The growth of Germany’s green energy could grow so fast that its electrical grid may not be able to handle the added electrons, which still need to be firmed up with baseload generation that runs around the clock. So the government there may cut the subsidies so as to limit rate of renewable expansion.
The German government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, still wants renewables to hit 45 percent in 10 years, and 80 percent by 2050, under its so-called Energy Transition. But any more than that would risk reliability and hence general economic expansion.
According to a Reuters news story, solar limits would be 600 megawatts a year while caps for on shore wind development would be 2,800 megawatts; last year alone, onshore wind provided 3,500 megawatts. If the proposals are enacted into law, they would take place next year. To achieve this, the news outlet reports that green energy producers would receive payments for their power if they would win a tender offer — not the guaranteed set payments that they have been getting.
According to the US Department of Energy, renewables now provide 31 percent of the country’s electricity while coal supplies 44 percent. Coal provided 43 percent in 2010, says the World Nuclear Association.
The result? Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise, again: In 2015, they rose by 1.1 percent, or to 10 million tonnes to 912 million tonnes in 2015. That’s according to Green Budget Germany, which tracks these things, and which says that the use of more lignite coal is a big reason. Lignite is the lowest rank of coal because of its low heat content and its high carbon content of between 60-70 percent.
The good news, according to the study, is that Germany’s carbon releases are 27 percent less than they were in 1990. But the bad news is that they are too high to reach the country’s target goal of being 40 percent less by 2020.
Will Germany still retire all of its existing nuclear fleet? That is still the plan — a fuel that provided a quarter of the country’s electricity before the Japanese nuclear disaster in March 2011.
Nuclear energy produces no carbon dioxide when generated. But Germany expects renewables to fill that void and thus avoid the problem of releasing more greenhouse gas emissions.
Therein is the Catch 22: Critics say that if renewables are limited because of constraints on the grid, the country can’t achieve its targeted reductions. Coal, though, would then fill that void. And that, of course, is what the world is waiting to see.