Why do we have to be successful

Climate protection: If we want to be successful, citizens have to participate voluntarily

Thoughts on the great climate academy of the Fridays for Future movement on September 25, 2020

Fridays for Future has called for nationwide demonstrations for climate protection on Friday, September 25th, 2020. In their appeal it says:

"Fridays For Future calls for compliance with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 1.5 ° C target. We are explicitly calling for Germany:

  • Reach net zero by 2035
  • Coal phase-out by 2030
  • 100% renewable energy supply by 2035

To meet the 1.5 ° C target, it is crucial to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. That is why we are demanding from now on:

  • The end of subsidies for fossil fuels
  • Turn off 1/4 of the coal power
  • A CO2-Tax on all greenhouse gas emissions. The price of greenhouse gas emissions must quickly become as high as the costs that it will incur for us and future generations. According to the UBA, that's € 180 per tonne of CO2."

And further it says:

"From April 2019 until now, politicians have managed to consistently ignore our demands and, with their climate package, have shown how little they think of a future worth living in."

Unfortunately, this has been correctly observed and should be a warning to the young activists, because it is hardly to be expected that the basic attitude of politics towards the energy transition has changed. It is to be feared that politicians will also sit out the other climate protests. Of course, all politicians will commit to complying with the 1.5 ° target - in the end this does not oblige you to anything and is not legally enforceable. When it comes to the demands of "phasing out coal by 2030, net zero and 100% renewable energy supply by 2035", one will say: In principle, yes, it would be nice, but it is not feasible.

And the specific demands for an end to subsidies for fossil fuels, a high level of CO2-Taxes and the shutdown of the coal-fired power plants will be rejected as not feasible and talked to death, especially since some of them have apparently not been completely thought through.

An end to all subsidies for fossil fuels and their use would be a good thing, but will probably fail due to opposition from lobbyists.

The CO2-Tax

The CO2-Tax of 180 euros / ton comes from the Federal Environment Agency UBA. There they wanted a "market-based approach" to CO2-Create reduction and have calculated when the use of fossil fuels is no longer worthwhile because it becomes too expensive.

In principle, this is the same approach that the Greens once followed with a petrol price of DM 5 / liter, only renamed and extended to all fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the approach also has the same shortcomings as the 5 DM / l gasoline. First, there is pressure on the citizens. They should be forced to behave in a certain way. But pressure creates counter pressure and nobody likes to be forced into something. If we want to be successful, the citizens have to participate voluntarily, everything else goes wrong.

And second, this is CO2-Tax socially totally unbalanced. Most houses are still heated with fossil fuels. By a CO2-Tax in this amount, the heating costs are roughly doubled. The landlords will not be particularly bothered by this, they simply pass the costs on to the tenants. But all citizens who are just getting by on their income will be hit very hard and will foot the bill.

Probably you will then start to make exceptions, e.g. by paying families in need an "energy money" or something similar. This creates a bureaucratic redistribution monster again and opens the door to social and subsidy fraud. Experience shows that fraudsters who are not entitled to claim are the first to apply. In addition, the effect of the CO2-Tax canceled again, so you can save it right away.

The same goes for the fuel. Many citizens are professionally dependent on the car. If we get the fuel through the CO2-Tax more expensive, we have to increase the mileage allowance. So in the end: "There was nothing except expenses". And everyone knows how to use the bill of kilometers to be tricked.

A CO2-Tax does not solve our problems because ultimately it wants to achieve a lower consumption of fossil fuels through coercion. But that presupposes that we have alternatives to the consumption of fossil fuels. And that is currently not the case because we are not generating enough renewable energy, i.e. solar and wind power. We cannot delete fossil fuels without replacing them, we can only substitute them.

The shutdown of the coal-fired power plants

Take the demand for an immediate shutdown of 25% of all coal-fired power plants. This requirement can even be met, but only because we have a very large gas-fired power plant capacity. These are underutilized because gas is more expensive than coal. You can immediately deliver the appropriate amount of electricity as long as there is sufficient natural gas available.

However, as a result we lose reserve and balancing energy capacity when generating electricity. And with this measure we only save less than 10% of the CO2-Emissions that occur during power generation, i.e. less than 5% of the total CO2-Creation of the Federal Republic, a. Replacing coal with gas can at best be an emergency measure that can be implemented in the short term.

The only real remedy can be the massive expansion of solar and wind power generation to at least six times the current output as well as the transmission and distribution networks. In addition, the transition to electromobility and the conversion of building heating to heat pumps.

Therefore the FFF activists should reconsider their demands. They're too general and too easy to get around. What is missing is a master plan that says exactly how the energy transition should take place, where we stand and what specifically needs to be done. We not only have to say where we want to go, but also clearly indicate the way to get there so that politicians cannot avoid it. In principle, one could fall back on the approaches that were addressed here: Bringing the energy transition back on track.


We have to act quickly and as much CO as possible2 save as soon as possible. That is why we should not immediately demand the complete abandonment of fossil fuels for every measure if, for example, we can achieve an 80 percent reduction much faster and more cheaply. Examples are plug-in hybrid vehicles instead of pure electric cars. This means that around three times the number of vehicles can be built with the existing batteries. If these then provide around 80% of their mileage electrically, about 2.4 times as much fuel is saved compared to a pure electric car.

It looks similar with the heaters. Heaters have to be designed for peak load so that the rooms can still be warm in the Siberian cold. However, this cold only occurs on a few days a year. During the rest of the time, the heating system is actually totally oversized. If we switch to heat pump heating, we do not necessarily have to design the heat pump for peak load, especially since we then also have to reliably provide the corresponding electricity in cold spells.

When retrofitting existing buildings, it is completely sufficient to design the systems for normal operation with outside temperatures down to 0 ° or -5 ° C. And if it is really colder or the electricity is insufficient, the old heating system is simply put into operation. Of course, this assumes that the operation of the heat pump is not more expensive than the oil heating. Attempts are currently being made to prevent the continued use of oil by stipulating the dismantling of the old oil heating systems in the BAFA funding conditions.

The same goes for the plug-in hybrids. If electricity is more expensive than fuel, a large number of drivers will not just plug their vehicles into the socket, but instead will refuel. However, a hybrid only needs around 15-20 kWh per 100 km, which at an electricity price of 30 ct / kWh results in € 4.50 - € 6. This corresponds to the price of 3-5 liters of petrol, so that electricity is cheaper.

And the big advantage is that the changeover in terms of the energy transition is voluntary, because the person concerned expects it to be of very personal benefit. You don't have to put pressure on him or force him, he goes along with it by himself.

The memory problem

Now a word about the required memories. It will be at least 15-20 years before fossil fuels are completely history. Therefore, in my opinion, it is the wrong approach today to reject any bridging technology and to rely on ineffective hydrogen storage.

Of course, at some point we will also have to build appropriate storage facilities to bridge dark periods and seasonal bottlenecks, but as long as we do not generate enough regenerative electricity, it makes no sense to build large long-term storage facilities. We should only store electricity that is generated anyway and cannot be used at the moment.

And if a large excess of solar power is generated at midday in the summer, it makes more sense to temporarily store this in batteries for e-cars and the power supply at night with an efficiency> 90% than to generate hydrogen with an efficiency of 60%, which is then only used afterwards with further major losses in efficiency.

The future hydrogen demand cannot be estimated today. Of course, the chemical industry currently has a high demand, but a large part of it is generated in fuel production (hydro refining for desulphurisation of crude oil). And that will no longer exist in the future.

The need in the future steel industry is also questionable. Of course, the Greens can extrapolate how much hydrogen you need if you convert today's steel production from iron ore to reduction with hydrogen. But does that make sense? How big is the future demand for steel really?

We are currently experiencing that car sales collapse because vehicle needs are covered. But if the German auto industry shrinks to a third, it will only need 1/3 of the steel or less. And then the next question is whether in future this steel will be produced from iron ore or not from scrap (Siemens-Martin process)? You only need a fraction of the electricity to melt the scrap in an electric arc.

Hydrogen is extremely unsuitable as an energy store, because if we generate it with 60% efficiency and then recover the energy from it with 40% efficiency, the overall efficiency is 24%, so we only get back ¼ of the energy that we have fed in.

Unfortunately, the opponents of the energy transition also know this. And that's why they built a very strong hydrogen lobby. Their calculation is simple: if they manage to convert the laboriously generated green electricity so ineffectively into hydrogen, the electricity demand increases enormously and it takes much longer and becomes much more expensive until enough green electricity is available to replace the fossil fuels.

Politics must lead the way

Of course, it cannot be the task of politics to dictate its business policy to the industry and the electricity grids must also be expanded and converted by the local operators, but politics can and must set the course. And she has some very effective means to do that.

For example, it can set standards that then have the force of law, e.g. for uniform charging plugs for e-cars. It can also stipulate binding heat pump heating in the building regulations for new buildings and conversions / building renovations.

It can set binding specifications for network expansion and enforce them by threatening severe penalties.

It can regulate and reduce the cost of carrying electricity through the transmission networks. This is also legally possible, since the transmission system operators have a monopoly in their area, so that the market economy does not work there. Since it is not possible to eliminate this monopoly structure, it must be regulated. The federal government could regulate the prices in such a way that the electricity becomes much cheaper, naturally at the expense of the return of the transmission network operators.

And last but not least, the federal government can use funding programs and the conditions contained therein to ensure that industry delivers what is needed for the energy transition. For example, one could not simply promote all e-cars, but only plug-in hybrids that are also suitable for use as a unit in a virtual power plant.

However, this will not meet with much approval from politics and business, because then the energy transition will really take off and many lucrative businesses and laboriously built power structures will be lost in the process.

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