Germany escapes carbon emissions rise

13 April 2012

Germany's emissions of carbon dioxide edged down by 2.2% last year, even while those from its power sector grew in the wake of post-Fukushima reactor closures. The main effects from the shutdowns have been a cut in exports previously supported by nuclear and the financial impact of this on utilities. 

Official figures from the Federal Environment Agency were released yesterday, showing total greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of 917 million tonnes for 2011, down by 20 million tonnes (2.2%) on the year before and about equal to 2009's low when manufacturing was hit by the financial crisis.

However, emissions from the electricity sector increased by 2-6% during 2011, the agency said, while Germany's energy situation was supported by a mild winter that reduced demand for heating by around 9% with significant drops in demand for gas and heating oil for this purpose.

The loss of eight reactors in mid-March had the impact of reducing nuclear generation from 133.0 TWh in 2010 to 102.3 TWh last year. This drop off of 30.7 TWh was offset to a certain extent by an annual increase in renewable production of 17.6 TWh. The vast majority of this came from wind and solar, according to figures from the Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

Announcing the emissions figures under the headline 'Less greenhouse gas with less nuclear' the president of the environment agency, Jochen Fasbarth said, "The decline in emissions shows that Germany takes is obligations seriously... The objectives of the Kyoto Protocol can be achieved even under conditions of accelerated nuclear phase out. This was often challenged."

Germany has been able to achieve the bulk of its Kyoto commitment thanks to the replacement of inefficient fossil generation in the former East Germany after reunification in 1990, which also happens to be the baseline for Kyoto targets. A cut in emissions of some 17% was made by 2000, with further efforts cutting a further 10% by 2010. The country has remained below its target of a 26.5% reduction compared to 1990 level for the last three years.

The environment agency said that this generation of more electricity from renewable sources balanced a reduction in electricity exports to neighouring countries. Germany's neighbours therefore lost some opportunities to import low-carbon power, but the effect of this on separate national emissions figures are hard to quantify, as is the reduction of energy security for Germany.

The financial effects of the lost generation are clear, however, for the owners of the plants: EOn, RWE, Vattenfall and EnBW have posted losses amounting to about €5 billion ($6.5 billion) after the shutdown of their nuclear power plants, with some of this representing the missing income from power that would have been exported. Energy policy costs are also clear for German domestic consumers, who pay the highest prices of their peers in Europe. At around €0.26 ($0.34) per kWh, German power prices were virtually double those neighbouring France in November last year, while €22.9 billion ($29.9 billion) was spent by the government on new renewable capacity during 2011.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News