Germany shuts down coal power stations as renewables shoulder more energy demands

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E.ON and RWE plant closures put Germany on track to achieve 2020 renewable energy targets

Power companies in Germany are shutting down gas and coal-fired power stations due to the growth in renewable energy.

E.ON announced in August that it has closed or left idle 6,500 megawatts (MW) of conventional generating capacity. Days later, RWE said it would disconnect 3,100MW with “further power stations being assessed” for suspension or closure.

“Due to the continuing boom in solar energy, many power stations throughout the sector and across Europe are no longer profitable to operate,” RWE said in a statement.

The affected RWE power stations, located in Germany and the Netherlands, represent around 6% of its total capacity.

Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, has established national targets for the country to get 35% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, and 80% by 2050, as she plans to shut the country’s nine nuclear reactors within a decade.

Germany still gets around half its power from coal-fired plants at present, but also gets around 23% from renewables – a much higher proportion than most other countries, including the UK.

At one point on 3 October, solar and wind energy were supplying nearly 60% of electricity in use across Germany, according to energy consultant Bernard Chabot.

The hot summer also saw Germany break its monthly record for solar power generation, which hit 5.1 terawatt hours in July.

Although not particularly sunny, Germany has become a global leader in solar power due to the huge number of panels on the roofs of homes and businesses.

Hildegard Müller, head of BDEW, the German Association of Energy and Water Industries, said the energy sector will see a “role reversal” to a market dominated by renewables.

“Today, we simply expect renewables to produce electricity in an ecologically sound way,” she said. “In future, they must do the same but reliably and cost-effectively.”

Photo title: A solar panel in Germany

Photo credit: © Flickr Member R Q

  • Eberhard

    This is because of subsidies which are ridiculously high. And because all the big energy users are exempt from paying a surcharge on their energy bills to provide funding for this, energy use and CO2 emissions are actually rising in Germany.

    This is a very good idea, which was carried out in Germany in an amateurish way. In Germany, we are a country of brilliant engineers. But we are sadly lacking good economists or wise politicians.

  • John Baker

    Despite all the huffing and puffing (“…subsidies for renewables which are ridiculously high.” etc) the oil corporations are on the ropes and they know it. The success which has been achieved is underpinned by community ownership of renewables and will allow Germany to throw off the shackles of its past and show the way.

    Regarding high subsidies for renewables, supporters of oil speak as if their own industry had none – greater honesty required in this department, and as for nuclear, apart from stratospheric subsidies and distorted accounting that ignores everything that happens before the thermal cycle ie loading at a power nuclear plant, one word: Fukushima, where no one has a clue how to deal with the crisis and Tepco (Operating company) is under huge pressure from international nuclear to keep the plant going despite the risks.

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