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Germany’s Dash For Coal

September 17, 2012

By Paul Homewood




Last month, a giant new 2200MW power station opened at Neurath in Germany. To give some idea of the capacity of this plant, at normal operating loads, it will supply about 3% of Germany’s total electricity needs. Furthermore this is the first of many. According to BDEW ,  the association that represents Germany’s energy companies, another fifteen coal plants are in the pipeline and due for commissioning by 2020. (See Appendix A for details – many are already under construction or have planning approval).

Including Neurath, these new generators will have a capacity rating of 17700MW, and could produce 22% of Germany’s electricity supply. There are also plans for thirty new gas fired power plants, which will supply an additional 16% of the country’s power, making a total of 38%.


Bear in mind that these fossil fuel plants will be in addition to existing capacity, and that they are just the ones currently in the system. There is little doubt that many more projects will be added to the list in coming years.

It is also worth noting that there are no plans to add Carbon Capture & Sequestration (CCS) to any of these generators. An attempt was made last year to push through a bill enforcing installation of CCS, but this was rejected by the Bundesrat.

In contrast, wind supplied about 7% and solar just 3% of Germany’s power in 2011. It is abundantly clear that the German authorities have quietly buried their commitment to renewable energy, which simply is not able to supply power when it is needed and at an affordable cost. And as Dr. Johannes Lambertz, CEO of RWE Power who own the new plant, said

  “We awarded over €1 billion of contract work to NRW companies, many of which are based in the heart of the Rhenish region. When it is fully up and running, BoA 2&3 will secure a total of 3,000 jobs with RWE or its suppliers in the surrounding area. This shows we are a reliable partner for the region, both now and in the future.”

These are real jobs, not the subsidised non-jobs that the renewable industry likes to brag about. Furthermore, Germany is the world’s leading producer of brown coal, or lignite, so a move back to coal power stations will provide huge economic benefits for its coal industry. With black coal cheap and plentiful across the border in Poland, Germany will not face energy security issues, such as over reliance on Russian gas supplies.

All in all, it is really a no brainer. Remember, too, that this new plant and many of the others, have been in planning long before Fukushima. The decision to abandon nuclear power will surely lead to many more fossil fuel plants being built in years to come.

The reasons are not hard to see. The contribution of wind power to the grid has hardly increased at all in the last five years, rising from 39713 GWh in 2007 to just 46500 GWh last year, and runs at about 16% of its rated capacity. In other words, it cannot produce power reliably when it is needed, or in the quantities demanded by German industry.

The problems faced by the solar industry have been well documented as well. So Germany has decided to build now and worry about the consequences later.

But how does this contrast with what we are doing in the UK?

I asked the Dept of Energy & Climate Change, (DECC), how many coal power stations are under construction, or being planned. Their answer? There are none under construction, and there are also no applications to build any. (See note below).

There is one project, White Rose CCS at Drax, which is in what they call the pre-application stage. This is expected to be of 426MW capacity, a fifth of the size of the new one at Neurath. If it goes ahead, it will be built with the help of a government subsidy in an attempt to develop a CCS system that is practical and economic on a commercial scale.

The UK government, having tied itself into knots with the Climate Change Act, is so desperate to develop CCS that it is planning to fund four such schemes. However the technology is still unproven and and many similar schemes have been abandoned already because of technical and financial problems, e.g. Hunterston and Longannet.

To make matters worse, DECC confirm that

“new coal-fired power stations are required to demonstrate CCS on at least 300 MW of the proposed generating capacity”

So no coal power plants will be allowed to be built without CCS.

It gets worse though. In future, CCS will also be required for other combustion generating stations, including gas, oil and biomass, as well as coal. If a technically and financially viable way cannot be found quickly to provide CCS, the UK energy industry will soon be on its knees, with the rest of the economy not far behind.

Meanwhile, the UK media have been strangely silent about the whole affair. Are they so afraid that people find out the truth?



The DECC reply applies to England & Wales only, as the Scottish and Northern Ireland governments deal with their own applications. Also, the reply only covers plants of >50MW, for which DECC is responsible.



Operator Location MW Due to start Status
RWE Neurath 2200 2012 Operating
Vattenfall Boxberg 675 2012 In trial
RWE Westfalen 1530 2013 Under construction
E ON Dalleln 1055 2013 Under construction
EnBW Karlsruhe 874 2013 Under construction
Trianel Lunen 750 2013 Under construction
Deutschland AG Wilhelmshaven 731 2013 Under construction
BKW Duisberg 725 2013 Under construction
Vattenfall Hamberg 1640 2014 Under construction
GKM Mannheim 911 2014 Under construction
E ON Staudinger 1100 2016 A/W Approval
SudWestStrom Brunsbuttel 1820 2017 Approved
MIBRAG Profen 660 2020 A/W Approval
E ON Stade 1100 N/A A/W Approval
GETEC Buttel 800 N/A A/W Approval
RWE Niederaussem 1100 N/A In planning


                                       List of Coal Fired Power Station Projects In Germany

  1. Brian H permalink
    September 19, 2012 6:37 am

    ” for which DECC is responsible for.”
    A surplus “for” there.
    What happens to the coal/gas generator when CCS is proven to be economically and technically impossible? Does it close down? 😉

    • September 19, 2012 9:55 am

      Thanks, Brian.

      I have asked the DECC this question, as their Policy Statement does not address the issue.

    • September 20, 2012 11:27 am


      The answer I have got from DECC says

      “The short answer is that in the event of CCS failure the plant can in theory continue to operate but will be severely restricted by the proposed Emissions Performance Standard

      This restricts the amount of CO2 a power station is allowed to produce (even CCS cannot totally eliminate CO2 emissions.) In practice this would mean the Drax plant would have to severely restrict its operating hours, maybe to just 30%.

      There is however also provision in the legislation to hand out exemptions to any plant in the CCS demonstration programme. (There is provision for four such plants, though the govt seems to be struggling to find more than one.)

  2. October 24, 2012 10:24 am

    Operating at low hours, and hence efficiency, boosts the costs back up to CCS levels, I betcha. They’re going to overprice energy, come hell or high water! Which is evidently the real intent.


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