For all the talk about wind and solar, Germany's Energiewende is producing one big result - a return to coal. For an entire week last December, Germany's 23,000 windmills stood perfectly still. Solar didn't produce much power, either. Gas is still too expensive and so, unless the Germans are planning to do without power for weeks at a time, they need something to replace their nuclear reactors. That is coal. Along with the above map of the country’s planned coal plants, Die Welt reports:
Germany's energy transition has also been a transition to coal: Despite multi-billion subsidies for renewable energy sources, power generation from brown coal (lignite) has climbed to its highest level in Germany since 1990. It is especially coal-fired power plants that are replacing the eight nuclear power plants that were shut down, while less CO2-intensive, but more expensive gas-fired power plants are currently barely competitive. Energy expert Patrick Graichen speaks of Germany's "energy transition paradox": the development of solar and wind farms, yet rising carbon dioxide-emissions.
Along with China's recent decision to ramp up coal production by a factor of six and the UN's report that renewable investment declined for the second straight year in 2013, it looks like the effort to cut carbon emissions is slowing down.