The Germans Have a Word For It: Schadenfreude

As an Englishman I take no delight, I promise, in the abject humiliation of our second-worst national enemy after the French. Even so I think you’d need a heart of stone not to laugh at the major crisis besetting Germany’s solar industry: it is collapsing due to the lack of at least one key ingredient – sunshine. (H/T Benny Peiser; Global Warming Policy Foundation)

The Baedeker travel guide is now available in an environmentally-friendly version. The 200-page book, entitled “Germany – Discover Renewable Energy,” lists the sights of the solar age: the solar café in Kirchzarten, the solar golf course in Bad Saulgau, the light tower in Solingen and the “Alster Sun” in Hamburg, possibly the largest solar boat in the world.

 The only thing that’s missing at the moment is sunshine. For weeks now, the 1.1 million solar power systems in Germany have generated almost no electricity. The days are short, the weather is bad and the sky is overcast.

As is so often the case in winter, all solar panels more or less stopped generating electricity at the same time. To avert power shortages, Germany currently has to import large amounts of electricity generated at nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic. To offset the temporary loss of solar power, grid operator Tennet resorted to an emergency backup plan, powering up an old oil-fired plant in the Austrian city of Graz.

Solar energy has gone from being the great white hope, to an impediment, [sic] to a reliable energy supply. Solar farm operators and homeowners with solar panels on their roofs collected more than €8 billion ($10.2 billion) in subsidies in 2011, but the electricity they generated made up only about 3 percent of the total power supply, and that at unpredictable times.

The distribution networks are not designed to allow tens of thousands of solar panel owners to switch at will between drawing electricity from the grid and feeding power into it. Because there are almost no storage options, the excess energy has to be destroyed at substantial cost. German consumers already complain about having to pay the second-highest electricity prices in Europe.

Some of us could have predicted this a while back. After all, Germany has never been known as the Land of Sun. What’s worrying is that the Germans went ahead with their massive, state-sponsored, taxpayer-funded solar-building program anyway. It’s worrying because aren’t we kind of relying on Germany to be the economic powerhouse that eventually gets Europe back into the black and saves the world from total meltdown? If those ruthlessly efficient, businesswise Teutons are in fact as dumb as the rest of us, that really is it: game over.

  1. Nick Stuart

    Another word the Germans have that applies to the push to get us all in line with Climate Change and green alternitives to power sources that actually work reliably is “Gleichschaltung.”

    Now that Wikipedia is back online you can look it up. Roughly it translates as “coordination.” It was the process of bringing all of society into line with a particular ideology. In the present case Climate Change and other tenets of the modern secular state religion of the left.

  2. The Great Adventure!

    James – not to worry.  I’m sure the European Parliament will legislate in the necessary sunshine.

  3. david foster

    Well, at least Germany will be a great export market for American natural gas…

  4. Percival
    James Delingpole:

    Solar farm operators and homeowners with solar panels on their roofs collected more than €8 billion ($10.2 billion) in subsidies in 2011, but the electricity they generated made up only about 3 percent of the total power supply, and that at unpredictable times.

    “Unpredictable times” roughly equates to when the sun is shining, you dolts!

    The distribution networks are not designed to allow tens of thousands of solar panel owners to switch at will between drawing electricity from the grid and feeding power into it.

    I just can’t snark this — it’s too big.  It is a massive Mountain of Stoopid too colossal for me to get my brain around.  Multiple sources, and no thought at all to be able to draw on the overage, during peak usage?

    French design. Gotta be.  Either that or somewhere in Germany there’s an engineer muttering “Ich erklärte Ihnen so.”.

  5. Haakon Dahl

    “Solar energy has gone from being the great white hope, to an impediment, to a reliable energy supply.”

    Honest, I think that second comma was added by an editor who didn’t get the point of the piece.

  6. DocJay

    That word confuses me, does it mean shade and cold ?

  7. Dietlbomb
    Haakon Dahl

    “Solar energy has gone from being the great white hope, to an impediment, to a reliable energy supply.”

    Honest, I think that second comma was added by an editor who didn’t get the point of the piece. · 22 minutes ago

    I had to laugh out loud at the cognitive dissonance limned here. A certain group of people (journalists, academics, most politicians, the rest of the left) just cannot think any bad thoughts about green energy.

    Anyway, the piece is hilarious. Besides, it’s not just that this could have been predicted. It was inevitable. But since climate skeptics were saying so, the thought that solar panels in Germany wouldn’t work was a thought that couldn’t be thought.

  8. David Williamson

    I believe the Germans have also given up on Nuclear.

    That leaves, um, wind. Oh, and gas from Russia.

    It’s all the more strange because Mrs Merkel studied Physics – she should know better.

  9. The King Prawn

    Wind has the same problem of being wrong when it’s needed the most. Texas has this problem in the summer when air conditioners place a heavy load on wind turbines that fail to produce because the wind stalls as the air heats up.

    electricity.jpg

  10. Parkman Plays

    Who has the highest electricity prices in Europe? The British? Would that be because their Government has implemented Carbon Tax so thoroughly? If the response to my questions is “yes”, then shouldn’t America follow Canada in discarding the whole thing?

  11. Deleted Account

    This actually came up in argument I was having recently with a Lefty friend, who was extolling the virtues of German green power. I found this table quite useful in helping him understand that as wonderful as it might be, I didn’t think he’d want to see his rates triple or quadruple. (Nova Scotia power is about 10 cents per kWh)

  12. Foxman

     If anybody can come up with a better way to store energy,inexpensive compact and efficient, that person will make a fortune.  It is not an easy solution.

  13. Richard Stewart

    Docjay, if you’re asking about the word “schadenfreude,” I believe it is, roughly: malaise, dismay, anxiety about the future, and melancholy, all rolled up into one.

  14. The King Prawn
    Richard Stewart: Docjay, if you’re asking about the word “schadenfreude,” I believe it is, roughly: malaise, dismay, anxiety about the future, and melancholy, all rolled up into one. · 2 minutes ago

    It’s actually feeling pleasure at the misfortune of someone else. I feel it every time I see someone who passed me driving like a moron pulled over by the police.

  15. Richard Stewart

    Yes, indeed, I should have done my German homework before I posted! Mea culpa…

  16. Sisyphus

    The real bang for the buck would be solar power satellites beaming power down to receiving stations in arid climes not prone to significant cloud cover into the grid. No atmosphere in the way, 24×7 full solar exposure, and an endeavor where NASA could actually provide real value to the US and the world.

    All American presidents have passed on this idea for decades. 

  17. DocJay

    I was actually attempting a word play as I know the definition and I’m one to look such items up rather than embarrass myself further than I already do. Heck, i even saw Avenue Q. The first part of the word play was shade which is easy and the second part I said cold because it looks like the French word froide which means cold. Not really funny but shade and cold are not solar friendly. He dribbles, drives, shoots and…..air ball.

  18. FeliciaB
    James Delingpole:  it is collapsing due to the lack of at least one key ingredient – sunshine. 

    I think I just peed my pants.

  19. David Nordmark

    I remember Obama being quite impressed with Germany’s solar industry. Here’s a quote from the great leader in 2008:

    “Germany, a country as cloudy as the Pacific Northwest, is now a world leader in the solar power industry and the quarter-million new jobs it has created. To truly harness its potential, we urgently need real leadership from Washington — leadership that has been missing for decades.”

    I wonder if this news gives him any pause? Probably not. He’s too busy campaigning. “Fierce urgency of now” and all (unless it’s about building pipelines)

  20. Mendel

    The more important German word in this context is Atomausstieg.

    If the current law stands, Germany will have no nuclear power after 2022.  Having just lived there for 8 years, I was astounded at how popular this move was among all levels of German society.  There is truly a widespread belief that renewable energy will be able to replace the 23% of energy needs which are currently covered by nuclear power. 

    Germans are some of the most sensible, rational people I have met, but when it comes to energy, there is a blind spot about the size of the sun.