Volkswagen and LichtBlick agree energy partnership
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Volkswagen and energy supplier LichtBlick agreed an exclusive world-wide energy partnership in Salzgitter on Wednesday. Volkswagen is to produce the high-efficiency "EcoBlue" CHP (combined heat and power) plant, which is to be driven by gas engines from Volkswagen. LichtBlick will be marketing the plants as "ZuhauseKraftwerke" (home power plants) and will be using them for a new, intelligent heat and power supply scheme.
"Under its BlueMotion Technologies brand, Volkswagen is already developing and producing innovative, environmentally effective technologies. The partnership with LichtBlick is further proof of our engineers' technical expertise. Volkswagen will be contributing its experience in the production of standard automobile engines, which has been tried and tested in millions of units, and its volume production capabilities to this cooperation," explained Dr. Werner Neubauer, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen brand with responsibility for 'Components'. "This project will also help to secure long-term employment at our Salzgitter plant and other Group facilities," Neubauer added.
"By marketing the ZuhauseKraftwerk, which allows decentralized, flexible power generation, LichtBlick will be ushering in a new era of smart energy supply. As Germany's largest independent energy supplier, we know how power and gas markets work and how to organize a successful sales system. In Volkswagen, we have found the ideal partner for our scheme," said Dr. Christian Friege, CEO of LichtBlick.
In future, these home power plants will not only supply heat to local buildings but will also be networked by LichtBlick to form an advanced major power plant. "You should think of our home power plants like a shoal of fish, with many small units pooling their resources to form a large, high-performance community that generates power. LichtBlick plans to network 100,000 of these home power plants to form the largest power plant in Germany," Friege explained.
With an output of 2,000 megawatts, this decentralized power plant will have the same capacity as two atomic power plants. While the ZuhauseKraftwerk will only generate power on demand, the heat produced at the same time will be stored, allowing reliable supplies of heating energy and warm water to the building at all times. Thanks to efficient Volkswagen technology, these natural-gas-fired home power plants already reduce CO2 emissions by up to 60 percent, compared with conventional heat and power generation. In future, LichtBlick plans to operate the plants on biogas, a renewable energy source with no impact on the climate.
The LichtBlick scheme for decentralized power generation is intended to supplement the expansion of renewable energy sources. Experts predict that almost half of the electricity used will be generated from renewable sources by 2020. Conventional base-load power plants cannot be started up or shut down fast enough to compensate for fluctuations in power supply from solar or wind energy units as a result of changing weather conditions. In contrast, power from the LichtBlick decentralized system can be supplied to the grid at a minute's notice.
"Most importantly, we can supply power when there is no wind. This approach will pave the way for increased use of renewable energy sources and for the flexible and climate-friendly power generation system of the future," Friege stated.
LichtBlick will initially be marketing the home power plants in Hamburg and the first plants will be available for installation from 2010 with the customer paying an installation contribution of 5,000 euros. From 2010, LichtBlick will be gradually expanding its marketing efforts to cover the whole of Germany.
Volkswagen is to start volume production of home power plants at its Salzgitter engine plant. "At the Salzgitter plant alone, cooperation with LichtBlick could ensure sustainable employment for 160 people," explained Andreas Blechner, Volkswagen Salzgitter Works Council Chairman. He added: "Apart from the idea of clean energy, the employment prospects were the main reason for the Works Council to actively support the CHP project." Group management and the Works Council agreed to implement the project at the Salzgitter plant during the 2006 round of pay negotiations. The Volkswagen Works Council sees this project as a first key step towards alternative employment in addition to conventional engine production.
Here in BC it's almost exclusively hydro-electric and it's pollution free / renewable already; in fact we sell power to the US as we have an abundance of KVA.
Net-importer or not?
BC Hydro's 2008 Annual Report says this:
Total BC generation: 59,995 GWh
Total BC consumption: 53,300 GWh
Surplus: 6,695 GWh
It's pretty clear: in 2008, BC generated considerably more power than British Columbians consumed. And that's the aspect of energy self-sufficiency that we should be concerned about, should it not?
In terms of meeting domestic demand, BC generates or acquires more power than it needs from domestic sources.
Everything else is tied up with the energy trading biz.
Net ...drumroll... EXPORTER!
You can quit reading here, if this stuff bores you. Wonks, read on...
We have talked about and questioned this net-importer story that has served the BC government, BC Hydro, and others so well, for most of this century. Few among us are sure what's really happening, we don't trust the net-importer dogma, so they continue saying "net-importer", we say "baloney", and it goes on and on, like the Everyready Bunny. (Anybody know what you get if you put the battery in the bunny backwards?)
It could cost $5,000 to $10,000 to do an expert analysis of the net sources and dispositions of electricity, and get a definitive answer to the question. I'd like to see that study done, if anyone wants to pony up for it. But then we'd still be left with a Marvin Shaffer vs. Mark Jaccard stand-off; expert vs. expert with most of us still as perplexed and mistrustful as ever.
I've been taking a simpler approach to this question. Once a year, BC Hydro publishes its annual report. It includes tables (see below) showing its costs for power, and where it comes from, and its revenues for power sold, and where it is sold. I think it's pretty persuasive.
The tables also have two great advantages over the $10,000 treatment: they are relatively easy to understand, and they come from the horse's mouth so they are difficult to argue with.
They are the source for the figures I used at the top of this note.
The tables actually include quite a bit more information. You can find BC Hydro's 2008 Annual Report and BC Hydro's other annual reports here.
The tables show that in 2008, BC Hydro sold marginally less energy than it bought, but it still earned $157 million on the trades. And this included a big transfer of energy from the domestic to the trade account.
BC Hydro's notes include this caution: "Prior to fiscal 2008, BC Hydro was a net importer of electricity for seven consecutive years due to average or below average system water conditions every year. Fiscal 2008 was an exceptional inflow year, with inflows well above normal, resulting in BC Hydro being a net seller of electricity. The outlook for fiscal 2009 is for a return to average inflow conditions and, as a result, it is expected that BC Hydro will once again be a net importer of electricity."
Hmm. Let's have a quick look at those previous years. Dunno what they're talking about. It looks like a surplus every year in the domestic accounts AND in the total numbers. The trade figures are less consistent. BC Hydro only started showing trade purchases in 2005; in the four years since, there has been alternating years of more sold than bought, and more power bought than sold. Prior to that, the trade purchases are not broken out in the annual reports. In 2006, when BC Hydro shows that it sold more power than it acquired in the trade account, it still profited $254 million for the year.
One important aspect of this importing issue is that we buy energy from coal-fired generation plants in Alberta and elsewhere. Powerex even has a contract to buy all the output from a coal-fired generater in Montana. If we're going to reduce our carbon emissions, we have to stop doing that. And by the same token, we have to stop exporting fossil fuels - our coal to Japan and Korea and China - and natural gas to the US.
Posted by Arthur Caldicott on 31 Jan 2009