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Germany’s Energy Dilemma

November 19, 2014

By Paul Homewood


Following news of the political battle going on in Germany over climate targets, it is perhaps time to see what progress they have actually been making in taking fossil fuels out of the mix.


The Energy Information Administration (EIA), part of the US Dept of Energy, has data up to 2012 on electricity generation, which I have used for the analysis below.


  2009 2010 2011 2012
Nuclear 128 133 102 94
Fossil Fuels 326 346 340 344
Hydro 17 19 16 20
Solar 7 12 19 28
Wind 39 38 46 46
Biomass 36 40 44 44
TOTAL 552 587 567 576

Electricity Generation TWh,&syid=2007&eyid=2012&unit=BKWH


Since 2009, the contribution from fossil fuels has gone up. As far as renewables are concerned, wind has barely increased at all, with solar catching up. However, neither wind or solar has made much of a dent in the overall figures.




As far as 2013 is concerned, we can glean a few things from provisional analysis.

1) According to EIS, nuclear has remained steady with 92 TWh.

2) Wind is virtually unchanged with 47 TWh. According to Platts McGraw Hill Financial:

Up until November, 2013, wind power output trailed 2012 levels, but a stormy December with more than 7 TWh of wind power output meant new records for both wind and solar power production in Germany, the data shows.

3) Solar increased by 2TWh, to 30 TWh, again according to Platts.


Basically, the mix last year won’t look much different to 2012. But what about going forward?



Platts say:

Germany’s installed wind and and solar capacity is expected to rise above 70 GW in the first half of 2014. Currently, wind capacity is estimated at around 33 GW, while solar PV capacity has risen above 35.5 GW in November.

But, as capacity at the end of 2013 was 68.5 GW, this does not seem to be saying much. 


Offshore Wind

Looking further ahead, the German energy producers association, BDEW, produce a list each April of new generation projects of over 20 MW. This lists thirty offshore wind projects, (but no onshore). Fourteen of these have due dates of 2017 or earlier, the rest have no planned date of launch.





Nine projects are under construction, while the others have planning permission. In total, all thirty projects have a combined capacity of 9545 MW, though the ones under construction only account for 28% of this. Whether the sixteen projects not yet started all come to fruition is an unknown, as is the question of whether they will be installed by 2020.

However, assuming all the capacity is built, and given utilisation of 35%, they could produce 29 TWh, about 5% of Germany’s electricity output. This can hardly be regarded as earth shattering. It seems unlikely, given the timescales involved, that any extra offshore capacity, over and above this, could be built before 2020.


There is , of course, the question of solar, but even if new capacity is added at the same rate as the last five years, this would only add about an extra 30 TWh to the grid.




Which brings us around to the question of nuclear power. 




All nuclear power plants are now due for closure by 2022, following Fukushima, but replacement capacity will need to be available well before that date. So, the simple question is where the 94 TWh of nuclear output can be sourced from by then.

On the assumptions we have made for solar and offshore, we can perhaps expect around 60 TWh. There may be some a limited amount available from onshore wind and biomass, but it is difficult seeing these making up the gap.

Realistically, it is unlikely we will see any reduction in fossil fuel output before 2020. Sigmar Gabriel, the minister for economic affairs and energy, knows this full well, though Germany will continue to pay lip service to the CO2 targets.

Meanwhile, the cost of pursuing the green dream rises ever higher. According to Platts:

Consumers also will have to pay 18% more for subsidies paid to renewable power producers in 2014 through the green levy, which is estimated to pay out some Eur21.5 billion ($29.3 billion) to eligible operators of renewable installations next year.

Der Spiegel set the cost even higher:

In 2014, the surcharge on electricity bills will provide some €23.5 billion of subsidies for renewable energies.

  1. Dave Ward permalink
    November 19, 2014 6:37 pm

    “This lists thirty offshore wind projects”

    And even if these all get built, there is no certainty of grid connections being available to make use of whatever power they actually produce…

  2. Retired Dave permalink
    November 19, 2014 7:11 pm

    I agree with Dave Ward – one of the most technologically advanced engineering countries in the world is having problems getting offshore wind ashore –

  3. Joe Public permalink
    November 19, 2014 8:02 pm

    They can always use the 55 billion m³ pa of Natural Gas landed at Lubmin via Nord Stream’s twin pipelines. That’s ~ 576 billion kWh >> 576 TWh. Coincidentally their 2012 total electric generation.

  4. John F. Hultquist permalink
    November 20, 2014 3:47 am

    Is it “Peak Wind” then?
    Seriously, Germany began installing these things prior to 1990, so many are approaching a 25 year birthday. Just as with humans, as one approaches the “use by date” the cost of care goes up. Interesting times ahead for the industry.

  5. Herve D permalink
    November 20, 2014 3:08 pm

    The more installed renewable capacity is, the less usable its production is, because of erratic production. Thence the expected 9.5GW off-shore extra capacity will not deliver 30TWh of usable energy, a big chuck of it must be sold elsewhere, destabilizing energy economics of neightbourhood. And when finance become red, there is no longer green friendship available: Look at Poland building phase shifter stations to reduce/reject erratic energy from Germany…!
    The grren dream becomes a technical nightmare, inclusive of grid collapses; the economics and CO² are alrady in the red for long….
    But Merkel political life looks to her more important…
    God save Germany economy

  6. November 21, 2014 2:06 am

    Reblogged this on Centinel2012 and commented:
    The citizens will just have to do without to make up the difference!

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