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Fossil fuel production falls in Germany, exports soar

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As Germany chancellor Angela Merkel said last month, if Germany can succeed with its ambitious energy transition then other countries could too. “If we succeed, then she (the Energiewende) – and I’m convinced of it – will become another German export hit,” she said. “The world looks with a mixture of a lack of understanding and curiosity on whether and how the Energiewende (Germany’s move from nuclear to renewable energy) will succeed.

Many, particularly in the fossil fuel industry, look on with horror, rather than curiosity. A successful transition in Germany will set off a domino effect which will be unstoppable. Which is why so many – from large international coal and oil companies, all the way down to conservative commentators and even Australia ministers such as environment minister Greg Hunt, do as much as they can to suggest the German experience is a disaster.

Their main target is not just the cost of the program, but it’s supposed lack of success. The critics say it is not reducing emissions, it is not resulting in less fossil fuels, and it’s a plan courting disaster.

Last week, Craig Morris demolished a few of those myths. Today, are a few graphs from Bruno Berger, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Research, that demolish a few more.

This first graph shows the amount of production from the various sources in January and February (the main winter months), compared to a year ago. All fossil fuels are down, while wind and solar are the only gainers.

germany power change

This is the same information but given as a percentage increase or decrease. Note that solar more than doubles, helped not only by an extra 7GW of capacity, but also increased sunshine. The biggest impact among fossil fuels was gas, which represents the fact that it is the most expensive marginal cost fuel, and is first out of the system under the merit order impact.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.50.00 am

It was widely expected that closing nearly half Germany’s nuclear capacity soon after Fukushima would mean the country would become a net importer of electricity. In fact, it has never exported more, as this graph below shows.

Germany exports

And finally, here is the rated capacity of each fuel source in Germany as at mid-February, 2014.

germany power total

 

 

 

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  • Farmer Dave

    Excellent, Giles – terrific data as usual. It’s a very compelling set of figures. The two areas which anyone who wants to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about a mainly renewable powered grid could still work on are reliability and price; you have demolished the rest. If you were able to add similar graphs showing no decrease in a standard measure of reliability and no significant increase in cost, then the argument would be complete.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’d appreciate a link or listing of German/EU wholesale electricity prices for the last decade+.

      I’ve found retail prices for 2002 through 2013 –

      http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/data/database

      For industrial prices from 2003 through 2013 (industrial prices have been dropping since 2009 and are lower than the EU27 average) –

      http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&language=en&pcode=ten00114

      And a chart for German wholesale prices. But not the wholesale numbers.

    • wideEyedPupil

      I think Giles has written before that the capacity factor of wind is higher than many coal plants. As to price you could look at the AEMO data for summer heat wave peak demand events and see that more wind in SA pulled the profits out from under the fossil generators feet under the merit order effect. SolarPV on roofs reduced summer peak demand by 17% from previous heat wave on eastern seaboard.

  • JonathanMaddox

    Correction : “It was widely expected that closing nearly half Germany’s nuclear capacity soon after Fukushima would mean the country would become a net importer of fuels.” Change “fuels” to “electricity”. Germany is definitely not an exporter of fuel in the 21st century.

  • Lionel

    Hi there, great post! Any chance you could point me to the original report by Bruno Berger? Thanks, Lionel

  • FlatironsRock

    Quite eye-opening to notice the sum of Germany’s RE installed capacity is just 2.5GW less than the old guard’s. That will tip in 2014.

    Meanwhile, Germany exported 30 TWh in 2013! I believe it would be more complete to see the latest 12 months compared to the same period from a year ago further. Perhaps we are only seeing a portion of Germany’s electrical market’s reality?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Here’s Germany’s import and export data from 2008 through 2012.

      (Hummmm…. Wonder where that missing ‘t’ went?)

  • Diego Marquina

    A very mild winter with lots of sun might explain this… no guarantee that fossil fuel use next year won’t increase

  • Paul Kangas

    The cost of solar is FREE!
    The cost of oil keeps going up every year, every war, every winter.
    The cost of solar panels falls every year.
    By 2041 cloudy Germany will be 100% solar & renewable powered.
    3 cheers for Germany.
    Now if the people in sunny California would just wake up.
    Whoops. Guess they are too stoned to wake up.

  • marijoca

    The United States and all the people in it, politicians who have colluded with the fossil fuel companies to destroy effort to increase all renewable energy technology, should be ashamed. A comparatively small country, smaller than the size of California and way colder on the average is kicking our behind, and they should be lauded and encouraged for their progress.

    Against all those odds, we are making some progress and I do believe that here in California we have especially increased solar, and wind energy production recently, but certainly not as much as it should be. There are summer days where I know we could gather enough energy for a whole year’s usage for the State if it was harnessed.