The German Energy Failure: How to Keep Burning Coal in the Name of Renewables

The German Energy Failure: How to Keep Burning Coal in the Name of Renewables

By Javier Jiménez

And that reality is that despite the targets of reaching 80% renewables by 2050, in 2016 (six years after the transition began) more than half of German energy continues to depend directly on fossil fuels and emissions of CO2 have risen again in 2016. Has theEnergiewende? What can we learn from the German strategy?

The German paradox

Paradox. This is the term that best describes how it is possible that the country where political environmentalism was born is, fifty years later, one of the countries that produces the most emissions. It has become a world leader in the production of two types of energy: solar and lignite.

In 2000, the government of Greens and Social Democrats launched an initiative to force energy providers to increase renewable supply over the next 20 years, theEnergiewende. That, and the fact that they burned coal like there was no tomorrow, made Germany an example for the whole world.

Germany (unlike France and its intensive use of nuclear energy) really had a carbon emissions problem, so the challenge of undertaking "Energy Transition" in one of the world's industrial powers and without losing productivity was really interesting .

The green paradise ...

And they decided to bet big: renewable energy has not stopped rising (even above the European average) since then. The problem is that it has been done in an uncoordinated way. As we have explained other times, betting on renewable energy is more than installing wind turbines and solar panels.

In 2015, northern Germany (the area with the largest wind power production) produced 4,100 gigawatt hours that could not be used. Enough to supply 1.2 million homes for a year.

The German government did not understand that the fundamental element of the energy transition is the reform of the electricity grid. And, when he understood it, he came face to face with the social protest: the great energy highway that was supposed to backbone the country has been dead for years due to political problems and wild cost overruns.

The more than one billion maintenance costs derived from the excessive level of energy that the national grid has are a problem and it is one of the things that explains why there are private smart grids (such as SonnenCommunity) that are helping to optimize the energy of everything the country.

... that continues to burn coal

None of this prevented the announcement of the definitive closure of eight nuclear power plants in 2011 and after the Fukushima disaster. That shutdown will be completed in 2022, but shutting down the Grafenrheinfeld plant has already had a direct effect on the level of carbon dioxide emissions. Some emissions that continue to rise.

Without nuclear power and without reforming the grid, Germany continues to burn coal in the name of renewable energy. Today, the different varieties of coal are still above 40%, and they alone represent almost a third of the country's emissions.

With each passing day, there are more doubts about theEnergiewende German government and the rumors that the government will be forced to stop it are getting stronger every day. But be that as it may, it does seem clear that almost 20 years later, the energy transition strategy has been a failure and that, as Finnish greens say, without nuclear power it is very difficult to cut emissions in a short period of time.


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