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Germany: Back to the future
  • Germany’s dash for coal continues apace. Following on the opening of two new coal power stations in 2012, six more are due to open this year, with a combined capacity of 5800MW, enough to provide 7% of Germany’s electricity needs.

    Including the plants coming on stream this year, there are 12 coal fired stations due to open by 2020. Along with the two opened last year in Neurath and Boxberg, they will be capable of supplying 19% of the country’s power.

    In addition, 27 gas fired stations are due on line, which should contribute a further 17% of Germany’s total electricity generation. (Based on 2011 statistics, total generation was 575 TwH).

    After being ordered to shut their nuclear reactors due to uranium shortage, country is going in the right way delivering readicactive particles directly to citizens lungs.

  • 56 Replies sorted by
  • @igorek7

    Thing is it is all pointless. You can't lecture locust swamps. They just do not listen. Same for all people. As big populations live according to same laws and principles.

  • @karl It's like saying that a glass is already 1/10th full, while I argue is that it is filled 9/10th with the dirty water. Will/when the Germany's renewable energy reach at least the 1/4 as in Spain, or would it be overpowered by the fossil fuel energy sources? The current situation is not certain, and it is not unique to just Germany:

    Investments in constructing new coal power plants are increasing again in Europe. Between 2012 and 2020, approximately about 80 power plant units will be newly constructed or replaced, which is almost twice as many as in the prior period of equal length. On average, the new power plant units will be twice as large. Hence, the capacities for electricity generation from coal to be constructed from 2012 to 2020 will be about four times as large as those constructed between 2003 and 2011.

    In any case, the efforts has to be done on the world scale, as the environmental impact from the human activity has reached the global level. BTW, according to just updated estimations by the IEA, global carbon dioxide emissions reached record highs last year (1.4 per cent up to 31.6 gigatonnes) despite improvements in the US and China, meaning the world is unlikely to limit global temperature rises to the 2 per cent government target.

  • @igorek7: With regards to the whole world energy consumption, your statement is probably right. But regarding the specific situation in Germany, it isn't: The comsumption of electric energy in Germany has reached its peak some years ago and is now slowly decreasing, mostly due to the introduction of energy saving measures. The ratio of renewable energy amongst the primary energy use in Germany is now at ~ 10%, and rising at an increasing pace.

    I'm sure that after a while, more and more countries will come to the conclusion that "consuming more energy" does not equal "progress" once you've reached a certain level of consumption. Even US-Americans will one day realize that insulating your houses is not just "for sissies", but allows for saving lots of energy without any decrease in quality of living.

    Yes, the German decision to increase the ratio of renewable energy by legislative measures / subsidies is a very expensive one - on a short time scale. But I am pretty confident that it will pay off in the long run.

    And while Germany is on the path of migrating its power sources, the Swiss and Austrians will gladly buy German coal power cheap while there's lots of sun and wind, store it in their pumped-storage hydropower plants and sell it back at higher prices to Germany when there's little sun and wind... ;-)

  • In October 2012 the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that coal accounted for half the increased energy use of the prior decade, growing faster than all renewable energy sources.

    With the current pace of introducing the renewable energy sources, there are little chances to complement the increased energy use by solar, wind, or any other renewable energy sources.

  • @DrDave

    And the answer is of course that solar power is free energy, no one will make money on it.

    Actually there is already a budding economy around Solar Energy. Sunlight is free but harnessing it can be a profitable venture.

  • I work in Germany for six weeks every year, for maybe 30 years now. Every year that I go, I see that the Eastern part--which was an epic environmental disaster--is cleaner than the previous year. I travel around on modern, high speed trains, or I take the city busses and trams which run every few minutes. Unlike the American busses where I live in California, these busses do not usually emit gigantic clouds of diesel fumes which are orders of magnitude more harmful than most emissions. Food, water and air quality are good. My first year in Halle, I thought I was going to croak in the hotel room because of the air pollution. That's all gone now.

    In many parts of Europe, I see more and more wind turbines for wind power, and unlike France, I don't see in Germany Nuclear reactors everywhere I look--they are there, but not as many. Of course France is an amazing country as well, but they loves their nuclear plants.

    Germany has a long tradition of heavy industry and manufacturing, but they have been cleaning up and rebuilding the country continuously for years, and it shows. I see solar panels along the high speed rail tracks. It isn't a perfect country, but they do a lot of things right, and in many respects I feel provincial when I return home to California. California is great, of course. But we don't have quark balls, either. Or medical insurance.

    In the Netherlands, where it rains all the time, they did a study years ago which showed that the entire country could be run on solar power, even though the sun does not come out very often. So my question is, why don't we do this? And the answer is of course that solar power is free energy, no one will make money on it. But eventually, when solar panels are highly efficient, self-installing and cheap, that--or another, as yet unknown source of power--will replace the burning of dinosaurs. Hopefully soon.

  • There certainly is no political party in Germany that proposes to increase the percentage of fossil fuel power, (few) new fossil power plants are build by private investors because there is a forseeable time window in which they will likely generate a nice return on investment, but there is a broad political consensus to actually lower the percentage of fossil fuel used for electricity production in Germany.

    The one reason why some people still consider nuclear power cheap is because nuclear power plants are allowed to burden significant parts of their operational costs on the tax payer. When a village has to be relocated because of coal surface-mining, of course the mining company will have to pay for the whole relocation. In constrast, when a nuclear power plants blows up, the public pays for all the land that becomes uninhabitable.

    When a fossil fuel power plant produces toxic waste, the company running the plant has to pay for its adequate disposal - while the already immense and yet unknown costs of storing nuclear waste safely for millenia are burdened on the future population.

    Insurance companies are about the only experts when it comes to calculate reasonably with long-term risks, and if there was any chance to sell insurances for the risks of nuclear power plants, they would certainly do. But the insurance fees would be too high for any nuclear power plant to run profitably, so there is no such market, and no such offering.

    And btw.: Nuclear fusion power, while of course interesting in a number of ways, also requires a plan on how to handle nuclear waste, albeit on a smaller scale: No known enclosure material will withstand the huge radioactive radiation from a nuclear fusion for a long time, so the enclosure material will need to be exchanged more or less frequently - and the unmounted material will be highly radioactive due to its prolonged exposure to intensive radiation.


    (Video) -from ABC's Environment Quarter, broadcast last night.

    -see the lead item on on China's coal use, (starts 50 sec in)

    China has released details of its pilot carbon credit trading scheme in Chenghien Province June it will cover more than 600 industrial and construction companies.

    North west China is a source is a source of cheap and plentiful coal.But imports even more of it from Australia.

    China consumes nearly half of the world's supply, and if were not for an enormous rollout of renewble energies like wind power, it would be consuming even more.

    According to new research from Peking University in [3 cities] alone, 8,500 people are said to die every year as a direct result of air pollution.Right across China, some estimates put annual deaths at more than a million.

    Part of [volunteer coal use educator, Chi au Ping]'s strategy is to get people to stop burning raw coal for cooking and heating in favour of processed coal - and burn less of it.

  • There is no free lunch with any of the known solutions. Given the thirst for energy worldwide and the population growth, we are going to need all of the solutions. But in today's polarized viewpoints, it is near impossible to engage in a sensible strategic debate on what that energy future will be and what compromises are we all willing to live with.

  • @Walker I belive creating of Perpetuum mobile is more likely to come than bringing nuclear fusion under control.

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev

    Nuclear stuff have their own issues

    I understand that.

  • @tetakpatak

    a fusion reactor would be without doubt one of the most sensational achievements

    Now, isn't that a nice dream? I think a lot of us are secretly betting the farm on something as good as nuclear fusion coming along to get us all out of this nightmare of a mess.

  • @Walker

    Nuclear stuff have their own issues, I already mentioned problems with U-235.

    Fast reactors that could use U-238 and Thorium have their own issues and are not ready yet for normal, mass produced, operation.

  • A scientist on the radio today was saying how ridiculously cheap coal is: he likened it to cheap stuff you can just start a fire with and just use that heat to do whatever you need. Sort of like a gift to the industrial revolution.

    We haven't come very far, have we?? One little hint of a financial crisis and it's out the window with everything we've learned since the 18th century, and back with good ol', cheap & dirty, coal.

  • So now there is a case for rest of the countries to slap Germany with a carbon tax?

    Tit for tat :-)

  • To create a fusion reactor would be without doubt one of the most sensational achievements of the technological development.... if it really will be possible to control such a mighty power. I doubt it will happen to come.

  • As long as opponents of nuclear energy per se refuse any dialogue at all with that industry, [sort of in a Marxist way, as in "let the system collapse under its own weight; then we'll build our revolution out of the ruins.." ] ,..

    as I say, if there's no accountability and dialogue with all stake holders then we are practically handing the energy industry a blank cheque to do anything they like, unsupervised.

    And what they'll do, if left to their own means, is the cheapest. -The cheapest reactors, cheapest waste disposal, cheapest security measures to ensure no depleted uranium gets into the wrong hands, and so on.

    And research into safe, new nuclear technology? Forget that.

    When did we last see news results of some innovation in nuclear power generation? I cannot remember ever seeing such a thing. And we should.

  • I think China is about to start to build some 45 new nuclear plants right now.

  • Papalapap - is getting out of nuclear energy and remains bullshit, as long as not all participate. Germany is surrounded by nations that use Kernergie

  • not entirely sure why we don't shoot the waste into Space, perhaps at the Sun or an already hostile or radioactive planet.

    LOL :-) Check how much energy is required to shoot something into space :-) And that percentage of it will fall back during process :-)

  • I'm a big fan of Nuclear as well, and not entirely sure why we don't shoot the waste into Space, perhaps at the Sun or an already hostile or radioactive planet.

  • Something already done with solar technology in a very unsuitable place:

    146 x 110 - 7K
  • Ok. I dropped the quote that launched this discussion in to Google and up popped an article that is actually LAUDING the German effort for more coal because they do NO sequestration while the UK is requiring it and therefore cannot get companies to build these theoretical new coal plants:

    They reference a PDF file which is in Google Cache here:

    But in the comments one person writes:

    "Interestingly some 20 plants have been abandoned and 6 put on hold and some have closed since 2007. Looks more like a dash from coal if you ask me."

    Short link to that PDF:

    This of course all pales to what is being built on coal plants in China. But that is probably another discussion. Interesting though that the source of that quote is a Briton COMPLAINING that the regulatory environment is too tough to build coal plants in the UK and thereby will freeze their elderly to death while Germany is having an easy time of it, but that it is used HERE to show that Germany is getting ready to poison its citizens because of an acute shortage of uranium.

    Depending on what sticks, buy you commodity futures now! ;-)

    Wind and solar are of course just one time investment costs that is why it is hard to speculate on them, either for money or to stoke future fears of massive shortages and catastrophe.

  • Hypocrisy is a driving force of the politics, and the decision to return to the fossil burning power plants in Germany is a clear example of it.

    Considering the "pollution" and "environmental impact", coal is the worst polluter of common energy production facilities. Pure carbon produces carbon dioxide (CO2), which is one of the chief greenhouse gases responsible. Capturing CO2 is not a solution, as it dramatically reduces power-plant efficiency and increases water usage. Soot from burning low grade coal is what formed the infamous killer fogs of London (UK), and Pittsburgh (USA). Coal also contains some sulfur which leads to acid rain. Coal also has absorbed radon gas, so the burning releases radioactivity. Coal power plants consume and pollute more water than even nuclear power plants. Coal mining and transporting are among the worst gross pollutions.

    Nuclear energy is not perfect, but if handled properly is much more environment friendly.

  • Last time I checked bright fun future of gasoline powered cars can not run on either coal or nuclear.