With Germany set to phase out its nuclear capacity by 2022, leading analysts GlobalData predicts that non-hydro renewables will almost exclusively fill the remaining capacity, and by 2030 will contribute over 70% to the country’s power mix.
GlobalData published a new report last week which claims non-hydro renewables will almost exclusively replace nuclear energy in Germany as the country phases out the technology, bolstered by recent renewable growth which already contributes a significant percentage of Germany’s power mix. Specifically, in 2017, onshore wind power capacity accounted for the largest share of installed capacity in Germany with 24.1%, followed by coal with 22.1% and then solar PV with 20.2%.
All up, non-hydro renewables contributed over half (51.6%) of Germany’s total installed power capacity in 2017.
“Non-hydro renewable power capacity is expected to continue growing to establish itself as the dominant source of energy by 2030, when it is expected to account for 71.9% of total installed capacity,” said Chiradeep Chatterjee, Power Analyst at GlobalData. “On the other hand, it is expected that Germany will have phased out nuclear energy by 2022.”
Looking forward, GlobalData sees Germany focusing on expanding its offshore wind and geothermal power sectors, which are expected to increase at a rate of 8.7% and 9.9% respectively. Conversely, thermal capacity is expected to decline from its current levels of 38.4% to only 23.2% by 2030, due primarily to a reduction in coal-fired capacity.
Specifically, according to GlobalData, the following table outlines the company’s forecasts for onshore wind, offshore wind, solar PV, and solar thermal (CSP) through to 2030:
“The share of coal power, which was 22.1% in 2017 in the total capacity mix, is expected to decline to 9.3% in 2030,” added Chatterjee. “The gap is expected to be filled up only partially by gas-based capacity which explains the net decline in the share of thermal power.”
What’s potentially most important, however, is the apparent dichotomy between Germany’s success in building up its renewable energy industry — to the point where it is almost casually overtaking and supplanting fossil fuel technologies — and the country’s opposition to a larger regional, European Union-wide renewable energy target. Specifically, in June, during the European Union’s negotiations for a higher renewable energy target, Germany set itself up as one of the roadblocks to a higher target — opposing anything from 35% to the called-for 45% target — claiming that it was seeking to implement a more “credible” and “achievable” goal, and that it would veto any renewables target above 32%.
Chiradeep Chatterjee on Germany’s Renewable Energy Ambitions
To unpack this, I asked GlobalData’s Chiradeep Chatterjee to speak to the apparent dichotomy between Germany’s two-faced approach to renewable energy, and I’ll let him take us through to the end.
“Germany’s share in the total EU installed generation capacity is significant at 13.9% as of 2017. In terms of renewables (excluding hydropower), that was even higher at 31.5%. It also has the largest voting power in the EU. The EU has agreed to a new target of 32% from renewables by 2030. The EU parliament and some EU members wanted a target of 33%–35% to be fixed but this was nixed by Germany. Germany has made tremendous progress in pushing forward renewables. The share of non-hydro renewables increased from a mere 6.5% in 2000 to 51.6% in 2017 – at a compound annual growth rate of 17%.
“The success of renewables has however been limited to only the power sector. In terms of the total energy mix, Germany has not been able to fare so well. Taking into account, transport, and the heating sectors, renewables made up only 13% of the total energy mix in 2017.
“Germany appears to be on track to meeting its Europe 2020 renewable energy target of 18%. However, it is expected to miss its nationally set emissions reduction target for 2020 by four percentage points, according to a report by the European Commission published in March 2018. The Commission has stated in its report that going by the level of Germany’s ongoing policy implementation, emissions in 2020 will be 36% below 1990 levels compared to its set target of 40%. The German government itself has projected an emission reduction achievement of 32% against its 40% target by the end of 2020.
“The report also states that Germany will miss its target of reducing emissions from sectors not covered under the EU Emission Trading System in 2020. The target is to reduce emissions by 14% between 2005 and 2020. Germany could miss that target by as much as 3.3%.
“The country could be penalized heftily by the European Commission for missing its targets.
“If Germany supported increased EU-wide targets for renewable energy, the above account shows that it would be at an even more increased risk of missing those targets. This has prompted the country to oppose an increase in renewable energy targets.
“There are other factors at play as well. The cost of energy transition is borne by the end consumers. And cost has increased drastically. Electricity cost for households has doubled between 2000 and 2017. However, the effects of climate protection being not immediately visible, has triggered resentment among consumers and they are complaining, according to Klaus Mueller, head of the German consumer lobby Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband.
“Then there is the constraint of the transmission grid. Between the north and the south of the country, there is no continuous grid. Germany transmits electricity between these two regions by connecting with the grids of countries such as the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Much of Germany’s wind energy generation occurs in the northern part of the country. And this needs to be sent to the south of the country where the major industrial centers are situated. But routing the electricity through the grids of the countries mentioned above poses the problem of these grids not being always in a position to absorb generation surges. That places a constraint on the country in pushing its renewable effort too hard, as it is not in a position to absorb all the energy it will generate.
“Furthermore, the current political establishment is keen on phasing out nuclear power. In this situation, Germany can balance intermittent renewable energy generation only through fossil fuels. Natural gas is less dirty than coal, but the country will have to import that from Russia. However, Russia can use its gas supply route as a potential geopolitical weapon in a region on which it used to have considerable influence. That limits Germany’s gas option leaving it to depend on domestically available coal.
“It is understood that Germany will take decades to bring down coal from its current levels significantly. That provides another plausible reason behind Germany’s opposition to increased EU-wide targets.”
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