Skip to main content

Will Europe Struggle to Keep the Lights On?

A new study from consulting company Capgemini said that Europe may have trouble “keeping the lights on” this winter thanks to the nuclear phase-out in Germany.

Following its reactor shutdowns, Germany began to import electricity from its neighbors, including more than 2,000 MW per day from France. During the winter electricity peak, France mainly imports electricity from Germany and this will no longer be possible in coming years. This represents a real threat to some countries “keeping the lights on” for winter 2011/2012 and future winters.

The report sums it up well: without German nuclear generation, energy security is down, emissions are up. First, security. The Europeans better cozy up to the Russians because they will be more dependent on them than ever.

In 2010, the EU imported 113 bcm of gas by pipeline from Russia, representing 33% of total gas imports. In 2030, gas flowing through Gazprom pipelines is expected to represent 50% of all European gas supplies.

That’s right, 50 percent, half of all European gas. But Gazprom’s dependable, right? Sure, most of the time. Just ask Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. But Nord Stream should end all that, right? Sure, no problem.

Then, there’s emissions: the nuclear phase-out is taking Germany further away from its climate goals. The Breakthrough Institute had this to say in its analysis of the German government plan to phase out nuclear.  

The plan indicates that--in the absence of nuclear power--Germany will continue to be heavily reliant on fossil-fuel generation for the bulk of its electricity supply. The report calls for the construction of 5 GW of new natural gas power plants, in addition to 11 GW of new coal-fired power plants currently under construction in the country. This will leave the country with a net increase of 5 GW in coal-fired electricity capacity...this planned uptick in fossil fuel generation would cause the country's overall carbon emissions to rise by as much as 14% of the country's 2008 total carbon emissions.

But there’s hope. Some of Germany’s neighbors see an opening here. Why not sell the Germans low-cost, low-carbon electricity generated by nuclear power plants? [WSJ, subscription req’d] The Czech Republic seems particularly well placed.

On Monday, the country's government-controlled CEZ AS  [electrical utility] will issue technical specifications for a $25 billion project to build up to five new nuclear reactors, with the first two scheduled to go online by 2025.

What’s more, the Czechs are old hands at exporting energy. 

Vaclav Bartuska, the Czech government's special energy envoy, said the Czech Republic wants to increase the proportion of its electric power generated by nuclear reactors to 50% from the current 30%…CEZ, which is operating six reactors now, has long been one of Europe's largest power exporters, sending electricity to neighboring Germany and elsewhere.

Poland may be getting into the act and Hungary is toying with the idea. What’s not to like? It’s probably more secure than Russian gas and will help Germany meet those emissions goals. We’ll give the Czechs the last word, as it’s Czech National Day today.

"There is antinuclear sentiment in some countries," Mr. Bartuska added. But until alternate energy sources make economic sense, "we see nuclear as the solution."

For more on American and Czech cooperation in  nuclear energy, see this fact sheet from the White House.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?