German energy consumption up, adjusted CO2 emissions down
Preliminary figures published by the AGEB show that primary energy consumption in Germany was slightly above the level of the previous year, with renewables growing the strongest. The AGEB says that cold weather is mainly responsible for the rise in energy demand, and carbon emissions are down when adjusted for the temperature effect. But BDEW figures show that natural gas consumption is down in the power sector.
The AGEB is a working group consisting mainly of representatives of the coal sector and economics institutes. Its task is to produce overviews of all energy consumption within Germany.
In mid December, the organization produced preliminary figures for the year as a whole. Carbon emissions are expected to be up in absolute figures compared to the level of 2011, but 2012 was a colder year overall, especially during the cold spell in February. When adjusted for this effect ("heating degree days"), the experts expect carbon emissions to be down overall in relative terms.
Though the press release does not provide any specific figures for carbon emissions, it does put numbers – albeit preliminary ones – on specific sources of energy. Petroleum consumption (mainly for heating and transportation) is slightly down at 0.5 percent. The biggest decrease, however, comes in the power sector, with nuclear power down by 8.3 percent; in March 2011, Germany switched off eight of its 17 remaining nuclear power plants.
The effect has been a temporary shift to greater coal consumption, as the latest figures underscore. Natural gas consumption was only up by 1.0 percent, and that increase is probably more the result of consumption of natural gas for heating purposes (the AGEB does not break down the figures further, but see the section on the BDEW below). Consumption of natural gas to generate electricity is down, as the figures for coal power indicate.
Hard coal consumption increased by 3.1 percent, compared to 5.1 percent for brown coal – an outcome that is as unavoidable as it is undesired. The decision to switch off so much nuclear capacity so suddenly left the German power providers with no other option than to provide power from existing capacity. A better plan would, of course, be to use more natural gas, but that is currently more expensive than power from coal, so renewable electricity is unfortunately currently offsetting natural gas first and coal power only later.
Preliminary figures produced in mid-December by the BDEW (see press release in German) confirm that renewables are mainly replacing natural gas – and that power from coal plants is largely replacing nuclear. Consumption of natural gas in power plants fell by an estimated 14 percent, with renewables now making up 23 percent of energy supply (compared to around 20 percent in 2011). The BDEW says that capacity utilization for natural gas plants has fallen to around 60 percent. At the same time, the BDEW ays that power has become so cheap on the exchange in Germany that neighboring countries, such as the Netherlands, are also affected. German power exports increased from 6.3 billion kilowatt-hours in 2011 to around 23 billion in 2012.
Consumption of renewables increased the most by an impressive 7.8 percent – again, not only in the power sector, but also for heat and transport. Renewables currently make up 11.7 percent of total energy supply, compared to 10.9 percent in 2011. While photovoltaics famously increased by nearly 50 percent, wind power remained below the level of 2011, dropping by eight percent. Hydropower (without pumped storage) grew by 16 percent, with waste being used to produce energy four percent more often. (Craig Morris)