Surplus from and storage of electricity generated by intermittent sources

  • Friedrich WagnerEmail author
Open Access
Regular Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Focus Point on the Transition to Sustainable Energy Systems


Data from the German electricity system for the years 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015 are used and scaled up to a 100% supply by intermittent renewable energy sources (iRES). In the average, 330GW wind and PV power are required to meet this 100% target. A back-up system is necessary with the power of 89% of peak load. Surplus electricity accrues at high power levels. Curtailing surplus power to a large extent is found to be uneconomic. Demand-side management will suffer from the strong day-to-day variation of available surplus energy. A day storage is ineffective because of the day-night correlation of surplus power during winter. A seasonal storage loses its character when transformation losses are considered because it can contribute only after periods with excessive surplus production. The option of an oversized iRES system to feed the storage is also not effective because, in this case, energy can be taken directly from the large iRES supply, making storage superfluous. The capacities to be installed stress the difficulty to base heat supply and mobility also on iRES generated electricity in the future. As the German energy transition replaces one CO2-free electricity supply system by another one, no major reduction in CO2 emission can be expected till 2022, when the last nuclear reactor will be switched off. By 2022, an extremely oversized power supply system has to be created, which can be expected to continue running down spot-market electricity prices. The continuation of the economic response --to replace expensive gas fuel by cheap lignite-- causes an overall increase in CO2 emission. The German GHG emission targets for 2020 and beyond are therefore in jeopardy.


Open access funding provided by Max Planck Society (or associated institution if applicable).


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für PlasmaphysikBranch GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany

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