Germany has some of the highest electricity prices in the European Union. German households pay upwards of 38 Canadian cents for each kilowatt-hour of power. Romanian households pay some of the lowest: less than 16 Canadian cents. Which is to say, Germans pay more than double what Romanians pay. (You can see a comparison of their respective Euro prices for power here; to convert Euros to Canadian dollars, click here.)
On the environmental front, the carbon content of electricity is about the same in Germany and Romania. Each kilowatt-hour of German and Romanian electricity comes with about 570 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal man-made greenhouse gas pollutant.
I base this assertion of this International Energy Agency document: page 111 of the PDF for Germany’s CO2 intensity per kilowatt-hour (CIPK) of 468 grams up to 2010; p. 112 for Romania’s of 570. The year 2010 was before Germany decided to phase out nuclear power, which emits no CO2. Since 2011, Germany’s CIPK has skyrocketed; I predict it will reach close to 600 grams by the end of 2013.
So Romanians pay less than half what Germans pay for electricity that is about as dirty. If I were German, I would feel like I have been misled. German programs to support wind and solar were solely intended to clean up German electricity. That was the explanation for why I am now paying ruinous prices for a commodity that I literally cannot or should not do without. And now I find out that though I am paying more than twice as much as my counterparts in Romania, my power is now dirtier than theirs.
And the kicker is, Germany’s power will get dirtier while Romania’s will get cleaner. Why? Because Germany will stop using nuclear power, and Romania will use more. Look at their respective CIPKs on pages 111 and 112 of the IEA document that I referred to earlier. Romania is represented by the thick line. That data is represented up to 2010 in the chart below; the years following 2010 assume the same CIPK for Romania, and a higher one for Germany.
It is interesting to note Romania’s plummeting CIPK between 1990 and 1995. That occurred mostly because of plummeting demand for electricity in the economic chaos that followed the overthrow of Nicolae Ceau?escu and the fall of communism. But the economy and demand for electricity slowly rebounded after 1995. Within 10 years, by 2005, it had reached the 1995 level; and in the years following it bounced back to 1990 levels. But the CIPK kept dropping. Why?
Again, nuclear power. The first Cernavoda CANDU nuclear generator came online in Romania in 1995. The second one came online in 2007. Though electricity demand has been generally rising since 1995, Romania’s grid CIPK has been dropping.
Germany’s slowly declined from 1990 through 2010. When Germany decided in 2011 to get out of nuclear power and began phasing out nuclear plants, its CIPK jumped. It has been rising since.
Romania’s CIPK will drop further still when it adds new reactors at Cernavoda. A letter-of-intent announced last week between the state electric utility, a Chinese nuclear builder, and CANDU Energy, which has an exclusive worldwide license on CANDU technology, will see two new CANDUs at the site. This will add more than 1500 megawatts of capacity. Given the stellar operating record of the first two CANDUs in Romania, the country has taken an economically smart and environmentally responsible decision. Cernavoda unit 2 came online as mentioned in 2007; the project was ahead of schedule and under budget.
How much will Romania’s CIPK drop? Well, the two CANDUs at Cernavoda cut Romania’s 1990 CIPK in half. Adding two more will likely do that again. Romania will wind up with a CIPK of under 300 grams. That is a 75 percent reduction from the 1,373 in 1990.
The Cernavoda experience shows how rich countries like Canada can finance massive CO2-free economic development overseas. Canada loaned Romania money to build the first two Cernavoda reactors. Romania got more than 1,200 megawatts of reliable electricity, and chopped its grid CIPK in half—a huge achievement. Romania paid back the loans. It’s a viable financing model for CO2-free development.
Nuclear exports have proven to be the most direct and effective way for Canada to lead CO2 reduction efforts around the world.