Germany is making major investments in green and sustainable energy, but remains addicted to coal-fired power plants for electrical generation. While publicized goals project major carbon reductions, 26 new German coal-fired power plants are in planning or development. The Japanese crisis pressures the viability of Deutsche nuclear energy. The near-term alternative is German coal power.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks about carbon and global warming, "The situation is threatening. There are fewer and fewer glaciers in the mountains. Storms are getting stronger. We have to change course, now." Germany joined EU colleagues in a goal to reduce European greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 in comparison to 1990 levels. The German share is a 40% reduction
Germany is investing billions of Euros in sustainable energy. Wind and solar power are rapidly growing, but according to an AGEB Energieverbrauch report, the two only reached 8% of electrical power generation in 2010.
Nuclear is the third and largest sustainable energy source, with a 25% share of German electricity. To provide time for other technologies to grow, Germany extended the life of nuclear reactors to 2022. Japan's nuclear crisis is pressuring that decision. Major protests forced the government to close seven of its reactors for safety inspections. As Japan battles multiple problems in its reactors, the German Chancellor will reconsider the nuclear extension.
Coal powers just over 40% of German electricity. Half is the brown lignite coal and the rest is hard coal. According to Bloomberg , the government plans to build a new coal-fired power plant in Lichtenberg, a suburb of Berlin. This new coal-fired power plant consumes two million tons annual tons of Polish coal to generate 800 megawatts of electricity and 600 megawatts of heat. Bloomberg estimates, "The plant will churn-out five million tons of CO 2 per year." In planning and development are 25 similar coal-fired power plants.
The German government argues the new plants replace older and dirtier plants. In a government report, Interesting Energy Facts , current coal-fired power plants emit 115 million tons of CO2 per year, while the future coal-fired power plants emit only 21 million tons per year.
Germany faces few choices. Wind and solar power are expensive investments, and the government does not expect major sustainable energy results before 2030. Regardless of what occurs in Japan, Deutsche nuclear power will shrink. Oil and natural gas remain the other option, but the combination of cost, emissions, and reliance on Russia, cools the enthusiasm on turning up the valve. Coal-fired power remains the best option for more energy.
Germany is growing. The world's 5th largest economy is recovering from the recession. Energy, regardless of its origin, delivers the fuel for continued growth. Chancellor Merkel believes the sustainable energy investments will yield results. Cars, trucks, and trains are becoming more efficient. New coal-fired power plants replace the older and dirtier versions.
The plans are logical and full of hope. The Chancellor's own words remain haunting. "The situation is threatening. There are fewer and fewer glaciers in the mountains. Storms are getting stronger. We have to change course, now."