the current crop of sociopaths (rewarding rent seekers while punishing real energy producers when they aren’t jacking up their carbon footprints taking in every global anti-carbon gab-fest) – will have to be educated with hunger, cold, and deprivation.

    Like

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