How will Germany meet its ambitious promises for a greener energy economy?
Germany has recently announced a phasing out of its nuclear reactors. It proposes an increase in renewable energies to make up the shortfall, to avoid an increase in reliance on fossil fuels.
However, with the closure of 8 nuclear plants since the Fukushima aftermath decision, coal consumption has increased, highlighting the difficulties of maintaining the CO2 reduction commitments in the absence of the nuclear contribution.
At the end of 2022, there will be no more German nuclear reactors generating electricity. What is the plan for the new Energy Mix?
The German government has the stated intention of reducing CO2 emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The target implies replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources. However, in 2007 the government authorised the building of 26 new coal plants. The new design allows for better management, lower loading and flexibility through combined cycle plant design, which will permit greater degrees of efficiency.
The goals of at least 40% of Germany's electricity from renewable energy by 2025, and 55-60% by 2035, seem much more feasible now than when the ambition was first formulated in the 2000 Renewable Energy Act. The intervening years have seen an unprecedented increase in German use of clean, renewable energies. The mix of wind and solar also allows flexibility in supply, and aids efficiency in the traditional dirty power stations by off-setting peaks in demand.
One of the most positive trends of the past decade is the compulsory incineration of municipal waste in Germany and Switzerland. Waste that cannot be effectively recycled or otherwise utilised is burnt to reclaim the energy it contains. This heat is used for district heating or for electricity generation. Not every country in Europe exploits this resource fully.
The EU on the whole still landfills 30% of municipal waste, with no attempt to reclaim its value for recycling, reuse, composting, or energy content. Switzerland and Germany are the only countries to have almost eliminated this wasteful practice.
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