German Exports of Coal Power Way Up

New figures out show a huge increase in German electricity exports for the first half of 2013. Green power being sold across borders? No, sadly not. It’s ugly power – brown coal itself, as Paul Hockenos explains.

Caption (Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-65410-0001 / CC-BY-SA)

Lignite Power Plants – anachronisms and “export hit” due to the disfunctioning emission trading scheme in the European Union. (Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-65410-0001 / CC-BY-SA)

The Berlin-based NGO German Environment Aid (DHU), which does excellent work on energy issues, has a new report out showing that Germany’s electricity export surplus (14.8 GWh compared to 10.1 GWh for the first half of 2012) can’t be a result of green energy. Indeed, in terms of renewably generated power, 2013 so far lags behind last year. (This is because of less wind. PV has gone up a little, while the other clean energy sources remain unchanged.)

But the coal plants are in overdrive. Thus far this year, brown-coal plants have produced 12% more (total: 85GWh) power than last year, while the hard-coal, or anthracite, plants generated 20% more (71 GWh) than last year. This tells us what’s being exported.

Why can it export so much coal-generated power? Easy answer: Because it’s so cheap! Its low cost can easily undercut just about every other kind of electricity in neighboring markets.

This means that Germany will most likely be responsible for more carbon emissions than before, certainly it will be if you count its exports, too. It is a dark irony that Germany of all countries, the home of the Energiewende, is using more and more coal despite the fact that its renewable-energy capacity continues to grow.

The authors of the report rightly point out that this wouldn’t be the case had the EU beefed up its Emission Trading Scheme, which conservative parties in the European Parliament – backed passively by the Merkel government – let collapse earlier this year. This means coal producers pay no price for climate-killing, while natural gas, far kinder to the climate, can’t find buyers. Gas plants are even closing because of the situation even though everybody knows they’re going to be needed for the clean energy transition in the long-run.

The DUH also notes that their finding holds true only for the first half of 2013 and not 2012, when green energy did account for a significant share of the export surplus.

By Paul Hockenos, journalist and author, “Going Renewable” blog. This article first appeared on the German Council on Foreign Relations’ website.


Paul Hockenos is a Berlin-based journalist and author of Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall and the Birth of the New Berlin.

1 Comment

  1. Barbarroja says

    Well, that’s what you get when you shut down all the nuclear plants for no reason other than the japanese fucking up. Actions have consequences, you know.

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