Font size
4 Vote(s) Rating
Carbon emissions

Did CO2 emissions from German power sector drop in 2013?

Power production from brown coal and hard coal rose last year, But consumption of brown coal was actually down – more power was made from less coal. Throw in the steep drop in natural gas consumption for power production, and it begins to look like carbon emissions from the power sector might be down. Since we, strangely, don't have any official estimates yet, our Thomas Gerke investigated further.

Yesterday, we discussed the difference between primary and final energy – between lumps of coal and power from those lumps. The news this month has mainly revolved around the uptick in German coal power in 2013, with the assumption being that carbon emissions therefore must have also risen.

The problem is that the slew of reports this month about the official figures from the AGEB are still based on the statistics published in mid-December. Apparently, the journalists had one eye on their Christmas vacation when the organization presented its statistics in the week before the holidays, and now that they are back to work, the "news" is being presented as a recent finding. But a source with contacts to the AGEB confirms that, indeed, the organization has not released any information since its press release three weeks ago – the one we reported on at the time.

Unfortunately, the AGEB does not provide any estimates for carbon emissions from the power sector in its report, merely indicating that overall carbon emissions from energy consumption (not just power) are probably up, but mainly due to the long heating season.

My colleague Thomas Gerke looked into the matter further. First, the official figures for primary energy consumption:

Thomas Gerke

From this data, Gerke calculated CO2 emissions:

Thomas Gerke

Note that we are talking not about percentages in the second chart, but millions of tons of CO2 emissions. More electricity from brown coal was produced last year, but less brown coal was consumed in the process to make that electricity, so carbon emissions from brown coal consumption should be down, not up. Likewise, consumption of natural gas in the power sector was also down, as was also the case for oil, which is marginal in the power sector anyway. The only primary energy source whose consumption increased was hard coal.

According to Gerke’s calculation, CO2 emissions from the power sector are likely to be down ever so slightly by 1.0 million tons. Given that the power sector was estimated to have emitted 317 million tons last year, this decrease is a mere 0.3 percent – but, if it is confirmed, it is a breach with the narrative that Germany's energy transition is raising carbon emissions.

Keep in mind, as the following chart shows, that renewable power would be offsetting more coal power were it not for Germany's neighbors (primarily the Netherlands and France), who have made the Germans the biggest power exporters on the continent. If Germany were an island, this coal would not have been consumed.

Thoms Gerke

No one else has yet calculated such an outcome. Even Berlin-based think tank Agora Energiewende estimated a few days after publication of the AGEB's preliminary figures for 2013 that CO2 emissions from power production rose by around two tons (see slide 14 in German). As Gerke put it when submitting his chart, "We might fail epically with this calculation."

Or we might be right. And anyway, Thomas and I are just a couple of guys reverse-calculating carbon emissions based on the German Environmental Agency's method described in this PDF. It's really up to the AGEB to publish the official estimate. One wonders why they have not gotten around to it – perhaps they were as surprised at the findings as we are and need some time to recalculate emissions from primary energy consumption rather than final energy consumption. (Craig Morris)

Is this article helpful for you?

15 Comments on "Did CO2 emissions from German power sector drop in 2013? "

  1. sadik saliu - 02.02.2015, 19:35 Uhr (Report comment)

    To make a power Flames possess a great energy in electricity use to gain power And at the same time the smoke cleared Not there is of similar, with any other system. Let me start introducing, wonderful innovation for the benefit of world How many years have passed so far, through refineries that it exists: flame, without the used? How is it possible to make electricity? Free without investment? He who asks questions: is intelligent?

  2. sadik saliu - 10.12.2014, 18:35 Uhr (Report comment)

    You do not worry about the climate, because the possibility exists, how it is done "cleared of smoke" Who asks questions? has more knowledge.........

  3. sadik saliu - 08.12.2014, 22:02 Uhr (Report comment)

    Carbon emissions from electricity exports are a concern. but you think it's just "carbon-dumping"? Since coal power plants more damage to the environment. Is a method for cleaning the smoke, but have to Macedonia for the certified, to pick up to learn For a clean environment is necessary: provided that toxic gases and smoke with existing air to be divided, and so the smoke cleared. Why do you think you can not catch and clean smoke? You are welcome to come to Macedonia. .to Make something new, people need cooperation. I speak only practical argument

  4. sadik saliu - 07.12.2014, 22:07 Uhr (Report comment)

    where is the problem? I am an expert in technology smoke .. there exists a possibility this process? Today technology has reached as high, but the problem of destroying the environment we will? What to be luxurious without health? Should only gather people on the table to explain how the system works. YOU make calls everyone to bring together scientists, researchers, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, companies, organizations, and others from all fields . we seem think more deeply about our environment? so my proposal is that I really need this system come into use as soon cleaning of smoke.

  5. sadik saliu - 07.12.2014, 21:58 Uhr (Report comment)

    Technology is available. What is lacking is the will. Utility companies are in the business of producing energy is electric byproduct. What if these big tall chimneys were not there and it should be treated exhaust? This means that where there is smoke in reality, when the smoke should appear in the atmosphere seem to differ only in solid form All have knowledge, but I earn knowledge through practical work is simply a matter of cleaning the smoke?

  6. sadik saliu - 07.12.2014, 21:49 Uhr (Report comment)

    I want to clean the smoke, because this is a great opportunity, because we will have industry and thermal power plants, but without smoke. is interesting that purify toxic gases I'm talking about the system that is not only theory but in practice almost 6 years For Achieving the best results, to make something new? people need to unite people Usually it is preferable to opt for a strategy of adaptation to the environmental project of the institution, which institutions can adapt to the environment of the project then, given the possibility of "training" environment accordance interests people, looking strategy is naturally bound to be more useful for these institutions. This means that where there is smoke in reality, when the smoke should appear in the atmosphere seem to differ only in solid form This means that where there is smoke in reality, when the smoke should appear in the atmosphere seem to differ only in solid form

  7. sadik saliu - 14.04.2014, 09:23 Uhr (Report comment)

    Make new technology. We all need to take part in the perfect system that cleans toxic gases, but also at the same time smoke comes out clean in the atmosphere. YOU make calls everyone to bring together scientists, researchers, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, companies, organizations, and others from all fields. In areas such as energy, environment, technology In areas such as energy and the environment. Because the opportunity was good to perfect, as system I call "smoke purifier" l am a founder of a startup looking to meet potential investors, or if you want to patent inventions presented together with the entire world. Looking to finance projects and companies to invest in high-tech energy, Bids for funding did not need, but only a few meetings with scientist to explain in a practical system is ready to view it I did not have the opportunity to present this project? But I'm happy to keep in touch with more talent you possess knowledge. Should only gather people on the table to explain how the system works. This step is not heavy? Or not? But I think even more worried, I was suggested to create smoke purifiers. I never heard any comment on my suggestions, but I am still thinking it is a good idea. I think, at this point, we need to do something to combat the air pollution every way we can, but we are not helping each other, but I want to explain the idea, but until I cannot seek to understand, is completely new technology, which produced more smoke (factories), then the system will be used in trucks and buses, ships, there is great idea. They have learned that many who are familiar with smoke. To ask questions? Today does not exist H2O technology for heating so efficient? From 5 to 350 degrees only needs a few seconds, but remember there is no smoke This idea is very importantly the clean smoke-free environment. But few people who possess knowledge the smoke For the capture of smoke, as smoke from the air separation existing is a technology very complicated but not for me

  8. heinbloed - 17.01.2014, 00:24 Uhr (Report comment)

    @ James Wimberley:
    The Dutch electricity consumers are now dependant on German electricity:


    The cable from Norway is used already to it's full capacity most of the time.
    Another major quake and the gasfield might close down for good.

  9. heinbloed - 14.01.2014, 01:16 Uhr (Report comment)

    Something to dig for the specialists:
    The EIA (USA) makes a similar claim. The coal consumption by the powersector is up in 2013 compared to 2012 and the CO2 emissions as well:
    Whilest searching for detailed data on the EIA home page there seems to be no data for november and december 2013 available.
    And the existing data shows an oposite trend: maybe more power production from coal but not more coal combustion.
    There were 20% less coal power plants (!) operating in october 2013 compared to 2012:
    Propably the least efficient had been closed.
    Whilest net generation was up 0.4% in october 2013 the coal consumption was down by 0.2%:
    The november and december trend is propably a similar one: more power generated but less coal consumed.
    There is a YTD source here:
    showing an upward trend in coal power production and as well in coal consumption.
    But no data for the total of 2013, propably to early ?
    Quarterly total coal production data is shown here:

  10. heinbloed - 12.01.2014, 21:21 Uhr (Report comment)

    @ James Wimberley:
    Today people from Groningen protested at the gas pumps in Groningen, they're losing their homes and their homeland after all. Most jobs in ALDEL (the aluminia smelter which used the gas indirectly) are gone anyhow.


    When Mr Lanting - the action leader who managed to get into the terrain - was going to be arrested he did get away on his bicycle but the police chasing him was faster. They have bicycles too but with multiple gears and are much younger.
    He was arrested, freed and up the bicycel again to another pump:
    Tougher tan tough.

  11. heinbloed - 10.01.2014, 22:09 Uhr (Report comment)

    Well, for the Dutch there is no other choice for "German coal is displacing other people's gas, which is not a plus for the climate ", their gasfield in Groningen has the output decreased by 50% in the last 6 or 8 month. By court order, the thing is collapsing causing earthquakes and endangering the dijks.
    Putting up windgenerators in this area they should have thought before, now no insurer would insure them anymore. And the property owners see no future in further investments.

  12. James Wimberley - 10.01.2014, 20:30 Uhr (Report comment)

    The carbon emissions from exported electricity are a worry. "Carbon dumping"? Renewables have (as this blog has documented) driven German wholesale electricty prices through the floor. Since coal power stations are designed for the quaint market concept of "baseload", their marginal cost of keeping running when there's no domestic demand is very low. German coal is displacing other people's gas, which is not a plus for the climate.

  13. heinbloed - 09.01.2014, 14:48 Uhr (Report comment)

    Well done both of you!

  14. heinbloed - 09.01.2014, 14:25 Uhr (Report comment)

    Well done both of you!

  15. heinbloed - 09.01.2014, 14:15 Uhr (Report comment)

    Well done both of you!

Write a comment

Your personal data:

Security check: (» refresh)

Please fill in all required fields (marked with '*')! Your email will not be published.