Argentina came within a hair’s breadth of winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I actually watched the game. It was thrilling, even for a hockey fan like me. And heartbreaking, if you were pulling for Argentina—especially because even in the depths of your disappointment you have to admit that the German goal was just beautiful. Argentinians can and should console themselves in the knowledge that if there were a World Cup of Carbon, in which the aim is to the cleanest possible electricity system, their country would rank so far above Germany that the two countries would never meet in the tournament.
The CIPK of Argentina grid electricity was 390 grams in 2011 (page 112; Germany’s grid CIPK was 477 grams (p. 110). If you divided up the countries in the world into 100-CIPK groups, Argentina would be in Group 400 (countries with CIPKs between 300 and 400 grams), and Germany in Group 500 (countries with CIPKs between 500 and 600 grams).
Here is Argentina’s group, Group 400:
World Cup of Carbon, Group 400, CIPK 2011
It might not sound like there is that big a difference between Group 400 and Group 500. But consider the direction in which Argentina’s CIPK is going, versus Germany’s—Argentina’s is going down, Germany’s is going up.
Argentina’s CIPK started going down some time after early June of this year, just before the 2014 FIFA World Cup started in Brazil. Why did it start going down? Because at long last the Atucha II nuclear reactor (a.k.a. Presidente Nestor Kirchner, in honour of the man under whose administration final construction of the reactor was resumed in 2006) achieved a critical chain reaction. Nuclear energy at the point of generation comes with zero grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour. By June 27 it had started adding power to the grid, and is expected to reach its full 745 megawatts of output within days of my writing this. Atucha II can be expected to contribute around 5.9 billion kWh of clean reliable energy each year it runs, and it will run for many many decades. If those 5.9 billion kWh were coming from gas-fired power plants, the annual CO2 footprint would be around 3.2 million tons.
Germany’s CIPK has, on the other hand, been trending upward since 2011. That fact also has everything to do with nuclear power. Except of course that instead of adding nuclear energy to its electricity supply, Germany is removing it. A typical nuclear power plant, as I have emphasized before, is a baseload energy provider: it runs at or close to its rated output capacity twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, for hundreds of days at a time. To replace such a source of supply, you need another source that also can deliver at or near full power twenty four hours a day and seven days a week, for hundreds of days at a time. In this part of the universe, in this galaxy, and on this planet, such sources, if they are not nuclear, come in two flavours: hydro or fossil. Well, Germany has maxed out whatever hydro resources it has. Which leaves fossil. The “cleanest” fossil, natural gas, puts power into a grid at a CIPK of roughly half a kilogram, 500 grams.
So, when Germany started taking zero-carbon nuclear units out of its grid, it had to replace them with carbon-heavy fossil units. The upshot was that it simply made more electricity with combustible fuels. In 2011, Germany made 406 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical energy with combustible fuels; in 2012, it made 423 billion—17 billion more kWh (See OECD Electricity Information: page III.12 in both the 2013 and 2014 edition). Hence its CIPK of grid electricity has been rising. Hence its solid membership in Group 500 of the World Cup of Carbon. It could easily join Group 600.
Here is Group 500, Germany’s group.
World Cup of Carbon, Group 500, CIPK 2011
|DPR of Korea||475|
|Republic of Moldova||486|
As you can see, Germany is 23rd out of 29 countries in this group. It has to leapfrog over 22 other countries—including such paragons as North Korea, Nigeria, and Pakistan—before it can even make it into Group 400.
Unless Germany rescinds its nuclear phaseout, it will never enter a group below Group 500. And membership in Group 500 is nothing to brag about.
Argentina is doing the right thing. If it builds another CANDU, as it has announced it will, Argentina will lower its CIPK to close to 340 grams. That would leapfrog it over eight Group 400 countries. And if it adds another say 1,000 megawatts of light water capacity, then it will be in easy striking distance of Group 300.
Here is a sortable list of all countries and their grid power CIPK:
World Cup of Carbon, all IEA reported countries, CIPK 2011
|Dem. Rep. of Congo||3|
|United Rep. of Tanzania||288|
|DPR of Korea||475|
|Republic of Moldova||486|
|Trinidad and Tobago||506|
|Islamic Republic of Iran||578|
|United Arab Emirates||600|
|Syrian Arab Republic||602|
|People's Rep. of China||764|
|Hong Kong, China||768|
|FYR of Macedonia||811|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||974|