Sunday, December 9, 2012

Germany's turn to renewables means more coal power

Germany's energy transition (Energiewende) supposedly serves as a role model for other countries. There are high hopes that Germany's know how in renewable energy will lead to a competitive advantage on future energy markets. This may be the case but so far the story is not off to a good start. In order to plug the gap left by decommissioning nuclear plants and to even out intermittent wind and solar energy, utility companies find it most profitable to use coal power. The economics of the energy markets is unambiguous, as this Bloomberg analysis shows.

Dieter Helm (whose new book we introduced here on Klimazwiebel some weeks ago) comments as follows: “Germany is currently switching from nuclear to coal, and from gas to coal -- about the worst thing that could be done from a climate change perspective... Its current energy policy is not going to reduce its real emissions.”


RainerS said...

Dear Reiner Grundmann,

thank you for this instructive post!

The Bloomberg analysis comes as no surprise, but it is comforting - though in an awkward way - that greater minds have finally come to the same conclusion as my humble self and its likes...

In 2011, overall use of coal for power generation in Germany was almost unchanged when compared to 2010 (black coal down a bit, lignite up - haven´t checked yet why that is, maybe just a question of power plant availability), while natural gas use went down approx. 5%. Will be interesting to analyse consolidated 2012 figures in a few months.

What really is alarming, is that even most modern and highly effiecient gas fired power plants like Irsching 5 (mentioned in the article) are in trouble. This plant features very low "classic" pollution levels as well as the short response times desparately needed to make up for volatile renewables input.

For the most recent details of the Irshing story (in German) see here:;art155371,2691872

Another trough to be filled by electricity users...albeit a necessary one.

By the way, before some people jump to conclusions, Irsching 5 is not just owned by Big Eon - shareholders include city utilities from Frankfurt, Darmstadt and Nuremberg...

Mark B. said...

Somehow, efficient, industrious Germany has become Alice's Wonderland, where multiple impossible things can be believed before breakfast. In order to lower your CO2 output, you subsidize wind and solar, which drives down the price of electricity, which forces a shift from gas to coal. And on top of that, you shut down no-CO2 nuclear. So not only do you not accomplish your goal, but you destroy wealth in the bargain.

One would think that some enemy was carrying out a nefarious plan to destroy the nation. But it's the nation's elites that are doing it. Mind-boggling.