Big Picture on German Electricity: Renewable Replacing Nuclear

All numbers below are sourced from the latest data release on electricity generation in Germany from 1990 to 2012 from Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen.

There are some who make up their own fantasy world and assert that switching off German nuclear plants has lead to a massive increase in coal generation, while in the real world coal use was at 117 TWh in 2010 and 118 in 2012, which is just statistical noise. Basically coal use has not moved in any significant way.

I have spent some time on this blog and elsewhere to fight this particular pro-nuclear anti-fact talking point. But actually, the relevant big picture is elsewhere.

Add up all the fossil fuel use. Add up all the renewable generation. Add up all the nuclear generation. Adjust for exports, and one sees one simple fact:

Renewable energy is replacing nuclear just fine, thank you, exactly as the energy transition policy wanted.

In some detail: Fossil fuel (all flavors) was at 358.1 in 2010 and is essentially unchanged at 356 in 2012.

Nuclear is down to 99 in 2012, from 140.6 in 2010. Nuclear is in decline, exactly as expected and wanted by all parties who supported the unanimous vote to do this in 2011. The amount of decline is 41.6 in two years.

And the biggest chunk of that decline is compensated by a rise of renewable generation from 103.3 in 2010 to 135.0 in 2012, in a year with poor wind generation. That’s a rise of 31.7, which compensates most of the deficit left by phasing out nuclear.

That leaves about 10 TWh of not compensated deficit, but actually consumption has gone down by more than that in these two years. 2010 had 610.9 of in country consumption, 2012 only 594, which means savings of 16.9, and explains that Germany has exported (on balance) more than ever last year.

So, again, the big picture is that nuclear is declining, that renewable energy is replacing that deficit, and that everything is progressing exactly as it was supposed to do.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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