The Weekend Wonk: Is Germany Sustainable?

June 20, 2020

“Just have a Think” series is one of the most useful I’ve come across recently.

21 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Is Germany Sustainable?”

  1. jimbills Says:

    It’s a very good analysis, although he plays down natural gas, only briefly mentioning it:
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/703657/natural-gas-consumption-germany/

    “In 2018, Germany imported 100.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas, by far the highest rate throughout Europe. Imports are expected to increase further as coal and nuclear power is phased out.”

    And Germany, although they’re really progressive as far as climate policies, still has a long way to go, even by EU standards:
    https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/t2020_rd300/default/table?lang=en

    No developed country is anywhere close to ‘sustainable’ – although Germany is far better than the U.S., with the intent to improve on that even further in the future.

    • John Oneill Says:

      It’s interesting that Norway and Iceland, despite getting 100% of their power from renewables – mostly hydro – have relatively high emissions per capita. Iceland’s are even considerably higher than Germany’s – 17 tons per capita, compared to Germany at 10.7. I’d have said they burn a lot of fuel for heating that far north, but Iceland gets most of its heat from geothermal, and Sweden manages only 5.4 tonnes per capita.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Sustainable is a huge label for any country or state to achieve. Iceland is certainly a developed country that does not use fossil fuels at all for generating electricity. It has a countrywide infrastructure to support electric vehicles, although they are not compulsory yet. It does produce carbon emissions in it’s aluminium industry, although it’s on the radar as is hydrogen use.

    “How Iceland is undoing carbon emissions for good”

    In Iceland, the dissolved gas is injected into basalts and reactive rock formations at a depth of about 500m, where the CO2 can turn rapidly into minerals. At Hellisheiði, it takes about two years for 95% of the CO2 to be mineralised. The process can take more or less time at other sites, depending on a few factors. One is the depth at which the carbon is injected, and another is the temperature of the rock formation – the rate of the mineralisation process is generally faster at higher temperatures.

    https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200616-how-iceland-is-undoing-carbon-emissions-for-good

  3. Kaj Luukko Says:

    Germany is mostly replacing one low-carbon energy source with another low-carbon energy source (nuclear power with wind+solar) and the emissions are not reduced. Besides, talking about nuclear, wind, solar, coal, and gas, is talking about electricity only, which is after all only a part of the energy and fuel use.

    Nuclear power has been the fastest way to increase low-carbon energy production. A good infographic here:
    https://jmkorhonen.net/2015/01/19/graphic-of-the-week-how-fast-has-low-carbon-energy-been-built/

    I warmly recommend the book, Climate Gamble, written by two of my friends. You will find it too in the link above.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Nuclear can’t get investors. ROI is long-term, long delays are common, and cost overruns belie the rosy prediction of cost-effectiveness.

      It’s even worse in the US: Projects typically entail complex interactions of different government jurisdictions, heavy regulation per Public Utility Commissions, and floating bonds to cover the public portion of the cost.

      Wind and PV solar (public and private) are scalable, waterless, have relatively quick ROI, can fit in fragmented real estate, and require relatively low-skilled construction and operation.

      • Kaj Luukko Says:

        I know. But if you look at this graphics..

        ..the second one, UAE, a four unit plant of 5380 MW in United Arab Emirates’s. The first unit is ready, three others will soon be. You can see that it’s more than four time faster to build than wind power.

        Nuclear power is a wery effective tool in fight against climate change that something has to be done to make it get investors. I dont’t know what because I’n an engineer, but something. I hope SMR-technology will be a step in this direction.

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          Just noticed that the graph measures wind and solar only to 2013. That’s an eternity in dog renewables years.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            This is not a graph comparing different technologies; it’s a graph comparing different eras in energy development. It compares a time half a century ago when above all electricity use was increasing; but also when the people who actually decide things were completely sold on a particular technology, population and density were lower; nuclear safety and financial regulations were in their infancy and still severely limited by the deciders’ commitment to nukes and willingness to override medical science, democracy and popular will; popular will wasn’t as set against nukes and for wind and solar; wind and solar were not even close to competitive with coal, gas, and already-operating old nukes; admission that climate catastrophe was even happening, let alone caused by fossil fuels, was a vicious, ongoing fight…

            to a time somewhat later when most of those were changing. All this mondo cherry picking is being done to try to discredit renewables now, with the world a more unequal and desperate place. In the developed world it’s a zero-sum game because electricity use is stable or shrinking (thus a rapid increase in any energy source is unlikely); in the developing world electricity use is increasing but not backed by enough capital for such rapid buildout; wind, solar, geothermal have come down 80% in price; nuclear regulations have begun to start to half-catch up to its dangers, internalizing a few of its huge externalities; awareness that all energy must be renewable has increased tremendously; political power of fossil and fissile fuel corporations is still huge though even more disproportionate to their income and usefulness; meanwhile hatred of renewables has been stoked for decades by campaigns of deception backed by tens of billions, and gerrymandering and voter suppression have been thoroughly institutionalized; yet 80-90% favor wind and solar while only 45% want nukes.
            And so on. The energy of the future, and the present, is clean safe renewable energy, and the sooner people accept that reality, the sooner we can get on with replacing fossil fuels and avoiding ecological cataclysm.

            To sneakily imply that nukes can be built faster than wind and solar is despicable and absurd. Average construction time for nukes is roughly 10 times what it takes for a large wind farm, and the planning and permitting time is considerably longer. But what’s important is what we could do safely, and clearly, wind and solar win by years.

            Planned nukes mean nothing.

            The updated chart reveals that the biggest buildout of all was hydro. 2 of the biggest 5, 4 of the biggest 12, and every single one that started this century was renewable. Nukes are dead. Get over it.

          • Kaj Luukko Says:

            J4Zonian Says:
            All this mondo cherry picking is being done to try to discredit renewables now, with the world a more unequal and desperate place.

            Who are discrediting renewables? Not me anyway. I have always said that we need all low emission energy production tha is possible. It doesn’t have to be renewable, low-emission is the way to go.

            In the developed world it’s a zero-sum game because electricity use is stable or shrinking…

            On no, it’s decreasing, and it has to be if we want to replace fossil fuels in transport, industry and space heating. Electricity is only a part, about 30% of total energy use. It is not enough to decarbonize electricity only; we must decarbonize all energy usage and for that we need the electricity consumption to grow. A lot!

            …nuclear regulations have begun to start to half-catch up to its dangers, internalizing a few of its huge externalities..

            Nuclear is among the safest forms of energy production, about on the same level as wind.

            …awareness that all energy must be renewable has increased tremendously..

            No, it doesn’t. It must be low carbon but not renewable. This is among the biggest misunderstandings in the field.
            No energy is totally carbon free so zero-emission energy does not exist either.

            …yet 80-90% favor wind and solar while only 45% want nukes

            So? As far as I understand the mission is not to fulfill any wishes but to decarbonize the energy as fast as possible. You don’t believe voters to know the best solutions for it, do you?

            Average construction time for nukes is roughly 10 times what it takes for a large wind farm…

            Maybe, but the power output from one NPP is more than ten times bigger than from a large wind farm. In the graphs above you see recently build NPP of four units in United Arab Emirates and that is has been faster than any wind farms. Nuclear can be build fast and even faster when SMR’s enters the market.

            Planned nukes mean nothing.

            Neither mean planned replacement of fossil fuels by renewables.

            Nukes are dead. Get over it.

            Nukes are as dead as the climate change is a hoax, now get you over that.

            I’m not against wind or solar, I’m against fossil fuels. We have more in common that you believe. The only one who benefits about the war between nuclear and renewables is the fossil fuel industry. We don’t want that, or what do you think?

            In the future we will need both renewables (smart ones, not wood burning) and nuclear power, and a hell lot of them both.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            You cherry picked and distorted in numerous ways, using exactly the same lies used over and over and over and over by ARFs—anti-renewable fanatics. Actions speak louder, etc…

            Me: electricity stable or decreasing. You: Oh no, electricity decreasing. HUH? Electricity is stable or decreasing in the developed world. NOT decreasing everywhere there, and increasing in much of the developing world.

            Yes, primary energy has to be converted to electricity or clothesline paradox energy to renewablize it. Electricity will be more. Now it’s stable or declining in developed countries, growing in developing countries.

            “Wish fulfillment” as you disparage it, is otherwise known as democracy. When the electorate is right I agree with it. Mostly it’s right; it just doesn’t get what the vast majority want.

            Progressive programs favored by a US majority
            https://prospect.org/power/americans-liberal-even-know/prospect%5BDOT%5Dorg/article/most-americans-are-liberal-even-if-they-don%E2%80%99t-know-it

            A growing majority.
            www[DOT]brookings[DOT]edu/blog/fixgov/2019/01/11/the-liberal-faction-of-the-democratic-party-is-growing-new-polling-shows/

            Building wind and solar farms, geothermal, batteries, etc. is scalable to any degree needed, paying back the carbon costs of construction as they go. Building nukes is not, as the idea of most of them being built by the B team (and C team, and D team) is terrifying.

            “power output from one NPP is more than ten times bigger than from a large wind farm” 
A typical nuke is 1000 MW. The Walney Extension, off the Cumbrian coast is 659 MW, and the size and power of both wind turbines and wind farms continues to increase rapidly. Please stop spreading lies. And before you start going on about capacity factor, note that the marginal capacity factor for offshore and floating turbines is now 60% or better and still rising, while that of nukes—like coal and gas—is falling with the ever-longer periods they can’t compete with wind and solar prices. The more they’re idled the less competitive they are, and vice versa. Coal, gas and nukes are all well along this death spiral, from which there is no escape.
            The idea of SMRs is equally absurd. Nukes got bigger to get cheaper, to try (unsuccessfully) to compete with illegally legalized fracked gas, with its huge externalities, and with wind + solar PV + batteries, and CSP and geothermal. To think that nukes can now compete with quickly-dropping W & S prices by getting smaller is ludicrous. But there it is being pushed by ARFs and nuke shills and dupes everywhere.

            Planned nukes mean nothing because they so often get delayed—sometimes by decades and in the midst of bankruptcies and scandals—and then canceled. Wind and solar projects are compiling a much better record, so planned ones like East Anglia 1 (714 MW) and Hornsea 1 (1200 MW) and 2 (1800 MW) are virtually certain to be built, with larger ones right behind.

            Nukes include TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and inevitable future disasters. They’re unsafe, unecological, undemocratic, unegalitarian, and since we can do the job faster, cheaper, and better with 100% clean safe renewable energy, nukes are quite unsane to continue building.

            It’s always “interesting”—and when I say interesting of course I mean disgusting —when conservatives who claim to hold the market religion sacred are willing to abandon it whenever it conflicts with a pet profit project—like when fossil fuels, nukes etc. are being eliminated by price. Then they prop them up with what they continue to insist they dread most of all—government largesse. I don’t care if you admit doing that or being conservative or whatever. Again, you’re using exactly the same arguments ARFs do, word for word; to deny it is as untenable as it is despicable.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I hadn’t thought of exploiting defunct power plants (with pre-existing grid connections) as storage nodes on the grid. Good show!

  5. Sir Charles Says:

    The German Climate and Energy Package does not contain enough policy action to meet its own emissions reduction targets, which themselves are outdated and insufficient. Germany’s 55% emissions reduction target for 2030 are “Highly Insufficient”!

    https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/germany

    👉 Thread: https://twitter.com/SirChar17262525/status/1276475549117014017

    • J4Zonian Says:

      No country in the world is doing enough to reduce emissions.

      And the failure is compounded on every level.
      The fake goal (the mention of which was used to bribe and extort about 100 poor countries to go along with the agreement) was to keep us at least 1.5°C under some level (1995? 2005? I forget) easier to achieve than preindustrial temperature, even though it’s largely useless in saving us. The other fake goal is 2° under. Neither is possible. From the start, the NDCs were woefully insufficient to meet either goal. And the goals are insufficient to avoid catastrophic warming. And we need to do more than just avoid warming. To do any of it we need to take government back from the right wing and create a democracy. And we need to acknowledge the essentially psychological nature of all our problems. It’s all a very big job and virtually no one in power is admitting it.


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