A former head of RWE Innogy has told a meeting at the House of Commons in London that the German government is refusing to acknowledge the possibility that its Energiewende policy is deeply flawed.
Professor Fritz Vahrenholt’s views appear more credible than typical climate sceptics as he comes from a background which champions green energy.
He was CEO of wind turbine company RE-Power as well as head of Innogy, RWE’s renewable energy division. Despite these credentials Vahrenholt believes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been in error in its analysis of the extent of mankind's contribution to climate change, with subsequent implications for his country’s Energiewende agenda.
Referring to the misfortunes of Germany’s top four utilities, he said that the likes of RWE and E.ON would have to be contented with status as regional entities, no longer global powerhouses, as a result of the pursuit of a renewables-dominated future.
Speaking at the Global Warming Policy Foundation event on Tuesday, Vahrenholt pointed out that temperature changes over the last 18 years were much lower than expected, and the analysis being relied on to push the current agenda was from models produced between 1975 and 2000.
“A serious diversion away from Energiewende would amount to an admission of strategic blunder and therefore consequences for the political establishment. So in the federal parliament, apart from one or two people, no one is opposing the policy.”
He said the government and entire establishment were choosing not to acknowledge contradictory evidence, opting instead to ‘muddle through’, creating a potential economic disaster.
Despite this position, Vahrenholt said there was a growing movement afoot throughout Germany against the Energiewende policy, even though a majority continues to back it, despite the use of lignite coal threatening to see the country’s ‘CO2 target disappearing over the horizon.’
An article in the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday again emphasised the argument that human activity is leading to catastophic climate change. When asked by Power Engineering International about the veracity of the article, an account of data compiled by three reputable agencies, the UK Met Office, Nasa and Noaa, he refuted the conclusions.
"The temperature incresse from 2014 to 2016 was exclusively an effect of El Nino. We have to compare it with the El Nino from 1998. In all other temperature records (Hadcrut , RSS or UAH) the difference ranges from 0.02 to 0.1. If this is the effect of CO2, we will have no problems in this century."
With reference to the article headline (2016 hottest year ever recorded – and scientists say human activity to blame) he told PEi, "I am not sure wether the bold sentence 'hottest year since whatever year' is correct. The medieval warm period was at minimum of the same temperature and possibly some time back to the Holocene period (at a) maximum."
"But all this does not matter. Because if 50 per cent is of natural origin, there is no cause for alarm. The models , which cannot show the medieval warm period, are tuned from 1980 to 2000, where we had a strong influence of Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and the sun."
Vahrenholt also ruled out the prospect of re-introducing nuclear power in Germany, in a bid to reduce the country’s carbon emissions, once the flaws in the energy transition policy become more apparent to the public.
“I don’t think there is a chance on that because it’s do deep in the minds of Germans – the only thing that could happen is the experience of an emergency blackout but you wouldn’t wish that as it means many deaths.”
The German people, despite rising energy bills, still believed in the project, he said, “they just think it’s not being accomplished quickly enough.”
“Mankind will just have to learn through experience, as the prognosis of the IPCC goes unfulfilled, but it will remain problematic as over the next five to ten years additional mistakes will be made.”
“I would like to see the next five years get really cold so all this alarmism goes bust.”
In a Q&A session following his lecture, entitled ‘The crisis of Germany’s Energiewende’, Vahrenholt also expressed doubt about potential re-education of the public in terms of a revised version of climate science.
“Government ministries are not interested in it. The science minister interfered, when in the last IPCC report there was mention of the hiatus and pause in temperature rise. She asked for that information to be struck out. You can’t expect them to be so open that they consider re-educating the people.”
As a long-standing member of the Social Democrats, Vahrenholt was asked if his views were shared by others within the party, even though the current minister for energy (and key Energiewende proponent), Sigmar Gabriel comes from within their ranks.
“Yes. If you discuss it though I would not name the persons. We have a political party where the public service is not a reality -the dominance comes more the green wing and typical Labour representatives are no longer strong inside the social democrat party.”
Vahrenholt added that while he was green in the ‘traditional’ sense, he wished to disassociate himself from the green party political context, which he said was not about environmentalism, but rather a social movement against capitalism and big companies ‘with the greenish glow as camouflage.’ He said the movement now held sway to an unhealthy extent.
“20 years ago, if they said they wanted no new fossil fuel cars, no one would have voted for them but there is an angst now about co2 and they can do that.”
German utilities such as E.ON and RWE have suffered greatly as a result of the energy transition, with massive debts and humbling share price performance.
Vahrenholt was asked who would finance Germany’s new capacity programme given that context and the context of sinking power prices.
“The government saw that they are not able to pay for nuclear waste disposal (associated with the phaseout of nuclear power). The government has had to largely take over because if they gave the burden completely to the big four they would go broke.
“It is a silly development. If you look at energy policy worldwide you should have in mind the influences by big companies such as Gazoprom, EDF, Exxon and Germany had two. But they are now no longer at the big table for electricity deals. It’s done and no one will reanimate them to their previous stance- they will survive, but as regional entities.”
Vahrenholt was heavily critical of the decision to abandon nuclear power, accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of ‘shooting from the hip’ in ordering a phase-out of the facilities following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.
“We had a similar situation a few years ago when the decision was taken to open the borders and if we hadn’t done that the UK might have stayed in the EU. It was the same very emotional type of decision as seen over the Euro discussion with Greece.”
Gerd Schroeder would have had a commission on that (decision whether to close nuclear) – she decided over a weekend on one of the most important issues in society –its energy supply.”
More to follow...