Germany, electricity, and the IPCC report: a dire example of what road to NOT take

German electric power generators produced less electricity in May 2013 than in May 2012, yet produced more of it using combustible fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil. Here is a report to that effect from the International Energy Agency (IEA):

German electricity by fuel, billion kWh May-13   May-12
      % change
+ Combustible Fuels 27 793   0.2%
+ Nuclear 6 320   -6.0%
+ Hydro 2 474   -2.9%
+ Geoth./Wind/Solar/Other 6 295   -13.5%
= Indigenous Production 42 882   -3.2%
+ Imports 4 842   7.0%
– Exports 4 591   6.0%

For those who support the addition of wind and solar capacity and the phaseout of nuclear, the above table must be a bit embarrassing. The whole idea of phasing out nuclear and ramping up “green” capacity was precisely to curtail use of combustible fuels.

But the numbers don’t lie. They show pretty clearly that combustible fuel use did not, in the comparison between May 2012 and May 2013, decrease. It went up. That would not have happened if Germany had not panicked and fled from innocuous, reliable nuclear-fueled electricity after a tsunami in Japan caused an international media sensation by causing a meltdown at three reactors in Japan.

That panic retreat only showed that if you want to get rid of nuclear and replace it with “green” sources, then you had better make sure there are other sources, i.e. combustible fuels, that can pick up the slack in production.

Which defeats the whole purpose of adding the “green” sources in the first place, doesn’t it. I mean, look at the performance of those sources. It was less in May 2013 than in May 2012.

This was not because Germans had any control over “green” energy production. It is safe to say they added more “green” capacity between May 2012 and May 2013. And what did they get? Less production in 2013 than in 2012! And according to the very same IEA spreadsheet, they produced less in the year-to-date in 2013 than in the same period of 2012.

And why was that? Because the “green” sources are inherently unreliable. You cannot turn them on or off; they just happen when they happen. You build them, lots of them, at huge expense, then cross your fingers and hope they produce power when you need it.

And, if you are smart, you quietly build electricity generators than can produce electricity on demand. And if for some ideological reason you are not allowed to build generators that can produce power without carbon (i.e. nuclear), then you have absolutely no choice but to build ones that run on combustible fuels.

Which, in light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report, published Monday last, which issued a dire warning on the danger of continuing to dump carbon into the earth’s atmosphere, appears almost irresponsible.

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6 years ago

Is it any wonder that the “control” mechanism for carbon emissions has been a “cap and trade” scheme with a rigged market in emissions permits (deliberately flooded to suppress the price)?  A carbon tax of just a few tens of dollars per ton would immediately show the bankruptcy of the current pro-unreliables, anti-nuclear posturing.

robert budd
6 years ago

Germany’s situation looks worse when you realize biomass is a bigger portion of their RE than both wind and solar. All combined are only 12% of total energy consumption.

High cost energy has put pressure on forests and ag. lands. A friend visiting recently from Germany brought one of the better papers with an article on the alarming increase in wood as a fuel source.
Also Gov’t is now trying to convince farmers getting high prices for corn and soy for bio-fuel to rotate to less profitable ones for soil conservation puposes.
Yes lots of people getting a portion of the energy production pie there, but high emissions and totally unsustainable land use.
Bring on a rational carbon tax please.

Nicholas Thompson
6 years ago

Do the numbers change at all if you average over the first 6 months of 2013 vs. first 6 months of 2012? This partially could be a function of different trends in weather between May 2012 and May 2013.
Also I’m assuming geothermal didn’t really change much between the two periods. Did both the Wind and Solar production go down?

Nicholas Thompson
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve Aplin

I didn’t see the link before, thanks!
I ended up summing from Jan-June 2012 vs. Jan-Jane 2013 and got some pretty interesting numbers.
Combustible Fuels up 1.45%
Nuclear up 1.36%
Hydro down 2.79%
Geothermal/Other down 9.08% !!
Total Indigenous Production down 0.20%
Imports down 13.23%
Exports up 7.47%
Total electricity supplied down 2.18%

It also looks like most of the difference in renewable production came between Jan-Feb 2013 vs. Jan-Feb 2012. where during the Jan-Feb 2013 period, renewable production was 31.7%! lower than the previous year.

It’s also interesting to note that even though total electricity supplied dropped 2.18%, fossil fuel consumption rose 1.45%.

Solar is also nuclear, and wind is indirect solar.