Clean Power

Published on October 29th, 2015 | by Jake Richardson

42

Renewable Energy In Germany Generated Almost Double The Amount From Nuclear

October 29th, 2015 by  

Originally published on Solar Love.

PV solar power generation in Germany is already 5% higher in the first nine months of this year than all of last year. Germany’s PV systems generated 33,193 gigawatt hours of solar electricity through the end of September, according to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries. Wind power in the first nine months of 2015 has generated 52% more than it did in all of 2014. 59,006 gigawatt hours has been produced, according to the same source.

solargermany114,723 gigawatt hours of electricity in Germany came from renewable sources in the first nine months of 2015, which was almost double the amount produced from nuclear sources. Additionally, some electricity prices have decreased from the previous year. For example, the cost of peak load power is nearly at 2002 levels.

This is all good news….the crazy thing about it is that you probably won’t hear about it anywhere but niche news sites like this one. This media oversight is a tragic deficiency, but the fact that Germany has come so far so rapidly confirms the effectiveness of renewables. This is not a small country like Costa Rica achieving 100% electricity from renewables for two months for 4.8 million people. Germany’s population is about 80 million!

Switching gradually from nuclear to renewables for such a large nation is very obviously a tremendous undertaking. How far along the path is Germany now? Some might say it won’t and can’t happen soon, but it seems to be progressing well.

Given that the price of PV solar power systems continues to drop, will there be an even greater acceleration in the rate of solar adoption? Price has been one of the major barriers, but is no longer nearly as much a factor. Another has been the lack of backup power or energy storage, but that one is being diminished too by the fact that the energy storage industry is growing quickly.

It should be pointed out that the decision to decrease reliance on nuclear power and increase investment in renewables was done before the most dramatic drop in solar power and the emergence of energy storage  solutions. It will be fascinating to see how much more German renewable energy will grow in the next several years.

Image Credit: Rainier Lippert, Wiki Commons

Reprinted with permission.


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About the Author

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Google Plus.



  • Albert Pinto

    There is almost a global dissonance on the amount of investment and
    time necessary to bring about a decarbonized electricity grid and
    economy. The energy problem is currently a trilemma:
    1) Decarbonized, 2) Affordable 3) Reliable (non intermittent).
    It seems impossible to obtain an energy source with all three attributes simultaneously-

    Decarbonized and A̶f̶f̶o̶r̶d̶a̶b̶l̶e̶ and Reliable? Nuclear
    D̶e̶c̶a̶r̶b̶o̶n̶i̶z̶e̶d̶ and Affordable and Reliable? Petroleum
    Decarbonized and Affordable and R̶e̶l̶i̶a̶b̶l̶e̶? Solar, Wind, Hydro

    To judge whether a source is Decarbonized is basically a scientific and
    not an economic or political assessment. However, both Reliability and
    Affordability are entirely dependent on our techno-social-political-economic systems. For instance, it has taken well over a hundred years, to build a vast energy grid infrastructure that gives industrialized countries access to reliable electricity
    supplies. That infrastructure, from power generation and transmission to
    distribution to homes and businesses, has been called “the greatest US
    engineering achievement of the 20th century” by the members of the US
    National Academy of Engineering. That infrastructure is now old– The
    average age of transformers on our system is 49 years old and the oldest
    transformer still on our system is 103 years old. That infrastructure
    required hundreds of billions of $ of public investment and the solution
    of innumerable technical challenges by atleast 4 generations of
    engineers/politicians/regulators/lawyers/industries.

    Let us think clearly now. To surmise that Decarbonization of our entire grid can
    occur 1)soon 2)inexpensively or 3)without concentrated and coordinated
    effort by many people is sheer lunacy. Decarbonization must happen but minimizing the challenges involved does no one any good.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It is possible to obtain an energy source with all three attributes simultaneously-

      Decarbonized and A̶f̶f̶o̶r̶d̶a̶b̶l̶e̶ and Reliable? Nuclear
      D̶e̶c̶a̶r̶b̶o̶n̶i̶z̶e̶d̶ and Affordable and Reliable? Petroleum, Coal, and Natural Gas
      Decarbonized and Affordable and Reliable? Solar, Wind, Hydro, Storage, Load-shifting, and Dispatchable Generation.

      FIFY

      Will it be quick? 20 to 30 years. Hopefully we do a lot up front and don’t stretch things out too long. We need to get rid of coal first. Huge external costs.

      Will it take money? Sure, but that will be offset by the money we would have spent anyway to keep our 20th Century grid operating and the money we will save with cheaper electricity and lower external costs.

      • Albert Pinto

        You are right that it can be done in 30 years and that some of the money will be offset from the cost of maintaining our current grid. However, my point was that it requires “concentrated and coordinated” effort by governments, financiers and technologists. And thats a huge challenge because it also has to be international. India and China have built a fleet of new “efficient combusion” coal plants, and Canada is busy boiling tar sands, so there is a lot of investment galloping in the opposite direction. The current energy system has tremendous sunk costs and the promised decarbonized systems are too uncertain. The uncertainty can only be reduced through the public sector taking on all the risks and the tasks of coordination.

  • Asteroid Miner

    Nuclear power is the only way to stop making CO2 that actually works.

    A Myth is Being Foisted on you:

    Fact: Renewable Energy mandates cause more CO2 to be produced, not less, and renewable energy doubles or more your electric bill. The reasons are as follows:

    Since solar “works” 15% of the time and wind “works” 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either. Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines. The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough. The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.

    We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do. The energy storage would “cost” in the neighborhood of a QUADRILLION dollars for the US. That is an imaginary price because we could not get the materials to do it if we had that much money.

    The only real way to reduce CO2 production from electricity generation is to replace all fossil fueled power plants with the newest available generation of nuclear; unless you live near Niagara Falls. Nuclear can load-follow fast enough as long as wind and solar power are not connected to the grid.

    MYTHS: The myths being perpetrated by wind turbine marketers are that:

    Wind and solar energy are free and will lower your electric bill

    and

    Wind and solar energy are CO2 free and will reduce the total CO2 produced by electricity generation.

    But

    Californians are paying twice as much for electricity as I am and Germans are paying 4 times as much as I am. The reason is renewables mandates. Illinois has 6 nuclear power plants and we are working hard to keep them. I am paying 7&1/2 cents /kilowatt hour. What are you paying?

    And

    Californians and Germans are making more CO2 per kilowatt hour than Illinoisans. It turns out that even without burning natural gas or coal to make up for the intermittency of wind and solar, wind turbines and large scale solar collectors require more concrete and steel per kilowatt hour than nuclear power does.

    FALLACIES: The fallacies in the myth are failure to do the math and failure to do all of the engineering required. The myth is easy to propagate among most people because there is quite a lot of math to do and there is a lot of engineering to learn. University electrical engineering departments offer electrical engineering degrees with specialization in power transmission [electric grids]. That is only part of the engineering that needs to be done to figure the whole thing out.

    • Passer-by

      Cheap nuclear power is a myth. It is heavily subsidised. It may appear that renewables are costly because they are taxed on the meters but you dont see those subsidies. Also you might want to check the cost of the plants and fuel cost, the cost of decomissioning of the plant which you can not just abandon and which can amount to more than 50% of the building costs. That being said it is a tested technology that is learned a hard way and it is premature to abandon it.

      • sjc_1

        Fast neutron is stable and safe. A light water reactor has to be kept from melting down.

        • Bob_Wallace

          That doesn’t say jack about cost.

          Nuclear is priced off the table.

        • eveee

          You mean fast neutron reactor? Do any of those exist yet?

    • Robert Engle

      Didn’t I read on here months ago that most new gas plants couldn’t do the load following? A simple change that wouldn’t cost much to implement but was not done because it wasn’t needed.
      I’ll skip responding to the rest of your FUD.

    • Frank

      You should read about Kodiak island in Alaska. 100% renewable generation. You’re like the professor that did the proof that heavier than air aircraft can’t fly. Guess the Wright brothers didn’t read it.

    • eveee

      Iowa has about 30% wind energy now. Where is the battery? Denmark 40%. No battery. California, 20% renewables no battery.

      Fallacies. Sure. Look around you.

      You have piled more fallacies on. But I won’t bother to list all of them. The battery fallacy is the biggest.

      When you say you are providing math, I expect a calculation. There are none provided.

      Even a simple google search would show that renewables lower carbon.

      http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/sustain_lca_results.html

    • Jenny Sommer

      No, you don’t need to keep gas turbines spinning. Why would you?
      Wind works 20% of the time? What is that supposed to mean anyways? Wind blows all of the time. It blows so much that offshore wind farms get a capacity factor of over 50%.
      Nuclear more expensive than a mix of rebewables+storage.
      That’s clear by now. That’s what tools like Green-X are there for.
      Nuclear would not work anyways. It does not scale enough, it is not accepted by the puplic for good reasons, there is not enough uranium, the economics of nuclear are so uncertain that nobody is investing in nuclear (only politicians sinking tax payers money in dead end technology…maybe there are personal reasons for their unresponsible behavior which clearly is not in public interest)
      Wind does not produce more CO2. The EROEI of wind is better than nuclear and that difference is still growing with every generation of turbines.

      You might have figured out something 10 years ago. The playing field has changed since then.

  • Larmion

    Another way to rephrase this headline would be “Nuclear power still generates one third of all clean electricity in Germany”.

    The exit from nuclear power will inevitably delay the end of fossil fuels in Germany, even if just by a few years. And of course the cost of waste disposal and dismantling are pretty much fixed regardless of how long the plant has been in operation for, so extending the life of the reactors combined with a (high-ish) levy would reduce the relative burden of the nuclear exit.

    Still, it’s far too late to reverse the decision now. Germany’s fairly stable regulatory environment has been key to its success in renewables; a U-turn of this magnitude would kill the trust of investors.

    • Ulenspiegel

      “Another way to rephrase this headline would be “Nuclear power still generates one third of all clean electricity in Germany”

      Yes, but this will be history in 2022. So what?

  • Passer-by

    Germans were too emotional closing their nuclear reactors and using brown coal insted. They should have let those reactors have full life span.

    • Ulenspiegel

      “Germans were too emotional closing their nuclear reactors and using brown coal insted.”

      Is it really so hard to get correct data? There is no using lignite instead.
      The only one who is emotional in the sense of replacing reality with wishful thinking is you.

      • No way

        It’s not hard to get correct data. They are using coal instead. The correct path would have been a massive REDUCTION in coal use. Every kWh not generated in a nuclear power plant is a kWh that will still have to be produced in a coal plant somewhere.

        • Jan Veselý

          It just bought coal about 5 years extra. There are now about 15 GW of coal plants (including 2.7 GW of lignite, 15% of total installed capacity) who asked grid regulator to be decommisioned or put into cold reserves.

        • Ulenspiegel

          NO, Germany is not using coal instead, the demand for lignite and hard coal for electricity geneartion was almost constant (lignite) or reduced (hard coal) the last 10 years.
          You may argue that NPPs could have replaced some fossil baseload power plants and would have led to a faster redcution of CO2, that would be correct and would have been my plan.
          However, to argue that NPPs were replaced by either coal or lignite is stupid as long as it is not supported by hard numbers – neither we see an net addition of generation capacity nor of generated electricity.

          • Passer-by

            If they had not closed NPPs they would have been replacing coal with renewables. Now they use coal insted. I never mentioned an addition or anything else. You invented it yourself and started arguing. I think everybody else got what I was getting at.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That is incorrect. Germany increased their coal consumption a small amount following the decision to close reactors earlier than scheduled. Now they’ve recovered from that small extra use of coal and set a new low consumption record in 2014.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think we totally understood what you said.

            Yes, had Germany continued to use nuclear they could have cut FF use faster. No one argues with that.

            Was it an emotional decision? Or was it a wise, economically based decision? I think the latter. Germany witnessed how a very technologically advanced country contaminated part of their country. Germany watched it happen a few years earlier in a neighboring country.

            One does not need a lot of math skills to add up the hundreds of billions it will cost to clean up Fukushima and what abandoning a hunk of German real estate could cost.

            The cost to Germany to speed up removing nuclear dangers was tiny in comparison to what was risked by not doing so.

          • No way

            You don’t have to replace it by adding capacity. You can replace it by not reducing capacity. And the numbers support is by not showing the massive reduction in capacity of coal that would have happened if the NPPs stayed on and at full capacity.

            The only way you could argue that coal has not replaced nuclear is if the renewable power would not have been built unless the NPPs would have been closed down, which would be an ridiculous argument considering the mandatory renewable energy percentage that the EU has put on Germany that they still have a really hard time achieving (even though Germanys mandatory goal is set lower than the EU average).

          • Ulenspiegel

            “You don’t have to replace it by adding capacity.”

            This argument only works when the demand shrinks dramatically, it did not, therfore, we have no substitution of NPPs with coal.

            The other argument is, that lignite works as baseload at high capacity factor, there is no capacity left to replace NPPS, sorry. And hard coal replaced in most cases simply expensive NG, something that would also have happened in a nuclaer scenario.

          • eveee

            Keeping nuclear and expanding renewables might have lowered carbon more. It also might have resulted in other nuclear accidents. Germany also experienced some bad contamination at its AVR reactor, also. So I don’t think that German people had an appetite for nuclear after Chernobyl and that response cannot be denied. People in the US have this concept, because the impacts were not as great. Wild animals and some flora in Germany are still too hazardous to eat. The practical effect is that several areas of the globe are reluctant to increase nuclear or want to decrease it.

            It should be expected that accidents will slow or decrease use and the slowing and reassessment is a logical consequence, as an aircraft grounding might be following an aircraft failure. The public reluctance is an inevitable consequence of accidents that must be faced.

      • Larmion

        ‘Lignite use is not going up’ is a true but misleading statement. Let’s do a thought experiment:

        The Random Republic of Wherever (RRW) produces 100GWh of power a year. 50GWh comes from fossil fuels, 25 from nuclear and 25 from renewables.

        RRW builds enough new renewable generation capacity to produce another 10GWh of electricity.

        In a normal market, this 10GWh would displace 10GWh of fossil fuels, as these have the highest marginal cost and would be pushed out of the market first.

        However, RRW wants a nuclear exit and forces 10GWh of nuclear generators to close. Fossil fuel use remains constant and nuclear declines instead.

        RRW now proudly proclaims that its coveted nuclear exit did not cause carbon emissions to rise. If you use today as a baseline, that’s indeed true enough. But the more meaningful basis for comparison would be a business as usual scenario, i.e. what would have happened in the same scenario without government intervention. And that picture is simple: RRW uses 10GWh worth of fossil fuels more than it should.

        Here’s the thing: Germany is in the same position as the hypothetical RRW. Over the last few years, new RE additions have offset the decline in nuclear, but lignite use has remained stubbornly constant (140TWh in 2002 and 140TWh in 2014).

        Lower overall electricity demand has meant that FF use did drop, but that would have happened even without a renewable energy policy.

        Germany has the right goal (ending non-renewable energy use), but its path there has been bizarre to say the least. The cleanest non-renewable energy source is being phased out first and transport and heating (both bigger emitters than power) are left largely as they are.

        • Ulenspiegel

          Lignite stays constant, so we have an substitution of nuclaer generation with lignite? Again, this is only possible when demand shrinks.

          It was more RE generation added than nuclear generation retired, we hav an substitution of fossil with REs, sorry.

          Again, the process could be faster with lignite first out, but that was not the argument, the argument was that we see an substitution of NPPS with lignite power plants, which is not supported by (your) numbers. 🙂

          • eveee

            Lets look at the lignite numbers and graphs. Lignite has been steadily declining long term, but flattened recently.

            http://reneweconomy.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/share-of-electricity-gen-germany_600x350.jpg.png

            Then, too, we should consider recent developments.

            “Germany agreed on Thursday to mothball about five of the country’s largest brown coal power plants to meet its climate goals by 2020, after months of wrangling between the parties in chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition.”

            That sounds like Germany just decided to dump lignite to meet their 40% carbon reduction goal by 2020.

            http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/02/germany-to-mothball-largest-coal-power-plants-to-meet-climate-targets

          • Ulenspiegel

            Please, get the AGEB numbers.

            http://www.ag-energiebilanzen.de/

            Lignite is when we talk about primary energy and electricity generation relatively constant for years.

            Nice graphical representaion of the AGEB data on

            http://www.energycomment.de/

            (lower right side)

            During the last 10 years we see a reduction of hard coal and NG consumption, as primary energy and as fuels for electricity generation. The gross generation is quite constant, the domestic demand shrinks, i.e. we see increasing exports of electricity which replaces usually NG in neighbour countries.

            A good discussion would use either corrected data for Germany (subtract expaorts, which are 70-100% fossil) or use the EU as system border. It is an useless exercise to forget the effect of exports.

          • eveee

            Ulenspiegel – can you help with a link?

          • Ulenspiegel

            Eveee, sorry my post above should have been addressed to Larmion.

            For which numbers do you need a link.

            The AGEB is in my post above. In German you get a lot of nice compilations. On the front page the “Strommix” is very good.

            For primary energy you have to use the “Auswertetabellen zur Energiebilanz”.

            The data as graphic is provided by Dr. Bukold on his site “Energy Comments”.

        • eveee

          Its clear that keeping nuclear might have lowered carbon more in Germany. But not having Chernobyl might have increased nuclear’s reputation in Germany, too. Its unrealistic to ignore Chernobyls effects.
          One cannot ignore the effects of a major accident on public acceptance, or ignore the dangers and health consequences of nuclear power.
          Those consequences cannot be discounted.

          They must be realistically considered when considering an energy future.
          Both GW and nuclear accidents must be considered. There is no point in saving ourselves from GW only to result in a more unhealthy environment.
          We can do better than that.
          Speed up the implementation of renewables. Wind could have been done long ago.
          Its more the lack of taking GW seriously that is slowing response, not the implementation of one technology or another.
          How seriously have the major countries of the world taken GW? Not very much historically, if Kyoto is any measure. Its only now that US, China, and India have made agreements. And progress is slow. There have been setbacks in Australia. And now in UK. The US Congress is doing its best to throw a monkey wrench. And in the past we have had Congress visited by phonies like Lord Monckton.

          Thats the real reason GW solutions have not been implemented quickly. The slowdown in nuclear power is a direct consequence of its cost and public reluctance in places like Germany and Japan. As a result, France has realized that dependence on a single energy source is unwise and that nuclear decommissioning is more expensive than anticipated and has planned more renewables. In China, a reassessment of nuclear plans has slowed development.

          • Larmion

            I would rather live in the proximity of a nuclear disaster than in the proximity of a working lignite power plant. Why? Because simple statistics shows that the former is less likely to lead to cancer or death.

            Sadly, most people don’t think like that. The inability of most people to understand simple statistics and probability is quite possibly the greatest problem society faces at the moment.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Living with neither is my preferred option.

            Closing nuclear earlier slowed Germany’s move off fossil fuels by a year or two. We should be turning criticism toward those countries which are doing far less.

          • eveee

            Unfortunately, statistics don’t tell you much about the true health impacts of nuclear, because its like smoking. The epidemiological studies are difficult and there are no funds. Somewhere between 1 out of 4 and 1 out of 2 people will contract cancer in their lifetimes depending on country and sex. There are a lot of cancers buried beneath that number. Too many to notice the increased effects, unless you look carefully. But KiKK study found them. Thats the insidiousness of it.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696975/

            Throughout history, ignorance created a false sense of security about nuclear that led to lax standards being replaced by tighter ones later.

            Alice Stewart received much abuse for her pioneering work reducing X ray exposure to pregnant women. With that kind of hostile environment, its hardly likely we would discover the full range of health effects.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/04/world/alice-stewart-95-linked-x-rays-to-diseases.html

            Gofman calculated that if even a small amount of emissions come from a large number of nuclear power plants over decades, they could equal the emission of one disaster every few decades. Ordinary radiation kills slowly over time. For the most part, nuclear boosters are woefully ignorant and optimistic about the effects. The differences between Chernobyl long term deaths estimates is huge. Its the difference between whether LNT is ignored or not and whether all the populations are considered or not. Yet the lowest, and possibly the most faulty estimates, are chosen, if they are even known properly at all.

            http://www.ratical.com/radiation/inetSeries/nwRB.html

            An expansion of nuclear power would mean both more accidents and more regular releases. But there are just too many other scalability problems to make it even worthwhile.

            http://phys.org/news/2011-05-nuclear-power-world-energy.html

            IMHO, I don’t see the point in replacing one problem (GW) with another (cancer, genetic defects, immune problems, etc), especially for a source that is unlikely to have any impact on reducing GW. That would be doubly tragic.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3125012/

  • JamesWimberley

    “Another has been the lack of backup power or energy storage.” An urban legend in the making, promoted no doubt by the battery industry. What evidence is there that backup has been a constraint on the growth of wind and solar in Germany? The government deliberately slowed the rate of installation of solar, but the reason was to limit the EEG surcharge on electricity consumers. Wind wasn’t slowed at all. In fact, Germany has a good number of mothballed gas generators, which could easily be put back into service if backup ever became a real problem.

    • Matt

      They only info I saw, and may have been marketing material. Was that Germany was curtail wind in order to make run for the gas turbine to provide smoothing (load/demand balancing). They were pushing that 1MW storage replaced 5MW gas, since they can swing much faster and farther, that is add demand (charge) as well as power (discharge). The rest of Germany market appears to be that many are coming out of their FIT period, and therefore get very little for power they send to net, so want to self consume.

    • globi
    • onesecond

      The reason that they slowed solar installment was that the utilities lobbied hard for that. Also the surcharge could be 3 cents today if Sigmar Gabriel hadn’t changed the rules back in 2009. He helped the utilities to make the surcharge more expensive, so they finally could suceed with winding back the solar installment. This is not a conspiracy theory, that is what actually happened. Right now Sigmar Gabriel is destroying citizen partizipation and energy coops with the introduction of auction that favours the utilites and the focus off offshore installment, that replicate the central structures the utilities want to maintain. The Energiewende is very successful thanks for the Greens creating the EEG back in 2001 but SPD and CDU have both dismantled it more and more over the years thanks to their affiliation to the coal lobby while talking how they want to support the Energiewende because 90% of the population are still very much behind it. The Energiewende is very successful but it could have been a lot better with like two times the renewable energy for half the cost if it weren’t for these vested interests. Oh well, I guess the fight is never over but I think it is worth mentioning that the Energiewende is still this successful despite making every decision possible to destroy it and make it more expensive since 2009. They did everything they can but renewable energy is still unstoppable. Now let’s contemplate for a moment what actually would be possible with a government supporting renewables truly 100%. We could probably save the world and end fossil fuel use for good in fifteen years.

    • Dries V

      Germany uses mainly Austria’s pumped hydro as backup. But this has a limited capacity. Alternatieve like P2G are being explored

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