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Putting the Ente in Energiew-Ente

Reports of 100% renewable power in Germany vastly overstated

It turns out that the Agorameter only estimates the current load, and repeatedly the estimate has come in around 10 GW too low. The alleged 100% renewable power peak on Sunday now looks closer to 82%.

First, I need to explain the joke in the subtitle above. “Ente” is German for canard, which is actually French for a misleading / untrue news report. We have now had two misleading reports on the peak share of renewable power, so the Energiewende is increasingly an EnergiewEnte.

(I am a very funny guy.)

Second, I am about to criticize Agora, but I have made the same mistake myself (just compare the URL and the text here). And to be fair, Agora staff have tried to warn against misreports, but to little avail. Basically, live data are not only guesstimates, but also keep adjusting for around 48 hours.

In the case of Agora’s chart for Sunday, which originally seemed to show that renewable power touched the line for demand for the first time ever, power demand turns out to be only estimated for the current day. The estimate also seems to be reliably 10 GW too low (at least in these two cases). The 100% share of renewables now comes in at 82% (47 GW of 57 GW).

Agora Energiewende

You get an even better feel for how all of this is just guesstimated by comparing Agora with Fraunhofer’s Energy Charts. For Sunday, Fraunhofer has a peak of around 55 GW. It’s not far from Agora’s current 57 GW, but it’s still a 4% difference. Top German politicians say the Energiewende is Germany’s Man on the Moon Project. You could not land a man on the moon with 4% imprecision.

What can be done? These charts, as messy as they are, are far too important to get rid of. They must stay online. They are a part of the democratic, open debate among informed citizenry. 4% imprecision is fine for that purpose. We are not navigating to the moon with these charts; we are Monday-morning quarterbacking (for non-Americans, football games in the US are generally on Sunday).

However, we cannot continue to have canards published on the Energiewende. Agora has asked me if I know of any better source of current load data, and I don’t (if you do, use the comment box below).

I’d therefore propose a workaround:

That won’t fix all the other things everyone is getting wrong. Even a guy from Bloomberg wrote that Germany was “nearly 100 percent renewable energy for a day.” (It’s a brief peak, not the whole day, and it’s just electricity, not energy.) So we can’t fix all of the Enten until everyone knows those differences, which ain’t gonna happen soon. But we can at least not contribute to the one about 100% peaks that are not yet happening.

(Craig Morris / @PPchef)