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.