One of the great mysteries of debates around climate change is why so many people actively exaggerate the growth and current levels of renewable energy. If you really cared about climate change you should be motivated to accurately appraise where we are, and such appraisals are always sobering. A belief that renewable energy is supplying more energy than it really is should be counter productive. Yet, any observer of environmentalist’s attitude to German solar power will realise this is not the case. Hype and exaggeration is all that we get.
Consider these two facts: solar panels provided 50% of German electricity for a couple of hours one Saturday afternoon last May, but in total solar provided 4.6% of German electricity last year. The second statistic is what matters, yet any survey of green reporting of the issue shows that peak solar power is all that gets reported. Many people even believe that German now gets 50% of its electricity from solar all year round, not just on the occasional sunny afternoon.
And this leads me to one of the more egregious examples of this. CleanTechnica is not what you would consider calling a site that provides sober analysis. The general attitude is probably “read that press release, and hype it up some more.” So this recent report on German solar is not exactly surprising. But the graph below is particularly awful, even by the stands of CleanTechnica.
Those things on the right are the output from the Fukushima power plant, and a new EPR nuclear reactor. Clearly the author thinks the average reader is stupid enough to draw the conclusion that solar power produces far more electricity than the Fukushima power plant. Yet, if you redrew this graph to show average output of Germany’s 33 GW of solar things would not look so impressive. But I guess an average of 3.4 GW lacks the impact of a peak of 24 GW.
Now, as I fear I always need to point out, these observations are not “anti-renewables” or “pro-nuclear” they are merely pro-arithmetic.