September 29, 2022

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The electricity debate is full of myths, the biggest of which is the myth of wind and solar energy

The electricity debate is full of myths, the biggest of which is the myth of wind and solar energy

Debate: The electricity debate and the crisis raging in Norway and Europe are characterized by many myths about how to solve problems.

The electricity debate is full of myths that need to be dispelled, one of which is the importance of wind and solar energy.

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With knowledge-based knowledge and experience, combined with the healthy realism of market policy, many of these myths can be dispelled. It is said that electricity from wind and solar energy will become dominant in the energy supply. This is perhaps the biggest myth that has been introduced. Leading energy agencies and consultants claim in all earnestness that by 2050, 70-80 percent of global energy supply will come from wind and solar, compared to 10-15 percent today.

It is absolutely utopian to imagine such an increase in wind and solar power in 28 years, both in terms of what is technically feasible, and because there is a limit to how much variable current can be fed into a power source. If you are able to run a stable power grid, you need to have enough adjustable capacity – such as the base load, to smooth out fluctuations, as well as provide additional capacity when wind and solar are down. Germany, for example, has learned painfully the cost of neglecting the need for balance and energy reserves.

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Too many desk theories

Many “energy experts” claim that the problems of uncontrolled energy production can be solved through battery storage, “smart” operation of the power grid, “green” hydrogen-based gas power, and more. All of this is mostly desk theory, a far cry from the reality of being able to power a large-scale AC power supply.

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It is also said that Norway can import cheap wind energy via foreign cables.
This is a myth often used as an argument in defense of foreign cables. Maybe we can import cheap energy from time to time, but wind energy in all countries is fed into the main grid, to convert it into salable constant electricity. Thus, the energy being imported consists of the relevant electricity mix of Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Great Britain. They are coal, gas, oil, water, nuclear, wind and solar energy.

The Norwegian offshore wind is not as important as it claims. The government aims to develop 30 GW of Norwegian offshore wind by 2040. This corresponds to a total energy production of 105 TWh/year. Norway’s energy production in a typical year is 155 TWh, of which approximately. 75 percent of the hydropower is adjustable. The Norwegian power grid is already full of unregulated power. Another increase will quickly lead to higher system costs.

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The legend of kilowatt-hours

Even assuming that controllable Norwegian hydropower will be able to increase by 10-15 TWh until 2040, this still means that the Norwegian power grid will only be fed marginally from the planned offshore wind production. This could mean that nearly all of Norway’s offshore winds would have to be exported to Germany, the UK or other countries, which, based on what we know today, would have a large deficit in modifiable capacity.
So the importance of the Norwegian offshore wind, from a Norwegian and European perspective, is a myth that must be dispelled.

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For many people, electricity just means kilowatt-hours, regardless of whether kilowatts come from hydroelectricity, wind power, or other sources. This is another legend. Electric current is much more than that: that is, the power must be transmitted as synchronous alternating current from the source to the consumer. Alternating current is a very delicate system, the frequency must be maintained within 50 +/- 0.1 hertz (Hz), otherwise serious operational disturbances may occur, in the worst case “blackout”.

To keep frequency under control, adjustable amplitude is required of heavy rotating machines with large inertia such as hydroelectric and thermal power. Wind energy, which cannot be regulated, does not contribute here. Alternating current consists of the active power, the usable part, and the reactive power to service the system, which is necessary to maintain the magnetism, voltage and electric power flow. Wind power doesn’t contribute here either. Electrical energy is produced by electromagnetic waves, which travel at a speed close to the speed of light along current-carrying conductors, from the power source to the consumer.

Strength cannot be a commodity

The myth of electricity as a tradable “commodity” arose in the wake of the Energy Act of 1991, where the price was set based on the intersection of supply and demand.

This worked well with reasonably stable prices, until Euronext and Nasdaq took over the Nordic and Baltic countries electricity markets, Germany and the UK. Now the owner of the highest price determines the price of electricity. This has created an unsustainable situation, with unpredictable price hikes. Both new foreign cables and current gas prices are of course part of the explanation, but there is also reason to believe that the exchanges are taking advantage of the situation that has arisen, although it is worth it.

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Electricity is the most important part of our socially vital infrastructure, and therefore should not be defined as a tradable “good”, any more than tap water.
Electricity pricing should therefore be subject to political governance, where market considerations, economic stability and good use of resources are of paramount importance.

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