Skip to main content

Nuclear Today, Lignite Tomorrow: Germany’s Withering Choices

German Nuclear Plants (Wikipedia)
Color Bloomberg unimpressed:
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government says RWE AG’s new power plant that can supply 3.4 million homes aids her plan to exit nuclear energy and switch to cleaner forms of generation. It’s fired with coal.
And Herr Dieter Helm, energy policy professor? Also not impressed:
“Angela Merkel’s policy has created an incentive structure which has the effect of partially replacing nuclear with coal, the dirtiest fuel that’s responsible for much of the growth in the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions since 1990,” Dieter Helm, an energy policy professor at the University of Oxford, said by phone Aug. 17. Building new coal stations means “locking them in for the next 30 years” as a type of generation, Helm said.
The problem is that natural gas, inexpensive here, is expensive in Germany, so it isn’t as viable a fuel for large installations. As we’ve seen, Germany’s grid isn’t equipped (yet – let’s be optimistic) to handle the intermittency of solar and wind stably. What Merkel is doing actually makes some sense taken from one angle:
Merkel’s government wants utilities to build 10,000 megawatts of coal- and gas-fired generators this decade to replace older, dirtier generators and underpin a growing share for wind turbines and solar panels.
The problem is: natural gas and especially coal will replace the nuclear energy capacity while wind and solar will contribute additional electricity generation above that, so the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions is up. But some of the same forces that made nuclear energy toxic in Germany are understandably no more happy with this plan. Or shall we say: unimpressed?
Building new coal generators in Germany isn’t easy. A group of local utilities last month scrapped plans to spend 3.2 billion euros to construct the nation’s biggest hard-coal plant in Schleswig-Holstein after resistance from environment groups and the state government led by the Social Democratic Party and Green Party.
Can it be said that Germany’s options are withering away?
“It’s very alarming that leading German politicians praise a plant run on lignite,” Gerald Neubauer, a Greenpeace campaigner in Germany focusing on energy issues, said by phone on Aug. 16. “Burning lignite spews more carbon dioxide than using most other energy sources, and mining it inflicts major damage on the environment.”
I almost feel like saying: This is what Germany wanted and this is what it got. But this transition is just depressing, however you look at it, a casebook study of bad policymaking.
Great story for Bloomberg by Stefan Nicola and Tino Andresen. Do read the whole thing.

Comments

Ron Berg said…
Adding to the problems following Germany's phase out of nuclear power: grid instability which creates havoc for industrial users. This, on top of drastic rate hikes which impact the poor and unemployed especially hard.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel has been writing about this in a whole series of articles. Here is the latest,in English, and this includes links to the previous articles in English.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/instability-in-power-grid-comes-at-high-cost-for-german-industry-a-850419.html

So during a time of global sea rise and the acidification of the world's oceans thanks to the increasing abundance of industrial greenhouse gases, Germany wants to start a new coal age. Wonderful:-)

Marcel F. Williams
Anonymous said…
The picture of the two new units at the Neurath power plant at the RWE site (http://www.rwe.com/web/cms/en/12068/rwe-power-ag/locations/lignite/kw-neurath-boa-2-3/) is a perfect illustration of Germany's broken energy policy. A brand spanking new lignite plant, with some windmills in the background for greenwashing. To make matters worse, the hill the windmills are built on, Vollrather Höhe (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vollrather_H%C3%B6he), is a spoil tip from the nearby Garzweiler open pit lignite mine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garzweiler_open_pit_mine).
Rod Adams said…
The German energy situation demonstrates the irrational results that come from a plan based on attempting to fool mother nature.

Efforts to shutter nuclear plants were not driven by environmental concerns; they were driven by a greedy desire to sell more natural gas. The gas suppliers and their promotional arm in the "Green" movement are now shocked that rational utilities have calculated that they can burn lignite more cheaply - even if they have to pay a penance for doing so.

A policy driven by a rational desire for cleaner air would have left the nukes running. It would have added support for building more. The country would have gotten richer and stronger as a result. Instead...

Popular posts from this blog

Knowing What You’ve Got Before It’s Gone in Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

Nuclear energy is by far the largest source of carbon prevention in the United States, but this is a rough time to be in the business of selling electricity due to cheap natural gas and a flood of subsidized renewable energy. Some nuclear plants have closed prematurely, and others likely will follow.
In recent weeks, Exelon and the Omaha Public Power District said that they might close the Clinton, Quad Cities and Fort Calhoun nuclear reactors. As Joni Mitchell’s famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
More than 100 energy and policy experts will gather in a U.S. Senate meeting room on May 19 to talk about how to improve the viability of existing nuclear plants. The event will be webcast, and a link will be available here.
Unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants get no specia…

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…