Germany to close all its coal plants, but no impact on global warming likely

By Michael Bastasch

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has embraced a plan to phase out all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years as part of the country’s plan to shift to green power in the name of global warming.

Despite the government welcoming the plan, there are serious questions about how realistic it is and what it would actually accomplish in terms of its ultimate goal of fighting future global warming.

The decision to shutter coal plants came after a government-appointed commission released a report Saturday that laid out a road map for power plant closures. The report also recommended giving $45.7 billion to communities that would lose out from less coal.

Germany has been trying to wean itself off coal for years, pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into subsidies and other programs to beef up green energy. Germany also wants to reduce emissions to meet the Paris climate accord.

However, the Energiewende, German for “energy transition,” has lagged and the country is not on track to meet its 2020 goal to reduce emissions. That’s angered Germans who have seen their electricity rates skyrocket to roughly three times what Americans pay on average.

Shuttering the rest of Germany’s coal-fired power capacity could cost taxpayers another $2.3 billion per year, The Financial Times reported. The government commission recommended policies to shield ratepayers from cost increases, but it’s unclear if that could realistically be done.

If all goes to plan, Germany will decrease its coal capacity from roughly 42 gigawatts today to 30 gigawatts by the end of 2022, then to 17 gigawatts by 2030. By 2038, all Germany’s coal plants will be closed, according to the plan.

Should Germany be successful, and there are serious doubts, carbon dioxide emissions will almost assuredly decrease, but the question is, will the plan have any measurable impact on future warming?

As things stand now, the answer is a resounding “no.” That’s because Germany is only a small portion of global coal consumption that’s dwarfed by energy-hungry developing countries.

Germany’s coal consumption is less than 2 percent of the global total, according to global energy statistics compiled by the oil company BP.

Eliminating 42 gigawatts of coal capacity over two decades is equivalent to what India added to its coal fleet over a four-year period, 2013 to 2017, according to University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr.

“One more China coal consumption decrease 2015-2016 was about 2x what Germany is proposing to do 2018-2038,” Pielke tweeted Saturday. “Then from 2016-2018 China added back about 1x the proposed German coal phase out to 2038.”

“In other words, German coal phase out about the size of China’s annual variability,” Pielke tweeted.

Another factor to consider is how much coal developing countries, like China and India, may consume in the future.

China alone has more than 210 gigawatts of coal power under construction or planned, according to a June 2018 report by Carbon Brief. India has another 131 gigawatts planned or under construction, and Turkey has more than 42 gigawatts in the pipeline.

Of course, planned coal capacity can change with economics and new laws, but most energy analysts see coal playing a dominant role in global electricity production for years to come.

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Image courtesy of Peabody Energy/Wikimedia Commons
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4 thoughts on “Germany to close all its coal plants, but no impact on global warming likely

  1. Mike,
    A very nice summary of the situation.

    China and India are allowed by IPCC rules to add many times coal plant capacity, MW, than Germany has in operation.

    What Germany does regarding coal plants is totally useless and will have zero impact on global warming,

    However, it will satisfy the egos of RE proponents, because they are getting what they want, they show their have clout, their financial supporters will continue to provide money, etc.

    Germany will close its coal mines and its coal plants during the next 30 years to give stake holders plenty of time to get adjusted and to use up as much of the remaining coal as possible.

    Germany will get additional gas from Russia via a second Nordstrean pipeline in the Baltic, bypassing trouble making countries, such as semi corrupt Poland and especially totally corrupt, but US/EU supported UKRAINE

    The additional gas used in 60% efficient gas turbine plants would have at least 60 to 70% less CO2/kWh than from the coal plants, which have efficiencies of less than 40%

    This means Germany would further reduce the CO2 of its electricity sector.

    Germany is making almost no progress regarding reducing CO2 from buildings and transportation.

    As a result, the OVERALL CO2emissions were 908 million metric ton in 2009 and were 907 million metric ton in 2018, no progress in 10 years.

    Vermont does not nearly have as much money as Germany, so it is not a surprise Vermont CO2 has increased during these 10 years, helped along by stupid decisions made in the legislature over the years.

    • The Germans Merkel hasn’t killed off by islimeoboob gimigrants will probably suffer in
      the coming freeze from Diminishing Solar Activity (co2 got nuttin on DSA where it concerns earth temps) by 2030 we could be back in deep freeze and a country without electricity or fuel oil will just be a bunch of frozen sardines…

  2. Well this shouldn’t be a problem, since it’s so hot from runaway global warming already. Solar and wind energy can be augmented with stationary bicycle generators.
    Rich people can hire people who need exercise, maybe sponsor fitness clubs with bike generator systems to power the grid, and the world will be a living paradise forever! \sarcasm

    • Gordon,

      That would be a Socialist Paradise, as envisioned by globe trotting, private plane flying, three house owning, foundation owning, arm waving, face making Bernie,

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