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Germany lays out a path to quit coal by 2038 (nytimes.com)
205 points by cmarschner 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 185 comments



I am german myself and I am frustrated about this countries hate for nuclear power. In the wake of Fukushima, they shut down 12 perfectly modern nuclear power plants to rely on coal until green power can take over. We are quite behind on that too. 2038 to end coal also seems to be a quite conservative goal, but until now the government was great at missing even the most conservative goals on basically anything.


The nuclear reactors were actually not 'perfectly modern'.

> government was great at missing even the most conservative goals on basically anything

The share of electricity from renewable energy has surpassed any goals so far.


You mind sharing your data?

AFAIK what proponents of the German „Energiewende“ are often referring to are sometimes just superficial headlines or positive datapoints cherry picked out of a study that itself draws negative conclusions or fails to come to a postive result.

The most prominent in the last years were those PR stunts, that claimed Germany is exporting more energy than it is consuming. Which frankly adds injury to insult. Because the only reason Germany is doing that is that otherwise its energy grid would collapse.

Renewables (in Germany) produce energy in fluctuating rates and aren‘t suited to serve the base load. Excess energy can’t be saved so it has to be (by law) dumped somewhere, which usually means our neighbor countries. They in return, being annoyed by repeatedly having their grid brought on the brink of collapse by us started to install equipment on their borders to basically „emergency stop“ these shenanigans and cut-off our grid if they have to.

Apart from the diplomatic „upside“ another side-effect said PR stunt is spin-doctoring is the fact that everytime we have to dump energy the prices go down. They even go negative. That sounds nice, but none of the German consumers will get these prices on their energy bill (if they did, they might increase consumption in those times, alleviating the grid’s pain...).

It effectively means, that Germany pays other countries to take their (heavily tax-payer funded) excess energy. Which alas, gives us said PR stunt.

Anyways, I honestly would be interested in your data that proves the „surpassing [of] any goals so far“.


> that claimed Germany is exporting more energy than it is consuming

No one claims that. What is claimed and what is actually correct is that Germany exports more electricity than it imports.

> They in return, being annoyed by repeatedly having their grid brought on the brink of collapse

Contrary to popular myths the German electricity grid is one of the most stable in the world.

https://energyathaas.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/gt.jpg

> Excess energy can’t be saved

There isn't much excess electricity from renewable energy. What we have are is a situation where coal / nuclear are exporting their electricity and are not willing or able to reduce their energy production enough.

Note also exporting and importing electricity is nothing bad. We will see much more electricity exchange in the coming decades within the EU. The reason is that the EU is pushing an EU-wide electricity market with competition and wants to get rid of country-local closed energy markets with monopolies or oligopolies.

Better adjust to that.

> but none of the German consumers will get these prices on their energy bill

Check out industry prices - they are consumers of electricity, too.

> surpass any goalsso far

Example, published in 2012:

http://www.renewable-energy-concepts.com/fileadmin/user_uplo...

It says: 'Bis spätestens zum Jahr 2020 soll der Anteil der erneuerbaren Energien an der Stromversorgung mindestens 35 Prozent betragen.'

This has already happened in 2018.


Sorry for getting the wrong impression of you, but why are you showcasing your answer as profound by dividing my post into separate quotes and sprinkling your answers with links that lead to anything but "data"?

Your first link is just one jpg of a table on a blog of a progressive institute. The second one just a broad publication in German by the the German environmental ministry. Should I refer to its imprint as proof?

Then you make un-based broad statements and label critics as adherents to mythical beliefs

> Contrary to popular myths the German electricity grid is one of the most stable in the world.

To which I'd say, look no further than 10 January 2019 when Germany's policy of legally enforcing right of way for renewable energies almost brought down the whole of Europe's electricity grid. [1]

Furthermore the whole year of 2003 the German energy net authority had to perform 2 redispatches to avert a blackout. 2010 they had to perform 290, while in 2017 third quarter alone they had to perform 1.013 [2]

No one claims [that Germany is exporting more energy than it is consuming]. What is claimed and what is actually correct is that Germany exports more electricity than it imports.

Thats a non sequitur.

> This has already happened in 2018.

Clearly, your statement of the surpassing of "any goals so far" can't be based on that one data point out of a 140 page document? Or does this mean this was the only goal of the Energiewende? ?

[1] https://derstandard.at/2000096185439/Europas-Stromnetz-stand...

[2] https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/All... (page 32)


> Your first link is just one jpg of a table on a blog of a progressive institute.

Is 'progressive' a problem for you? You can easily google for SAIDI and SAIFI numbers yourself. They will look the same.

> The second one just a broad publication in German by the the German environmental ministry. Should I refer to its imprint as proof?

A proof for what? I showed you a publication where the ministry communicated its goal for the share of renewable electricity in 2020. Higher up we already established that the number has been reached in 2018.

> To which I'd say, look no further than 10 January 2019 when Germany's policy of legally enforcing right of way for renewable energies almost brought down the whole of Europe's electricity grid. [1]

Which is factually wrong. Seems like you are not able to read the German text.

It hasn't brought down the net at all, not in Germany and not in the rest of Europe and it wasn't even near that.

The reason was a combination of data problem and a demand increase because of two power plants were going offline. Nothing to do with the 'Energiewende'.

https://www.montelnews.com/de/story/datenfehler-bedarfsspitz...

If you read the above statements, it was far from bringing down the whole of Europe's grid - as you have claimed - even the French operator denies this. The whole of Europe is actually very large and includes countries like Ireland, Finland, Greece, ... none of which would have seen an effect. It's just a sensational headline.

> Thats a non sequitur.

What?

> Clearly, your statement of the surpassing of "any goals so far" can't be based on that one data point out of a 140 page document?

If you cite me, then cite me correctly. I said: 'The share of electricity from renewable energy has surpassed any goals so far.' I was explicitly talking about the goals for the share of electricity as an example and then gave you an example for that.

Your statement was this: 'until now the government was great at missing even the most conservative goals on basically anything'

I gave you an example where it wasn't missing its goals.


That's the problem with energy policy and most large industries these days. There's enough money in the market, so you can find a supporting study for every argument you want to make.


> That's the problem with energy policy and most large industries these days. There's enough money in the market, so you can find a supporting study for every argument you want to make.

That was always the case. It's nothing new.

That means also that each change is difficult, because there are established players who are defending their business. In nuclear power industries we have seen that, because it tends to create very large industrial conglomerates who are heavily interlinked with government. There we see then easily an abuse of that power. A part of the Energiewende is about opening up closed energy markets which were shared with only a handful of (often state owned) companies, make it accessible for new providers, create competition and decentralize it.


> You mind sharing your data?

He made two basic claims, but your post contains a plethora of critical responses to things he never said.

I'm just gonna give you sources to support/correct his two original points and ignore your gibberish/rant.

> The nuclear reactors were actually not 'perfectly modern'.

Which they are not. The newest reactors in Germany began construction in 1982 [1], and most of the ones already shut down were old second generation nuclear technology [2][3]

> The share of electricity from renewable energy has surpassed any goals so far.

This is wrong afaik, since Germany isn't on track to meet it's own goals, but is just ahead of the EU's goals. [4]

[1]: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Kernreaktoren_in_Deu...

[2]: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Kernkraftwerke

[3]: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kernkraftwerk#Generationen_von...

[4]: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2015/11/germany-...


I find it unfortunate that I don't speak German, because the Energiewende is so interesting. The data that is clear is that carbon emissions have not dropped and energy prices have risen. Population is up a little (maybe ~2%). The steady emissions are a bit so-so, and aren't promising of an Energiewende success.

What is missing for me is I can't source a current (~2017 or 2018) timeseries on German Energy/Capita use, which is a very important piece of the puzzle. Even if I could, I can't check sources because of the language barrier, so I wouldn't really be able to argue using it. If the per capita number has gone up then the Energiewende is very impressive. If it has gone down a lot, a failure. If it is middling, success is a political question.

The data will get out eventually. A lot of the interim reporting seems to combine spin and evidence-that-isn't really-evidence like negative power prices (which don't really say if 'things are working or not').



> If the per capita number has gone up then the Energiewende is very impressive. If it has gone down a lot, a failure. If it is middling, success is a political question.

That makes little sense. A goal of German energy politics is to reduce energy per capita use.


> A goal of German energy politics is to reduce energy per capita use.

Really? That sounds remarkably foolish; I'm surprised there are riots in France but not Germany. Is there some sort of justification for such a damaging policy?


Why is that foolish? What‘s foolish about replacing light bulbs, reducing energy consumption of your appliances or reducing the energy consumption of your transport system?


Those things probably wouldn't reduce per capita energy consumption. Energy is extremely fungible; it would likely trigger Jevon's paradox [0] and results in rising demand for energy.

The only way to reduce per capita energy consumption is to ban people from doing things, or tax them until the poor can't afford it any more. An economy won't leave energy untapped because people are using it more efficiently. Energy is very valuable.

Particularly in Germany's case, if per capita energy use is dropping, it is quite likely it is because people can't afford to buy some of Europe's most expensive power. That tends to upset.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox


> The only way to reduce per capita energy consumption is to ban people from doing things

The way to reduce energy consumption is to a have a more efficient infrastructure and more efficient consumer devices. In the private sector, public sectors and the industry.

Increasing 'efficiency' is a huge goal. This starts with using less primary energy for the production of the same amount of electricity, using so-far wasted energy (like heat from power plants), using less stand-by energy, increasing transport efficiency, use of less energy-intensive production processes in industry, ...


I'm not sure I'm picking up what your putting down, but I don't think I disagree with much you've written.

However, if you just increase energy efficiency, energy consumption will not go down. If it was worth your time to get X energy to produce Y results, and now X energy produces Y+1 results, it isn't particularly obvious to wind back X. It makes more sense to keep X constant and enjoy the greater results. If you could justify using X before, it is even easier to justify it now.

If you want to reduce energy consumption without compromising living standards, then you will indeed need to increase energy efficiency, but simultaneously you are going to need very firm measures (bans, punitive taxes, etc) to stop people just enjoying having more stuff for the same amount of effort. I think that is a mistake myself, and likely to lead to very angry voters.

There were predictions years ago that we wouldn't need to work because we would be so productive by this century. They got the productivity increases right, but radically underestimated how much people value leisure vs having more stuff. We still work a 5 day week, despite the fact that we just don't need to do that to maintain a lifestyle our great grandparents had.


> If it was worth your time to get X energy to produce Y results, and now X energy produces Y+1 results, it isn't particularly obvious to wind back X. It makes more sense to keep X constant and enjoy the greater results.

That's where the increase in costs (or the competition from cheaper producers) comes into play. The production costs are increasing and producers are keen to improve efficiency, since it is one way to lower the pressure on production cost.

There are also lots of energy markets where the overall demand is limited.

> reduce energy consumption without compromising living standards

Twenty years ago I had a workstation which consumed 1.5KW/h. Now my workstation consumes 0.1KW/h while being 1000 times faster. I have several other computers around me (mostly with low-power CPUs) which each consume around 0.005KW/h - while each is much faster than the workstation of twenty years ago.

My LED lights are as bright as light before and more flexible - while using 1/5ths of the electricity.

From all I have seen as data, the GDP/capita has been increasing, while energy consumption has been reduced. I don't see my living standards being degraded.

> We still work a 5 day week

You maybe, not me. I'm also travelling a lot less than I used to do - which is alone an increase in my living standard.


> The only way to reduce per capita energy consumption is to ban people from doing things, or tax them until the poor can't afford it any more.

Per capita energy consumption has been dropping in Europe, but also in North America over the past few years. Not aware of any bans or unaffordability issues there:

https://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&...

And the US EIA absolutely claims energy efficiency is part of the reason:

https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=32212


> Not aware of any bans or unaffordability issues there

Well, crude oil prices went from $35 -> $70 around 2005 and have generally been floating around there since, with short periods of time (a year or two) where they drop down [0], coal did something similar from $50 -> $80 [1]. In the US, coal use for electricity immediately started dropping off, and Natural Gas has been replacing capacity [2]. There was a 5 year period where gas (ie, car fuel) prices were just out of control, and a long period of time where they were just high.

Most of the US's energy is sourced from petroleum and coal [3, 4]. I'd say there is some evidence here that the drop in per capita use was more due to the price rising by a very large margin than some sort of efficiency gain, and the EIA article you reference is, in my view, somewhat optimistic if they think that sort of price movement doesn't cause people to change their lifestyles. This all times in roughly with when per capita energy use started to level off then fall. I'd suggest that although cheap natural gas has absorbed some of the shock, there is evidence of cost pressure if you care to look.

[0] https://www.macrotrends.net/1369/crude-oil-price-history-cha... [1] https://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=coal-austr... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Electricity_by_type.pn... [3] https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=10 [4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_Flow_US_2017.png [5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States#Su...


Quote from "The myth of the dark side of Germany’s Energiewende" [1] :

The narrative of Germany’s dirty Energiewende rests on the idea that renewables could not live up to their promise to fill the gap of retiring nuclear reactors. Consequently, that gap needed to be closed by power generation from coal.

But if we look at the figures we get quite a different picture. The yellow line in Figure 2 above depicts how the amount of electricity from nuclear declined from 2000 to 2014. Due to the decommissioning of old plants, nuclear power had been declining steadily. When the German government decided on the phase-out, in 2011, some nuclear power stations were shut down immediately and the output went down more quickly. Afterwards, the steady decline continued once more.

The green line shows the steady rise of renewable energy in the same period. In 2011, more electric energy was provided from renewable sources than from all nuclear facilities. In 2014, renewables achieved a share of approximately 29% in total electricity generation. So renewables have substituted the falling nuclear production in terms of total annual power generation and are very likely to continue doing so until 2022 when the last nuclear plant will be shut down.

[1] https://reneweconomy.com.au/the-myth-of-the-dark-side-of-ger...

(I would encourage you to read the whole thing).


I would encourage one to not read this link.

I was waiting to get to the place in the article where they acknowledge that Germany could have kept their 50 TWh of nuclear online and cut coal by the same amount - a reduction of 20% - but I guess that wouldn't fit in to the narrative they're trying to spin, because they completely ignored der Elefant in das Zimmer.


The point well made later in the article is that even if they had kept their nuclear plants running, coal would still have increased in 2012 and 2013 because in those years energy production from coal was very profitable and Germany has a ready export market to sell it to. Irregardless that domestic energy consumption actually trended down in those years.

> Both effects – the drop in coal and CO2 allowance prices – have made coal an extremely profitable fuel for power generation. Notably, both developments happened in 2011, the year of the nuclear phase-out.


Yes, I read the whole thing, hopefully so others can avoid wasting their time.

Germany could easily have counteracted this with public policy.

You can't take a post mortem of the effects of government heavily influencing energy policy, then throw up your hands and say "ah, capitalism, what can we do" when it's convenient.


Sorry, but I'm having trouble finding the cogency in this comment. If your point is that Germany could have cut exports of power generated by coal through public policy then yes, I would agree. But how is that a defence of keeping nuclear running?


Me: Article posted is intellectually dishonest because it doesn't mention the possibility of keeping nuclear but shutting down coal

You: Article in fact states that if nuclear were kept online, coal would still be profitable to export

Me: This could have been prevented by public policy

You: Yes, it could have. I don't understand your point, perhaps because English is not your first language (Edit: now deleted)


The point is that the shut-down in nuclear did not increase the use of coal (the reduction in nuclear production was more than ameliorated by increased renewables supply). That was my initial point of rebuttal from the top-level comment. The use of coal increased for reasons independent of the shut-down of nuclear and mainly because export of cheap coal energy became more profitable, as argued in the linked article. So the public policy failure was in letting CO2 price allowances fall.

The linked article also states the aim of the Energiewende has always been to transition away from both coal and nuclear (fission at least) to 100% sustainable energy production.


This is highly misleading information from the usual suspects. The total output in kWh of heavily subsidized solar/wind energy is not the issue.

The problem of the "Energiewende" is that the highly volatile wind/solar output can not supply the base load without massive buffer storage. The technology for that storage does not exist. Only nuclear, coal or the more expensive natural gas can supply the base load.

What actually makes the whole charade work is that Germany dumps surplus electricity (at a loss) during peak times and then imports what's missing during down times from other countries (for example the highly nuclearized France). If all the neighboring countries did what Germany does, it couldn't work.


Of course, French nuclear plants have the opposite problem: they're limited in their ability to do anything other than a constant base load supply, even though they do much more load following than say US nuclear power. So France has to dump surplus electricity at low-load times and then import power at peak times. I don't think mixing wind, solar and nuclear will fix this either - France's peak demand and its highest net imports are during winter cold spells, when solar and probably also wind output is at a low.


Wind output is highest in Winter.


> for example the highly nuclearized France

Which does the same. France imports electricity in high demand times (winter) or low production times (hot summer weeks, maintenance, ...).

France dumps cheap nuclear on its neighbor countries in times of surplus production because of low demand.

https://www.montelnews.com/en/story/france-supply-risk-as-nu...


A very good point and one which brings up the misunderstanding of what base-load power is. Base-load power is the power that continues to be generated even when there is low demand for it. Base-load is generated by energy production plants that are extremely expensive to shut down / run up again. Base-load does not have much relevance in the energy environment we're heading to where excess supply can be stored and then excess demand can be delivered from storage.


> Base-load power is the power that continues to be generated even when there is low demand for it.

That is wrong. Base load is the minimum demand of electricity at any given moment over a time span. The base load that a wind turbine without buffer storage can supply is zero. The same goes for solar, obviously. The vast majority of renewable energy in Germany happens to be wind, its storage and transport remains the biggest (and unsolved) challenge.


Germany does not have a single wind turbine in a single location. It has vast numbers of them across many locations, many of which are situated in areas with near near constant wind. Across the whole portfolio of this production resource there is a certain minimum level of production which is consistently maintained. And, unlike a coal plant, there is almost zero risk of the whole system failing. In my country (Australia) we frequently see coal power plants 'trip' (breakdown), particularly in hot weather. [1]

And on the question of the definition of base-load, it was originally defined in terms of supply (production). Yes, the meaning has spread to demand but the idea that base-load demand must be supplied by 'base-load' power plants such as coal or nuclear is a piece of sophistry that quickly dissolves when it is examined closely. Just one reason being that their supply is not guaranteed (as I have described above).

[1] https://medium.com/@TheAustraliaInstitute/gas-coal-power-has...


> Germany does not have a single wind turbine in a single location. It has vast numbers of them across many locations, many of which are situated in areas with near near constant wind. Across the whole portfolio of this production resource there is a certain minimum level of production which is consistently maintained.

Yes, but it's a fraction of total output and it's nowhere near enough to supply the actual base load.

> Yes, the meaning has spread to demand but the idea that base-load demand must be supplied by 'base-load' power plants such as coal or nuclear is a piece of sophistry that quickly dissolves when it is examined closely. Just one reason being that their supply is not guaranteed (as I have described above).

What quickly dissolves into sophistry is the idea that wind energy is remotely comparable to coal or nuclear in terms of supplying base load. Yes, an individual coal plant doesn't have 100% reliability, but it's still massively less volatile than wind.

> [1] https://medium.com/@TheAustraliaInstitute/gas-coal-power-has....

Okay, let's look at Australia: https://reneweconomy.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Disap...

What's that big grey part that is "dispatchable"? It's mostly natural gas, which Australia has plenty of (7% of exports), but Germany would need to import. Australians can pat themselves on the back for not using any more coal in the grid, but they still ship it off (16% of exports) for someone else to burn it.


Batteries and pumped hydro can also deliver dispatchable and Australia is embracing and building both. The focus of today's markets is on flexibility and response time of supply, not on lumbering, inflexible baseload. Batteries are the most rapid and flexible, as the big battery constructed in South Australia has amply proved.


Flexibility is not the crucial issue. It's just what that large Tesla battery is good at, which is why everyone highlights it. In terms of capacity, it's next to nothing. No proponent wants to talk about that.

If you just look at the graph you'll see that dispatchable makes up almost 100% of base load during significant periods of time. Do the math on how many batteries and how much pumped storage you would need. It's simply not happening without fossils.

Australia uses natural gas so it can pull down CO2, but the coal is still exported and burned by someone else. It's a wash. Germany only has coal. If storage was feasible they wouldn't be standing there with their pants down on their CO2 goals. They would've built the best batteries and storage pumps the world knows.


Not only trips in the heat as happened with Loy Yang B last summer; Loy Yong A was offline last week for maintenance right in time for the hottest day of the summer so far.

There are plenty of good places for turbines in Victoria such as near "Windy Warrnambool". At around 38° south it gets nearly constant westerlies.


> its storage and transport remains the biggest (and unsolved) challenge.

It's not 'unsolved' - it's just that it was economically not useful nor necessary nor wanted to store wind electricity in larger scales and this might be the case for another decade. Then we will see more storage coming online.

I live in Northern Germany with some possibility for higher wind electricity production. To store that one way is to build HVDC lines to Norway to store the excess electricity there as hydro power. One line is currently under construction and another one has been planned. The Netherlands is operating such a line to Norway since 2008.

Additionally inside Germany there is more delivery of wind-generated electricity to the south of Germany planned.

It's not 'unsolved' in the sense that we don't know what to do. It's just that storage needs are just starting to increase. Similar to PV solar technology - without a market no investment. Without investment, no market. Germany jump-started the PV solar market with its investments due to Renewable Energy Law. We will see similar effects in the coming decades for storage.


> It's not 'unsolved' - it's just that it was economically not useful nor necessary nor wanted to store wind electricity in larger scales and this might be the case for another decade. Then we will see more storage coming online.

The whole thing wasn't economically useful or necessary from the very beginning, otherwise it wouldn't have needed massive subsidies that made Germany have the most expensive electricity in Europe.

> It's not 'unsolved' in the sense that we don't know what to do. It's just that storage needs are just starting to increase.

You don't know what to do. The storage requirements are massive:

https://www.oulu.fi/blogs/how-much-storage-does-the-energiew...

Think about it, if you did know what to do, why aren't all the politicians pointing to some clear-cut roadmap on how to achieve the goal, using all the great engineering prowess that Germany is famous for?


> The whole thing wasn't economically useful or necessary from the very beginning

That's your claim. Enough people here have been thinking the opposite.

> otherwise it wouldn't have needed massive subsidies that made Germany have the most expensive electricity in Europe.

Actually Germany a) does not have generally the most expensive electricity in Europe - check out industry prices for electricity in Europe.

If you followed recent protests in France, then you have seen that is also about higher energy prices for the public - which has been kept artificially low so far.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/electricity/news/yellow-ves...

b) its also useful to make energy expensive - it helps to keep energy consumption low and the money gets invested back into modern infrastructure, research&development, build-up of new industries, ...

> The storage requirements are massive

That's a very shallow study about a non-goal (100%). A more detailed study from 2013:

https://www.agora-energiewende.de/fileadmin2/Projekte/2013/s...

a shorter english version

https://www.agora-energiewende.de/fileadmin2/Projekte/2013/s...

The current big picture of the Energiewende for 2030...

https://www.agora-energiewende.de/fileadmin2/Projekte/2017/B...


> That's your claim.

That's common sense. If something is both economically useful and necessary, it finances itself. You don't need subsidies at all, at most you need loans.

> Enough people here have been thinking the opposite.

So what? If "enough people" believe in Santa Claus, does that mean he'll all bring us presents on Christmas?

> Actually Germany a) does not have generally the most expensive electricity in Europe - check out industry prices for electricity in Europe.

Yes, industry is exempt because of lobbying. If industry had to pay those horrendous prices, it would damage Germany's competitiveness. Therefore, more to pay for the average citizen.

> If you followed recent protests in France, then you have seen that is also about higher energy prices for the public - which has been kept artificially low so far.

First of all, France has the cheapest electricity in all of Europe. Those protests were sparked by a "green tax" on fuel. I don't know what your point is, but it sounds like "green policy causes civil unrest in France". It's not helping your argument.

> That's a very shallow study about a non-goal (100%).

Fine, you may rely on 20% fossil fuels and maybe you'll be able to reduce the required storage cost from "absolutely infeasible" to "monumentally expensive". All to the end of removing a smidgen (less than 1%) from global CO2 emissions. The rest of the (developing) world isn't going to follow suit with that kind of pretentious nonsense.

> A more detailed study from 2013

That's all projections on what should happen, based on lots of ifs and maybes. It's utterly useless.


> That's common sense. If something is both economically useful and necessary, it finances itself. You don't need subsidies at all, at most you need loans.

That's an illusion, especially in the energy sector. It has been for decades.

> France has the cheapest electricity in all of Europe.

Because the costs are hidden and paid by the tax payer. The energy industry is mostly state owned and the price is political. That makes it not possible to charge the consumer with the real costs (like finding billions for the aging and expensive nuclear reactor fleet or for replacing them with newer reactors) - any president trying to do so would and does face mass protests. Additionally, the industry would be dead in a second if the government wouldn't finance the costs and hide it from the consumer.

One can see how this works in the UK with EDF's reactor:

"If Hinkley really comes on stream by 2025 as planned, it will sell electricity at a guaranteed price that is double the current market level, with the excess cost passed to every UK consumer"

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2019/01/an-energy-crisis-is-loom...

That's the future of France...

> The rest of the (developing) world isn't going to follow suit with that kind of pretentious nonsense.

Actually quite a lot of countries are.


> That's an illusion, especially in the energy sector. It has been for decades.

It's not an illusion, it's the basis of the economy. If something is known to be both useful and necessary, there is a profit to be made and capital will be allocated to it. That's the financial side. Of course for the energy sector there are lots of ideological, environmental and political concerns that need to be dealt with for things to actually happen.

> Because the costs are hidden and paid by the tax payer. The energy industry is mostly state owned and the price is political. That makes it not possible to charge the consumer with the real costs (like finding billions for the aging and expensive nuclear reactor fleet or for replacing them with newer reactors) - any president trying to do so would and does face mass protests.

Hard to ascertain. If it was really that unprofitable to produce nuclear energy compared to the (clean) alternatives, France could just build the alternatives. After all, the state foots the bill either way, unlike a private company that can just go bankrupt and not clean up their mess.

> One can see how this works in the UK with EDF's reactor:

> "If Hinkley really comes on stream by 2025 as planned, it will sell electricity at a guaranteed price that is double the current market level, with the excess cost passed to every UK consumer"

Yes, but the "current market level" is lower because of fossils, not because of renewables, which also need heavy subsidy. You can't have your cake and eat it too. If we're just arguing about market price, then clearly coal is the winner.

> Actually quite a lot of countries are.

None of the countries that really matter (have a significant share in CO2 emmissions) are.


> It's not an illusion, it's the basis of the economy.

Maybe in a simple model of capitalism.

> Of course for the energy sector there are lots of ideological, environmental and political concerns that need to be dealt with for things to actually happen.

Example: no one invests in a nuclear power plant - unless the state insures the thing, finances (incl. all the costs that come from technological and construction problems) the thing all through from inception to research to design to construction to bringing it online AND (!!!!!) creates the economic conditions for profits to be made (like dictating prices, reducing competition, financing all costly technological and construction risks, providing cheap infrastructure, ...). -> Example: currently the UK.

The energy sector it's very different from selling beans to consumers.

> France could just build the alternatives

But it hasn't. France has built nuclear for many reasons - for example France is a country with nuclear weapons and thus has an interest in nuclear technology. There is also an ideological trend to large state-driven/owned technologies.

Now France is looking to expand its share of renewables - while at the same time trying to find hundreds of billions for their reactor fleet.

> After all, the state foots the bill either way, unlike a private company that can just go bankrupt and not clean up their mess.

That's not how it works in the energy landscape. Check out TEPCO. The Japanese state does not let it die.

> None of the countries that really matter (have a significant share in CO2 emmissions) are.

You are shifting the goal post all the time. If enough countries do it (for example in the EU), then it matters.


> Maybe in a simple model of capitalism.

You may call it capitalism, but even the birds and the bees "understand" the concept of investing now for future gains.

> Example: no one invests in a nuclear power plant - unless the state insures the thing, finances (incl. all the costs that come from technological and construction problems) the thing all through...

That's just not true, lots of private capital has financed reactors before. Note that I never claimed that nuclear reactors are economically sensible (especially counting in disasters), but that if they were they would finance themselves. Indeed, there's a lot of hard-to-calculate risk in a nuclear reactor, which is bad from an investment standpoint.

> But it hasn't. France has built nuclear for many reasons - for example France is a country with nuclear weapons and thus has an interest in nuclear technology.

So what? The U.S. has the one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, yet they barely do nuclear at all.

> There is also an ideological trend to large state-driven/owned technologies.

So why don't they build giant state owned wind turbines?

> That's not how it works in the energy landscape. Check out TEPCO. The Japanese state does not let it die.

Whatever they do, the company isn't going to (be able to) pay the bill, unless they're not in fact bankrupt.

> You are shifting the goal post all the time. If enough countries do it (for example in the EU), then it matters.

Not really. Which countries are you talking about? The EU makes up maybe 10% of CO2 emissions and a big part of that isn't related to electricity. Think of all the research you could fund with the money spent on that forced premature rollout of renewable energy in Germany. Think of all the money that still needs to be spent to make it work. Think of what you actually achieved in terms of CO2 goals, so far. It's an absolute embarrassment.


> That's just not true, lots of private capital has financed reactors before.

Mostly not. For example France's reactors were 100% state financed and state owned. Incl. the electricity distribution and the building company (Areva).

In Germany the whole nuclear industry was state directed and the power plants were belonging to a few companies - with electricity companies being 'forced' by the government to invest in nuclear electricity production. The whole research around nuclear technology (fuel production, reactor technology, storage, ...) was state financed. The electricity companies were given huge distribution areas where they had a monopoly without any competition. Politicians were given well-paid jobs in the industry.

> economically sensible (especially counting in disasters), but that if they were they would finance themselves

The reality shows the opposite. See the UK: nuclear power does not finance themselves by market mechanisms. The financing is set up by the government and there is no market. To build them is a political decision and the UK government sets the market accordingly. Well, it tries to.

> So what? The U.S. has the one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, yet they barely do nuclear at all.

What does it have do with France what the US does?

> unless they're not in fact bankrupt

They are not bankrupt while they get more government money.

> Think of all the research you could fund with the money spent on that forced premature rollout of renewable energy in Germany.

There is lots of money spend on research in Germany ... nut now much more on renewable energy. The research was already instrumental to bring PV prices down and make the technology applicable on a large scale. The impact of that was far beyond Germany.

> Think of all the money that still needs to be spent to make it work.

Well invested.

>Think of what you actually achieved in terms of CO2 goals, so far. It's an absolute embarrassment.

It's not. The Energiewende is not about short-term CO2 reductions.

It's a broad long-term project to switch the energy landscape to renewable energy - starting with electricity, starting with getting rid of nuclear power. Coal is next. It has a five decade horizon.


> Mostly not.

Doesn't matter. Your claim, as written, was wrong.

> The reality shows the opposite. See the UK: nuclear power does not finance themselves by market mechanisms.

Again, I didn't say that it would. I said that anything that is economically sensible finances itself, pretty much by definition. I didn't say nuclear power is sensible and I didn't say that it finances itself.

> What does it have do with France what the US does?

If your explanation doesn't generalize to the US, then it is wrong. You might as well say France builds nuclear reactors because it is France. You only need a single reactor to build a nuclear arsenal, so having an interest in nuclear weapons is no explanation for why France (or any other country) would invest in building out lots of civil nuclear infrastructure.

> They are not bankrupt while they get more government money.

You are supporting my thesis. Go back and read it. It's about a private company, contrary to a state, being able to relieve itself of the bill. That's exactly what's happening here, whether Tepco is formally bankrupt or not.

> There is lots of money spend on research in Germany ...

Way to miss the point...

> The Energiewende is not about short-term CO2 reductions. It's a broad long-term project to switch the energy landscape to renewable energy.

What's the point of switching electricity to renewables if not CO2 reduction? There's enough coal for hundreds of years.

> Coal is next.

Good Luck with that.


Again, your „data“ consists solely of political aligned think-tanks.

Agora Energiewende is by no means a neutral organisation, with even proponents of green energy repeatedly criticizing agora for deliberately “making false assumptions out of unambiguous datasets”. [1]

[1] “Aus zum Teil eindeutigem Datenmaterial werden falsche und zudem nicht im Einklang mit bisherigen politischen Aussagen und Zusicherungen stehende Schlüsse gezogen.” https://senertec-center-nrw-sued.de/File/MR%207b_Stellungnah...


> Again, your „data“ consists solely of political aligned think-tanks

Instead of trying to understand what the study describes (which is not 'data') you attack their so-called 'political alignment'. Then you deflect it to a totally different topic.

> Agora Energiewende is by no means a neutral organisation.

There are no neutral organizations. The goal of the foundation is well documented.

https://www.agora-energiewende.de/en/about-us/agora-energiew...

> even proponents of green energy

B.KWK Bundesverband Kraft-Wärme-Kopplung e.V. are proponents of cogeneration - which is a technology independent of 'green energy' and widely used with fossil-fuel or nuclear power plants.

The Bundesverband KWK is lobbying about lots of money - often for gas-powered power plants - while there was pressure from the EU to reduce/remove the special treatment by the German government.


> There are no neutral organizations.

That's only fair to say, therefore you must not mind me quoting some facts highlighted by "the other side":

"From the viewpoint of security of supply, so far wind power in Germany has replaced conventional power plant output of no more than 150MW. For comparison: In terms of the stability of the electricity grid in Germany, a power plant capacity of about 77,000 to 82,000 MW is required at the time of the annual peak load, which can occur usually on a late afternoon on a day in the period from November to February and is not known in advance"

https://docs.wind-watch.org/VGB-Windstudie-2017-Teil-1-EN.pd...

Your source just doesn't really deal with base load at all, even though that's the giant pink cigar-smoking elephant in the room. It can't be taken serious. It's starting with a premise ("Energiewende" is necessary) and works its way backwards, carefully avoiding to deal with the real issues. It's implying significant technological breakthroughs coming out of left field. It's all supposed to happen with taxpayer/consumer money, thrown around like candy. There's profiteering everywhere, lots of PR and lobbying, lots of moral grandstanding. In that environment, I can almost guarantee you, the money will be in the wrong hands. It won't be there when the real opportunities appear.


> carefully avoiding to deal with the real issues

You can actually find zillions of studies/articles discussing this problem and proposing various scenarios.

Thanks for mentioning it, but that problem is well known and widely discussed.


Solar is not very volatile, it's basically a cos^2 around mid-day + local cloud cover changes. The biggest issue is actually a bad forecast for the peak output (essentially the "mist" forecast), as the differences spread over the whole day.


In Germany, solar output is much lower in winter months than in summer months. Unfortunately, energy consumption is higher in winter (and will likely increase as most homes are currently heated with fossil fuels and need to switch to electricity). In summer, there are days when renewables create over 100% of the consumed energy. But just a few days ago, they were at 7%. Without the use of fossil fuels, or a way to store energy produced in summer for consumption in winter, renewables can't come even close to the energy levels needed even for today's demand. And, as fossil fuels are replaced by electricity, it is expected that future demand will double or triple.


As I said somewhere else, wind energy output is much higher (on average) in winter. Also, no one in their right mind will currently switch to electric heating in Germany, why would they? There is natural gas (for now), maybe later on biogas and already now wood pellets for heating.


> Solar is not very volatile

Only if you disregard the fact that that the sun doesn't shine at night.


Volatility in the energy sector means how "forecastable" the source is. Solar at night is perfectly forecastable.


> Only if you disregard the fact that that the sun doesn't shine at night.

Only if you disregard the fact that 'solar' can mean one or both of photovoltaic cells and solar thermal (which peaks around sunset and carries on producing power into the late evening).


Side note: the author of said piece is a member of Germany‘s communist party’s think tank [1]. So I‘d take his data-collection with a grain of salt or two.

[1] https://www.rosalux.de/profil/es_detail/KWR6NOICIU/conrad-ku...


You're welcome to actually challenge his figures and the conclusions he draws from them, rather than just making a tawdry ad hominem.


So you suggest that I, by pointing out what the author in his pieces doesn't (!) – that he is politically heavily aligned on this issue – am making an fallacious argument?

Doesn't that count as ad hominem too?


Perhaps you would like every article he writes to be marked with an inverted red triangle?


Oh wow is that the famous american 'anything slightly left is communist'? Last time I checked he Rosa Luxembourg Foundation was affiliated with the leftist Party and not the DKP.


That you are deliberately picking a fringe party like DKP and not even mentioning Die Linke to which Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung belongs a bit odd to say the least.

As a German, I can assure you, when someone (outside of universities or leftist circles) talks here about the „Communist party“ no one thinks DKP or MLPD or whatever. They think die Linke.

Lest not for the fact that it is the direct descendant of Eastern Germany‘s communist ruling party.


I should have written 'The Leftist Party' or 'Die Linke' instead of 'the leftist party' because I was actually referring to the party and I'm sorry I got carried away with this cheap America slur.

As a German I can assure you that from within leftist circles no one would think of Die Linke as a communist party . They'd rather think of KPD but that party is not existing anymore so I went with the least fringe party that actually has some kind of consensus on communist ideas. Everyone I know who is affiliated to Die Linke is aiming for socialism and doesn't support any communist tendencies. From what I read and heard the same holds true for a majority of party members.

I know that parts of the general public don't recognize that or don't care, which is probably due to the usual disproportional media coverage for more extreme wings of less politically centered parties, but that doesn't change the real circumstances and I really don't get how the public opinion would be an argument against a factual statement.

I understand that your message wasn't supposed to be nuanced but just let me clarify it then, would you?


Well you aren't behind on the green power. As far as i have checked, in 2011 when the reactors were shut down, the plan was to get to 35% of renewable power by 2020, revised up to 40% somewhere around 2014 or 2015, and you got there in 2018. 50% was planned for 2030 already and is clearly going to happen way sooner than that.


I'm also german and I want to see a solution for the nuclear waste problem first, before we use nuclear power again. Until we have that solution I'm in favor of nuclear power only on the surface of the sun!


It's a political problem, not a technological problem. We have the ability to use waste to fuel fast-neutron reactors, which not only reduces the amount of waste but makes it less difficult to deal with. The problem is that one output of these reactors would be plutonium, and due to anti-proliferation treaties it opens up a political can of worms.


This solution has been tried for a long time and it didn't work either:

"In 2010 the International Panel on Fissile Materials said "After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled and efforts to commercialize them have been steadily cut back in most countries". In Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, breeder reactor development programs have been abandoned."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor#Discussion


I personally fail to see a solution to the coal waste problem. This gets swept under the rug most of the times, whereas nuclear waste is at least accounted for.

Nuclear waste, according to my understanding, is more of a political problem rather than a technical one. As was the closure of nuclear power plants in Germany.


What is the coal waste problem and how is this comparable to the problem of nuclear waste?

Nuclear waste is a technical problem, otherwise it would have been solved already. There are countries like France where they have 80% of their electricity generated by nuclear power and politics is absolutely pro-nuclear. Yet, they don't have a solution to the nuclear waste problem.


Why is there such a huge difference between France and Germany on this issue?


France and Germany have had very different energy strategies for ages.

Germany still has significant domestic coal reserves.

France pretty much ran out of coal decades ago and therefore invested heavily in nuclear technology and access to uranium ore (mostly in Africa), they are #2 in uranium consumption worldwide.


I suspect running out of coal nails it. Economics tends to drive politics.

There was also probably a little thing in France about being dependent on Germany.


Why is there such a big difference between California and Texas on the issue of immigration?


Stronger centralised power? More influential middle-of-the-spectrum political parties?


This isn't very ambitious. Ontario, which was pretty dependent on coal, managed to end it in less than a decade.

https://www.ontario.ca/page/end-coal


Indeed. And Germany blew one chance to substantially decrease fossil fuel usage: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/01/bi...:

2. It was Schröder who made the decision to take Germany off nuclear power and also to make the country energy-dependent on Russia:

As Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder was a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, which aims to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, thereby bypassing transit countries. The agreement to build the pipeline was signed two weeks before the German parliamentary election. On 24 October 2005, just a few weeks before Schröder stepped down as Chancellor, the German government guaranteed to cover 1 billion euros of the Nord Stream project cost, should Gazprom default on a loan…Soon after stepping down as chancellor, Schröder accepted Gazprom’s nomination for the post of the head of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest.

Russia now provides 35% of Germany’s oil imports and 39% of the natural gas imports.


Schröder and his government kick-started the German renewable energy sector. The nuclear exit was a long term plan that was eventually undone by Merkel, which slowed down Germany's progress in this regard. It's like the current coal exit: 20 years is enough time to replace coal with renewable energies. If, however, the next government decides to rely on coal for many more years and then hastily ditches it from one day to the next, the alternatives won't be environmental friendly either.

That said, the percentage that nuclear energy contributed to Germany's electricity production has been completely replaced by renewable energies. Gas plays a negligible role there, although it's usage has been growing slightly over the past 20 years.

Lastly, people who claim that Germany relies too much on Russian oil and gas imports like to ignore just how much the Russian economy relies on oil and gas exports.


You have to understand where Germany is at. They have probably the most precarious energy situation of any industrialized nation in the world. No oil or gas deposits of any note, almost entirely landlocked so there's no possibility of offshore drilling or tidal energy, no geothermal, no hydro, terrible solar efficiency, and almost non-existent wind. After coal they are basically left with Russian gas and domestic nuclear, neither of which are extremely appetizing in the long term. It's honestly mindblowing that they are even close to leading the pack here, and I applaud the German people for that. It's not even a close comparison to Canada's unlimited reserves of LNG, hydro power, geothermal, and wind.


> alsmot entirely landlocked so there's no possibility of offshor or tidal energy, no geothermal, terrible solar efficiency, almost non-existent wind

Electricity production share of those in Germany: 35%. Consumption share: 38%.

https://www.bayerische-staatszeitung.de/staatszeitung/wirtsc...


>Electricity production share of those in Germany: 35%. Consumption share: 38%.

In certain areas during peak generation times, sure. But overall, renewables like wind and solar are simply not viable as a complete replacement to fossil fuels (in Germany at least) until storage of excess capacity has been solved. Until then, Germans will be burning coal or Russian gas all winter long.

[0] https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601514/germany-runs-up-ag...


> In certain areas at peak generation times, sure

These numbers are the average share for the whole year 2018 for all of Germany.

> But overall these technologies are simply not viable as a complete replacement to fossil fuels

That's not a goal. A communicated goal is to increase the share of renewable electricity to around 85% by 2050.


>These numbers are the average share for the whole year 2018 for all of Germany.

But the source of energy consumed doesn't matter if greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. This chart tells the whole story [0]. German renewables really started kicking off around 2009, and yet emissions haven't budged since then. They actually ticked up for a few years in the mid 2010s. It's pretty clear that simply installing excess capacity is not the way forward when that infrastructure sits wasted 95% of the time.

[0] https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/g...


> But the source of energy consumed doesn't matter if greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.

Note that your chart shows greenhouse gas emissions not only for electricity production - which was the topic we are discussing here.

They are not rising, which can easily be seen from the chart you have linked. The problem is that they were not falling as planned.

For 2018 it is projected to be 854. 6% less than 2017.

https://www.klimareporter.de/deutschland/co2-emissionen-fall...

> They actually ticked up for a few years in the mid 2010s.

That was when industry production recovered after the economic crisis. You can see that in the chart: manufacturing/construction in 2009 was at 109, in 2010 it was at 125.

The longer trend is year over year changed by the amount of economic activity, climate in that year, amount of new renewable put online, etc etc.


Yes, so if we can do it, other places should be able to do it easily. The USA or Canada have far more coasts than Germany, the USA has far more sun, and both have far more area to put solar collectors at.


I think it is pretty unreasonable to compare Ontario's coal industry to Germany's. [0] Ontario went from about 20% coal based electricity, whereas as recently as 2013 Germany relied on coal for nearly half of all of its electric power.

Furthermore, Ontario's economy has been effectively stagnant over that period, and the cost of energy clearly played some role in that.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagger_288 (though German-extracted coal is largely too expensive to bother with now)


I would like to know how many dollars a month people in Ontario pay for electricity before they even use a single kWh. When I lived there the network connection fees, debt retirement charges, etc were way more than the tiny amount of energy I was using. I am sure it has got worse now given the 'hourly Ontario energy price' has not gone up but they are paying renewables 800 $/MWH and they need to hide that in some uplift charge or other.


Seems like an unfair comparison, given how much of a massive industrial powerhouse Germany is.


At a pretty ridiculous cost all things considered.


I loosely followed the work of the "Kohlekommission" (i.e. the panel that was responsible for negotiating the exit plan) through various German news outlets.

The strategy agreed upon today was a revision of an earlier plan that would have cost a "mere" 5bn euro. This deal was however opposed by the individual federal states of Germany, which demanded 60bn – just to put the final 40bn in perspective.

40bn is still a huge sum of money (about 1/3 Jeff Bezos, for scale), but as a German voter and tax payer I have to say that I am entirely fine with this. Germany is a very prosperous country, and we have to get away from coal, the sooner the better. True, it probably could have been done with less money, but to me 40bn is still a favorable deal over no deal at all.


Every year you wait, the more expensive it becomes to do stuff like this. Solving hard problems is usually unpopular.


> Every year you wait, the more expensive it becomes to do stuff like this.

It seems like the opposite is true: Every year you wait, the upfront and recurring costs drop.

Unless you have a serious near-term problem arising from the status quo (e.g. stagnant air filled with coal exhaust), and that problem can be solved altogether at a tolerable cost, there is no advantage to moving first or early.


Not necessarily, if during the time you wait the energy companies build more coal power stations. Which they planned to do, despite it being obvious how bad at an idea that was.

Happened over the last years often in cooperation with cities, which now have the problem of being stuck with polluting coal power stations that are not even profitable anymore. Contracts are often laid out in a manner that the cities have to shoulder the load. My sympathy is limited, they could have listened to the advocates of green energy who predicted that.

Anyway, deconstructing those new coal power stations and trying to help the affected cities and regions would raise the price of moving to green energy later. I'm not sure that would be completely offset by the lower prices and technological improvements one can expect to see each year.


Not long ago there was an interesting article on research that showed that if we simply replaced fossil fuel infrastructure with clean alternatives as the former reaches end of life, that would be enough to hold warming to under 1.5 C.

No need to force early retirement of fossil fuel infrastructure. If you've already got a coal plant, a gasoline car, etc., it's OK to keep using it, as long as we can commit to your and everyone else's future plants, future cars, etc., being clean.

That's assuming we start this immediately. If we don't get this going until 2030 the "replace at end of life" approach, applied everywhere, should keep us to 2 C warming.

Here's the article, which includes a link to the research paper which is open access [1].

[1] https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/01/how-much-will-curren...


> Not long ago there was an interesting article on research that showed that if we simply replaced fossil fuel infrastructure with clean alternatives as the former reaches end of life, that would be enough to hold warming to under 1.5 C. >No need to force early retirement of fossil fuel infrastructure. If you've already got a coal plant, a gasoline car, etc., it's OK to keep using it, as long as we can commit to your and everyone else's future plants, future cars, etc., being clean.

That is a gross misrepresentation of said research.

The idea was that yeah, if in theory you don't add any new fossil generation then it might work out.

Yet think for a moment what that would mean. Stopping all car production today, no new gas/oil wells, no new steel mills and cement factories (technologies where clean alternatives don't practically exist at scale). Stopping any kind of fossil fuel plant construction even in developing countries. All of that now.

This isn't a plan that is realistically feasible to implement (even though it would probably be the right thing to do).

So yeah, it totally makes sense to shut down existing particularly dirty fossil fuel plants, because it's not particularly realistic to completely stop the production of new fossil fuel infrastructure immediately.


Does that included replacing all end of life vehicles with electrical alternatives? If that's the case, this seems difficult to achieve without a war-time-like mobilization to build electric vehicles and charging infrastructure (which actually sounds like a pretty good plan, though politically tough)


The war on pollution.... good idea.


this is good news! In the electric sector, this is basically already the status quo - new solar and wind is so cheap compared to everything else.


For those who are looking for a reason to care, this stuff does matter. For example, the reason it's unsafe to have sushi twice a week is from mercury, which comes from coal-burning.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_in_fish#Origins_of_mer...


>The total amount of mercury released by mankind in 2010 was estimated to be 1,960 metric tons.

When I was in high school, there were of course multiple classrooms, and there was a relatively new chemistry lab. One of the other classrooms was in fact the old chemistry lab room, with a monolithic row of water taps and sinks along the middle of the room splitting the room in two, with school benches on the left and right of the sinks.

We had mathematics, biology and technical education in this room. Under the sinks were cabinets with wooden sliding doors, some of them were left open, others closed... One day something in the cabinets catches my attention: a brilliant reflecting puddle, with characteristic contact angle, so I realize I am seeing a puddle of mercury. About 15cl. I interrupt the class to point this out to the math teacher, who comes to check, and realizes I am right. We discuss how it ended up there, and we conclude it must have been there for many years, back when this was still the chemistry lab, and that someone wanted to get rid of the mercury and tried to drain it in the sink. The mercury being heavier than water probably refused to flush through the siphon ( U shape ) right above the puddle and over time leaked out somehow. The teacher was quite pissed he had been giving so many hours of class in this room, and didn't really feel like finishing class so we all just sat there bummed out... this was about year 2000.

About 3 years ago, I had a long fluorescent lamp in a rented house die, I knew there was mercury inside and that the shops that sells lamps are obliged to take these from the customer, so I very carefully take out the lamp from its housing, carry it carefully to the nearby hardware store, and give it to an employee at the check-out before shopping, I emphasize that they should handle the lamp carefully. I go buy a LED lamp in the same form factor, and when I check out to pay, the cashier tells me the lamp broke accidentally. I tell her that's not good, she says she knows, I ask how often these fluorescent tubes break in the shop, she says all the time, I ask how often is that: multiple times per day!


If not being able to eat sushi (with dead fish) more than twice a week is the only 'good' reason to care for adoption of sustainable energy production thats exactly explaining why humanities' future looks really bad :D


This is something I wasn't aware of. I would question whether this in and of itself would change any bodies mind, considering all the other well publicised reasons to care.


Coal is a relative small contaminant. Check the documentary Salmon Confidencial and you’ll find that farmed Salmon is contaminated by the food provided: contamined eels from the Baltic Sea. Even the cod has started to suffer genetic mutations. The Baltic borders 4 countries, the water takes 30 year to fully renew and it was contaminated by Chernobyl disaster. Not to mention the amount of antibiotic that can produce new resistance bacteria’s that might kill you. We’re reaching the point where aquaculture will the safe method to consume fish.


The Baltic sea is polluted due to factories on the coasts. Well-known fact.


And chemical weapons dumps after WWII


>For example, the reason it's unsafe to have sushi twice a week

This is misleading. It totally depends on what kind of sushi you have. Tuna rolls are probably the most mercury dense and you'd need to eat a lot of them to eat the equivalent of one tuna sandwich.

For people not eating shark and swordfish the primary risk is albacore tuna and even then the standard deviation is very high (mostly having to do with where the fish was caught).

Basically don't eat tons of "high up in the food chain" seafood while pregnant and nothing bad will happen.

From a risk management perspective it's better to make sure you have working smoke detectors in your house and fire extinguishers scattered throughout your property before than to worry about mercury in seafood.


It's absurd that such an economic powerhouse still relies on coal so much. If Germany, with all its wealth, is still dragging coal power out to 2038, how are we supposed to expect timely movement from poorer countries?


What I find even more absurd is the United States, despite producing a huge amount of natural gas, consumes more coal per-capita than Germany.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/604946/per-capita-coal-c...

Edit: sorry that link got pay walled. Try this one.

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/coal-consumption-per-capi...

This is 2015 data - and the US has narrowed the gap since.


Coal [electricity] in the US is down to 60% of what it was ten years ago. Since the second half of 2015, the US has been generating more electricity with natural gas than with coal. The current difference between them is larger than the entirety of US solar production.

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.ph...


Coal isn't just used for electricity generation.

If you look at the 2017 BP energy report numbers the US is still about 20% above Germany in coal consumption per capita. (Not sure when 2018 numbers come out.)

I'm glad to see the US is reducing emissions. However ideally it wouldn't be due to swapping one fossil fuel for another. Makes you wonder what will happen if the prices of coal/gas flip again.


The US is adding a lot of solar generation - in just the last two years our solar electricity generation increased by more than the total solar output of Germany.


And what's up with Japan's steadily rising use of coal energy?

They are still a top 5 world economy.


The usual answer is "because Fukushima shut down the nuclear industry, duh". But this is obviously wrong as when looking at the data. Much of the increase was between 2000-2010.

I wonder if it's due to the monopoly structures of the energy business shielding them from the changes that the rest of the world has been seeing. I wonder how much of the coal is used for electricity vs steel making etc.

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/coal-consumption-per-capi...


The good news is that coal is now more expensive than gas, and even more the solar and wind in high insolation/windy areas. Unfortunately, since coal is no longer competitive, the Trump administration has been talking about subsidizing it.


There are two reasons that are particular to Germany here. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, there were heavy protests in Germany that made the country shut down all its nuclear power plants permanently, which was more than a dozen plants. This means that a "bridge" technology needed to be found until the entire economy could be made to use renewables at some point in the future, and coal was readily available. Secondly, coal has a relatively good image among Germany's working class. Coal mines used to offer employment to lots of otherwise underprivileged Germans, especially in the Ruhr region of Western Germany, and coal mining continues to this day.

Of course, things are changing in Germany. In the last year, there were week-long left-wing protests against clearing an old-growth forest for coal mining, which brought attention to the issue and might trigger some change. However, Greenpeace Germany's suggestion to shut off coal and switch to burning natural gas instead is met with some resistance across the political spectrum, given that Germany cannot procure gas from anywhere but Russia, and EU-Russian relationships are somewhat cool recently.

We'll see where we end up, I guess. In any case, Germany is still a much greener country than e.g. the United States, who recently stopped promoting climate protection policies altogether. Until we have convinced the United States that they need to protect the environment, there is scarce leverage (and scarce reason) to persuade the developing countries.


> Germany cannot procure gas from anywhere but Russia

"In 2015, 35 percent of gas imports came from Russia, 34 percent from Norway and 29 percent from the Netherlands."

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-dependen...

The Netherlands imports are in rapid decline. So shares from Norway and Russia will be increasing.

> In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, there were heavy protests in Germany that made the country shut down all its nuclear power plants permanently

In 2000 Germany agreed to phase out nuclear power over ~20 years. A few months before the tsunami at Fukushima, Merkel's government extended these deadlines by ~10 years, but did not cancel phase-out. The public opinion due to the events at Fukushima caused the government to move things back to a similar timeline to the original phase out. However a number of plants were shut immediately.

There's a good timeline here if you're curious to learn more:

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/very-brief-timeli...

Edit: The bit in the timeline where is says Merkel cancelled the phase out is misleading. Here's a better article if you want to understand what happened in 2010:

"Merkel stated numbers for the planned extension of the lifespan of nuclear plants in Germany. "Technically, 10 to 15 years are reasonable," she said in an interview with public television station ARD. Instead of phasing out all nuclear plants by 2022 as established in current law, the plants would remain online at least until 2032 and possibly until 2037."

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/slowing-the-phas...


Germany has been exceptionally anti-nuclear for decades. The Fukushima disaster had a big impact, but there was already an anti-nuclear movement before that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-nuclear_movement_in_Germa...


Were there really heavy protests in Germany after Fukushima? It happened a few days before state elections in Baden Wuerttemberg, so Merkel cynically said her party is now against nuclear power, to try to save its chances in that election (and it didn't work, the Greens won a lot).


> Merkel cynically said her party is now against nuclear power

There is nothing cynical about it (except your judgment of it). She admits to following opinion polls on important issues like this. In the days after Fukushima, the opinion polls regarding nuclear power moved from 50:50 to a majority in favor of ending nuclear power.

Same thing with gay marriage: As soon as she saw support for it growing far enough that it could threaten her party's position in the federal elections, she changed her stance from "never" to "let the representatives decide", leading to a nonpartisan bill passing the parliament with overwhelming majority.

Same thing with "Wir schaffen das": Her actions regarding the 2015 refugee influx were (at least partially) motivated by stronger-than-expected support for refugee-friendly policies in the population.

Say what you want about Merkel, but there is an argument to be made that by closely monitoring opinion polls, her government is more democratic than otherwise. (There are obvious flaws in this argument, which is why I don't endorse it.)


I'm not an expert in politics and governing, but that seems like a horrible way to run a democracy: with zero conviction of what is just (e.g. for the gays) but only with your ear to "what is popular"? There's even a term for it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority

I've always thought her motivation in 2015 was because she didn't want to be seen in history as a monster, I didn't know about the poll numbers. But what if the majority said "Refugees stay out!"? If I were a political leader, I would still let them in and try to appeal to my population about being humane, if I just looked at the poll numbers and they say "close the borders" and I just followed that, I would not be able to sleep at night.

I've read an article that asked what she has accomplished for the nation, and the author concluded her only mission is political survival.


> If I were a political leader, I would still let them in and try to appeal to my population about being humane

My cynical side says that's why you're not a political leader.


The state elections absolutely played a part in it, but there were indeed heavy protests too. See for example (article in German): https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article12970772/Hund...


> and coal mining continues to this day.

Actually they just closed the very last mine - http://time.com/longform/germany-coal-mine/

>Coal was once the lifeblood of Germany’s economy, providing energy, jobs and a way of life for hundreds of thousands of people. But on Dec. 21, that era — which began during the industrial revolution and peaked in the 1950s — officially comes to an end, as the country’s last black coal mine is sealed up for good.


That's just black coal. There is still open pit mining of lignite, which is even worse.


Closed the very last __hard coal__ mine.

Unfortunately lignite (brown coal) mining continues.


Coal is available. There are coal deposits in Germany.

We don't have much else in terms of natural resources. So while coal absolutely must be phased out, it's surely not "absurd" that Germany historically relied on coal.


The specific end date isn’t really a meaningful measure, except for symbolic purposes. It’s area-under-curve that matters, or, inversely, how much is being left in the ground.


Getting the big power plant and mine operators to agree to a 2038 deadline is meaningful. They were involved in the process for coming up with the phase-out path.

I can't imagine Peabody or Koch signing off on a 2038 deadline in the US.


They don't need to sign off on a deadline in the US, it has been and will go away regardless. That's obviously due to the US having enormous reserves of cheap natural gas. You effectively have one big energy segment happy to squeeze another to death. Coal use will get more and more expensive in the US as its decline reaches a cost inflection point in the near future, if we're not already there now. Every aspect of coal electricity generation gets more expensive as it loses economies of scale. By 2038 natural gas + wind + solar will push coal to well below 10% in the US, without any additional government intervention. If the Feds apply pressure, it'll go that much faster / lower.


Doesn't burning natural gas produce just as much CO2 as coal?


No, to create the same amount of thermal energy, burning gas produces about 30% less CO2. The main reason is, that coal is pretty much pure carbon while gas is mostly CH4, so you are burning carbon and hydrogene. That is also the reason, hydrogene is mostly produced by splitting natural gas and producing CO2 along.


No. It can be about half as much CO2 for the same power output due to natural gas plants also being more efficient.

...this is somewhat counter-acted by accidental leakage of methane (itself a potent greenhouse gas), but not entirely.


Oh, that's good to know, thanks.


It's a measurable target. That's more than words.

And 2038 isn't that far out in the future.


Any target that exceeds a term of government needs to be viewed with suspicion. This smells like kicking the can down the road to where it's no longer Angela's problem.


The phase-out plan was designed and signed off by a committee which involves unions, environmental organisations, and power/mining companies. Future governments can use this fact to hold the power companies to account.


Unless the future gov't is run by someone like Trump.


You haven't seen the union workers on friday protesting for a sensible transition. These aren't men that doubt climate change, these are men fearing about their job. If you have a house and a family to care for, change within 5 years can lead to huge political backlashes (in local elections).

Also, this was the coal commission suggesting a strategy, not the government (with plenty of old ministers though). What the government is doing with this now, we'll see


>It would come at a heavy price to taxpayers, who would provide the 40 billion euros earmarked for investment in regions hardest hit by job losses over the next two decades, along with other costs that include compensation in amounts yet to be determined for power companies taking coal plants offline early.

2 billion a year seems extremely cheap for a measure of these proportions, especially since part of that money goes into creating new jobs in the affected regions.


The number is really what this costs politically, I. e. to buy acceptance from the relevant regions with large lignite industries. In economic terms, it’s extremely hard to come up with any number, or even to agree on what should be included in the calculation.

Since wind power will be playing a large part in the transition, and that’s investment that mostly stays in the country, one could reasonably say the whole project is net positive anyway. It obviously is if you factor in climate change and particle emissions, because otherwise it wouldn’t be done.

The 2 billion / year perfectly align with existing efforts to reduce regional inequality, considering we’re mostly talking about rural areas in the east here. To the degree that they reduce other federal transfer programs, such as unemployment benefits or health care, the net difference is liable to be smaller anyway.


Some personal notes: I am working right next to the ministry of economics in Berlin and watched the different protesters that held their rallies yesterday.

First between around 8 and 10 am maybe 100 mostly men between 30 and 60 years with labeling from the union of mining, chemistry and energy industries protested for a sensible transition that helps the affected regions and especially people living their. They seemed to be good and hard working men that have to care for their families and all, all freezing in the cold (and coming into our hospital building to warm up). Note that this is a very important issue from a political view as well since this year there are regional elections in Brandenburg and Saxony and right wing (pro coal) forces are set to get more than 30% of votes, even more with a hardly acceptable plan for these regions.

Than around 11 the situation changed when the school students appeared (picture 2 in the article). It was absolutely fascinating as I would guess around 2 to 3k children between 12 and 18 came (sure they hadn't to go/weren't to school but again it was cold and these kids held out for 4 hours+ in freezing temperatures) with barely any adults, chanting here and there but mostly just holding up their, in a way very obviously self-made, signs and waiting (they later marched to the chancellors palace, though). Not one of these rallies were various known parties hold up their sign to somehow also promote their agenda, just kids fighting for a better planet/future. It somehow was very impressive.


Does that mean goods produced by coal on the other side of the border are still okay to be imported? (pointing finger at Poland, or even China)


Why do you feel the need to phrase your talking point in the form of a thinly veiled rhetorical question?

In any case: yes, obviously. Although Germany works both within the EU and the UN climate process to find collective solutions allowing other nations to also reduce emissions. China is actually becoming a positive example these days, installing vast amounts of renewable energy.

Phasing out coal in Germany obviously makes for a good argument in such talks. But even if it doesn’t, not burning coal and buying from China is still strictly better than burning coal and buying from China.

It’s sort of like smoking and getting regular exercise is better than just smoking.


Does it though? If Germany's policies hurt the economy, at a time when the cost of energy goes up, it may threaten the plans. The last thing a costly reform needs is less money to spend.

Ignoring possible second order effects is a dangerous course of action. The nuclear shutdown in Germany was so bad not just for emissions (which have gotten worse) but also, as the Marginal Revolution article above points out, geopolitically as well. One decision can have a multitude of flow on bad effects.

The important part to remember is that the goal is not clean energy. The goal is for humanity to continue to exist and, if possible, to prosper. That is why climate change is awful, as it threatens our species. Not the planet. The planet will be fine. It is our species that is at risk.

Decisions made for vague, second effect ignoring reasons are worrying, especially when there are known second order effect consequences.


From my point of view, this is only about the general electricity generation. I mean, a lot of people are still using lignite to warm their house in the winter and knowing the lifetime of personal homes in Europe, we cannot really expect that to end in the next 50 years (though not for newly build ones though).


Less than 1% of German homes are using coal for heating.

https://www.deutsche-handwerks-zeitung.de/so-heizt-deutschla...


For the primary source of general heating yes. As a secondary to heat the living room oven, I highly doubt that, too many relatives that I just bought lignite with last autumn. Could be more prominent in eastern Germany though.


There isn't much coal used - you will have a hard time finding a coal supply in many cities. Some regions in eastern Germany and in the Rhine/Ruhr region...

Since coal mines are being closed, the miners will not get any more coal (as part of their salary) and thus they are looking for alternatives:

https://www.gelsenwasser.de/unternehmen/presse/pressearchiv/...


I've never seen a coal oven in a home. All those "Kachelöfen" and "Kamine" are being fed wood, in several forms.


Subsidies for modernizing homes exist for a long time in Germany: Tax credits, super cheap loans (0.75% p.a.), financial aid (not having to pay back up to 30kEUR)...

Among the supported measures is: modernizing heating systems.


What will they do with Bagger 288?


Yes! It's powered by pure hatred, what will they do with their surplus pure hatred?


So coal will outlast nuclear by ~15 years...


So? Neither the US, nor China have plans of ending any of them.


The US, unlike Germany and China (which is still aggressively expanding its coal use), hasn't needed such a plan to end coal.

With existing environmental restrictions and costs on coal, we've already seen a massive reduction in coal use in the US over the last ~11 years. That persistent decline continues under a supposedly coal-friendly administration. What does it mean? Nobody can stop what's happening as things are now (it would take a law requiring coal to be a minimum share of the generation base). The natural gas industry is thrilled to kill off coal and take their business. The natural gas business is far stronger than coal is now and that imbalance will get a lot worse over the next decade (especially as it's a rider on the shale oil boom).


Yeah I don't fully buy that either. The US move to natural gas is mostly due to luck in the discovery of cheap gas. The negative externalities on coal are still not nearly being taxed hard enough. I just find it absurd that Germany outlawed its primary source of carbon-neutral electricity quickly but is dawdling on coal.


We needed to quit coal in 2008... not 2038.. we're doomed.

Time to start buying up as much water as possible.

Bet on human stupidity.. you'll never go broke!


Too little, too late, sadly.


> ...compensation in amounts yet to be determined for power companies taking coal plants offline early.

This line struck me.. Germany have been build coal plants in the past decade as they were phasing out nuclear. And now they are planning to take them offline by 2038.

Respect!


"Germany have been build coal plants in the past decade as they were phasing out nuclear."

Note that no coal plants have started construction since the events at Fukushima. (But perhaps you're referring to the original phase-out agreement from 2000.)

> After 2011, when Germany decided once and for all to phase out nuclear power, a total of 6.7 GW came into service while coal plants with a capacity of some 3.8 GW were retired. Since planning and construction of a coal-fired power station takes at least three years, capacity added after 2011 had been planned before the accident in Fukushima, Japan – the event that led to Germany’s final nuclear phase-out policy.

> As of 2017, no new lignite-powered stations are planned, according to the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). The possibly last new hard coal unit ever built in Germany is envisaged to come online in 2018: Uniper’s Datteln 4, with a capacity of 1,055 MW, after years of legal struggle with local environmental organisations.

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/coal-germany


I thought we only had 12 years


2038? Does this have to do with Epoch time ending somehow?


Yeah, coal-powered computers can only handle 32-bit integers ;)


In 2038, the coal company clocks roll back to 1901, when all was good in the world for them.


...to 1970...


No, it rolls over to 1901. time_t is a signed value, and 2038 is when it rolls over from 2³¹ - 1 to -2³¹. That would be 2 billion seconds before 1970, or 1901.


... which was a very great year for lignite mining: https://www.oeko.de/fileadmin/oekodoc/BET2017-Hermann-Oeko-I...


If our Unix forefathers had the foresight to make time_t unsigned, then we wouldn't have to worry about this problem until after 2100.


I would guess, when originally suggested, it was $current_year + 2 decades.


I wonder if Germany will have any industry left in 50 years.

The German Green Party (projected to get 20% in the next election) leader recently told in an interview that excessive electric energy can be stored in the networks[1].

[1] https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/kandidatin-fuer-den-parteivor...

Edit: Concerning the interpretation of storing in the network as averaging over a huge area. I read this as: in case of need we can import nuclear power from France or coal generated electricity from Poland. On a local level the Green Party is a big player in avoiding the necessary building of network capacity.

Edit 2: Concerning de-industrialization. Do my downvoters really think that energy heavy industries can be run on wind and solar with current technologies?


You’re obviously trolling, but to explain it to those possibly baffled by your professed ignorance: a large grid is indeed a commonly-accepted mechanism to store local maxima of wind or solar production. As you connect more regions, father apart, simple statistics lead to averaging out of individual spikes.


Actually, it's not just a matter of averages, but also of availability of actual storage capacity as well as other loads that can adapt to availability. Mind you that you can store energy in more forms than what can easily be converted back into electricity. Cooled warehouses, to take a random example, in many cases can cool down a few degrees further than required when there is plenty of energy available, and then avoid using electricity during peak load times. If you can use all the warehouses on the continent to drop some load off the network when production drops unexpectedly in some region, that makes things much more stable than if you only have the capacities within one country at your disposal.


On this same topic, of course the big issue with wind and solar is that they don't generate if it is not sunny or windy. This means we still need base power generation with fossil fuels or fission. However, wind is stochastic enough that on a large grid, around 1/6 of its maximum capacity can be counted as base power.


With a sufficiently large grid, it's always windy somewhere.

Solar-thermal plants can produce electricity over night. We could for example build a bunch of solar thermal in the Sahara and connect Europe via HVDC lines.


Solar thermal is still several times more expensive that PVs, and I'd kind of have trouble seeing how that could come down massively in the same way that PV price has.


How much more expensive that PV+equivalent storage is it?


I suppose it depends on the storage. The first full-scale CSP in the US is Crescent Dunes in Nevada, but it cost $975 million and has a rated capacity of only 175 MW. At this point, I wonder if it would make more sense to just use PV with molten salt as storage heated with resistive heating.


Nope, you need peaking not base load power.

Base load refers to lowest cost per kWh sources that fail to meet the demand curve. That actually describes wind and solar very well.

PS: Wind + coal don’t work well together. You end up turning off the coal plant fairly frequently which is bad for the systems and eases cost per kWh.


Hard coal plants do a lot of load following in Germany, especially when it's windy.

For example the black in these charts is hard coal and the green is wind.

https://www.energy-charts.de/power_de.htm?source=all-sources...


Guess I got my terminology wrong, but I meant sort of base steady power capacity in the way that fossil fuel plants are. Yeah, I know coal doesn't spin up and down well, but gas does.


I don't know where you are going with this or how the first sentence is connected to the second paragraph at all. Care to elaborate?


I think they're suggesting that the Green Party doesn't know how electricity networks work, ergo aren't likely to be very good stewards of industry.


> I read this as: in case of need we can import nuclear power from France or coal generated electricity from Poland.

I live in North Germany and read it as this: we will build large grids across the North Sea to share offshore and onshore electricity and connect it via HVDC lines to Hydro storage in Norway and other upcoming forms of storage (like Power to gas systems...).


Well, shutting down the heavy industry certainly is a way to reduce energy consumption. And I guess this is even a preferred way for local politicians, even though this industry is surely running elsewhere afterwards...




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