Oct. 24, 2016, "France and Germany Turn to Coal," Institute for Energy Research
"Many of France’s nuclear units are down for inspection. As a result,
coal and natural gas generation has more than doubled. Last month,
generation from fossil fuels was the highest in 32 years in France and
nuclear generation was the lowest since 1998. As a result, French
month-ahead power prices escalated to near the highest levels since
Germany is replacing its nuclear units with renewable energy (wind
and solar) as part of its energy transition, the so-called Energiewende.
It is using mainly coal to back-up its intermittent renewable energy
and as a result, it has increased its coal-fired generation. Due to the
higher cost of wind and solar units, residential electricity prices have
escalated and are 3 times that of the United States.
France is heavily dependent on nuclear power for its electricity
generation. It generated almost 80 percent of its electricity from
nuclear energy in 2015, followed by hydroelectric power that generated
about 10 percent. In 2015, fossil fuels represented only a 7.5 percent
share and renewable energy (excluding hydro) had a 6.1 percent share....
But this, year, France’s nuclear regulator ordered safety checks on a
number of its reactors, and those safety checks are taking longer than
expected. France’s nuclear generation began dropping early this year and
took a major decline in April that has continued into September. Its
nuclear reactors produced 26.6 terawatt-hours
of electricity in September, the lowest amount since August 1998.
April, generation from coal and natural gas increased to compensate for
the reactors off-line, and in September, they produced 4,132
gigawatt-hours, or 11 percent of the total.[i]
France has seven fewer reactors available than at the same time last
year. France’s nuclear regulator ordered safety checks on 18 of its 58
units to rule out potential anomalies on steam generators. Six reactors,
however, are expected to be back on-line this month.
France is also faced with the lowest hydropower
output in 10 years, which is exacerbating the tight supply situation.
Hydropower levels are down 25 percent so far this October compared to
The change in generation has caused prices to spike. The French
next-month contract is trading at a premium of 24.90 euros ($27.42) per
megawatt-hour to Germany. The price rose to a seven-year high of 68.15
euros ($74.82) per megawatt-hour on October 7. Day-ahead electricity
jumped as much as 18 percent to 77 euros ($84.54) per megawatt-hour–the
highest since April 2013.
Unlike France, Germany is much more reliant on renewable energy and
fossil fuels for its electricity generation than on nuclear power.
is because Germany decided to retire its nuclear units and promote
renewable energy instead after the tsunami hit Japan’s nuclear reactors
in Fukushima. While Germany gets 27.3 percent of its generation from
non-hydroelectric renewable energy, it is also heavily dependent on coal
and natural gas for base-load power and to back up its intermittent
wind and solar power, generating over 50 percent of its power from
Germany’s plan is to shutter all of its nuclear units by 2022 and to
have renewable energy provide 40 to 45 percent of its generation by 2025
and 80 percent by 2050[ii]—up
from 30 percent in 2025.
Replacing nuclear power with renewable energy
has proven difficult, however, mainly due to the intermittency of wind
and solar power. When wind and solar are not available to generate
electricity, German power buyers turn to coal. In fact, Germany opened
over 10 gigawatts of new coal fired power plants over the past 5 years.[iii]
Germany has over 20 gigawatts of lignite-fired electric generating capacity operating as of the beginning of 2015,[iv] generating about 25 percent of its electricity last year.[v] Lignite, also called brown coal, has the highest carbon dioxide emissions per ton when burned–a third more than hard coal and three times as much as natural gas.[vi]
It is Europe’s most abundant and least-expensive domestic fuel,
especially when located close to power plants. Germany also uses hard
coal, which generated about 18 percent of its electricity.[vii]
Germany’s coal-fired generation last year declined by just a half
percent and because its electricity demand remained essentially flat,
the relatively inexpensive coal-fired power not needed domestically was
exported–mostly to Austria, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland.[viii]
Germany’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions includes renewables
replacing coal as well as its nuclear power, but its coal-fired
generating industry refuses to go away.
Despite the large increase in solar and wind power, Germany is likely
to miss its 2020 target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels.[ix] In fact, its carbon dioxide emissions increased last year by 0.8 percent.[x]
Coal is not going away in France and Germany as both countries need
it to keep the lights on when nuclear units in France are down for
inspection and as Germany’s energy transition brings in intermittent
renewable energy to replace its retiring nuclear units. Coal,
particularly lignite coal, is indigenous to Germany and supplies the
majority of its power despite the dramatic growth in Germany’s wind and
solar power industry."
"[i] Bloomberg, France Burns Coal Like It’s 1984 as Prices Jump on Atomic Woes, October 18, 2016, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-18/france-burns-coal-like-its-1984-as-prices-jump-on-atomic-woes
[ii] Clean Air, Germany Replaces Nuclear with Coal, GHGs Skyrocket, https://cna.ca/news/germany-replaces-nuclear-coal-ghgs-skyrocket/
[iii] Carbon Counter, Why Germany’s nuclear phase out is leading to more coal burning, June 6, 2015, https://carboncounter.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/why-germanys-nuclear-phaseout-is-leading-to-more-coal-burning/
In July 2015, Germany announced that it would mothball 2.7 gigawatts of
the oldest lignite-fired capacity to meet its 2020 climate goals.
[v] Energy Information Administration, Germany, August 2016, http://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.cfm?iso=DEU
[vi] Scientific American, Can Germany Ditch Coal?, January 20, 2016, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-germany-ditch-coal/
[vii] Bloomberg, Germany Gives Dirtiest Coal Plants Six Years for Phase Out, July 2, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-02/germany-to-close-coal-plants-in-effort-to-curb-pollution
[viii] Energy Post, The German conundrum: renewables break records, coal refuses to go away, March 24, 2016, http://energypost.eu/german-conundrum-renewables-break-records-coal-refuses-go-away/
[ix] EU Observer, Can Germany phase out coal power?, https://euobserver.com/energy/132106
[x] BP, Statistical Review of World Energy 2016, http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html"
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Germany relies on coal to back up intermittent output of wind and solar. Lignite coal (brown coal) is indigenous to Germany and supplies most of its power. Germany also exports coal to other countries. German CO2 increased by 0.8% in 2015-Institute for Energy Research, Oct. 24, 2016
Posted by susan at 1:27 AM