Germany's Electricity - Less Nuclear, More Coal
Germany's energy revolution, instituted in 2011, has led to a spectacular rise of renewables and a decline in nuclear but also the steady rise of brown coal. Natural gas, surprisingly, is also declining of late.
The graph charts electricity production from different sources since1990. Both natural gas and renewables rose steadily through 2007 while everything else stayed pretty much the same. Then in 2007 hard coal began a rapid decline while nuclear also took a drop. The pattern stabilized somewhat until the Fukushima accident in 2011 prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to initiate a rapid phase-out of nuclear and a redoubled effort to bring renewables on line. This has largely succeeded. Nuclear has declined again so that it is only about 2/3 what it was in 2006. Renewables have surged so they have now passed both nuclear and hard coal and are closing in of brown coal. But natural gas has also gone into a decline and brown coal has eased up again to historic highs.
What is the explanation? With renewables playing such a large part, the main role for fossil fuels has become to serve as standbys in case wind or solar suddenly subside. Gas is too expensive for this task so the choice has been to do it with brown coal, which is the cheapest of all fuels but also the dirtiest. All this has put plans to try to reduce carbon emission on hold.
Renewables are also more expensive than coal or nuclear and industry and consumers are starting to complain about high electrical prices. Chancellor Merkel said last week that time is of the essence in making the renewable transformation. What this probably means is that if the transformation is not done rapidly enough, rebellions in the residential and industrial sectors may bring it to a halt.