Oct 13 • 1HR 9M

'You can never build a secure system on wind alone'

A conversation on the weakness in Germany's energy system

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Jörg Luyken
A smart podcast on German politics & current affairs
Episode details
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Dear Reader,

A sudden shock to energy supplies has led to fears that the horror scenario of a blackout could hit Germany this winter.

A blackout wouldn’t be pretty: within hours essential parts of life would stop working. Hospitals would only be able to carry out critical operations; supermarkets wouldn’t be able to cool perishable food; cash machines wouldn’t work; apartments would no longer have access to running water.

Just how legitimate are fears that such a disaster could hit Germany?

To find out, I spoke to Dr. Harald Schwarz, a professor of engineering at the Brandenburg Technical University who has dedicated his career to researching Germany’s electricity grid.

His conclusions were far from reassuring.

He told me that both Germany’s politicians and the public live in an alternative reality in which renewables are the answer to all the country’s problems. He warned that only “trigger event” will jolt them back to their senses.

In a 70-minute conversation we took a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of the German electricity grid. Dr. Schwarz talked about why renewables alone can’t offer security, when the Energiewende went off track, what would happen during a blackout, and what needs to change.

I found the conversation both fascinating and disconcerting, I hope you enjoy listening to it too!

Here is a time stamp to guide you through it:

0.00 - Introduction

3.00 - Should Merkel have built more wind turbines?

11.00 - Learning from the Chinese

13.40 - Can offshore wind save the German system?

15.50 - Can energy storage save Germany from a blackout?

23.20 - How the Energiewende lost its way

27.50 - Can ‘smart grids’ save Germany?

38.00 - Is the new government better at recognising the problem?

45.30 - Will a blackout happen this winter?

52.00 - What would happen during a blackout?

56.20 - What needs to change?

59.50 - What the government is doing wrong on nuclear

1.03.00 - Why Germans need to fall back in love with engineering

1.06.00 - How ‘the crazies’ have taken over the system