Germany breaks records in green energy: what’s behind it? | Analysis of the events of political life and society in Germany | DW

In the Saxon town of Lebendorf, the energy company EnBW has temporarily halted the operation of a coal-fired power plant. The reason turned out to be very unusual: it simply became unprofitable to ensure further work. The price of carbon credits continues to rise, and under favorable weather conditions, more and more electricity can be obtained from alternative sources. For the latter, the first half of 2019 was very successful: at first there were many windy days, then sunny days.

The result was not long in coming: for the first time in Germany, renewables (RES) generated more energy than coal and nuclear power plants. The share of electricity generated from solar, wind, biomass and water energy was 47.3%.

Protest against the coal-fired power plant in Liebendorf

Coal and nuclear power plants accounted for 43.4%, another 9.3% of electricity was obtained from gas, and the remaining 0.4% from other sources, including oil. This data was presented in July by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE).

The share of coal in Germany’s energy balance has been sharply reduced

However, Fabian Heine, an employee of the analysis center Agora Energiewende, emphasized that this situation has only developed for the time being and that it is too early to talk about a long-term trend. The first half of 2019 was particularly stormy, with wind power generation increasing by about 20% compared to the same period in 2018 as a result. Electricity generation using solar panels has increased by 6% and gas-fired thermal power plants by 10%.

Coal-fired power plant in Liebendorf

It is becoming more and more expensive to generate electricity from coal-fired power plants

The share of nuclear energy in the country’s total energy balance remained virtually unchanged, while that of coal declined. Compared to the first half of 2018, 30% less electricity was produced from hard coal and 20% less electricity from brown coal.

This is completely understandable. Because of rising emissions quotas, generating electricity from coal is becoming more expensive for companies. Gas-fired power plants also emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but to a lesser extent and operate more efficiently.

Profitable gas-fired power plants

As a raw material, gas is usually more expensive than coal. However, in the first half of 2019, gas prices in the region were low, so some blue-fueled power plants turned out to be more profitable. On June 29, 2019, the price of gas on the Dutch TTF trading floor was around €10 per megawatt-hour, up from around €20 a year earlier.

As explained by the Federal Federation of Energy and Water Companies (BDEW), one of the reasons for the lower prices was the relatively warm winter, so there is still a lot of gas left in storage facilities. In addition, several new LNG terminals have appeared in Europe.

At the same time, an increase in the volume of electricity generated from solar and wind energy, and a decrease in the capacity of coal-fired power plants, has led to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. In the first half of 2019, that number was about 15% lower than the same period in 2018, according to BDEW.

Despite this, the association assures that by 2030 Germany plans to increase the share of “green electricity” in the energy balance to 65%. This goal can only be achieved if the transition to alternative energy sources takes place at an accelerated pace, BDEW is confident.


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