Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Germany’s Nuclear Conundrum

iser nuclear plant It takes some amount of bravery to admit you need what you do not like and you will suffer it for as long as you need to:

The lifespan of Germany's nuclear power plants must be extended "modestly" in order to gradually reach the country's goal of having renewable energy as its main source of energy, German Vice-chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Wednesday.

Which must mean that Germany is very close to that goal, yes?

In 2008 the gross electric power generation in Germany totaled 639 billion kWh. A major proportion of the electricity supply is based on lignite (23.5 %), nuclear energy (23.3 %) and hard coal (20.1 %). Natural gas has a share of 13 %. Renewables (wind, water, biomass) account for 15.1 %.

These numbers are – not attractive – if the goal is to shut off 23 percent of the clean air electricity produced in the country when nearly 44 percent – 57 percent when you add in natural gas – emit impressive amounts of carbon dioxide – the displacement of which is the point behind increasing the use of renewables. Using renewable energy as a stalking horse for nuclear energy seems – a bit – verrückt.

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It may evoke a little deja vu to learn that Germany is having some trouble coming up with an energy plan that gets it where it wants to go.

Time will soon run out for Germany to build up enough power generation if politicians continue dragging their feet on decisions over the fuel mix, German state energy agency Dena said on Monday.

Oh, really, and why is that?

"Power markets will feel insecure," he [Dena managing director Stephan Kohler] said in an interview on the sidelines of a Focus magazine conference on power plants.

"There will be no new jobs and the power supply security of the coming years will be impaired."

And why might that be?

Dena forecasts that Germany may be short some 14,000 to 16,000 megawatt of generation capacity if nuclear laws phase out reactors by 2021 as now planned and new projects for coal or gas plants fail to materialize due to public opposition.

In other words, baseload energy. That’s where renewables cannot get you and Germany hasn’t quite figured out how to square this particular circle. Add to the circle squaring exercise a public that wants elements that do not comprise a coherent energy array – not the public’s fault; politicians need to explain this – and you get an intractable conundrum.

I’ve no doubt it’ll work itself out – and only a little doubt that nuclear energy will have a significant role to play.

Germany’s Iser nuclear plant.

8 comments:

donb said...

If you want to figure out how to square the circle, just follow the money. Renewables are expensive, especially solar in Germany. The money to subsidize renewables needs to come from somewhere, and one of those "somewheres" is the nuclear plants. The political types want to tax the nuclear plants to provide the subsidies, so they can present themselves as virtuous by supporting (expensive) renewables. Most any source of money will win at least grudging support.

SteveK9 said...

The situation is much worse than even this article makes it seem. I don't know the percentage but typically most of what is called 'renewables' is from hydro. If you take that out then renewables look a lot worse. And, usually there is not much more hydro to add, all the dams are built.

Charles said...

One possible solution will be to build the NPP in France and big power lines across the Rhine. The French need the money to afford buying German stuff, and the Germans have the money... E.ON already expressed its interest for building NPP in the French territory.
Germany will have much bigger bang for the buck investing in NPP in France than investing in Natural Gas infrastructure in Russia.

Kaj said...

Germany has no serious efforts to phase out coal either, on the contrary. According to this document from McCloskey’s Coal Report, December 2007, there is 20,000 MGW of new coal power under construction in Germany.

20,000 MW. Thats about the same as the NPP fleet in Germany. What a coincidence!

Bill said...

Not a coincidence; the former Environment Minister justified those coal plants as necessary, to replace the nuclear plants.

Phil said...

The only way to create the always-on electricity that we need for modern civilization without emitting carbon is a wholesale movement toward nuclear energy.

Trying to make these sporadic so-called "renewables" work is a waste of time and treasure.

This is the reality. It will become apparent eventually. I don't expect civilization to disband when the proven answer to our biggest problem is right there staring us straight in the face.

NEI please continue to monitor and report on Germany's (hopeless) experiment.

Anonymous said...

So, they're trying to reduce CO2 and other emissions by shutting down emissions-free generation (nuclear) and replacing it with emissions-rich generation (coal)? There is only one word for that: dummeraisel.

Robert Hargraves said...

Your analysis is based on Germany's electric production. Consumption is higher; Germany also imports electric power from France -- nuclear power.