This year electricity generation from coal is down in Germany and last month only 14.45 TWh. This is not only a hefty 20% decline compared to the previous year, but also the lowest monthly coal power production in more than a decade.
In 2013, coal power generation rose by 2.2%. Gross power generation from coal power stations totaled 283 TWh in Germany. Almost 10% of this electricity, some 27 TWh, was consumed by the power stations themselves. The remaining 256 TWh (net generation) was supplied to the grid. It marked the second consecutive year of rising coal power generation. This sparked worries that coal power could return to pre-recession levels, and some commentators even began calling this short term development a renaissance of coal.
So far, 2014 does not follow this alleged trend. During each of the first 8 months, coal generators were unable to match or surpass the output of the respective month in the previous year (see chart below). As a consequence coal power generation this year is already down by almost 17 TWh, or 10%, on a year-to-year basis.
A record low for coal power
While low coal power generation is not unusual for the late summer month, a 20% year-to-year drop is. The factors that have led to squeeze out of coal were a decline in foreign demand, an increase in wind power generation, a minor increase in both nuclear and gas power production.
A closer look at the available historic monthly data going back to 2002 revealed that August 2014 was actually the month with the lowest coal power generation in more than a decade (see chart above).
Very nice, but …
This monthly low is certainly good news, but it is not an indicator of an overall rapid decline of coal power. Despite this year’s decline, coal power generation is still above the low levels seen in 2009 (223 TWh). If the trend of lower year-to-year consumption continues during the last four months of the year, 2014 could, however, still come very close 2010 levels (230 TWh). But clearly, more installed megawatts of coal power capacity will not necessarily lead to more megawatt-hours of coal power, as is often assumed.
The growth rate of renewable power sources, especially wind power, as well as the overall domestic and foreign demand for electricity generated in Germany, will determine how much coal power is generated in the coming years.You can find more in-depth information on the future of coal power in Germany in this paper on the nations coal conundrum.
Source: Renewables International. Reproduced with permission.