Germany’s carbon emissions higher than five years ago. No surprises.

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Germany’s much lauded “green” energy policies continue to fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions are now up for the second year in a row. This is not exactly surprising to those of us who have looked at the simple arithmetic: shut nuclear, build coal, and replace the nuclear with renewables.

What is now even more important is that Germany appears to be on course to fail to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2020 compared with its 1990 levels.

Based on the numbers in a couple of old blog posts I wrote (here and here) the 2011 nuclear phase out policy will have resulted in somewhere between 3.5 and 7% higher emissions in Germany in 2020. The upper and lower bounds here assume that nuclear was replaced by gas or coal. So, it now seems probable that environmental concerns have caused a country to fail to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets. A curious world we live in.

I might explore these numbers further in a future Energy Collective piece, if I can muster the will. Germany has become a mythical place over which tribalists fight, and writing about it is hardly worth the time. Perhaps people should be left to their illusions.


3 thoughts on “Germany’s carbon emissions higher than five years ago. No surprises.

    Proteos said:
    March 12, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Maybe you should keep you courage for something else than the german case. Since 2011, I think a lot of things worth saying have been said, I don’t see much more to add.

    On the other hand, I think your posts on steel and cement, the materials that are not so easy to make without CO2 emissions, are nice. Better to concentrate on other things than electricity and show that a low carbon world is not an easy thing to achieve (heating next?)


      Robert Wilson said:
      March 13, 2014 at 9:21 am


      I touched on heating a while ago in a piece on capacity factors, but I might explore it in more depth. The big problem there is how seasonal the heating load is compared with electricity. Though it is much more difficult to get decent data about heating than electricity. There was a paper published recently on historic UK gas demand for heating versus electricity demand which doesn’t telling a very optimistic picture as far as electrifying heating is concerned. I might use its data as a basis for something.


        jmdesp said:
        March 14, 2014 at 7:44 pm

        One possible strategy for heating I think would be to compare the seasonal sensitivity of the German mix, where electric heating is almost not used at all, with the seasonal sensitivity of the French one, showing how much of the variation in French electricity demand is actually due to electric heating.
        Because electric heating is more expensive, houses with it tend to have better insulation than those with cheap gas. Since electric heaters are cheap, the same budget can finance this enhanced insulation.

        Even without electric heater, they are at least three reason for higher electricity use in winter :
        – more lighting is needed,
        – people stay at home more so tend to use more electric appliances,
        – colder water makes some uses more energetic, like washing

        It’s good to know also that in France EDF, knowing very well how seasonal the demand is, plans as many as possible of the nuclear shutdowns during the summer. This counterbalances in part the increased demand of winter. From the RTE data here, I calculated the average CO2 emission for each month last year.
        Here’s the result in gCO2/KWh :
        January 77 Feb 87
        March 90 April 57
        Mai 34 June 31
        July 42 Aug 53
        Sept 66 Oct 70
        Nov 74 Dec 60

        This shows that while carbon intensity is higher in winter, it’s not the only factor, and if the month is relatively warm there can be not much difference with summer. For example December 2013 is lower than September and barely higher than August.
        February and March are the highest because the weather was unusually cold. March is much higher than January despite the fact the absolute temperature wasn’t lower, so the difference between the expected temperature and actual is more important than the absolute level. Mai and June are very low because it was a year with a lot of hydro, the dams were too full to keep the water for later.

        Sorry for the long comment, it seemed to me however to be relevant.


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