Nuclear Politics

Energiewende / Germany Not Doing Enough To Replace Nuclear, Warns Think Tank

By David Dalton
8 January 2020

Expansion of renewables is not enough, says annual report
Germany Not Doing Enough To Replace Nuclear, Warns Think Tank
The Philippsburg-2 nuclear plant was shut down last month. Photo courtesy EnBW.
A slowdown in the installation of wind turbines and solar panels in Germany this year could put the country’s carbon reduction targets at risk, environmental think tank Agora Energiewende said.

Agora Energiewende warned in its annual report on the country’s Energiewende, or energy transition, that last year new onshore wind power capacity in Germany reached 700 MW, the lowest level in two decades, while in 2020 only another 1 GW might be built.

This would lag behind the 4.2 GW of capacity added every year between 2013 and 2017. It is also lower than the 2.5 GW of new capacity that the government expects to be added annually up to 2030 when renewable power production is due to make up 65% of the country’s electricity mix.

“Overall, the renewables expansion is not sufficiently rapid to meet Germany’s generation targets for 2030,” Berlin-based Agora said in an annual analysis.

Agora Energiewende said electricity generation from nuclear was constant in 2019, but declined at the start of 2020 as the 1,402 MW Philippsburg-2 nuclear power plant was shut down on 31 December 2019, in accordance with the nuclear phaseout legislation.

Germany now has six in commercial nuclear power plants in operation, down from 17 in 2011, producing around 10% of its electricity.  Thirty units have been permanently shut down.

Agora Energiewende director Patrick Graichen said “We need to build more renewables to offset the phaseout of nuclear power up to 2022 and also generate enough electricity for electric vehicles and heat pumps.”

Germany’s last commercial nuclear plants are due to be shut by the end of 2022, leaving the country struggling to plug the gap in its electricity generation and meet its climate targets as it prepares to abolish its coal industry.

Business leaders and conservative politicians have begun to demand a stay of execution for nuclear amid rising energy costs and a looming shortfall in capacity. However, chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said earlier this month that Germany will stick to its planned phaseout, apparently seeking to end speculation about an extension for the remaining plants.

Germany will have to replace more than 40% of its electricity sources over the next two decades. Coal-fired power stations still account for more than a third of its generation, with the seven remaining nuclear plants supplying about a tenth.

After the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident Germany decided to shut down the country’s nuclear fleet by 2022. 

Earlier this year several high-profile German industrialists argued that the government’s decision to phase out nuclear power was a mistake.

One of them was VW Group chairman Herbert Diess, who said: “If we’re really serious about climate protection, the nuclear power plants should run for longer.”

In August Die Welt newspaper said in an editorial that to remain at the forefront of European energy and climate policy, Germany must be open to all low-carbon technologies, which includes nuclear energy, at least for the foreseeable future.

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