Monthly Archives: March 2016

Comparison subsidies for coal/nuclear and renewables: apples versus oranges?

The 4th myth in the Greenpeace brochure is:

The growth of renewable energy in Germany is only possible thanks to subsidies

This is the summary of how they try to debunk it:

Support for renewable energy in Germany is nothing compared to the aid that has gone to coal and nuclear power in the last forty years. It received 631 billion euro of aid, compared to 67 billion euro for renewable energy. Also the support for renewable energy reduces year after year.

That doesn’t make much sense. Those three sentences raise more questions than they answered. What do they consider renewables this time (solar and wind or also hydro and/or biomass)? What is their exact definition of a “subsidy” and is that the same for both renewables and coal/nuclear? Even if these are the same or similar, is it fair to compare both subsidies over a 40-year time frame considering coal and nuclear were there from the beginning and renewables only got traction in the last years of that period? They suggest that subsidies for coal/nuclear are high, contrary to those for renewables that are low and ever lowering. Is that really true?

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Increase of lignite and coal due to nuclear phase-out: myth or fact?

Together with the target path of the German emission reduction towards 2020, I also found a break down of the emission estimate for 2015 in the FÖS analysis:

Table 1: estimate of GHG emissions in Germany 2015 Source:

Table 1: estimate of GHG emissions in Germany 2015

The difference of 2015 compared to 2014 seems to be:

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Germany on track of its 2020 emission goal? As a result of the energiewende?

The graph of the new estimate of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 in previous post was from Clean Energy Wire, but the data was taken from the analysis from Forum Ökologisch-Soziale Marktwirtschaft (FÖS) on behalf of Bündnis 90 / The Greens. There was also this graph in the FÖS analysis that stood out when opening the document. Most interestingly, it also showed a linear target path connecting 1990 with the final emission reduction goal in 2020:

ghg emissions Germany 1990 - 2015

It reminded my of the first myth of the Greenpeace brochure in which two puzzling messages were given. First was said that Germany is way ahead of its Kyoto goal (26% emission reduction achieved, compared to the expected 21%), but later was also stated that the Germans had to crank it up a notch to get where they wanted to be in 2020. Initially, those two statements seemed contradictory because if one is ahead of schedule, why the need to crank it up a notch? Did they maybe set an unreasonable target for 2020? Probably they did. But looking at this linear target path it became clear that both could be true, depending on the time frame.

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Increasing emissions despite an ever increasing share of renewables

In an earlier post I made the remark that the 2015 emissions of Germany are considered to be higher compared to 2014. There were also an article on the Agora-energiewende-site that said something similar. In the meanwhile Green Budget Germany made an estimate for 2015 based on the energy consumption. The numbers don’t exactly match those I saw in the Greenpeace brochure, but the trend seems similar. I understand that those are estimations and there seems to be more than one estimation. According to the estimate, CO2-eq. emissions rose by 10 Mton (from 902 to 912 Mton) in 2015 compared to 2014:

Source: Clean Energy Wire, data from German Environment Agency (UBA) and Green Budget Germany

Source: Clean Energy Wire, data from German Environment Agency (UBA) and Green Budget Germany

That should be food for thought for the many supporters of the energiewende. Germany invested heavily in the transition and the share of alternative energy went up incredibly. Yet even with that effort they don’t manage to decrease their emissions, even INcrease it.

We have heard from those supporters that CO2 emissions go down because of the ever rising share of renewables, that those renewables more than compensate the nuclear phase-out and so on and so on. Now we could turn that around and say that apparently even a 26% share of renewable energy in the energy mix is no guarantee that CO2 emissions go down. Remember, Germany is far ahead in the process of the transition and considered a shining example for other countries.

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The Energiewende and (un)affordable energy

Continuing with the “9 myths about the German Energiewende debunked” brochure of Greenpeace, we arrived at myth 3: “The German Energiewende makes energy unaffordable”. The two first myths (the previous six posts already) showed that the myths were debunked with a mix of truth and spin. The 3th myth was no different. This is how it is explained (translated from Dutch):

The German wholesale energy prices are at their lowest level in twelve years. Cheap renewable energy pushes expensive fossil fuels further and further out of the market. Both German companies as neighboring countries reap the benefits of this, but the kilowatt-hour price for households still can go much lower.

The first sentence is correct. The German wholesale price is at its lowest level in twelve years and their graph illustrates that:

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Does the German nuclear phase-out leads to a greater use of coal and lignite?

Just a quick post on the second myth of the “9 myths about the German Energiewende debunked” brochure of Greenpeace. There are already two posts on this myth, but they were based on some statements that were made in that chapter, not about the basis of that myth itself. To recapitulate, the subject of the myth they want to debunk is:

The German nuclear phase-out leads to a greater use of coal and lignite

So, does Germany uses more lignite and coal to compensate for the nuclear phase-out? Hard to say. As presented in the brochure, they debunk the myth threefold:

  1. More electricity is produced by renewables than by nuclear power plants since 2003 (after the first closure of a nuclear plant in Germany). Therefor they conclude that “the growth of renewable energy production more than compensates the nuclear phase-out”. Apparently they are trying to say that there is no gap to fill by coal or lignite, because renewables did already that.
  2. No more lignite and coal power plants were build since the energiewende in 2011, which is not true: installed capacity of lignite and coal increased every year since 2011.
  3. Renewables were the largest supplier of electricity in 2014, therefor dethroning lignite as most important energy source for the first time.

While I can agree with the facts that on average more electricity was produced by renewables than by nuclear since 2003 and that more electricity was produced by solar, wind, biomass and hydro than by lignite in 2014, I fail to see how this has relevance to the myth they are trying to debunk.

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(No) more new coal and lignite power plants being build in Germany

The previous two posts dealt with the second myth in the “9 myths about the German Energiewende debunked” brochure of Greenpeace, WWF and BBL. This myth being: “The German nuclear phase-out leads to a greater use of coal and lignite”. In these posts I focused on two statements that were made in relation to a graph of the electricity production per source. In this post I will come back to the myth itself, especially to a statement made in the summary of how they debunk the myth (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

Between the start of the nuclear phase-out in 2002 and 2014, electricity production from coal and lignite decreased from 305 TWh to 265 TWh (-6 percent in 2014). Additionally, no new coal or lignite power plants were built since the beginning of the Energiewende in 2011.5 The closure of the nuclear plants will be fully absorbed by the growing renewable energy production.

That no new coal or lignite plants were build since 2011 is not exactly true. If I look at the net installed electricity generation capacity for coal and lignite in Germany then I see it going gradually UP since 2011:

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