Carbon Pricing

Published on February 13th, 2016 | by Rob Compton


Germany & The Coal Exit

February 13th, 2016 by  

All translations my own and without liability.

Germany has made well-publicised strides towards cleaner electricity generation, with renewables accounting for 30% of the country’s electricity mix in 2015. Yet quitting smoking is not easy and, as critics are quick to point out, Germany’s fleet of coal-fired power stations continues to run.

coal germany

The debate in the country surrounding the phasing out of coal-fired electricity generation – the Kohleausstieg – is an intense one. Coal critics are pushing for a faster exit, emboldened by the Paris agreement, the government’s target of meeting 80% of gross electricity consumption with renewables by 2050, and the need to “keep it in the ground.” Opposition comes mainly from the trade unions and mining regions where 16,000 people are employed in lignite mining.

Kicking the Habit

Lignite – or brown coal – is black coal’s dirtier cousin. 178 million metric tons of it were extracted through opencast strip mining in Germany last year, with the majority used to fire nearby power stations. Lignite has a low heat content, which means that compared to energy-denser black coal, more CO2 is released per megawatt when it is burned.

Lignite-fired plants are also less able to respond flexibly to price signals from the market. They used to make serious money during peak demand hours when prices were highest. However, electricity from renewable sources has grid priority, PV generally peaks around midday, and electricity from wind is now often in large supply. This, combined with inflexible conventional baseload (e.g., from lignite, nuclear, and black coal), pushes prices down – increasingly often into negative territory.

The renewable operators, however, have negligible variable costs – sunlight and wind are free – and they receive a fixed tariff for every kWh they supply. Lignite plants are even at times reducing their “baseload” generation in response to high levels of generation from wind despite their inflexibility. Nevertheless, a surplus often remains and German electricity exports set a new record last year.

In 2015, lignite and black coal accounted for 24% and 18.2% of Germany’s gross electricity generation, respectively. Germany’s lignite-fired installed capacity has remained largely constant. However, plans are being discussed to mothball 13% (2.7 GW) of the capacity in an emergency reserve for four-year periods starting in 2016.

Lignite Woes

The plant operators are suffering financially. The Swedish state-owned energy company Vattenfall has put its German lignite power stations and associated mines in the eastern states of Saxony and Brandenburg up for sale following pressure from the Swedish government to withdraw from coal-fired energy.

Last week, SZ-Online ran a piece on the proposed sale. “Vattenfall (…) is suffering under the low electricity price (…) and the ever-greater-loss-making lignite business. (…) Now Vattenfall is faced with lower asset values,” the website’s Stockholm correspondent writes. The article quotes the company’s CEO, Magnus Hall: “The German decision to reduce emissions in the long-term has exposed the value of our lignite assets to a risk.”

The Swedish branch of Greenpeace created a PR sensation by offering to buy and shut down the plants, although its offer was later rejected.

A number of potential buyers remain in the running, including the Czech energy company ČEZ. Although, it is now demanding guarantees, RBB reported last week.

Binding offers are to be submitted by March.

An Ace in the Hole?

In addition to CO2, German coal-fired plants are responsible for over five metric tons of mercury emissions every year. It is a substance that can cause a wide range of serious health problems.

“Should talks about an orderly exit from coal by 2050 fail this year, the federal government has a plan B up its sleeve,” Dagmar Dehmer suggests, making a bit of a leap in an article for Der Tagesspiegel on Sunday. She refers to the Minamata Convention on mercury emissions, which Germany plans to ratify with the EU at the end of the year or in early 2017.

Dehmer cites a Federal Ministry for the Environment spokesperson who stated that, following ratification of the convention, the government wants to set new rules for limits on mercury emissions. “It is our goal that mercury emissions from coal-fired power stations be a low as possible. The best available techniques must be used for this,” the spokesperson said – I assume referring to the EU’s BREF or “best available techniques reference document” for large combustion plants, which is currently at the working draft stage. According to Dehmer, this would “no longer be worthwhile for old lignite-fired power stations.”

The article was updated on Monday to reflect a reaction on Twitter from the State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for the Environment Jochen Flasbarth, who stressed that new mercury limits were not a “plan B” or an alternative to closing coal power plants.

Indeed, the Federal Minister for the Environment, Barbara Hendricks, told Die Welt recently, “If we want to meet our medium-term climate protection targets, we need to take leave of coal energy. (…) And with that, a major source of mercury disappears as well.”

Germany’s Coal Exit is Inevitable…

…that much is certain. The government has set its targets and has international obligations. The debate now is not about whether, but how to achieve it and how fast.

The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel opposes an “overly hasty” coal exit, and told energy industry managers recently, as reported in Die Welt, “It is hard to understand why we should once again start with national targets for coal-generated electricity when we are really all in agreement that climate protection efforts only make sense on the European level. (…) My suggestion is that we reverse the order. (…) First we get European emission trading up to speed and then we can talk in an ideology-free way about the consequences for national electricity generation.”

As the article points out, while the think tank Agora Energiewende recently put forward a concept for an exit from coal by 2040, the lignite mine operators expect an exit by 2050. “I cannot imagine that these ten years’ difference pose an insurmountable problem,“ Gabriel is reported as saying.

The Outlook

It remains to be seen how the German government will proceed towards an exit from coal – be it on the European level with toughened-up emissions trading, through national efforts such as an emergency reserve, or otherwise. It will also be interesting to see what happens with the proposed Vattenfall sale.

But the fact remains that lignite and black coal currently produce 42% of Germany’s electricity and that with the remaining German nuclear plants set to be taken offline by 2022, more renewable capacity, domestic grid expansion, more international interconnections, an increase in grid-scale storage, and major energy efficiency savings will have to be part of any technical solution alongside a social and economic package for the lignite-producing regions.

The debate continues.

Image via Shutterstock

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About the Author

has lived in Berlin since 2009. He reports on German industry, renewable energy, and transportation. An environmentalist and an optimist, Rob is always on the lookout for exciting technological developments. You can follow him on Twitter @compton_rl

  • super390

    I wonder how much it would cost for a few of the old Direct Action veterans to dig up their hidden explosives and blow up a lignite-fired plant? That would send insurance costs soaring for all coal plants. And remind everyone of the virtues of decentralized power. Lobbyists like you are creating a cost our children cannot pay.

  • Mike Hillsgrove

    Nuclear is far too risky an energy source for a smaller nation like Germany, It’s just too crowded and it has limited rivers for the stations. The problem with lignite besides burning dirty is that entire villages and towns have to be removed for new sources of lignite, causing unrest. The water pollution from a lignite operation is awful.

    Coal, or lignite, is more expensive by far over solar which is doing very well in Germany. Once the solar infrastructure is totally in, Germany will be 100% fossil fuel free and totally energy independent and the benefit to the German economy will be phenomenal. This is their long term goal, and it is paying off even today.

    By comparison, US non-leadership is focused on 2 year election cycles and getting money from fossil fuel companies to stay in office. The extreme corruption of our corporate owned Congress and political system has destroyed any future for the US.

    I wish that we could swap politicians the way baseball teams swap players. Sadly, we have nothing to offer the world there either.

    • eveee

      The National Geographic has a nice quote on this.
      “All of them said Germany had to get off nuclear power and fossil fuels at the same time. “You can’t drive out the devil with Beelzebub,” explained Hans-Josef Fell, a prominent Green Party politician. “Both have to go.” At the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, energy researcher Volker Quaschning put it this way: “Nuclear power affects me personally. Climate change affects my kids. That’s the difference.””

    • Jens Stubbe

      Solar will never be sufficient to run Germany as we have pretty lousy insolation during winters here in Northern Europe.

      Besides wind power is factors cheaper and sufficiently abundant with the twist that it is windier during the winter where Northern Europe use more energy including electricity.

      Nuclear is clearly an idea from another time of much greater optimism.

      • super390

        The solution was obvious before the German banks sabotaged it: pay the “spendthrift” southern Europeans to install German PV panels and wind turbines to supply northern Europe with what it needed. Instead, the Shock Doctrine was applied. (see Naomi Klein)

        • Ulenspiegel

          Please get an idea when energy is needed. Then try to make an physical/technical argument why PV is the solution or the most important part of the solution. Your political argument only tells that you are lazy. 🙂

    • Bob_Wallace

      “The extreme corruption of our corporate owned Congress and political system has destroyed any future for the US.”

      A bit hyperbolic.

      Germany has pro-coal politicians in their government as well.

  • Ronald Brakels

    To me, here in Australia, a 2050 exit from coal, or even a 2040 one, seems very late. And this is in a country that gets about 73% of its electricity from coal. If we count an exit from coal as being when we stop using coal power stations in a baseload manner and not just keeping a few around for seasonal load following or deep back up, we should be rid of it well before 2040 provided coal competes on something approaching a level playing field with other generating capacity.

    A level playing field should include a carbon price equal to the cost of removing carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it, and paying for the full health cost of coal power, but even without those two things we should end all or almost all coal use well within 24 years provided coal does not receive additional protection, which would most likely come in the form of disincentives for renewable generation.

    It is currently not possible to build a new coal power station in Australia as alternatives are simply cheaper, even with the current low cost of coal. And the average age of Australian coal power stations is around 35 years. So natural attrition alone would result in a great deal of coal capacity being replaced over the next quarter of a century. However, the two lowest cost forms of new generating capacity, wind and solar, are particularly damaging for the economics of coal. Wind and solar both push down the average wholesale price of electricity and can result in periods where the price is below the operating cost of coal power plants and since they cannot be easily or cheaply switched off they have no choice other than to operate at a loss during these periods if they wish to keep operating at all. This effect has already driven coal generation out of South Australia. The state’s only coal mine has shut and its last coal power station will close next month. (Once their store of coal is gone, that’s it.) The effect of wind and solar generation is also being felt by coal generators in other states.

    It is distributed solar that will cause the most damage to coal generation in Australia. This is because wind and utility scale solar both have the disadvantage that as the cost of wholesale electricity falls, less of them will be built and so in the absence of a carbon price or other incentives they can only slowly replace coal as old capacity is retired. But rooftop solar doesn’t have this problem. People will still have an incentive to install it even if they receive nothing for the electricity they export to the grid, and as the cost continues to fall they have an incentive to install larger amounts of PV resulting in more electricity exported to the grid during the daytime, pushing wholesale prices down and making coal plants uneconomical to run.

    And because some people get hung up on this point, I will mention that Australia requires no additional energy storage over what it currently has now to eliminate coal use. Australia’s existing hydro and gas generating capacity, including pumped storage, can output a lot of power and we can build more if needed. I don’t think it will be needed, but even if low cost energy storage is not available in the future it will not prevent coal generation being eliminated.

  • heinbloed

    The author forgot to mention the market forces in detail.

    The power prices at the EEX (the European power exchange) dropped this week the first time ever below € 0.02/kWh:!/2016/02/12
    (third last sentence)

    Lignite and black coal can’t compete against this force anymore. Full stop.

    Do nothing and they close down.

    The only guaranteed FIT the coal has is the market price.

  • Dan

    This idea is great and gives coal plants an opportunity to be a contributor to the clean energy and smart grid transition! Yay

  • Ulenspiegel

    Yep, modern lignite plants are quite flexible and can survive for a long time.

    • heinbloed

      Not on 2 cents/kWh!

      (futures at the EEX for baseload 2017/2018)

      No power source can …. except those sources with a guaranteed FIT and guaranteed grid access.

      For the very same reason French EdF has cancelled ALL further non-Re expansion plans:

      That a third of the existing French atom power plants has to close because of market forces needs no explanation.
      With German imports even being cheaper than French atom power since the last two years and the market liberalization just taking effect now the atom in France is doomed.

      But the out-phasing of the French atom takes to long to save the German coal.
      They don’t have the time the French subsidized atom power has.

      • Ulenspiegel

        Do you really expect 2 cents/kWh in Germany as whole sale price for longer time?

        For written off lignite power plants the siruation is quite ok, NG or hard coal are in trouble earlier.

        • heinbloed

          I do.
          The traders at EEX do.

          The collaps of the power industry has to be faster than the reduction of traded power in Europe resp. Germany.
          And this isn’t the case yet.

          Even written-off power plants can’t produce for 2 cents or 2.1 cents/kWh.

          Gabriel was quoted to have been shocked by the balance sheets Vattenfall showed him, 2 years ago that was when the first talks of selling the lignite assets started in Sweden.

          As the Swedish press says: selling lignite power assets is like selling Trabant cars

          It costs money to find someone running the mines and delivering power to satisfy the old long-term contracts with lignite derived power:

          The scrapping of the old vehicle costs more than the still to be expected mileage is worth it.
          All old lignite assets(the written off ones) are covered by state subsidies, their re-naturing, their greening.
          But the new ones (after 1990) are to be covered by the new owners. And they can’t afford them anymore.

          Vattenfall (and the other lignite asset exploiters in the Est and West) have no money to start with new pits, never mind power plants.
          The CEO of Vattenfalled recommended to throw away the keys and pay a taxi for the rest of the journey.
          It would be cheaper for Vattenfall to buy power from another company and pass this on to satisfy the old delivery contracts than run the writen-off lignite assets any further.

          RWE in Western Germany gave up 2 years ago on extensions of the lignite industry there.
          An ‘agreement’ was signed with politics, an agreement on reality …..
          That the Hambacher Forst has to go is in doubt, the squatters/occupiers have done their best and the REs theirs.
          RWE is finished.

          Existing permits for new mines and power plants are worthless, the formerly announced big future for lignite is 2 years old wrapping paper covering the old naked lies.

          Since then no one has ever mentioned new pits or plants.
          and 2014 the price was still 3-4 cents/kWh for futures.
          And now it is heading towards Norwegian level, that is about 1 cent/kWh.
          And more cables are being build, the cannibalization of the centralized power industry is in full swing.

          Vattenfalls neighbor Poland is in a good mood to follow the Eastern German sample, Poland installed a record level of new wind power last year:

          And we all know where the Polish coal industry stands.

          • Ulenspiegel

            “Even written-off power plants can’t produce for 2 cents or 2.1 cents/kWh.”

            But this is the issue. We need for some time conventional capacity, which can not cover costs at the moment.

            You either have to increase the whole sale price or to introduce other mechanisms (strategic reserve, …) to make conventional power plants possible.

          • heinbloed

            “We” need no conventional power plants.
            I don’t.
            Those who want 24h/7 day guaranteed supply can buy it.
            If they can afford it they’ll have no problem to do so.

            Any business is bankable except for the centralized power business.
            Since a few hours the German news are covering the dire situation of the power dwarfs. They are not bankable says the German government.


            Many – if not all – large power companies can’t fulfill their legal duties anymore. The companies are not worth what they owe.
            They are as bankrupt as the banks.

            This is not the problem of the public.

            There are emergency laws which forbid the closure/black out of power plants, the owners know these laws and have to adhere to them.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Sorry, some fancy economical constructs are no replacemnet for physical reality. As long as we do not have much more transmission capacity and storage, we need conventional power plants.

            The guys at the Net Agency make clear statements what may work and what not; that they tend to be on the save side is ok for me.

          • heinbloed

            If profits are to be privatised the ” we ” need them, that’s what they tell them.

            ” I ” don’t need conventional centralized electricity generators.
            And ” I ” am saying so clearly.

            If you think ” we ” need anything then send us your money.
            No? I thought so …;)

          • Ulenspiegel

            Sorry, you have to show that other back up is able to provide secure capacity when we have no wind, then you can switch off the coal power plants. At the moment you use political arguments which are no substitute for physucal arguments. Again the net agency does a good job, use their data.

  • Martin

    Now brown coal in Germany has 16.000 working in that industry, but the RE sector has 350.000 people, so how come the coal lobby still has that much power?

    • newnodm

      Probably Germans having a preference for lights working at 6pm every day of the year.

    • Nolan Thiessen

      Fewer employees and higher income means there’s more cash available for lobbyists.

    • jeffhre

      Regional multipliers of power, combined with 200 years of cultivating connections and lobbyists.

    • Ulenspiegel

      “…so how come the coal lobby still has that much power?”

      many municipal ultilities were sold to larger utilities, the cities got shares of the utilities as payments. Now these cities are in a tricky position. As most are in Nordrhine-Westphalia, the largest federal state with a SPD government…..

    • JamesWimberley

      Miners were at the heart of European socialist movements for the whole of the 20th century. Of course that is no longer true in Britain and France, which have closed all their coal mines. But the link is still very much there in Germany and Poland. Real Men: and there was much truth in it.

      • Martin

        Thank you all.

  • newnodm

    How much coal generation needs replacing, and what are the options? It is fine to not like lignite. What replaces the gWhs?

    Edit: From all coal 260TWh needs replacing. No problem.

    • Frank

      Wind, solar, batteries. You don’t actually have to have that many batteries, but they are valuable, and their price is dropping.

      • newnodm

        How much does one TWh of batteries cost these days? I assume on a large order Germany can get a discount.

        • vensonata

          At $100 kwh, a Twh of batteries is 100 billion dollars. But in actual use that battery should cycle 30 times per year for 30 years. Therefore the cost is 3.3 billion dollars per year. That storage would add 5cents kwh to the cost of whatever electricity source it is storing. Divided by the German population of 80 million that is about $42 per person per year.
          Now that is a nice bulk order for some up and coming battery company.

          • newnodm

            Are we putting these cells in a pack, or just using them as-is? I think Germany could probably get a free gift with an order of $100 billion.

          • vensonata

            A box of chocolate should come free with that order! Anyway, now that I am thinking about this, that battery would provide about 40 kwh storage for every house in Germany. The Germans are remarkably frugal in the electrical use at 10 kwh per day per house…one third of American use. That is four cloudy days, and no wind storage. The discharge of 40 kwh will cost each household $2, for that wicked weather cycle. Really nothing much.

          • newnodm

            Are the Germans planning on abandoning industry? How many Germans heat their homes with electricity?

            1TW is 20 years production of a complete gigafactory.

          • Ulenspiegel

            You do not need more stationary batteries, you need EVs and of course more transborder transmission lines, problem solved.

            An intelligent person starts with the transmission lines.

          • newnodm

            An intelligent German may be concerned about too much reliance on other countries for fundamental needs.
            EV’s increase the need for coal in Germany.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You really don’t know how renewable energy works, do you?

          • Hans

            Like the dependence on Russian gas and Saoudi oil?

          • eveee

            Better Italian and Spanish sun, than Saudi oil.

          • super390

            Yet strangely German banks chose to destroy the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek economies rather than do the logical thing and make those countries pay off their debts by supplying renewable energy to their Northern creditors. Austerity never works in paying off debt anyway. Did the banks have another agenda – like creating an extra pool of 3rd world wages within the EU?

          • eveee

            They decrease it. EVs are storage on the grid. Autos are idle 95% of the time. That would provide a massive amount of storage for renewables. In particular, they would sop up that excess daytime solar nicely by charging at work.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Sorry, you are a clown. german imports around 75% of her primary energy, to substitute this with 20% imports from Scandinavia is a real improvement – for intelligent people. You are excused.

          • heinbloed

            How much primary energy is exported from Germany?

            And what does it matter …?

          • Ulenspiegel

            It was about the reliance on other countries. It sounds stupid to complain that in a RE scenario Germany depends for 20% of the electricity on imports when we now import 70%.

            And when the proposed alternative is nuclear with almost 100% imports it becomes even more funny.

          • heinbloed

            I think 40% of the organic food sold in Germany is imported ….

            As long as there are methods of transport and payment it doesn’t matter where the goods are demanded.

            In a capitalistic world markets rely on trade, nationalist thinking is out of place.
            Most lignite assets in Germany are owned by foreigners, most Czech coal assets are registered under charity tax laws in Amsterdam(“Stiftungen”).

            There is no atomic alternative, except for Czech all German neighbors are phasing out the atom.Or never had any in the first place.

            In Czech the Mafia is very strong, telling people lies in the 21st century works only beyond the former iron curtain eastwards anymore.And even there it is getting difficult, exorcism is now employed in Poland to get rid of ‘the bad news from reality’:



          • Zorba

            True. Also gas to fill in the gaps until it too can eventually be phased out. Transmission lines spreading renewable power more evenly around Europe and linking to pumped hydro in Scandinavia, gas for when it is needed to top up renewables (instead of baseload gas plants)… could allow lots of renewables onto the grid without huge expenditure on batteries.

          • vensonata

            Yes, it sounds like a lot, but it is precisely the case that we could use another 50 of those gigafactories. In the same way we need to increase PV factories by ten fold to meet true demand if we decide to provide 50% of the worlds power needs by Solar. And even at that it will take 30 years.

          • Really? That’s all, one order of magnitude (10) times will do it?

          • vensonata

            Actually to really get serious about just the U.S. we need to install 60 gw of PV per year for the next 20 years. Do we have 6 Gw of factory available now? If so we need 10 x that. If not …better get a move on.

          • eveee

            Yes, factory production must grow. Global annual PV production is expected to grow to 75GW by 2019. Total installed capacity is expected to reach 500GW same time frame. The peculiarities of the math involve annual production growing at a rate to yield cumulative capacity increases. Factory utilization is not full.

            Electricity is about 4000 TWh now.

            At 20% CF, 6GW x 20 x 24hr x 365 = 1TWhr.

            about 25% of energy. Reasonable.

            Check my math.

            Thing is, I don’t think 6GW per year is the right way to look at it. Growth must be considered.
            6.2GW was installed in 2014.

            But that installation grew 30% from 2013.

            Here it is on a global scale.



          • newnodm

            What size is the solarcity factory, 5GW?

          • vensonata

            The Solarcity factory in Buffalo will produce One Gw per year as I recall. That is why we need about 50 of those. But I think total in the U.S. is already 5 or 6. So we need 10 times that production capacity.
            My estimate is: 50% of U.S. electrical demand supplied by PV. That means 2000 Twh/year. So about 1500 Gw of PV. Divide by 25 (years) = 60, and that means the U.S. needs to install 60 Gw of PV each and every year until 2041. And in its spare time it needs to do the same with wind. And provide about 40 Twh (1% of U.S. electrical demand) of storage in the form of batteries or something.
            And while they are at it, they need 100 million EVs with 50 kwh battery in each. So plenty to do, lots of jobs.

          • eveee

            Solar capacity will probably not be sourced from each country. More likely, some countries will source more than others.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Due to shipping costs we’re likely to see regional manufacturing.

            As China loses its low labor advantage we are seeing manufacturing starting to move closer to the market.

          • eveee

            True. I could see solar in US feeding Mexico or Canada or the reverse also. We see more of that local content with wind as well. Shipping costs almost mandates local construction for wind.

          • Freddy D

            Exactly. (Disclaimer, the following numbers are just to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge, not exact numbers ) The world needs several TeraWatts each of PV and wind in order to phase out fossil fuels. Right now capacity of these technologies costs in the neighborhood of $1.30-$2.00/watt peak, blended wind and solar, so total investment globally might be $20T. Sounds like a lot? The world spends about $3T annually on energy or $30T/decade, much of this in fuel, which becomes irrelevant in a renewable energy economy. The investment numbers and ROIs add up – this is a good investment, not even including the climate benefits. The only realistic way to get to that multi-TeraWatt scale, however, is to keep ramping up production 30% per year for another decade or two.

          • eveee

            Precisely. We have to stay at it. Here are some numbers I dug up for US solar.

            In 2014, US solar installed 6.2GW. In 2015, that number was expected to be exceeded at over 7GW.


          • eveee

            If every house in Germany had 40kwhr, that would be an EV.

          • eveee

            Great selling point. Free gift with order of $100 billion.


          • No way

            How about we give that order to the Tesla Gigafactory. Assuming they could put the full capacity to make this German megabattery it would only take 28,6 years of full production. 😉

          • vensonata

            Actually this is small potatoes. I propose a nice 40 Twh battery for the U.S. So we need 40 gigafactories at full production just for that battery and it would still take 28 years. By gosh we had better get a move on!

          • eveee

            Yes. More GigaFactories. Next years production is already sold out. IMO, no one is prepared for the size and speed of this wave. 250 million cars in the US. Try 100 million cars times 50 kwhr per car. Thats a lot of storage.

          • newnodm

            Yes, no one is prepared. This means the transition happens slowly. Tesla has only built 1/5 of the gigafactory, and apparently no new building has happened for months.

          • Frank

            “no new building has happened for months” why do you say that? They seemed to be happy with progress on the earnings call.

        • eveee

          Why assume batteries? Hydro is cheaper. Germany doesn’t think it needs any storage until renewables integration is over 60%,

          “significant storage capacity for renewably generated electricity would not be needed for another 20 years — until Germany has at least a 60 percent share of renewables in its power sector.”

          “The key insight here,” explains one of the authors, Daniel Fürstenwerth of Agora Energiewende, “is that the Energiewende can continue investing massively in renewable power right now. We will need to invest in power-to-power storage capacity in the long term, but not today. We have to keep the Energiewende cost-efficient or the German people, industry, and the political establishment won’t go for it.”

          The essence of Agora’s argument is that Germany’s energy system can maintain the flexibility it needs even as renewables expand by other, less costly means than new power-based storage technology. These alternative options include demand-side management, flexible conventional power plants, and grid expansion both in Germany and across its borders.”

          HVDC is being built to connect all the North Sea countries to Norway and Sweden. Storage is not even the most economical way to integrate renewables. Expanded transmission and demand response are cheaper.
          There are six categories of options.

          • newnodm

            I’m not suggesting batteries. Simply indicating the amount of infrastructure that needs to be built to replace coal with other forms of German generation.

          • eveee

            Its a lot. Over time, however, its not much greater than the amount of old generation that would have to be replaced with new. Overall, if we do that, and new generation is cheaper, we benefit. Biggest problem is overcoming entrenched interests that resist change, IMO.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Most of the investments have to be done anyway, the differential costs between RE scenario and BAU are not that high and we can expect that they become negative around 2035.

            As long as you do not propose an better alternative I do not see a deeper sense in your post.

          • super390

            The single biggest change in the discussion of renewable transition in the last year, I’ve noticed, is in the baseload issue. Experts are willing to accept that a lot more intermittent power can be absorbed by national grids than previously. Anyone saying 60% without storage would have been laughed out of the room before, but now it’s a live debate. I think Germany and other European countries have changed the debate by simply failing to fulfill the doomsday predictions of the fossil fuel fossils. You know, going past 30% will cause the collapse of civilization, zombie outbreaks, etc.

  • S Herb

    Lignite electricity production in Germany may not be as profitable as it once was, but it beats hard coal, and even more-so gas (at European prices). If Vattenfall were to sell the plants to the Czech firm with a sufficient write-down, they could be quite profitable to operate. So without Government action, this could really drag out.

    • Jens Stubbe

      Please document. I think that the recent offshore auction auction for Hornsrev 3 which was won with a bit at about $0.06/kWh is well below what can be achieved with lignite at the mine mouth.

      If you factor in the extreme external cost of running an economy with lignite it simply does not compute at all.

      • newnodm

        It is not a question of cost per kWh for a renewable with grid priority. Germany probably can’t sufficiently distribute wind to raise the effective capacity factory.

  • No way

    This was a great read. Finally someone who dare to tell what the story is really like in one of the dirtiest European countries. First step is always to admit that you have a problem, in Germany’s case a heavy dependence on coal with lots of heavy political names still supporting it strongly.

    Now I’d like to see them come up with a plan and a date to get rid of coal. Just to have people start saying out loud and knowing that coal will be gone one day and start working toward that goal.

    • Frank

      I can’t believe the US actually produces less electricity with coal than Germany, but then, we did it with frack gas. We did renew the PTC, and the ITC for a little while, which is going to keep renewables moving. Really wish we could put some price on emissions, even a low one.

      • No way

        Also in total energy Germany had 11% renewables in 2014 compared to the 10% in the US.
        If you add the nuclear then the US is probably ahead of Germany in clean energy.

        That is not what most people would think considering the pretty one-sided reporting that has been the case most of the time.

        • onesecond

          You must be joking right? Germany emitts far less CO2 per capita or CO2 per unit of gdp than the USA. It must take quite an effort to get things so warped in your head.

          • No way

            No. I’m not joking. The german efficiency is better, but the percentage is the same.

            It’s not hard for you to look it up and see what I said was correct.

          • eveee

            Thats not how it works. You make the assertion, you provide the proof. Thats fair. Otherwise everyone else has to go through the trouble to check your statement.

            So provide some links, please. I already provided some research on renewables per capita. US is only 17% more GDP per capita than Germany, but Germany has twice as much wind capacity per capita as the US. Pretty sure renewables per capita and gap are both higher for Germany.


          • No way


            11.2% renewables of total energy in the US. (2014)


            11.2% of ~25 450 TWh total energy is 2850 TWh or about 8,9 TWh renewables per million inhabitants.


            11.1% renewables of total energy in Germany (2014)

            11.1% of ~3 700 TWh total energy is 411 TWh or about 5,1 TWh renewables per million inhabitants.

            So when having almost twice as much renewable energy per capita there should be no way you can’t understand that with only a 17% difference in GDP per capita that the USA is clearly ahead on renewables per GDP too.

            Cleared up.

          • eveee

            Thank you.

            “Also in total energy Germany had 11% renewables in 2014 compared to the 10% in the US. ”

            Thats 11.1% of total primary energy production for Germany.


            See the caption above the graph.

            For US

            11.2 percent of total energy generation.”

            Not clear what they define as total energy generation from this source.

            Something is odd here. Wikipedia says renewables are 13.2% of electric generation, but 11.2% of total. But electricity is less than 40% of total energy. So renewables don’t just contribute to electricity. A large amount of what is called renewables in the US is in ethanol and other non electric renewable sources.


            Primary energy generation differs from energy generation by the conversion loss from FF.

            “Primary energy is an energy form found in nature that has not been subjected to any conversion or transformation process. It is energy contained in raw fuels, and other forms of energy received as input to a system”


            I need to delve further.

            Eurostat shows Germany at 10,3% renewable energy 2013.

          • eveee

            Germanys carbon is not in electricity, thats for sure. Germany has a much higher percentage of renewables in electricity. And the end result doesn’t show that Germany creates more carbon emissions per capita or GNP. The graph shows it clearly.


            That means the difference has to be in what is counted as renewable and non electrical energy. That is energy for heating and transportation.

            So your claim, while true, is misleading. US carbon emissions are 6x Germanys. But US GDP is only 4.6x Germany.


            Likewise US population is 318 million while German population is 80 million a ratio of 5.3. So US has more per capita emissions and more per GDP emissions.

            Apparently, Germany does better than the US at lowering carbon with a similar percentage renewables. Most of Germanys renewables are in electricity. The US has a lot of renewable fuel energy.

          • No way

            Sure, the US has more emissions per capita and GNP. That was not something that I have questioned nor something we were discussing.

            What was discussed was the amount of renewables. And the US has more renewables than Germany in percentage, per GDP and per capita.

            But the point is rather not that the US has more than Germany it’s that both are lousy but the US gets crap for being lousy and Germany get celebrated for being lousy.

            Something that not a lot of people know considering the one-sided reporting normally.

            And as I stated early on Germany are more efficient, the US is still a big energy waster. That leads to lower carbon emissions being lower.

          • eveee

            What kind of renewables? How much GHG in those renewables? Thats where things get sticky. Those statements are too broad to make good inferences from.

            Why are you so emotionally tied to the amount of renewables in Germany vs the US?

            To answer your statement,

            “that both are lousy but the US gets crap for being lousy and Germany get celebrated for being lousy.”

            read your next statement.

            “Germany are more efficient, the US is still a big energy waster. That leads to lower carbon emissions being lower.”

            Maybe there is a lesson in that.

            But I don’t think its just because of efficiency.

            Germany gets 33% of its electricity from renewables.

            In one sense, it is odd, that Germany has much more coal than the US by percentage in electricity. The US uses more natural gas to displace coal. But NG doesn’t lower GHG as much as renewables. And electrical efficiency lowers GHG emission.

            I would like to see Germany rid itself of coal and clean up its transportation sector.

            Both the US and Germany (and EU) have GHG problems in transportation. EVs will help there.

            I would like to see the US increase non biomass renewables and decrease ethanol. One place that could really help and is, is Texas. It uses more coal than any state, but its growing wind fast.

          • super390

            The reason Germany gets celebrated is that it proved feed-in tariffs can radically increase installation of solar and wind by individuals and industry even in a place that shouldn’t have a lot of solar and wind. The US is a far more natural home for solar and wind power than Germany, and the same tariffs here should have had a spectacular effect, but are held off not just by the protection of existing jobs, but a very stubborn ideology. Also, I don’t see anywhere in this discussion the issue of the US having a lot more rivers than Germany and thus more hydro.

          • Bernard Finucane

            If you are using more energy, using more renewables is nothing to brag about. The goal here decrease carbon dioxide output.

          • eveee

            All renewables are not created equal.
            Ethanol was never about renewable or carbon. It was all about agbiz and energy independence going back to the 70s. Coal was expanded for the same reasons. Anything to reduce oil usage and dependency.
            Comparisons get distorted when things like ethanol are thrown in as a renewable, when they really don’t do much about carbon. Too much carbon is used up in creating the corn to make the ethanol to do much good.
            Ethanol is mostly a US phenomena. Inflating the amount of renewables with things like ethanol that do little for GW is a good way to boost renewables percentage without lowering carbon.
            Its fluff.

          • onesecond

            I already explained to you in my other comment that the metric you use is completely irrelevant and that you are only warping the discussion.

          • No way

            Percentage of renewables being irrelevant? That is interesting considering that it’s one of the three main goals that the European union are using for their 2020 and 2030 goals in fighting the global warming.

          • onesecond

            In combination with efficiency of course! That is why there is not only one main goal but three. If you increase renewable energy by this but energy effiency decreases by that you could end up being worse off than without doing anything.

          • No way

            Also you are in fact helping to prove my point since renewables per capita and per gdp then must be a lot higher for the US than for Germany. 😉
            Thank you for helping my point.

          • eveee
          • Otis11

            Mmm… you’re quoting Capacity per capita. He’s quoting Energy Produced per capita. Both can be correct…

            There might be a flaw in his logic, but so far I don’t see it.

          • eveee

            Yes. There is a flaw. The flaw is not taking into account the effect of different renewables on carbon. Its just assumed. US has a renewable fuels standard so a lot of renewable are ethanol. But ethanol was not really developed to lower carbon and we know it doesn’t do that very effectively. Ethanol and renewable fuels were considered to reduce fuel dependence, not lower carbon.
            If you look at my other comment and links you will see Germany has lower carbon/gdp and /capita. Its renewables are primarily electric and it has very little alternative fuels compared to US.
            So percent renewables is not an exact proxy for carbon reduction.
            The claim falls flat. Germany is not a carbon outlaw compared to the US. The numbers show it.
            The moral of the story? Don’t depend on derived numbers when direct information can give better accuracy. And watch out for hidden assumptions and assertions.

          • No way

            There has not been a claim that Germany is a carbon outlaw compared to the US. How can something fall flat when it’s not even been presented? 😛 My original statements has rather been proven and the counterstatments of Germany having more renewables per GDP or capita that you came with has fallen flat.

            It’s interesting how you keep trying to prove something that was not stated in the original posts and that no-one has disagreed with. 😛 Do you often try to kick in open doors?

          • eveee

            First off, its confirmed. US carbon emissions per GDP or capita are both higher.



            Secondly, you never said the words “outlaw” to describe Germany. I did.

            Thirdly, here is exactly what you said,

            “Also in total energy Germany had 11% renewables in 2014 compared to the 10% in the US.

            If you add the nuclear then the US is probably ahead of Germany in clean energy.”

            Clean energy. Clean energy. What does that mean? Well it doesn’t mean lower GHG emissions.

            So there must be some reason why German GHG emissions are lower per GDP and capita.

            If you count GHG in “clean”, Germany is better than the US.

            But really, the flaw here is the deception of “clean”. No definition. Its ambiguous. There are many reasons Germany might have better GHG figures than the US. With an undefined statement as weakly described as “clean” any conclusion could be drawn as the definition could later have qualifiers to explain its exact meaning. But thats a waste of time.

            I see you continue with the error of using “renewables” as a proxy. Thats messy and inexact.

            “renewables per GDP or capita”

            I never stated any statistics of renewables per GDP. Not all renewables lower carbon. Therein lies part of your fallacious reasoning. You keep arguing renewables while ignoring the important result, carbon.

            See if you can figure out why Germany has better GHG figures. Your energy is better spent there than arguing with me, because GHG is what matters. Not whether you or I are wrong or right. And yes. I can be particularly firm. Thanks for noticing.

          • No way

            Which has never been the discussion.

          • eveee

            You mean you never said the words “clean energy”? Oh. Nevermind.

          • No way

            You realize that you are only discussing with yourself? Trying to prove some kind of point that has not been argued. There is no one arguing that the GHG-emissions per capita is lower in Germany.
            They are more efficient in their use of energy so that’s why even though the US generate a lot more low-carbon and renewable energy.

            There is also no arguing that the US has more non-fossil energy, but in absolute numbers, percentage and per capita or GDP, which was the start of all this.

            If by firm you mean thick then I agree. 😉

          • eveee

            You seem to be somehow involved in the discussion despite me discussing by myself. 🙂 You might have exaggerated slightly there. Easy. Easy. My comment and the comments from other bloggers came regarding your comment about Germany vs US “clean” or renewables percentage and bad boy/good boy comparisons of the two.
            That elicited a retort from one of them citing GHG/cap and GDP, sometimes known as energy intensity.
            That is a direct result of using the fuzzy adjective “clean”.
            And I never argued that you contradicted GHG/cap numbers.
            I argued that there was something strange in your statement about renewables. It was correct. But it was misleading.
            Going from US/Germany having similar renewables to the conclusion that US should be get the same scorecard. No way. LOL. Thats a leap.

          • No way

            If you want to change the discussion to GHG per capita instead, which you seem to be very fond of then we could start a new discussion about how Germany should get from one of the last places in the EU to become a leader (or at least a mid level country) in that statistic.

          • eveee

            Changing goalposts to comparing Germany against the rest of the EU instead of the US? OK, but only if you promise to end your obsession with US vs Germany “clean” comparisons. 🙂
            My “obsession” with energy intensity is because its a statistic that can be measured and defined more accurately than “clean”. Or rather, its because I am punctilious about definitions and accuracy. You could call that my obsession, yes.( Sorry if that offends. Its not personal. Precise corrections are welcome. And I found your statistics interesting and useful. )

            The statistics show clearly that Germany is only mid pack in the EU countries on those statistics. Not much to talk about there. And yes, its owing to its heavy reliance on coal. As renewables are added, that is coming down. And efficiency has the usual results. But once again, thats electricity only. Theres more to energy than electricity. Transport could use GHG some help, too.

          • OneHundredbyFifty

            ” But ethanol was not really developed to lower carbon and we know it
            doesn’t do that very effectively. Ethanol and renewable fuels were
            considered to reduce fuel dependence, not lower carbon.”

            This is exactly right. Ethanol is a poster child for government program gone wrong and outliving its usefulness / purpose. Interestingly the right doesn’t rub progressive’s nose in it because the agribusiness lobby owns them.

          • eveee

            In the US, most of the historical renewable subsidies have been for ethanol. That distorts the picture of how much subsidies are for wind and solar that do the heavy lifting in lowering GHG. Ethanol is used in the US and Brazil, but not in many other places, particularly, not much in Europe.

          • OneHundredbyFifty

            And at least in Brazil they use sugar cane which works much better.

          • eveee

            Yes. Good point. All biomass is not created equal. The process matters.

          • eveee

            Theres much more. US electricity uses a lot more NG to lower carbon. Germany uses more renewables and efficiency. I am not as interested in “clean”, whatever that is, than GHG.

          • Steven F

            The graph in your post show the percent of renewable electricity in the gride per country. No Way in his post is talking about total energy (oil, Gas, and renewables). So both you and No Way are probably right. Germany is ahead in terms of renewable electricity but not ahead in terms or total energy.

            The only Way to reduce total energy right now is to greatly increase the sales of electric vehicles. Higher electric vehicle sales directly reduces oil consumption while renewable electricity reduces gas and coal consumption. Sadely germany is way behind the US in electric vehicle sales.

          • eveee

            That means the difference is not coal. Its in transportation. The real reason US is behind on carbon compared to Germany, I suspect, its that the US hides behind renewables in the form of ethanol, which stinks. So counting renewables clouds the whole issue of carbon. There are far too many variables, as you discovered.
            But when you look at total carbon emissions, its a lot simpler. Germany is much better than the US.


          • super390

            An even bigger issue of unaccounted emissions from ethanol is unaccounted emissions from natural gas. Americans are beginning to realize that the entire natural gas supply chain is riddled with leaks. Methane is a serious short-term greenhouse contributor. Germany buying a lot of Russian or Iranian natural gas may be a lousy solution to coal.

          • eveee

            Yes. We have to watch out for how well solutions work. Germanys efficiency counts a whole lot.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Sorry, you are math challenged. 🙂

          • No way

            I have a Mensa membership and an engineering degree that says otherwise. 😉 I have also been teaching math at different levels including at a university. =)
            But thank you for your helpful input.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Then why the stupid propaganda like selling relative values as absolute?

          • onesecond

            Clean energy has no value or use in itself if it is just going to waste. The mectric that clearly matters is the usage of clean energy to do something with it and there Germany is way ahead of the US as is clearly demonstrated by the numbers I posted. If you want to retreat to the semantics of ” slightly cleaner overall energy generation” than thats still very doubtful given the unknown actuall extent of methane leakage (clean fracking? really?) and how you end up defining nuclear as “clean”.

          • No way

            The only metric that matters is not using dirty energy. Something that hasn’t been the case when reporting about Germany since the focus has most of the time been on their renewables and not of the coal that they could have gotten rid of if they wanted to.
            I do agree that ultimately the US is dirtier than Germany. Both both are two very dirty countries.

            Nuclear is really for another discussion, but it’s very much clean in the sense that the carbon emissions are among the lowest of all energy sources, there is no NOx, sulfur or such emissions and there is very little impact and incisions in nature.

          • onesecond

            I agree that Germany should do much more to phase out its coal usage for electricity and in the transport and heating sector, but the US would do a great jump forward for itself and the world if it were just as green as Germany. This fact should not be muddied and the US of all countries clapping itself on its shoulder for being “green” is truly unbearable.

          • eveee

            What kind of renewables? What efficiency? You are using all renewables as a proxy for GHG emissions equally. Thats fallacy.
            Whatever the cause, German GHG/capita and GDP are lower.


            When directly comparing carbon emissions per GDP or per capita, US loses.

            Germany has almost exactly the same emissions/GDP as the EU-27 average.


            The graph below shows EU-27 emissions/GDP comparison with US greater.

            Therefore, Germany has both lower GHG per capita and per GDP than US.


          • Omega Centauri

            Both statements can be true at the same time, i.e. German per capita energy consumption is lower than the US, but a German BTU could also be more carbon intensive than a US one.

          • onesecond

            Yes, that’s right, as he didn’t acutally write “clean energy usage” as he should have. Please read my other comment below on that.

          • eveee

            It could be, but I am not sure. What you might look for, for example, would be GHG/unit electricity.
            Here is gCO2e/kwhr, but 2010.

            Since heat and transportation are involved, you would also look at GHG/heating and transport mile.
            The differential in mpg is probably not great. In heating(add cooling), Germany is probably more efficient. Don’t think we should blame those respective countries for being hotter or colder, so that must be taken into consideration. 🙂
            Germany might have more rail. However, I have read that EU air transport is increasing. So transportation is an issue.

          • eveee
        • Frank

          Nuclear is the absolute best way to power a large sub. Might be pretty good form an aircraft carrier too. Other than that, I think the waste issue doesn’t really have a great solution. Fukushima was ugly. But the biggest problem with them, is they just cost way too much. There are four new AP1000s going up, and some old reactor getting finished in tennesee, but after that, I think nuclear will fade.

          • super390

            I think in the future submarines will give up nuclear unless the pumps can be made quieter. Probably subs will become highly intelligent drones that sit just below the surface charging solar cells, until they hear something and dive.

            The problem with our nuclear aircraft carriers will become apparent the first time Iran defends itself from one using advanced cruise missiles in the crowded Persian Gulf.

            However, I would trust the US Navy to safely dock all its nuclear fleets in all of our coastal cities, plug their generators into their grids, and collect feed-in tariffs after we bring our forces home from the Middle East for good. I don’t trust the people in charge of the commercial nuclear industry anywhere in the world.

        • Matt

          “No way” why didn’t you include link(s) to support this claim? Double so since you also report the the reporting is one side.

    • Dan

      Here’s a great idea cleantechnica covered recently. Giving coal plants an opportunity to transition and be a positive contributer is probably the best case for getting them on board.

  • JamesWimberley

    Welcome, Rob – it looks like you will be a valuable addition to the CT stable.

    Craig Morris has a good guest post up at Renewables International explaining why the nuclear-first exit was politically essential to get the Energiewende started. The nuclear lobby was weaker than the coal one, and Greens and Socialists could form an antinuclear majority. This matters to the rest of us because the nuclear phaseout created space for an ambitious renewables target, and the high FITs for wind and solar were crucial in getting their costs down to grid parity globally. So I advise commenters not to belabour the “why not coal first?” point, which only holds in a fantasy alternate universe.

    • Jens Stubbe

      James here is an article on the dirty nuclear situation in Germany.

      Germany has actively resisted market access from the much cheaper Nordpool market to protect their nuclear and coal based power generation. The nordic countries have taken action in EU with a court case.

      The German central power plants would be swept away the minute fair market access was provided for renewables from scandinavia. At the moment the German lock out is costing the life of several Swedish reactors, which is ironic because Sweden must be the nuclear nation with the best track record despite their idiotic siting of Barsebeck and the Forsmark incident.

      The North Sea has room for twice the wind power generation needed to supply all Europeans with electricity and the first offshore wind farms are now below German wholesale power cost and considerably below German power generation cost including subsidies but due to unfair market protection unable to compete for a larger marketshare.

      • onesecond

        The Asse situation should be made known much more widely.

        • OK so lets see. We can leave nuclear waste for the future generations to deal with. Or we can keep mining coal so future generations will have to deal with climate change.

          I guess we are stuck with needing to do it all at the same time. Stop mining coal and stop all nuclear now and find ways/places for the waste.

          I see a lot of jobs potential in all that. But wait, there is no profit in it. Time to switch back to a different kind of Capitalism. The one where banks are not in the driver’s seat.

          • JamesWimberley

            It’s clearly a false alternative. But Germany is not stuck with it. The nuclear phaseout is agreed and two-thirds done. Attention has now – belatedly but seriously – shifted to the coal phaseout. This has begun, in a small way. The closure of some of Vattenfall’s lignite mines is a bigger step.

          • Matt

            And of course best would be to close the dirtiest first.

      • S Herb

        When the wind is blowing hard in the North, there is already more power than the German system in its present state can transport. When the wind is still in Denmark, it is generally also still in North Germany, and some other generation source is required. Better interconnections will help, but North Sea wind is only one piece of the solution.

        • Jens Stubbe

          I absolutely agree but it also a combined package that Germany would get access to if they chose to play fair and open their energy market. The Nordpool market is supplied by hydropower, wind power, nuclear, biomass, nuclear, biogas, natural gas and coal power. And the scandinavian coal power plants are far more efficient and clean than the German coal power plants.

          If German wind power and solar power got better access to Nordpool they too could fetch better prices.

        • Hans

          HVDC connections with Southern Europe will also help. The weather in the North and South of Europe is far less correlated than in the East-West direction

      • Ulenspiegel

        “The German central power plants would be swept away the minute fair market access was provided for renewables from scandinavia.”

        What is the capacity (GW, TWh) of Scandinavian REs, not nuclear, and what is the transmission capacity to Germany. Could it be that this argument does not work. Hint: Norway can only export what they get as rain – minus domestic demnad.

        “At the moment the German lock out is costing the life of several Swedish reactors”

        The Swedish reactors would be in the same boat as the French, they would offer electricity that is not needed most of the time. Sorry.

        • Jens Stubbe

          Vattenfall simply wants to shut their coal plants but has been prevented by the German government that put a lot of pressure on the Swedish government – so no contradiction in sight.

          HVDC lines do not distinguish between electrons so if you buy from Nordpool you get the mix available. Nordpool can supply on demand with the exceptions of short periods in dry years. So no Swedish nuclear power plants could survive a few more years if German demand raise Nordpool spot market prices.

          The capacity to Germany really has to be split into two elements because there is reasonable connections over the borders but inside Germany the north to south axis is ridiculously under developed.

          Power markets works is by order of merit, which means you do not have to push the balance too much to ruin the economics of central power plants. Letting the central power plants in Germany die would create a huge market for wind power.

          • heinbloed

            Maybe this


            is of any help?

            The Western German coal power plants are supporting the Dutch grid at the moment. With this new interconnector it would be much less, wind is simply cheaper than coal.

          • Jens Stubbe

            Certainly. It is annoying that Germany persist in arrogant behavior that honestly harm everybody in Europe. The cable to the Dutch will give them a better bargaining position and access to cheaper electricity on demand via Nordpool.

            The German folly is because they pay through the nose to let the coal industry persist. Anything that pains the coal economy requires even greater German subsidies to the entire coal value chain.

            Financial Times printed this article about the pressure Germany has exerted on the Swedish government.

            It is pretty unheard of that governments pressure governments to achieve their bidding towards a private corporation.

            Poland, Germany and Spain within the EU has huge direct subsidies for coal power. EU has published research that document that the external cost of coal is approximately $0.15/kWh not counting the death toll.

            This makes the German position even more petty than it already is.

          • Ulenspiegel

            “Letting the central power plants in Germany die would create a huge market for wind power.”

            As long as there is a feed-in priority the wind power kills coal in Germany anyway, your reasoning is wrong IMHO.

            The Federal Net Agency is quite relaxed in respect to coal power they have no issue with reduction in most federal states. I do not see your issue, i.e. that coal power is kept alive by the government, it is kept alive by the opportunity to replace NG in neighbour countries. I admit it will die slowly as long as this export opportunity exists.

            The other aspect you miss is that Norway and Sweden can not have both, low electricity prices for steel production and space heating, and export at the same time, this issue is well understood in Norway.

          • Jens Stubbe

            The key point here is not whether the price of electricity will go up in the Nordpool area if Germany accepted to play by the rules they created themselves for EU.

            The Nordpool area is geographically several times larger than Germany and less wind turbines than is already installed is needed to meet the entire German electricity demand. With the current cost decline trend I would not worry about supply or cost or especially not about the Scandinavian companies that rely on cheap electricity.

            Seen from EU and global perspectives it is really irresponsible that the most dominant economy in Europe decides to play dirty against wind power and quite frankly stupid almost beyond belief.

            Open the market and abide the EU rules as any other member state.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Sorry, the wind turbines in Scandinavia are of course not able to meet the German demand, get correct numbers.

            Or is it really about exporting coal and nuclaer energy?

          • Jens Stubbe

            I have never ever claimed that the current fleet of wind power in Scandinavia can meet the German electricity demand. What I quite correctly stated was that less than the current number of wind turbines installed in Scandinavia would be sufficient. These new turbines to meet Germanys demand would of course be modern offshore turbines.

            Your tits on a bull argument is simply not valid. The great thing about hydropower is that it ramp up and down fast and can allow a lot of intermittent and static base load in a grid with limited problems. As for limiting the market access to Northern Germany this is apparently a deliberate policy and very much against the foundation of the single market and an unheard of bullying method between countries that collaborate. The complete idiotic thing about it is that also Germans suffer from this trade embargo.

            Allegedly Germany is for energiwende with a broad public support but the single most need infrastructure is blocked and you persist with very expensive subsidies for the coal generation and will not even allow the owners to shut down the operations. If you read the many articles in Der Spiegel that fights passionately against Energiwende with very inconsistent and non fact based argumentation then you could understand what drives the ruling parties in Germany.

            The export potential of Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian hydropower is very big if they can skim the market and only export when other renewables do not force the cost of electricity down. The fleet of biomass power plants in Scandinavia can also be load following.

            You need to read up on the details.

          • Ulenspiegel

            “Your tits on a bull argument is simply not valid. The great thing about
            hydropower is that it ramp up and down fast and can allow a lot of
            intermittent and static base load in a grid with limited problems.”

            Sorry, you ignore tha physical facts. The Scandinavian hydropower is relatively limited, you have to deliver not only GW but GWh, the latter is not possible with hydro power. Therfore, you basically want access for coal nuclear.

            And again, skimming the market requires transmission lines, that are not existent. Could it be that you still make a political case by ignoring some physical facts? 🙂

          • Jens Stubbe

            We have a link to Poland and as you probably know several links to Germany, Sweden, Norway and new links being planned for Holland and UK.

            The transmissions line is exactly the issue and it is the internal transmissions lines in Germany that is blocking market access.

            Everything is limited but the Nordpool area could provide Germany with sufficient on demand electricity, which will be a mix of all the different types of power generation technologies that supply to the market.

            A Danish coal power plant pollutes very significantly less than a German coal power plant (better technology and less dirty coal and always access to district heating and seawater cooling) and emit less CO2 as well.

            The strange thing about you is that you seems to know the facts and yet choose to misrepresent them. Here is a link where you have commented, which should educate you about the potential.

          • Ulenspiegel

            The internal transmission lines do not block the Swedish exports, sorry that is nonsense. The German excess power production is in the north. We need 15-20 GW to Sweden/Norway to substitute hydro power there and get electricity back when it is needed.

            At the moment the issue are insufficient transmission capacities between northern Germany and Scandinavia, that prevents export of cheap German power and meningful imports from Scandinavia. However, the bottleneck is not only a German issue, even if you do not want to understand this.

            Ah, now you want to replace German coal with Danish coal, a few percent improvement, but you claimed that Swedish green power would kill German coal if it had access. You are moving the goalpost. How can Sweden exports meaningful amounts of electriciy to Germany? You still do not deliver.

            I do not dispute the potential of Scandinavia, you would actually find that I am a strong supporter of a huge hydro battery there, However, in contrast to you I read some technical paper first, not the FT. I do see the bottleneck which does not disappear with openening the market. An open market requires a copperplate, which does not exist.

            Scandinavia can only export larger amounts of green energy if they have imported first, both export and import rquire if you want to skim the cream transmission capacity, which does not exist. Political statements do not change this reality.

            BTW Austria makes a lot of money with her access to Germany, however, they have transmission lines, Sweden does not.

          • Jens Stubbe

            Gosh this is complicated. What is it about the lacking market access that you do not understand.

            Germany is not allowing access for electricity production in the north to the south.

            It is an internal German problem.

            Danish coal power would be cheaper and better and since you cannot sort electrons then what you will get will be a mix of the sources if you import from the Nordpool market. I am all for stopping coal and going to an ash free society and I do not see a big future for nuclear either.

            Scandinavia and the countries around the North Sea can basically build out production to meet any electricity demand from all European countries and a few times over if need be. That is how big the accessible wind resources i the North Sea is.

            Clearly this will never happen so the idea of exchanging electrons would be quite a bit more logical, which brings us back to my original point that Germany should quit bullying neighbors and start complying with the single market rules and open the electricity market in Germany.

          • Ulenspiegel

            “Gosh this is complicated. What is it about the lacking market access that you do not understand.

            Germany is not allowing access for electricity production in the north to the south.

            It is an internal German problem.”

            Germany has a bottleneck, yes. Therefore, a transport of electricity is not possible to the south in larger amounts , nor from the south to the north. Physical reality. Market access does not change this, transmisson lines would.

            The second aspect, you obviously do not want to understand is, that access with coal power to north Germany is not in our interest. Provide more transmission lines then you have something to offer. See Austria. Hint: Germany would like to export wind electricity. You offer not enough opportunities. 🙂

            You still provide no argument, how non baseload power can make a differenc in the current set up. The nasty German approch is moore entertaining, isn’t it?

      • Otis11

        Thank you for the information! I was unaware of this!

    • Philip W

      Can somebody post a link to Craig Morris’ article? I didn’t find it.

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