Renewable Energy Growth Greater Than Nuclear Decline in Germany

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Originally published on Lenz Blog.

Energiewende Germany wrote this on Twitter:

Renewables have grown more than nuclear been shut down. Coal? In decline again.

Rod Adams, who tries to delay deployment of renewable energy since he rightly perceives it as dangerous competition to his preferred nuclear option, challenged that:

@EnergiewendeGER Do you have credible sources for that assertion?

This is a good occasion to have a new look at the figures. The renewable side of the statistics is best documented in this PDF published by Bernard Chabot at RenewablesInternational a couple of days ago, based on data released by the German Ministry of Economy in this report (in German language).

But first we need to get data for the nuclear decline, so as to find a suitable time frame for measuring the renewable growth.

The mid-term decline of nuclear in Germany is easily documented by looking at the figures released by Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen.

Nuclear peaked in 2001 at 171.3 TWh. It has been relatively stable for the five years until 2006, where it scored 167,4 TWh. From there on it’s a rapid decline. 148,8 TWh in 2008. 140,6 TWh in 2010. 108,0 TWh in 2011. 99,5 TWh in 2012. And 97,3 TWh in 2013.

That’s a decline of 74 TWh in the 12 years since 2001, and a decline of  42.9 TWh since 2010 (the last year before the Fukushima accident).

So has renewable grown more than that in those years?

Renewable scored around 36 TWh in 2001 and 152.6 TWh in 2013. That’s an increase of 116.6 TWh, which beats the nuclear decline since 2001 by a large margin.

The figure for renewable energy in 2010 was 104.8 TWh, which means an increase of 47.8 TWh, again beating the nuclear decline since 2010, though the margin is smaller in this case.

So, to answer Rod Adams’ question, there are reliable sources for the assertion that nuclear decline has not been able to keep up with renewable growth in Germany.

I am not sure if the opposite result would be worth much as a pro-nuclear argument, since it would mean that nuclear is declining even faster than it already is. That’s not a competition you really want to win if you are pro nuclear energy.

While I’m at it, there are some other interesting points found in the report by Bernard Chabot.

For one, Germany is well on track to reach the target of 35% renewable energy electricity generation in 2020. The figure for 2013 was already at 25.4%.

Solar capacity was at 35.9 GW at the end of last year, beating wind with 34.7 GW. That solar capacity figure is way ahead of the national renewable energy action plan Germany filed with the EU in 2010 (Table 10 at page 116), where the government expected only 27.3 GW in 2013. The number for wind is only slightly higher than expectations (33 GW).


Rod Adams kindly replied in a comment to this post and pointed out that his original question in the Twitter thread was how the growth of solar and wind between 2009 and 2014 compared to the decline of nuclear over that particular time frame, and about coal.

Since 2014 is still a work in progress, we will have to restrict the analysis to the development between 2009 and 2013. For this particular time frame we get a score of 134.9 TWh for nuclear in 2009, which means a decline of 37.6 TWh until 2013.

Table 4 of the original government report cited above shows solar growing from 6.6 TWh in 2009 to 30 TWh last year (increasing by a factor of almost five in four years). Wind was at 38.6  TWh in 2009 and 53.4 TWh in 2013.

So we get a  23.4 TWh growth from solar and another 14.8 from wind in those four years, for a grand total of (drum roll)…

38.2 TWh of growth for wind and solar from 2009 to 2013. So the nuclear decline lost again, failing to beat the growth of renewable even when ruling out biomass for some reason (another 17.1 TWh growth in those four years).

While it is true that the decline in low carbon electricity from nuclear has been more than cancelled out by the growth of solar and wind alone, it is obviously also true that without the decline of nuclear all that new renewable energy would have replaced fossil fuel instead.

If that is Adams’ point (see his comment below this post), it is clearly true, and there is no need to check all these numbers.

I can leave the answer to the question about latest coal developments to Craig Morris, who kindly commented below on this post and linked to the latest figures he published on his excellent blog about this point.


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Dr. Karl-Friedrich Lenz

is a professor of German and European Law at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, blogging since 2003 at Lenz Blog. A free PDF file of his global warming science fiction novel "Great News" is available here.

Dr. Karl-Friedrich Lenz has 67 posts and counting. See all posts by Dr. Karl-Friedrich Lenz

25 thoughts on “Renewable Energy Growth Greater Than Nuclear Decline in Germany

  • The comments referred to are on Lenz’ original blog post, not here.

    Foreigners lecturing Germans that they should keep their nuclear reactors running are wasting their time. The well-heeled nuclear lobby in Germany has completely failed to sell its product to a firmly anti-nuclear public, and has given up, so why should a few foreign bloggers make a difference?

    FWIW, I agree with the argument – ten years of avoided coal power is not to be sniffed at. But the Energiewende is a package: phase out nukes and gas first, then coal. and replace them with renewables.

    The real purpose of publicists like Adams is to convince Americans that the Energiewende is a hoax so that they will support their own domestic nuke-building. This objective is less hopeless, but not by much. Wall Street and the Administration have lost interest. Republicans in Congress will defend existing nuclear subsidies, but don’t have any appetite for upping them to the Hinkleyish scale needed for a significant revival of the American nuclear industry. Move on, there’s nothing to see here.

    • Rod is more in love with nuclear energy than one would think it possible for a human being to be. For years he’s promoted nuclear and attacked renewables. Quite often dishonestly.

      • Pro-nuke people should focus their arguments against fossil fuels and avoid engaging in the nonsense attacks against renewables which only serves to discredit them. If there is any value in nukes it’s not because they are better than renewables.

  • Replying to James Wimberley
    Glad to see that you pointed out the role of Rod Adams. Whether or not he is paid by the nuclear industry, he does seem to have promotion of that industry as his full-time occupation.
    Rod Adams is one of a few nuclear publicists who pop up all over the place. These individuals see no problems at all with nuclear power. So I am one of many who find their opinions very suspect.

  • Who is Rod Adams? Why is he important?

    • He’s one of a handful of people who expend tremendous amount of energy advocating for nuclear energy. It’s like someone on a holy quest.

      Why is he important? He isn’t. Except to the extent he distorts reality.

      • Let me rephrase this: Why is he important enough to write an article refuting him, and post this article on two blogs?

        Is he just a person who likes to write comments to blogs, or is he some public figure?

        • As far as I know he’s just someone who spends an extraordinary amount of time promoting nuclear. At one point (IIRC) he tried to open a company that was going to build some sort of reactor (SMR?).

          The article has some interesting information. If you don’t find it useful you could just scan and ignore.

  • Sounds like Rod Adams is a pro nuclear shill. Whether he is paid or unpaid makes little difference. Snake oil is still snake oil.

  • The fact is that if nuclear were still at 171 TWH then there would be 80 TWH less millions of tons of CO2 less in the atmosphere. New brown coal mines would not be opening. If Germany had gone forward to 250 TWH we would be a hell of a lot closer to eliminating carbon. I actually think global warming is an emergency, the 116 TWH of renewables is commendable, but on a windless night it’ll still be <5. I don't think catastrophic climate change can be avoided without nuclear.

    • ” I don’t think catastrophic climate change can be avoided without nuclear.”

      Wind + solar + storage is cheaper than nuclear. And they are faster to install. There is no shortage of wind, sunshine or the materials to make the generation and storage equipment.

      A large reliance on nuclear would mean that it would take us considerably longer to cut our carbon emissions and the extra cost would further slow implementation.

      Clearly we can bring fossil fuel use down to acceptable levels (no coal, a modest amount of NG for deep backup) with renewables. Get the job done faster and for less money.

      • “Wind + solar + storage is cheaper than nuclear.” Bob Wallace

        “Utilities are now being forced to pay expensive capacity payments to keep these inefficient generators operational.” Rod Adams

        Who do I believe? Well firstly Bob, I’d like to say that I’ve heard the “nuclear is too expensive” argument 1000s of times, but I’ve only EVER heard it from anti-nuclear sources. If you have an independent source I’d like to know. I note that electricity in France is ~ half the price of Germany & Denmark.

        Let’s think about the events on May 11 when Germany managed to get 74% of its energy from renewable sources. You can see the electricity price here

        You will note the electricity price became negative. So an unsubsidised producer would be losing money. If energy storage is so cheap, why didn’t they do it on 11 May?

        On the worst of the days, when renewables plummeted to 1.4%, the price peaked at 0.64 €/MWh

        I Germany were to install 10x as much renewable energy, it could peak at 740%, but it would nadir at 14%.

        There is an experiment going on in China. We’ll see what becomes of it. If you’re right Bob, then renewables will gradually eclipse nuclear for post-carbon electricity. If Rod’s correct, nuclear will surge ahead of renewables. I like both renewables & nuclear and I’d like to see the market decide. I’d bet on nuclear.

        • First, Billy, one needs to do apples:apples comparisons. France gets most of its electricity from paid off nuclear reactors. The cost of electricity in France is based mostly on the operating cost of those reactors.

          In 2013 the operating cost of France’s reactors was EUR 59.8/MWh or 8.2 US cents per kWh.

          Paid off nuclear costs in the US can be less. But some of our paid off reactors are running over 5c/kWh.

          I don’t know the operating cost of wind and solar in Germany and Denmark but they should be similar to US costs. The EIA reports that the operating cost of onshore wind in the US is 1.3 cents/kWh and the operating cost of PV solar is 1.1c/kWh. They project the operating cost of offshore wind to be 2.3c/kWh.

          So paid off nuclear up to 8.2c and paid off wind/solar from 1.1c to 2.3c. Some US paid off reactors may be competitive with paid off offshore wind, probably not paid off PV solar or onshore wind.

          That’s apples:apples.

          Now let’s look at oranges:oranges. The cost of new power.

          An analysis of the Vogtle reactor costs by Citigroup in early 2014 found the LCOE for electricity from those reactors to cost 11 cents per kWh. That is assuming no further cost/timeline overruns.

          They also stated that reactors build after the Vogtle units would likely produce more expensive electricity as they would not be able to receive as low financing rates as Vogtle has.

          The announced strike price for the proposed Hinkley Point reactors has been announced as £0.925. This includes UK provided loan guarantees. When the value of these guarantees are included the price rises to £0.10. $0.16/kWh.

          This means that regardless of how cheap other sources of electricity might be the French and Chinese owners of the reactors will be paid 16 cents for the electricity they produce. They are further guaranteed that their electricity will be purchased first meaning that it is likely that cheaper sources will be curtailed.

          This is a guaranteed price for all electricity produced for the next 35 years and the price will increase with inflation.

          “The cost of large-scale solar projects has fallen by one third in the last five years and big solar now competes with wind energy in the solar-rich south-west of the United States, according to new research.

          The study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Utility-Scale Solar 2012: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States” – says the cost of solar is still falling and contracts for some solar projects are being struck as low as $50/MWh (including a 30 percent federal tax credit).”

          “Another interesting observation from LBNL is that most of the contracts written in recent years do not escalate in nominal dollars over the life of the contract. This means that in real dollar terms, the pricing of the contract actually declines.

          This means that towards the end of their contracts, the solar plants (including PV, CSP and CPV) contracted in 2013 will on average will be delivering electricity at less than $40/MWh. This is likely to be considerably less than fossil fuel plants at the same time, given the expected cost of fuels and any environmental regulations.”

          Wind then…

          “The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged $40/MWh for projects negotiating contracts 2011 and 2012, spurring demand for wind energy.”

          “2012 Wind Technologies Market Report”

          And wind now…

          “According to a panel of researchers at the Windpower 2014 conference, continued improvements in wind and solar technologies are making them a threat to natural gas.

          Ryan Wiser, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, highlighted innovations in blade and rotor design. Advances in materials have allowed the design of longer turbine blades and rotors that can operate efficiently at lower wind speeds. Since 2012, a “massive proliferation” of these turbines has driven average capacity factor increases up by 10 percent at every level of wind resource. As a result of these advances, costs are falling; preliminary data shows that the average 2013 power purchase agreement was at $0.021 per kilowatt-hour.

          “These are not your grandfather’s wind turbines,” Wiser said. “They are not even your older brother’s turbines.””

          To estimate the non-subsidized cost of wind and solar in the US add back about 1.5c/kWh. (The PTC is 2.3c/kWh for the first 10 years of production. PPAs generally run 20 to 25 years.)

          So we’ve got real world new nuclear prices running 11 to 16 cents per kWh, plus some subsidies. We’ve got real world new wind running perhaps as low as 3.6c and no higher than 5.5c/kWh. We’ve got new solar running about 6.5c/kWh (would be a couple cents higher in the less sunny NE). New nuclear is about 2x as expensive as new wind or new PV solar.

          (Sorry, that’s kind of long. I’m in a rush and did a lot of C&P.)

          • Let me add a bit on storage. The bottom line is that prices aren’t going negative often enough to pay for storage. It’s likely to always be the case that it will be cheaper to simply toss away some potential power than to store.

            We do exactly that now with fossil fuels. In 2011 the CF for coal was 57.6% and in 2012 it was 51,4%. That means that coal plants were simply shut down over 40% of the time. For natural gas it’s even higher. In 2011 NG plants had CFs of 24.2% and in 2012 it was 28.8%. NG plants sat idle over 70% of the time.

            We may find it most economical to “overbuild” wind and solar by a fairly large amount. In other words, on our most wind and most sunny days we might curtail 20% (made up number) of the potential production because those very windy and very sunny days aren’t frequent.

            Overall, we (in the US – can’t speak for Europe) aren’t ready to build new large scale storage. Our grids could be 30% or more wind and solar before storage would pay for itself. We already have 21 GW of storage we built for nuclear and we have a lot of dispatchable generation (NG and hydro).

          • Here’s the short version, Billy.

            New nuclear is twice or more times as expensive as new solar and onshore wind.

            Paid off nuclear can, in the best cases, get close to the cost of paid off off-shore wind but is likely a bit more than paid off onshore wind and PV solar. But the problem with paid off nuclear is that you’ve got to go through the 20-30 years of paying off the expensive costs of building new reactors.

            Some people will argue that if we did this or that the price of nuclear would drop to 10 or even 8 cents. But that’s not a competitive price. The price of both onshore wind and PV solar have simply plummeted over the last couple of years. If someone is making a pro-nuclear argument using costs from a couple years back they are either uninformed or dishonest.

            The market will pick renewables.

          • If the market picks renewables, I’m fine with that. And if the market picks nuclear I’m fine with that. You can give me figures that support your case. I’m sure Rod Adams can provide figures that support his case.

            Cents per kilowatt hour is only a small part of the answer. There are diesel fired power stations that make money in spite of high costs because they are only switched on when the price is very high.

            So when all the renewables are running at max (74%), the price is -ve, when they’re running at a minimum (1.4%) the price is high, a coal or nuclear plant might get 40% of its revenue at this time, a diesel plant 100%, and wind & solar 1.4%.

            I don’t actually think anyone in this debate is being deliberately dishonest, but I think a lot are being recklessly indifferent with the truth, and choose to ignore things that don’t fit their pre-determined ideas. That’s what people do.

            I can calculate from easily determined figures that the radiation released from Fukushima was ~500 Pentabecquerels and the natural radiation in the oceans is 16000 Exabecquerels, so I can calculate that Fukushima released radiation = 1/30000 of the natural radiation in the oceans.

            I can find anti-nuclear people saying don’t eat US West Coast Tuna 15/15 had radiocesium from Fukushima in it. This is being recklessly indifferent with the truth, and choose to ignore things that don’t fit pre-determined ideas. This information came from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and if you check their website, they also say that it’s FAR below the safety threshold and < 1/1000 of the natural polonium. Given the complete information, I would be happy to eat US West Coast Tuna.

            I also find that if you challenge people's ideas, they fall back on the conspiracy.

            James Inhofe doesn't believe in global warming "The Greatest Hoax. How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future."
            David Irving doesn't believe in the holocaust "The Holocaust is a hoax arising out of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other peoples."
            And Helen Caldicott opposes nuclear power "The World Health Organization is now part of the conspiracy and the cover-up. This is the biggest medical conspiracy and cover-up in the history of medicine"

            So I'm intensely skeptical about wild environmental claims about nuclear power, and I don't believe in mass conspiracies involving 1000s of scientists, government officials & industrialists. Advocating an implausible conspiracy is essentially an admission that your case loses the debate on the publicly available information.

            On other sites, I've found that if you point out the fact that electricity prices are much higher in Germany or Denmark than France, renewable advocates are quick to offer a conspiracy theory – it's subsidized somewhere, somehow, billions of dollars hidden somewhere in the French budget (In the middle of a financial crisis) At least you've offered an alternative suggestion that doesn't require a mass conspiracy. But your market based explanation I don't buy, electricity prices fluctuate rather more with demand than supply, and I don't accept that the suppliers will supply at lower than the market price, just because they're nice guys.

            As I have stated above, I would like to see the market make the choice between renewables and nuclear, and I think that the tendency of renewables to collapse the market when output is high is a unique challenge to that sector of the market.

          • I also find that if you challenge people’s ideas, they fall back on the conspiracy.

            James Inhofe doesn’t believe in global warming “The Greatest Hoax. How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”
            David Irving doesn’t believe in the holocaust “The Holocaust is a hoax arising out of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other peoples.”
            And Helen Caldicott opposes nuclear power “The World Health Organization is now part of the conspiracy and the cover-up. This is the biggest medical conspiracy and cover-up in the history of medicine”

            And the Washington Post thinks Richard Nixon covered-up a break-in at an office building:

            Two years later, Richard Nixon would become the first and only U.S. president to resign, his role in the criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice — the Watergate coverup — definitively established.


            That’s the thing about “crazy conspiracy theories”, they are often right.

            I mean “skeptics” will explain about how it’s impossible for the government to build secret Internment camps for those who are the wrong religion and those who resist the fascist regime, not to mention that there’s no gain to exterminating the dissidents and a hell of a lot to lose if word got out… but, the Holocaust happened regardless of how insane it sounds.

          • Watergate involved maybe 10 conspirators, all Anglo-american males, all members of the republican party, all Washington insiders, and all with an obvious motive for being part of the conspiracy.
            If the IPCC report on Climate Change, the Holocaust, or the Chernobyl Forum report were the result of conspiracies, then the conspiracies involve 100s of people, from scores of distinguished universities & other institutions & 8 UN agencies in dozens of countries. The overwhelming majority of these people have no obvious motive for being part of a conspiracy. In addition, it would have to be hidden very deep. Edward Snowden has leaked a massive amount of secret information from the US, UK, Canadian & Australian governments, without any suggestion of such conspiracies.

          • The Holocaust was a conspiracy involving hundreds of thousands of people from the planers at Wannsee, to the leaders who signed off on the plan, to the soldiers who rounded up and shipped out the prisoners, to the guards who kept them in the camps and fed the gas chambers.

          • Cents per kWh are only part of the picture.

            Consider nuclear’s problem. New nuclear is well over 10c/kWh. And it has to sell for that price, on average, 24/365 (except for scheduled refueling/maintenance time).

            If solar is selling for 5c for 4.5 hours of the day then nuclear (which can’t turn on and off quickly) has to sell for less than the price of solar.

            If the wind is selling for 4c (or less) for 12 hours of the day then nuclear has to sell for less than the price of wind.

            If nuclear loses >5c for 16.5 hours a day then it has to sell for something more like 20c in the remaining hours.

            Natural gas peakers are cheaper. Stored wind and solar are cheaper. The fact that utilities can sell power cheaper when the wind is blowing and/or the Sun shining means that demand will shift to some extent away from the hours when power is more expensive.

            It isn’t just the LCOE of nuclear, it’s the price nuclear has to sell for during the most profitable hours to make up for the losses encountered during the non-profitable hours.

          • I’m not going to get into the radiation problem with Fukushima. The main reason is that I don’t think we yet have adequate information to determine how disastrous or how benign it is.

            The important takeaway, IMO, is that nuclear energy brings some level of danger into our lives that is unique to nuclear. We might get lucky and never have another nuclear disaster or we might get unlucky and have many.
            We simply won’t have a similar wind/solar disaster.

            Nor will we be dealing with wind/solar waste disposal problems for generations, even thousands of years.

            That’s a cost that’s hard to glue a price tag onto, but it’s one we need to acknowledge.

            The cost of new nuclear is >11c/kWh + the potential disaster cost.

            The cost of new solar is 5-7c/kWh + nothing.

            The cost of new wind is 2-4c/kWh + nothing.

          • I think global warming is an emergency, and has unique dangers that exceed any conceivable risks from nuclear by > 1000000000. These risks include a mass extinction such as occurred with global warming at the Permian-Triassic boundary. I would like to plan asap to phase out carbon within 10 years. Each country will decide its own path. When Germany has shut down ALL its coal-fired plants, I’m ok if they shut down nuclear. But I want carbon to go first.

          • I also think it makes sense to close coal plants before nuclear. At least the nuclear plants that we determine are very safe.

            But German citizens make the decisions for Germany and they don’t want the “right now” danger of living with nuclear. If I lived close to one I might set closure at a higher priority level as well.

            Since Germany is doing an excellent job of installing renewables and cutting GHG I don’t think that I, as an American, can criticize them.

  • Only every second PV-battery is receiving the grant. So 4,000 subsidised batteries equal about 8,000 installed batteries.

    The latest Energiewende data, the first 5 month of 2014:

    The last week/weekend new PV records were set:

    50.6% PV for Monday 9th of June at midday peak load. Admitted: a public holiday

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