Tuesday 18 April 2023

German energy experiment lurches into new territory

At midnight on 15-16 of this month, Germany shut down its last nuclear power generation capacity - forever.  It was asked for one last hurrah over the winter (the Putin effect): but that's it now, despite dumb German politicians at the highest levels who seemed to think these things could just be switched on and off at will, and that actually we don't need fossil fuels or nukes at all.

Here's some dramatic irony.  For those that care about these things - and some people care a lot - the carbon intensity of the German power fleet on 15-16 April was 550 g/kWh**.  And what if Germany had maintained its nukes at the 2003 level, its peak in that country?  It would have been just 50 g/kWh, with no coal-, lignite-, gas- or oil-fired electricity required whatsoever on that day (peaking could have been provided by hydro and dispatchable biomass).  For comparison, the UK typically comes in at under 150g, having halved since 2012.  

So - as the usual suspects gear up to sue the EC for declaring nukes (and gas) to be "green", let them think on that 11-fold increase in carbon intensity which might, over-simplifying slightly, be attributed to the policy-driven closures of nukes in Germany.

Germany really is the poster-child for crass policy making across the spectrum, and it's unravelling at a rate of knots since Merkel headed off into the sunset.  I don't quite know where people get off on holding the country up as a model of rationality and consensus.  Good luck to them over the next few years, as they grapple with "new realities" for their energy, industrial, foreign and defence policies.  Not to mention the 1m+ refugees from the middle east.  Those Merkel memoirs will make for interesting reading.



** Was it perhaps a day with no wind?  No, there was a decent contribution from wind, ditto solar in the middle of the day.


L fairfax said...

Where did you get your figures from about carbon dioxide production

Nick Drew said...

German: basic hourly data for 15-16 April from Fraunhofer Stiftung. 21 GW nominal nuclear capacity in 2003.

UK: google

" if Germany had maintained its nukes at the 2003 level ..." Not saying a 2003 number has direct relevance, but it's a way of making the point.

Germany has spent multiples of what the UK has spent on policies supposedly in support of "decarbonisation", but to no avail whatsoever.

Don Cox said...

And we complain that our politicians are ignorant and foolish !

However, we do have an advantage over them in having better sites for wind farms. Maybe when the planned new nuclear plant in Britain is all built we will be able to export electricity to the Germans.

Don Cox

Nick Drew said...

Don - yes, Germany has very poor energy resources indeed, given it's been decided they can't use coal and lignite and nukes and Russian oil & gas ...

leaving feeble solar (like us), modest wind (unlike us), a bit of hydro; and then it's a bit of waste-burning, a fair slice of biomass (mostly not renewable at all if properly measured) ... and then it's IMPORTS all the way. But Norway is getting fed up, and the French can't get their nukes fully back on line ... and so it goes on.

But they are determined to retain their heavy industry. Hence their determination to go HYDROGEN! A very dubious proposition, but they are committing (betting) heavily.

iOpener said...

The Germans are a very religious people.

Elby the Beserk said...

"Nick Drew said...
Don - yes, Germany has very poor energy resources indeed, given it's been decided they can't use coal and lignite and nukes and Russian oil & gas ..."

Yeah but they DO use coal and lignite, Nick, indeed have been relying on them


33% in March...

"“Last summer, a total of 14 coal-fired power plants and one petroleum-fired power plant were put back into operation or, contrary to original plans, were not shut down in order to counteract the acute gas crisis,” reports Blackout News, citing the German tagesschau. “These measures were necessary to prevent the looming electricity shortage in Germany. In addition, five lignite-fired units from the so-called supply reserve remained on the grid, contrary to the planned shutdown.”"

Anonymous said...

P.S. OT, but Ukraine have closed the Dneiper dams, either to dry out the southern part for easier crossing, or to reduce available water at the downstream Russian-held nuclear plant, or to reopen later and flood the lower Dneiper area.

So if the mud ever dries (still looked pretty bad the last I saw) we may see an offensive yet, complete with our 50 gallant SAS lads.

Anonymous said...

Did my comment get zapped, about UK electricity production peaking in 2003, was 328,291 in 2012 but only 254,665 GwH in 2021, a pretty hefty drop?


Nuclear peaked in 1998 (90 KwH), coincidentally the year when Blair announced no more nuclear build and we lost a generation of nuclear engineers.

Nick Drew said...

Nobody zapped your comment, anon - which is welcome. So thanks for re-posting.

Clive said...

The Hydrogen lobby, coincidentally, out in force today, giving H2 a big push with a glossy report attempting to do a bit of boosterism https://cdn.prgloo.com/media/7d00b2386ec0400ab38308972232b524.pdf

While I'm fairly convinced H2 has some niche role to play in the energy transition for industry, it doesn't seem to have much to offer for transportation or domestic / light commercial energy needs. Seems more of an attempt to stop the extensive gas pipeline assets from becoming stranded. H2 keeps them relevant. But if there's a business case for this, over and above electrification of HVAC and transportation, it escapes me. So, of course, we'll probably end up with exactly that -- hydrogen networks *in addition to* electrification, doubling up the costs to the consumer. Hey ho. 'twas ever thus.

Anonymous said...

Historic UK electricity generation, from 1920 to 2021, is here (Excel download)


Alas we are in no shape to laugh at Germany, the nation with first nuclear power station had to ask China and France for new build. Shameful.

And the French EPR we signed up for is crap, Frogs are having dreadful trouble with it.

Selling coal in UK illegal from May 1. Record amount of coal burned worldwide in 2022. You have to laugh or you'd cry.


Anonymous said...

The terrible thing is that being crap at the job, keeping energy and housing costs high, immigration high, and wages low, is a bipartisan policy.

rwendland said...

> Alas we are in no shape to laugh at Germany, the nation with first nuclear power station had to ask China and France for new build. Shameful.

Quite true, and to some extent for the same reason, a strong domestic nuclear lobby keen on the Not Invented Here mantra.

The major aspect on the UK downfall was the internal lobby's insistence that the rest of the world was wrong going for the PWR (pressurised water reactor), so we went down the dead end of physically larger gas reactors for two generations (Magnox & AGR). No-one abroad wanted to buy these other than two countries pondering plutonium production as a weapons option trying one Magnox each. By the time we smelt the coffee, no way we could have a sensible commercial PWR offering.

Germany to a lesser extent had a lobby problem. Until 1986-ish Germany couldn't decide on a technology, and built nearly 30 reactors roughly 50:50 between BWRs (boiling water) and PWRs of many different sizes. So they didn't really have a sensible standard offering either. No sensible future, so Siemens threw in its lot with the French for the fiasco of the 17 year long Finnish EPR build, before bailing out of nuclear many $billions down.

I don't see these failing nuclear lobbies having fully taken on the lessons. We have about 50 small modular reactor (SMR) designs in 17 countries hoping to conquer the world nuclear new builds with mass production, the premise of the SMR factory continuous production concept. What chance this will work out well for more than one or two - it's a huge govt money feast.

Nick Drew said...

The irony is that Sizewell B, = UK PWR, has been pretty successful by most [nuclear] criteria ...

rwendland said...

Yes, Westinghouse design based Sizewell B has been very well behaved for its 28 years so far, unlike its British gas brethren.

The first French fleet of 900MWe PWRs, also somewhat based on the Westinghouse design, have also done well, until the recent stress corrosion cracking in pipe welds crisis at around 40 years old. Wonder how they will do beyond this crisis to the 60 years target. It's only when they tried to enlarge the design to 1300, then 1500, then 1650 MWe for cost saving that the French began to have build and early-life reliability hassle.

The Chinese, who further developed the French 900MWe design, seem to have done OK as well. As have the Russian PWR designs. PWR generally seems to be the winner.

Shame about the increased build costs since the 1980s though!

Anonymous said...

rwendland - you seem to know your stuff so I assume you're aware of the fraud in French nuclear build, where Le Creusot Forge passed off dodgy castings as good 'uns as far back as 1965 and up until quite recently.


If that was over here it would never be off the front page of the Guardian.