(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:

installed capacity lignite and coal Germany

Apparently additional capacity of coal and lignite came online every single year since 2011. How could this be possible without new plants? Are these all mothbolled plants that got back online again?

There was a link to their source: The German Coal Conundrum: The status of coal power in Germany’s energy transition. Suprisingly, there was nothing in there that said that no new coal or lignite plant were build since 2011. The report (published in June 2014) even mentioned “new coal plants” in several places of the report. There was even a paragraph devoted to “the reasoning behind new coal plants”. The goal of the report seems to be explaining that “new coal plants in Germany are unrelated to the nuclear phaseout of 2011 after the Fukushima accident”. That is something different from what Greenpeace claimed.

How is it possible that Greenpeace came to this conclusion from this report? My guess is because of their definition of “new” power plant. As also mentioned in the “German Coal Conundrum”-report, it takes 6 to 7 years from decision making until opening of such plants. New coal and lignite power plants that opened in 2012 therefor were decided around 2005 – 2006 and therefor unrelated to the closure of nuclear plants after the Fukushima accident. If Greenpeace’s definition of a new power plant is a plant being decided since 2011, then yes, there were no “new” coal and lignite power plants being build in that time frame.

That could explain their statement, but then something still bothered me. Nor the title nor their debunking of the myth was about the 2011 phase-out. They used data from 2003 until 2014 to debunk the myth. So my question would be: WHY was the decision made back then in 2004-2006 to build those coal and lignite plants to be opened in 2011-2014? I found this web page about Nuclear Power in Germany which also had a list of the German nuclear plants. Just take a look at those that are already closed:

closed nuclear capacity Germany

When the original phase-out was decided in 2001, it was established that Germany would decommission 5,628 MW of nuclear power between 2011 and 2014. That is more than a quarter of the installed capacity of nuclear power that needed to be replaced. On the same page I also found that Germany was planning 10.7 GW of new coal-fired capacity to come online between 2011 and 2015. So they were planning to build almost double the capacity of the nuclear energy that would be decommissioned. Ironically, even if we would agree that those “new” coal and lignite power plants were not build in reaction to the decommissioning of 8 nuclear plants in 2011, it seems very likely that they were planned in reaction to the decision to phase-out nuclear energy back in 2001. But that aside.

Point is that the statement that no “new” coal and lignite power plants were build after 2011 is misleading, even if they would use the same definition as their source. It gives the impression that the installed capacity of coal and lignite stagnated since 2011, while in reality this is not the case.


2 thoughts on “(No) more new coal and lignite power plants being build in Germany

  1. poitsplace

    What’s sad is that with all this new installed capacity…Prices have gone up for consumers while availability has gone down. And on the import-export side of things, because german electrical output is at the whim of the wind and clouds…import prices are sky high while exported energy is essentially given away. And the people producing this new, nearly useless energy are being paid top dollar for their worthless product…and likely not even having to pay for the infrastructure that carries that energy.

    This is not a business model…it is abject failure supported purely by ideology, ignorance, and lies of people from groups like Greenpeace.

    1. trustyetverify Post author

      Indeed sad, but a logical consequence of the intermittency of wind and solar. Apparently not well understood by many and therefor not seen as issues.


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