26 April 2012: Germany planning several new fossil fuel plants

The German trade association for the energy and water industry, the BDEW, says that the country’s utilities and other investors intend to build  or update 84 power plants over the next decade. This will cost around €60 billion ($79 billion; see Bloomberg: Utilities Plan $79 Billion of Power Plants in Germany, BDEW Says). 23 will be offshore wind farms, but 29 will be gas and 17 coal. And none will have CCS, which is almost as unpopular in Germany as nuclear power.

The new fossil fuel plants aren’t all due to the nuclear closure. Some fossil fuel plants would have had to be closed and be replaced, due to age or European regulations. However, many of them are to replace the nuclear stations. According to the International Energy Agency, nuclear provided 23% of Germany’s electricity in 2009 (see Germany – climate and energy statistics).

Building new coal and gas plants without CCS to replace nuclear stations will be bad for the climate. A coal plant emits eight times as much carbon dioxide per unit of electricity as a does a nuclear station.  A gas plant emits around three-and-a-half times (see How low-carbon are different generating technologies?).

Shutting nuclear stations early is also a waste of money. Nuclear power will never be cheap overall, but most of the cost is the capital cost of construction and decommissioning. This has already been spent (or, for decommissioning, is unavoidable) in the German stations.

There’s no going back on the German government’s post-Fukushima decision. Whoever wins next year’s German general election, nuclear power in Germany is dead. However, any other country thinking of following Germany’s lead should consider the climate and financial effects of early closure – and leave existing nuclear stations open.


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