Clean Power solar power production germany winter

Published on February 9th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Clean-Energy-Loving Germany Increasingly Exporting Electricity to Nuclear-Heavy France

February 9th, 2012 by  

Remember last year when Germany decided to speed up its phasing out of nuclear power and switch to clean energy and everyone (not in the clean energy industry) got freaked out about how German electricity prices would rise and the country would just start importing electricity from France’s nuclear power plants?

Well, as I just wrote, it seems pretty clear that solar photovoltaics are bringing down the cost of electricity in Germany. Additionally, German electricity exports to France have been increasing!

“Because France has so much nuclear power, the country has an inordinate number of electric heating systems. And because France has not added on enough additional capacity over the past decade, the country’s current nuclear plants are starting to have trouble meeting demand, especially when it gets very cold in the winter,” Craig Morris of Renewables International writes.

And, with relatively sunny skies above, guess who’s coming to the rescue—good old solar power from Germany.

“As a result, power exports from Germany to France reached 4 to 5 gigawatts – the equivalent of around four nuclear power plants – last Friday morning according to German journalist Bernward Janzing. It was not exactly a time of low consumption in Germany either at 70 gigawatts around noon on Friday, but Janzing nonetheless reports that the grid operators said everything was under control, and the country’s emergency reserves were not being tapped. On the contrary, he reports that a spokesperson for transit grid operator Amprion told him that ‘photovoltaics in southern Germany is currently helping us a lot.'”

solar power production germany winter

Solar power production peaking at about 10 GW, 40% of capacity, lately. (Source: EEX, via Renewables International)

Hmm, a bit of cognitive dissonance for solar power haters with breakfast this morning.

Power prices in Germany also seem fine, indicating no lack of power. However, due to its challenges, electricity prices in France have been up about 50% and the country has had to ask its citizens to reduce their electricity consumption.

Also, as you can see in the chart above, Germany’s electricity from solar has been peaking at about 10 gigawatts lately, or about 40% of its 25 gigawatts of capacity. I have a feeling citizens opposed to Germany’s nuclear shut down and clean energy revolution are keeping quiet at the moment.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

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  • The German Solar has not such a good value for exportation to France, because the peak demand in France is at 19h, when there is 0 production from solar in Germany. The imports in the recent cold weather, needed because France stopped building new nuclear plants 10 years ago but the increase in consumption didn’t stop, were mostly coming from fossil power.

    Even on the 8/2/2012, 19h, at top demand level of 102GW, 72GW of it were coming from local CO2 free nuclear & hydro. Still cleaner than many other countries. Probably some of the import from Switzerland was also CO2 free hydro. Almost none of the import from Germany was CO2 free, since there was no solar, and almost no wind on that day (low temp coming from Siberia also means very dry weather and about no wind).

    Given the number of fossil plants in Germany, including a large number of coal plants, this is probably still less than the average percentage of fossil fuel in electric energy production in Germany.

    Also meanwhile Germans were also having a cold weather and using a lot of gas to heat their homes with 100% of the energy producing CO2, that why the electricity consumption wasn’t that high. Given how expensive electricity is for home consumers, no way they’d use electric heating instead of gas, and electricity is getting more expensive, pushing them even more toward gas.

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  • Jorg Lalk

    Your article is in direct conflict with figures coming out of the German Statistical Office as well as figures released by both Bloomberg and Business Monitor International (BMI), all of these being highly credited for the accuracy of their figures. Would you care to comment on these?

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  • N. White

    I have heard other reports to the contrary. The url below indicates that Germany has had difficulty supplying all of its own power due to recent weather, without even talking about exports!

    • Perhaps due to even colder weather? Or less sunshine?

    • Érico Martins

      Breitbart, the pathological liar (Shirley Sherrod, ACORN videos, etc.) now has a “news“ site!!

      • Oh yes, I see! Now this comment makes much more sense 😀

  • zed

    “Additionally, electricity imports to France have been increasing!”
    didn’t you mean “electricity exports to France” ?

  • Anonymous

    I predict as the second generation solar comes online in the next few years, that nuclear power plants won’t even be able to sell enough electricity to pay to shut themselves down.

  • Taylor Reese

    I’ve just read a brief RT report that claims the following:

    The cold-related surge in electricity demand has prompted Germany’s network operators to call upon nuclear power plants left in reserve as a “preventative measure.” (end quote)

    After reading your piece again, I wasn’t sure if this contradicted what you said or not. Could you clarify this for me?

    • Hmm, I haven’t seen that, only this info on how everything has been going fine and it even had the electricity needed to export to France.

      • Anonymous

        Nukes can’t be brought back online that fast, so instead they’re relying on fossil fuels.

        “The country’s four main power operators requested the reserve generator at a coal-powered plant in southern Germany and two plants in Austria be activated, the regional environment ministry in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said.”

        I don’t have figures for the last couple of months, but from April 2011 through November, Germany’s net exported power has been about 11,000 GW-h less than it used to be (an average of a couple of GW).

        Normally, Germany has net exports from October to April, then runs about even from May to September. I’m not clear on why; I’d guess that peak demand is in the evening in winter, so why don’t they have power to spare in summer?

    • Matthias

      Just to clarify the claim that Germany supposedly had trouble meeting electricity demand during the cold weather in Jan-Feb 2012: It wasn’t true, not on a single day, as this german-language article on explains (google Deutschland exportierte ständig Strom – kein Krisenstab). What actually happened was that not renewables-prone Germany, but nuclear-reliant France was in big trouble, needing german electricity to make ends meet. At the height of the cold-weather wave on 8 Feb, Germany exported 2,900 MW of electricity while France imported from every single neighbor country around it, including Germany with 761 MW, imports into France on that day totalling some 7,000 MW.

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