Most climate scientists tell us we need to greatly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fossil fuel use. Many traditional environmentalists tell us Germany is an example to follow to reduce CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use with their “Energiewende” or “energy transition” program. Its goal is to deploy renewable energy (which includes any or all of wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass [which can be more CO2 emitting intensive than coal]), decommission nuclear power plants and reduce CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use (amongst other goals).
It is therefore worth examining how Germany has changed their electricity system. They have a great site that keeps details statistics since 2002, is interactive and is what was used for most of the graphics below.
We start with 2016 electricity generation stats, we can see that black and brown coal are the dominant source of electricity, followed by nuclear.
The data is also available in a pie chart, which shows generation in percentage and absolute terms.
This can be compared to 2015, we can see that gas production showed great increase for 2016.
Now compare production above with installed nameplate capacity and we see significant difference (for example, in 2015 & 2016, nuclear [uranium in red] produced slightly more than wind, but compare their installed capacities).
The following two charts show wind capacity and generation from 2002 to 2016, note that generation in 2016 was slightly less than 2015, despite the increase in capacity.
The following two charts show solar capacity and generation from 2002 to 2016, note that generation in 2016 was slightly less than 2015, despite the slight increase in capacity.
The goal of shutting down nuclear has been successful, as we can see from the following capacity and production charts for 2002 to 2016.
Examining high CO2 emitting electricity sources, we can see that overall, capacity and production have grown since 2002.
We can see that after 15 years and approximately 200 billions euros spent, Germany has been successful at increasing renewable capacity and generation and decreasing nuclear capacity and generation. What has this done for CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use? I think we can conclude there has been negligible change in this regard, but in fact slight increases. Read “Inside the Energiewende: Policy and Complexity in the German Utility Industry” for a detailed explanation why some feel this policy may not be one to follow by other countries.
The International Energy Agency states in order to meet Paris CO2 emission targets, electricity generation must be no more than 100 grams emitted per kilowatt-hour on an annual basis. The following countries have been well below this target for years: Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and France (their electricity is generated mostly from hydro or nuclear or a combination of the two). Even Denmark, a population of about six million, struggles with this number, they are at about 250. (see page 135). The number for Germany is at about 480 (as can be seen below, this number has been on the rise since 2010).
Germany and Denmark are countries that traditional environmentalists claim are setting an example to follow to deploy renewable energy. Perhaps the time has come in which we now need to take a risk-based approach (and here) in reducing CO2 emissions.
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