Carbon emissions from German power consumption to drop in 2014
You heard it here first, because the forecast is mine – CO2 emissions from German power consumption are likely to decline this year for a number of reasons. But the coal phaseout is unlikely to begin before 2022.
The best forecasts are those that merely describe what is happening today. Several current events described below indicate that carbon emissions from German power consumption will go down, albeit slightly, in 2014.
- Wind and PV installations continue to roar on. Installations of new wind turbines have returned to levels not seen for the past decade (2.5 GW), and although the German solar sector continues to complain about slower growth, the sector continues to install hundreds of MW per month (219 in November after 435 in October), so the country is likely to come in within its target range of 2.5-3.5 GW in 2014. The government, however, seems anxious to slow down wind power, and feed-in tariffs for PV continue to drop each month, which may slow down growth even further. Nonetheless, 4 GW of PV + wind collectively should be attainable as a low estimate, equivalent to more than 10 percent growth in installed wind + PV capacity.
- The weather will probably improve. 2013 was a particularly bad year both for wind and PV, each of which just barely managed to grow in terms of kilowatt-hours despite the clear growth in terms of kilowatts. A return to more average weather conditions would increase power production considerably. Therefore, we should have quite a bit more electricity from wind and solar.
- In 2014, the growth of wind and solar will increasingly offset power from coal. Up to now, renewable electricity has largely offset power from natural gas turbines in accordance with the merit order in Germany, but peak solar and wind power production is starting to dip even deeper into coal power production.
- No nuclear plant will be phased out this year. Coal power consumption will therefore be squeezed out temporarily – in 2015, the Grafenrheinfeld nuclear plant with a capacity of around 1,345 MW is scheduled to be taken offline for good.
The main caveat to this list is that coal power production may nonetheless remain stable or even rise slightly despite the lower demand for it in Germany because Germany’s neighbors are increasingly buying inexpensive coal power from Germany (a situation I described here). In other words, carbon emissions from the German power sector might increase because of consumption in the Netherlands, France, etc.
More importantly, a minor dip in carbon emissions in a particular year is less crucial than the overall trend. Don’t expect carbon emissions from the German power sector to go down dramatically until Germany starts a phaseout of coal power, which Industry Minister Gabriel says cannot happen at the same time as the nuclear phaseout – which ends in 2022.
Finally, we need to stop focusing solely on the power sector and start addressing oil consumption. The power sector only makes up around the fifth of German energy consumption, and oil is the main source of energy for heat and transport – which make up around 80 percent of total energy supply. (Craig Morris)