Posted by Mark Halper

While Germany has been increasing renewables, it has also brought in a lot more of this since deciding to close nuclear power. That’s a coal-fired plant in Datteln along the Dortmund-Ems Canal near Dortmund.

In our previous post, we noted that Germany wants to trim the $1.3 trillion (yes, trillion) in subsidies that it would provide to build renewable power in the wake of the government’s 2011 decision to abandon nuclear power.

Now, the other shoe has dropped in the walk away from nuclear: Greenhouse gas emissions including CO2 rose in 2012 as the country relied more heavily on coal and other fossil fuels – along with renewables – to replace production from 8 nuclear plants that it has already closed. (It plans to shutter its remaining 9 by 2022. Nuclear had provided about a quarter of the country’s electricity before the post-Fukushima decision).

The rise was slight – 1.6 percent in greenhouse gases, and 2 percent in CO2, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety reported on its website (the account is in German; an English version should post soon). But it came came amid slow industrial production.

But the World Nuclear Association calculated that if Germany had left the eight nuclear reactors operating, it would have reported a drop of 18 million-to-34 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, rather than a rise of 14 million tonnes. Thus, WNA says, Germany would have reported its all-time low of 897 million tonnes per year.

Bloomberg noted that Germany emitted 931 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents last year as the use of lignite rose 5.1 percent.

“We must make sure that this was an exception and that it doesn’t become a trend that’s repeated,” Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said in the Bloomberg story.

According to Reuters, industrial CO2 emissions were flat from 2o11 to 2012, while emissions from household and transport use increased. Renewables helped to keep the level from rising above 2 percent.

But as Altmaeir noted last week, it will cost Germany $1.3 trillion in subsidies by 2022 if the country were to continue with its current support program for energy technologies like wind and solar. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has proposed cutting close to $400 billion, which would still leave the government with a hefty subsidization bill of over $900 billion.

As I said last week, if the country were to recommit some modest portion of those funds – say, 25 percent – it could go a long way toward developing efficient and safer nuclear reactors that run on thorium and other alternative nuclear technologies like molten salt and pebble bed reactors, among others.

Photo from Arnold Paul via Wikimeda.


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