Mark Lynas in a Tweet answering Osha G. Davidson, just pointed to a blog post developing various fact-free speculations about the long-term development of the German electricity sector. Germany will develop lots of new lignite and coal plants to compensate for the nuclear shut down, in the opinion of that blogger.
In contrast, it might be of interest to note what the people assume who are responsible for grid development.
In Germany there is a legal obligation since last year for the grid operators to come up with scenarios for the long-term development of the electricity sector, as a first step in planning the development of the grid.
The latest draft of that scenario plan has been published in July. It has three different scenarios, mostly differing in the speed of the shift to renewable energy.
Looking at the table on page 8 (in German), we note a couple of facts on the development of conventional capacity.
In all of the scenarios lignite capacity goes down.
In all of the scenarios except for scenario A (very slow development of renewable) coal capacity goes down.
Only for gas there is a significant increase in capacity in scenarios B and C, which reflects the fact that gas works better with renewable energy than coal and lignite.
The sum of all conventional sources (minus the 12.1 GW nuclear remaining in 2011) is largely unchanged in all scenarios, at about 90 GW.
The tables on page 9 give some details on lignite and coal. They show that while there are some plants in the construction phase right now, nobody is interested in planning any new capacity after those are built. That makes only sense, since coal and lignite are unattractive in a system with large renewable market shares. Their capacity factors go down accordingly.
The grid development plan doesn’t bother to estimate generation from conventional plants, but gives only the estimates for the further explosive growth of renewable energy.
Of course, every watt generated from renewable won’t need to be generated burning fuel. So while Germany might keep around 90 GW of fossil fuel capacity for a couple of decades, the capacity factor of those generators will go down all the time.
It doesn’t matter for CO2 emissions how many conventional plants you have standing around. The important question is how much you need to actually use them.
And Germany has right now the best record in the EU 15 (the Member States that have obligations under the Kyoto Protocol), with a 24.8% record already achieved in 2010, compared to a Kyoto goal of 21%. France with its fleet of shiny nuclear power plants in contrast has only achieved a 6.6% reduction.
Update: Here is a recent Craig Morris article that also debunks the Fossil Nuke myth of Germany building massive coal capacity. Thanks to this tweet by Osha G. Davidson (in reply to the above by Lynas) for the link.