Germany not on target for carbon emissions
German Renewables Professor Volker Quaschning recently produced a chart showing that Germany will have made no progress in reducing carbon emissions from the power sector by 2022, when the last nuclear plant is shut down, unless coal power is ramped down simultaneously. He is part of a growing movement calling for a coal phaseout.
As I recently explained, carbon emissions from the power sector are likely to drop in 2014 but remain more or less stable over the next eight years as renewable electricity largely replaces nuclear power and electricity from natural gas, but only moderately offsets coal power. Quaschning’s chart visualizes that stagnation well (source).
At the bottom, we see power from fossil fuels and power imports. The red line in the middle indicates that the share of electricity from fossil fuels is unlikely to start decreasing below the level of 1990 until the 2030s. Renewables will, however, manage to replace nuclear power during the phaseout.
Here, Quaschning is analyzing the new government’s target corridors, as the green arrows indicating 40-45 percent renewable power (not energy) by 2025 and 55-60 percent by 2035 indicate. The overall gist of his argument is that the government’s new targets – basically, just an unnecessary rewording of the old ones – will not keep the country on target for its carbon emission reductions.
The next carbon target is a 40 percent reduction by 2020 relative to 1990. In 2012 (we are still waiting for official estimates for 2013), Germany had already reduced its emissions by 25.5 percent, leaving an additional 14.5 percentage points to cover over the next eight years – nearly two percentage points per year.
I could point out, of course, that Quaschning is conflating power from fossil fuels with carbon emissions. As Renewables International recently explained, carbon emissions from the power sector could be slightly down in 2013 despite the uptick in coal power production. Nonetheless, our estimate of a 0.3 percent reduction is nothing to celebrate in light of the need to reduce emissions by two percentage points annually.
Of course, a shift from coal power to power from natural gas (roughly half the CO2 emissions per unit of energy from coal power) could reduce emissions dramatically, but two obstacles would need to be overcome: the low carbon price and the macroeconomic dilemma – Germany has domestic brown coal but practically no natural gas, roughly 40 percent of which is imported from Russia.
Essentially, if Germany does not reduce carbon emissions from the power sector, all of the reductions would then have to come from transport and buildings – not a problem, but also not exactly what has characterized the Energiewende up to now. Or, to quote Quaschning, because there has been so little ambition in the heat sector, a reduction of carbon emissions in Germany is nothing more than a fantasy. (Craig Morris)