Energiewende Germany wrote this on Twitter:
Renewables have grown more than nuclear been shut down. Coal? In decline again.
Rod Adams, who tries to delay deployment of renewable energy since he rightly perceives it as dangerous competition to his preferred nuclear option, challenged that:
@EnergiewendeGER Do you have credible sources for that assertion?
This is a good occasion to have a new look at the figures. The renewable side of the statistics is best documented in this PDF published by Bernard Chabot at RenewablesInternational a couple of days ago, based on data released by the German Ministry of Economy in this report (in German language).
But first we need to get data for the nuclear decline, so as to find a suitable time frame for measuring the renewable growth.
The mid-term decline of nuclear in Germany is easily documented by looking at the figures released by Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen.
Nuclear peaked in 2001 at 171.3 TWh. It has been relatively stable for the five years until 2006, where it scored 167,4 TWh. From there on it’s a rapid decline. 148,8 TWh in 2008. 140,6 TWh in 2010. 108,0 TWh in 2011. 99,5 TWh in 2012. And 97,3 TWh in 2013.
That’s a decline of 74 TWh in the 12 years since 2001, and a decline of 42.9 TWh since 2010 (the last year before the Fukushima accident).
So has renewable grown more than that in those years?
Renewable scored around 36 TWh in 2001 and 152.6 TWh in 2013. That’s an increase of 116.6 TWh, which beats the nuclear decline since 2001 by a large margin.
The figure for renewable energy in 2010 was 104.8 TWh, which means an increase of 47.8 TWh, again beating the nuclear decline since 2010, though the margin is smaller in this case.
So, to answer Rod Adams’ question, there are reliable sources for the assertion that nuclear decline has not been able to keep up with renewable growth in Germany.
I am not sure if the opposite result would be worth much as a pro-nuclear argument, since it would mean that nuclear is declining even faster than it already is. That’s not a competition you really want to win if you are pro nuclear energy.
While I’m at it, there are some other interesting points found in the report by Bernard Chabot.
For one, Germany is well on track to reach the target of 35% renewable energy electricity generation in 2020. The figure for 2013 was already at 25.4%.
Solar capacity was at 35.9 GW at the end of last year, beating wind with 34.7 GW. That solar capacity figure is way ahead of the national renewable energy action plan Germany filed with the EU in 2010 (Table 10 at page 116), where the government expected only 27.3 GW in 2013. The number for wind is only slightly higher than expectations (33 GW).
Rod Adams kindly replied in a comment to this post and pointed out that his original question in the Twitter thread was how the growth of solar and wind between 2009 and 2014 compared to the decline of nuclear over that particular time frame, and about coal.
Since 2014 is still a work in progress, we will have to restrict the analysis to the development between 2009 and 2013. For this particular time frame we get a score of 134.9 TWh for nuclear in 2009, which means a decline of 37.6 TWh until 2013.
Table 4 of the original government report cited above shows solar growing from 6.6 TWh in 2009 to 30 TWh last year (increasing by a factor of almost five in four years). Wind was at 38.6 TWh in 2009 and 53.4 TWh in 2013.
So we get a 23.4 TWh growth from solar and another 14.8 from wind in those four years, for a grand total of (drum roll)…
38.2 TWh of growth for wind and solar from 2009 to 2013. So the nuclear decline lost again, failing to beat the growth of renewable even when ruling out biomass for some reason (another 17.1 TWh growth in those four years).
While it is true that the decline in low carbon electricity from nuclear has been more than cancelled out by the growth of solar and wind alone, it is obviously also true that without the decline of nuclear all that new renewable energy would have replaced fossil fuel instead.
If that is Adams’ point (see his comment below this post), it is clearly true, and there is no need to check all these numbers.
I can leave the answer to the question about latest coal developments to Craig Morris, who kindly commented below on this post and linked to the latest figures he published on his excellent blog about this point.