The German government has targeted a 40 percent reduction of GHG emissions by 2020, as compared to 1990 levels, but with less than three years to go the country remains far from achieving that goal. Berlin already admitted that the 40 percent goal likely wasn’t possible, and instead lowered its sights to a 35 percent reduction, but even that seems unlikely now. A new study from the green think tank Agora Energiewende says Germany is likely to achieve only a 30-31 percent reduction.
The reason for the miss is said to be the low cost of oil and natural gas. Germany also retired many nuclear power plants. Germany increased reliance on lignite coal to compensate for its shuttered nuclear fleet. Germany has permanently shut down eight of its 17 reactors and pledged to close the rest by the end of 2022. Germany until March 2011 obtained one-quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy, using 17 reactors. The figure is now about 14% from eight reactors, while 43% of electricity comes from coal, the majority of that from lignite.
Lignite emits far more CO2 than other fossil fuels — 1,100 grams per kilowatt-hour, compared to between 150 and 430 grams for natural gas. It is the main reason why German CO2 emissions have started rising.
Germany’s electricity production in 2016 was 648 TWh, with demand of 595 TWh and net export of 54 TWh. Of the total generation, lignite provided 150 TWh, hard coal 112 TWh, nuclear 85 TWh (13%), gas 81 TWh, onshore wind 65 TWh, offshore wind 12 TWh, biomass 46 TWh, solar PV 38 TWh, hydro 21 TWh, and household waste 6 TWh.
Germany shifted 80 TWh from nuclear in 2011. 80 TWh of nuclear could be used to reduce coal power. 88 million tons of extra CO2. This is 7% of the reduction from 1990 levels that they had planned. By shutting the rest of the power. Germany will have an extra 160 million tons of CO2 than if they kept their nuclear energy.
40% of Germany’s electricity is generated from coal, and there are no plans to phase this out.
What would have happened if Germany had combined its lust for renewables with an level-headed, evidence-based approach to nuclear power? Undoubtedly Berlin would be well on its way to that 40 percent target.