Nuclear Decline in Germany Not Compensated 100 Percent by Renewable

One of the recent pro-nuclear talking points is the fact that there is still coal burned in the German electricity sector. For example, this tweet by Steve Aplin, retweeted by the enemy of renewable energy Rod Adams:

Why is Germany burning more coal after closing nukes? Because coal = real electricity. Wind can’t provide it.

I am not familiar with the term “real electricity”. It must be something having meaning in the fantasy world of Steve Aplin and Rod Adams, but I don’t understand what that is supposed to mean.

Anyway, the tweet in question points to a recent article on development of electricity from coal in Germany at Bloomberg, titled “Merkel’s GreenShift Backfires as German Pollution Jumps“.

Pro-nuclear voices love it when Germany’s CO2 emissions go up since they can point to that as an argument for their desire to play with plutonium.

In contrast, I strongly dislike this development. Let’s look at the facts (not given at the necessary level of detail in that particular article). If you want to know about short term developments on the German electricity market, you need to look at the Fraunhofer reports.

From those we learn that lignite was up 2.0 TWh for the first six months of the year, and coal was up 4.0 TWh. In contrast gas was down 4.6 TWh and wind 2.4 TWh. And the export surplus remains high at about 11 TWh.

So we have a movement mostly from gas to coal, and partly from wind to coal, which amounts to about half of the export surplus.

The decline of nuclear energy as a consequence of shutting down some plants after the Fukushima accident was in the order of 40 TWh (from 140.6 TWh in 2010 to 99 TWh in 2012).

That’s one order of magnitude more than the increase in coal use.

Anyone claiming that coal is replacing nuclear in Germany either doesn’t know these numbers, or is lying deliberately.

In the real world, the 40 TWh decrease in nuclear was compensated (last year’s numbers) by a 32 TWh increase in renewable electricity and a 16.9 TWh drop in electricity consumption.

Since fossil fuel still has a high share in the German electricity market, it would have been only fair to expect that renewable would get only the part of the 40 TWh new market caused by the nuclear decline (that’s NUCLEAR DECLINE) that corresponds to their market share, or about 10 TWh.

The fact that they have punched way over their weight, getting around 80% of that new market, tells us something about renewable energy in Germany. And it’s not that they are losing to fossil fuel.

To go back to my headline, no, renewable has not compensated 100 percent for the nuclear decline in Germany. There was something left for energy efficiency.

There may have even been something left for fossil fuel. Around 2 TWh for the first half of this year, mostly caused by  less wind. That’s less than half a percent of German production. Rounding error territory.


Published by kflenz

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

7 thoughts on “Nuclear Decline in Germany Not Compensated 100 Percent by Renewable

  1. In any case, there is a big lie in pro-nuke arguments. Parts of the missing nuclear production will be replaced with fossil fuels, sure: In the short term. Only 2 years have passed since Germany closed 8 nuclear reactors.

    In the long term, however, the close of the 8 reactors, and the certainty that the other 9 will be closed within 10 years, is a great boost for renewables. Sometimes, a clear political will is better than subsidizes.


  2. Rod Adams is a long time pro-nuclear advocate. He is an English major, ex-navy submariner (nuclear engineering) and nuclear entrepreneur. Rod allows criticism in the comments, and responds to those criticism adequately and clearly. Rod has collected a following of highly intelligent and lucid commenters (some of them highly critical) who multiply the value of his tireless reporting.

    One could do worse than read the large number of well-written articles spanning many years. I am not ashamed to say to I learned a lot reading some of them.

    Concering German energy plans, there is no need to speculate on what they are going to do, since they publish it. Fossil fuel electricity generating capacity will *RISE* in Germany from today’s 76 GW to over 80 GW in 2030.

    Click to access Endbericht_Integration_EE.pdf

    (see the figures on page 78.)

    I consider myself a “Green”. I have been passionate about solving our energy and pollution problems since my days as an engineering student almost 20 years ago. I accept that nuclear power is a crucial tool in the very hard challenge of solving those problems in a timely and humane manner. Wind energy and solar energy have their (niche) applications, but to rely on them alone will create exactly what we are seeing in the German energy planning: persistent reliance on fossil fuels!

    Such planning is not about solving climate and energy problems. It is about stimulating particular industries. It’s not a bad plan if it’s intention is to ‘create jobs’ but it should not be confused with plans for actually solving energy and climate problems. Those who want to solve those problems should hesitate to support closing perfectly fine nuclear power plants.

    I suggest that the author considers revising some of the claims in this article made about the Energiewende, and about people like Rod Adams. Whatever one may say about Rod’s opinions and advocacy, I for one am confident that Rod’s intentions are sincere and bona fide. He is not the enemy, except of the fossil fuel industry. Just my two cents.


    1. I absolutely agree that Rod Adams’s intentions are sincere and bona fide. That’s why I (correctly) assumed an honest mistake (as opposed to a deliberate lie) when I called out one of his factually incorrect statements about Germany here:

      Unfortunately, there is no way to deny that Adams is an enemy of renewable energy. He is the inventor of the “Unreliables” term, which gives him a special leadership role in anti-renewable propaganda efforts.

      It makes sense for a pro-nuclear point of view to be anti-renewable, since nuclear is impossible to build once renewable shares get as high as in Germany. You need to get rid of solar and wind to have a chance for nuclear in the market.

      On the other hand, it does not help getting support. The pro-nuclear point of view is not popular to begin with. Add anti-renewable to the mix and you got yourself a fringe minority loser position.

      My personal view on nuclear is neutral. I don’t mind having it, but if your climate change strategy relies on nuclear power, get used to a warmer planet.


  3. “My personal view on nuclear is neutral. I don’t mind having it, but if your climate change strategy relies on nuclear power, get used to a warmer planet.”

    How do you figure that? Nuclear power has less co2 and other GHG emissions than even solar and wind.

    Clearly, nuclear power enables cheap electricity (2 ct/kWh) and reasonably cheap 100% synthetic liquid fuels as well, by fischer tropsch in combination with ocean carbon extraction and hydrogen production. Nuclear derived liquid fuels (drop-in replacement for diesel and jet-fuel) would cost equal or less than $100 barrel oil.

    Such a combination would make nuclear power true zero-co2. This would eliminate the climate change problem and the energy problem. It would also eliminate resource-wars over crude oil.

    Are you denying this? Are you claiming that solar and wind could do the same, at the same cost and also at true zero-co2?

    You write that Rod’s (largely irrelevant) ‘mistake’ of mixing up co2 and co2-equivalent is intended to make renewables and Germany’s energiewende look bad. But it seems the pot is calling the kettle black.


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