Energy in Germany
- Power Generation and Consumption
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Timeline: The past, present and future of Germany’s Energiewende Simon Evans; Carbon Brief; 21 Sep 2016
- Carbon Brief charts the history of the Energiewende, the term for the German energy transition coined in the late 1970s.
- The Energiewende is widely associated with German chancellor Angela Merkel. However, her government’s 2010 “Energiekonzept” (energy strategy) makes no mention of the word. In fact, the term Energiewende emerged in the late 1970s as part of the anti-nuclear movement.
- Only after the post-Fukushima decision to speed up Germany’s nuclear phaseout did Merkel claim the Energiewende as her own, in a classic political manoeuvre that co-opted her opponents’ ideas. It was later adopted as the official nomenclature for Germany’s wider climate and energy strategy.
Is Germany’s renewable power boom stalling? Megan Darby; Climate Home; 3 Jan 2017
- Germany’s power generation from renewable sources is flatlining, according to a leading solar research institute. Solar, wind, biomass and hydropower sources produced 186TWh in 2016, or 34% of net electricity supply, analysis from the Fraunhofer Institute shows – showing no increase from the previous year. That was partly down to the weather: sunshine hours were down 4% and wind 14% from 2015 levels, lead researcher Bruno Burger told Climate Home. A clampdown on subsidies also hit installations of solar panels, he said. “For wind, it was only weather conditions; for solar, it was weather and policy.” With nuclear and coal generation in decline, the big winner was natural gas, which surged more than 40% on cheaper supplies.
- Note: "other renewables" = wood
Should other nations follow Germany's lead on promoting solar power? Ryan Carlyle; Quora
- Solar power itself is a good thing, but Germany's pro-renewables policy has been a disaster. It has the absurd distinction of completing the trifecta of bad energy policy: Bad for consumers, Bad for producers, Bad for the environment (yes, really; I'll explain)
Energiewende: Germany, UK, France and Spain Euan Mearns; Energy Matters; 3 Nov 2013
Germany: energiewende kaput? Euan Mearns; Energy Matters; 19 May 2014
Germany’s ‘Energiewende’ as a model for Australian climate policy? Graham Palmer, Energy Matters; June 2014
- history of anti-nuclear movements in Germany & Australia
An update on the Energiewende Roger Andrews; Energy Matters; 22 Aug 2016
Reality Check: Germany Does Not Get Half of its Energy from Solar Panels Robert Wilson; the Energy Collective; 19 Aug 2014
- Last year, 5.7% of Germany’s electricity generation and 2.5% of primary energy consumption came from solar panels.
The 4th Largest Economy In The World Just Generated 90 Percent Of The Power It Needs From Renewables JEREMY DEATON; Climate Progress; 9 May 2016
- On Sunday, for a brief, shining moment, renewable power output in Germany reached 90 percent of the country’s total electricity demand. That’s a big deal. On May 8th, at 11 a.m. local time, the total output of German solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass reached 55 gigawatts (GW), just short of the 58 GW consumed by every light bulb, washing machine, water heater and personal computer humming away on Sunday morning. (It’s important to note that most likely, not all of that 55 GW could be used at the time it was generated due to system and grid limitations, but it’s still noteworthy that this quantity of power was produced.)
Germany takes steps to roll back renewable energy revolution Philip Oltermann; The Guardian; 11 Oct 2016
- According to leaked plans from the German federal network agency, published on Tuesday in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the government has had to halve its original target for expanding its windfarms in the gale-beaten northern flatlands because it cannot extend its power grid quickly enough to the energy-hungry south.
Germany’s energy consumption and power mix in charts Kerstine Appunn; Cleanenergywire.org; 9 Jun 2016
- This factsheet provides a range of charts (and data links) about the status of Germany’s energy mix, as well as developments in energy and power production and usage since 1990.
Germany to miss climate targets ‘disastrously’: leaked government paper Climate Change News; 11 Oct 2017
- Germany is headed for a clear failure to meet its 2020 climate targets, according to calculations by the country’s environment ministry. Without further action, Germany’s CO2 emissions will only be 31.7% to 32.5% below 1990 levels, an internal environment ministry paper seen by the Clean Energy Wire shows.
- Given the official target of cutting emissions by 40%, the ministry warns that a failure of this magnitude would constitute a “significant blow to Germany’s climate policy”, and would amount to “a disaster for Germany’s international reputation as a climate leader”.
Germany’s Energiewende predicament Roger Andrews; Energy Matters; 3 Apr 2018
- It’s widely acknowledged that Germany’s Energiewende is in trouble, but few if any recent articles have addressed the full scope of its problems. Here I provide an overview of Germany’s progress to date, or lack thereof, in meeting its original targets, which were set in 2010. The results show that Germany is on track to meet its targets for expanding renewable energy but is unlikely to stay on track in coming years. The prospects that Germany will meet any of its 2050 energy and emissions targets are remote.
Germany to close all 84 of its coal-fired power plants, will rely primarily on renewable energy Erik Kirschbaum; LA Times; 26 Jan 2019
- Germany, one of the world’s biggest consumers of coal, will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years to meet its international commitments in the fight against climate change, a government commission said Saturday.
- The announcement marked a significant shift for Europe’s largest country — a nation that had long been a leader on cutting CO2 emissions before turning into a laggard in recent years and badly missing its reduction targets. Coal plants account for 40% of Germany’s electricity, itself a reduction from recent years when coal dominated power production.
- “This is an historic accomplishment,” said Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the 28-member government commission, at a news conference in Berlin following a marathon 21-hour negotiating session that concluded at 6 a.m. Saturday. The breakthrough ended seven months of wrangling. “It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it,” Pofalla said. “There won’t be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038.”
Gas wars part one: let’s be honest about Germany’s growing dependence on fossil gas L. Michael Buchsbaum; Energy Transition; 19 Mar 2019
- in late January Chancellor Angel Merkel (CDU) addressed the 49th Annual World Economic Meeting and let the cat out of the proverbial bag: “if we phase out coal and nuclear energy, then we have to be honest and tell people that we’ll need more natural gas.”
Merkel under pressure to delay nuclear power ban Energy Reporters; 08 Jun 2019
- The German government is facing growing calls from businesses to postpone its phase-out of nuclear power as alternative sources are yet to fill the gap.
- Volkswagen’s CEO and the chairman Continental, the car parts manufacturer, have made recent public statements in favour of nuclear power.
- They cite environmental fears that ditching nuclear would leave the country reliant on highly pollutant brown coal.
- Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would close its nuclear reactors by 2022 following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan after a tsunami. Earthquakes and tsunamis are, however, less common in Germany.
- But renewable sources have failed to fill the shortfall, meaning the authorities have been forced to turn to filthy lignite.
- Germany is already the world’s biggest natural-gas importer and BASF, the German chemicals giant and investor in Nord Stream 2, consumes more gas than Denmark.
- Germany also has Europe’s highest non-household electricity prices.
- “If climate protection really matters to us, the nuclear power plants need to run longer,” Herbert Diess, the VW chief executive, told Tagesspiegel.
- Closing Germany’s last coal-fired power plant in 2038 – as decided in January by a government-appointed commission – was “far too late”, Diess told the newspaper.
- “The priorities are the wrong way round: first we need to get out of coal, and then out of nuclear power.”
- The irony of Volkswagen lecturing the government on environmental issues was not lost on observers.
- VW’s 2015 “dieselgate” scandal exposed millions to toxic fumes and the firm has promoted polluting SUVs instead of smaller vehicles.
- The automotive giant’s vehicles are responsible for an estimated 2 per cent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, according to VW’s data.
- Germany currently generates 47 per cent of its energy from renewable sources but it also generates 30 per cent of its power from environmentally ruinous coal. Around 13 per cent currently comes from nuclear.
- But the German Green party, which surprised many to come second in May’s European election and recently came top in an opinion poll, remains firmly opposed to nuclear.
- Germany’s anti-nuclear movement dates back decades and public opposition increased after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster (pictured). Car bumper stickers saying “Nuclear power, no thanks” are still common and a YouTube attack on the government’s energy policy recently circulated widely.
- “We are for a world without nuclear energy,” the Greens’ manifesto said. “We want the dangerous reactors around Europe and across the world to be shut down immediately.”
Cost of nuclear phase-out
Many countries have phased out nuclear electricity production in response to concerns about nuclear waste and the risk of nuclear accidents. This paper examines the impact of the shutdown of roughly half of the nuclear production capacity in Germany after the Fukushima accident in 2011. We use hourly data on power plant operations and a novel machine learning framework to estimate how plants would have operated differently if the phase-out had not occurred. We find that the lost nuclear electricity production due to the phase-out was replaced primarily by coalfired production and net electricity imports. The social cost of this shift from nuclear to coal is approximately 12 billion dollars per year. Over 70% of this cost comes from the increased mortality risk associated with exposure to the local air pollution emitted when burning fossil fuels. Even the largest estimates of the reduction in the costs associated with nuclear accident risk and waste disposal due to the phase-out are far smaller than 12 billion dollars.
© 2019 by Stephen Jarvis, Olivier Deschenes, and Akshaya Jha. All rights reserved. Short sections of text, not to exceed two paragraphs, may be quoted without explicit permission provided that full credit, including © notice, is given to the source.
NBER working papers are circulated for discussion and comment purposes. They have not been peer-reviewed or been subject to the review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official NBER publications.
See also Pollution from Coal
Brown coal wins a reprieve in Germany's transition to a green future Christian Schwägerl for Yale Environment 360; Guardian; 7 Jul 2015
- Even as Europe’s biggest economy aspires to be a renewable energy leader, it is exploiting its vast reserves of dirty brown coal, reports Yale Environment 360
German CO2 emissions rise 1% in 2015 Megan Darby; Guardian; 14 Mar 2016
- Higher heat demand and use of brown coal for power behind estimated increase in climate pollution, says think tank Green Budget Germany
German court: Ancient forest can be cleared for coal mine Associated Press; Start Tribune; 24 Nov 2017
- BERLIN — A court in western Germany says an ancient forest near the Belgian border can be chopped down to make way for a coal strip mine.
- Cologne's administrative court ruled Friday against a legal complaint brought by the environmental group BUND that wanted to halt the clearance of much of the Hambach forest.
- The group said it would appeal the decision and seek an injunction to prevent energy company RWE from clearing the trees in the meantime.
- Hambach forest has become a focus of environmental protests against the expansion of a vast mine that supplies much of the coal used in nearby power plants.
- The coal, a light brown variety called lignite, is considered one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel.
In shadow of Germany’s climate conference, a village disappears to make way for coal Griff Witte, Luisa Beck; Washington Post; 11 Nov 2017
- IMMERATH, Germany — The hospital is gone. So are most of the houses, with more being knocked down daily. Not even the bodies remain in the tree-shaded cemetery, where centuries-old bones were recently dug up and moved.
- There is far more digging to come — enough to extinguish any trace that Immerath, a once-quaint farming village in the fertile western Germany countryside, ever existed. Because beneath the rich soil lies a substance even more valuable: coal.
- The demolition of Immerath — making way for the expansion of megamines that will produce billions of tons of carbon emissions in the coming decades and leave a deep gash where villages dating to Roman times once stood — represents the dark underside of Germany’s efforts to address climate change.
Merkel Seeks to Heal Coal Rift in Germany Brian Parkin, William Wilkes; Bloomberg; 13 Jan 2019
- Angela Merkel this week will seek to bridge divisions in Germany about how quickly to cut the nation’s reliance on coal, a controversial issue that has sparked violent clashes between green protesters and police and rattled its brittle governing coalition.
- The Chancellor will use a Tuesday dinner meeting in Berlin to press a panel plotting an exit from the world’s most widely used power-plant fuel to speed up plans after it requested an extension in December. The group made up of coal-state governors, industry lobbyists, union members and environmentalists has a Feb. 1 deadline to spell out a comprehensive exit plan.
- As Europe’s biggest economy is poised to miss its 2020 target to cut carbon emissions, the chancellor is struggling to balance climate friendly pledges against demands from industry to protect jobs and consumer groups for cheaper energy. Utilities led by RWE AG and unions covering the mining, chemicals and metals industry warn that jobs will be lost and competitiveness hurt if Germany closes coal plants too quickly.
- “The climate protection targets we have set ourselves have been missed,” said Claudia Kemfert, who follows energy policy at the DIW research institute in Berlin. “The proportion of Germany’s most environmentally harmful energy source -- lignite -- is too high. Merkel should use the end of her last term to put the energy and transport transition on a successful path.”
- The British government said Thursday, in an announcement at the COP23 climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, that the Powering Past Coal Alliance’s ambition was to “lead the rest of the world in committing to an end to unabated coal power.” “Reducing global coal consumption should be a vital and urgent priority for all countries and states,” Claire Perry, the U.K.’s minister for climate change and industry, said in a statement. “Unabated coal is the dirtiest, most polluting way of generating electricity.” Perry said that the U.K. was committed to phasing out unabated coal-fire power generation “no later than 2025,” and hoped to inspire others to follow suit.
Global Coal Pledge Puts Merkel on the Spot – Again Darrell Delamaide, Silke Kersting; Handelsblatt Global; 16 Nov 2017
- When a group of more than 20 countries at the world climate summit agreed to stop using coal altogether by 2030, it not only marked a success for the summit but embarrassed host country Germany, which could not join in because of its reliance on coal for electricity. The UN climate change conference in Bonn has more than once put Germany on the spot for failing to live up to its own ambitious climate targets. Europe’s biggest economy will miss by a wide margin its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. This disparity between Germany’s rhetoric on climate change and actual performance has emerged as potential coalition partners for a new government heatedly debate energy policy. The Powering Past Coal Alliance announced Thursday was led by Britain and Canada. Some 20 countries – including France, Italy and Mexico – signed on, as well as the US states of Washington and Oregon and five Canadian provinces.
Quick German coal exit would endanger power supply security: RWE Reuters; 14 Nov 2017
- German coal-biased utility RWE on Tuesday warned of a quick exit from coal power to further reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which the Green Party is demanding in talks to form a new coalition government. Chief financial officer Markus Krebber said such a unilateral move by Germany, which had just contributed to making a pan-European CO2 trading mechanisms much stricter, would harm the economy and undermine the security of supply. “Focusing on climate protection goals alone is not enough and will lead to fatal misallocations,” he told journalists in a call on Tuesday, adding that coal-based power generation will be declining already in the coming years. “Exiting coal in the short term would make it impossible to continue ensuring security of supply.”
New EMNID Poll: 3 out of 4 Germans support a coal phaseout Webwire; 15 Nov 2017
- An EMNID poll, commissioned by the global civic movement Avaaz, shows strong support for a German coal phaseout across all party preferences. More than 76% of Germans want a gradual coal phaseout in order to hit the German climate targets. Today Chancellor Merkel will speak in front of the delegates at the Bonn Climate Conference and could announce a German coal phase out. 75% of CDU voters would welcome that, as well as 70% of FDP voters.
COP23 - Day 10: Merkel disappoints hopes for clear words on coal Kerstine Appunn, Sven Egenter, Julian Wettengel; Clean Energy Wire; 15 Nov 2017
- Chancellor Angela Merkel disappointed hopes for a strong statement on Germany’s climate goals and the future role of coal as she called on the world to walk the talk on climate at the global conference in Bonn. Coal, especially lignite, had to “significantly contribute to reaching the targets. But how exactly – that’s what we will have to discuss very precisely in the coming days”, said Merkel. NGOs criticised Merkel for dodging the question of how she intended to ensure that Germany will reach its climate targets.