The emergency move away from nuclear has been incredibly short sighted. I understand not wanting to build new reactors, but shutting down running reactors, with all the capital investment involved, just doesn't make any sense. Especially when there is little risk of natural disasters in Germany.
If people are serious about maintaining the same quality of lifestyle that we have today without burning as much coal, the current solution is Nuclear Energy. Yes it does pose many risks but so does burning coal, and the latter seems to be destroying our environment.
The good news is, that for this year so far, 38% of the electricity in Germany comes from renewable sources. Solar and Wind generation capacity is still growing. But the big energy companies like to use their paid-off coal plants, as it is profitable, and politics isn't currently putting much pressure onto them to stop it. As coal plants cannot be quickly switched on or off, Germany is exporting a lot of electricity into the neighbor countries - whenever the sum out of the renewable sources and the coal produces an electricity surplus. From time to time we even have negative rates at the electricity exchanges.
There is a very quick way to reduce the carbon footprint: use more gas plant. They exist, but they are mostly idle, as gas costs more than coal. Using them rather than the coal plants would have several instant effects: gas produces less pollution, and produces less CO2 than coal for the same amount of energy. Also, much less electricity would be produced, as gas plants can be throttled fast enough to avoid overproduction.
So the carbon could be down quickly, only requiring to be less protective to the coal jobs and the energy companies revenues.
As a French person, I can't help but think that this is but temporary. The Germans are extremely smart when it comes to long-term vision, they've always been. I don't doubt for a second that their transitioning away from nuclear will pay dividends on the long run and they'll be on the forefront of that green revolution eventually.
The fact that they have a very strong industry to back up any effort to steer production to greener means of production and consumption is very encouraging for everyone. I hope they succeed.
There's an interesting real time map of energy production across Europe that illustrates the problem quite well :
Nordic countries and France stand out (because of hydro and nuclear power, respectively), while the bad apples are in Eastern Europe (especially Poland and Estonia).
Germany does badly given its relative wealth, though.
The fact that coal usage is actually declining was mentioned obliquely in paragraph 7.
Virtually the entire article is cheerleading hard for nuclear.
Not mentioned is also the fact that the UK is building a new nuclear plant and it's very expensive. Significantly more expensive than the equivalent in wind/solar would have been even if you assume that they do not continue to decline in price (which they probably will).
I visited Germany last summer and was amazed by how many windmills there were. Everywhere I looked there was a windmill. Obviously this was a country on the forefront of clean energy.
Imagine my surprise when my father-in-law took us to see the open pit mines and drive through the towns, entire towns, that had been moved to make way for coal excavation.
Interesting fact - USA despite its cheap natural gas burns more coal per capita than Germany.
Germany should also do better however.
I think this map is relevant to the discussion.
Check it out at different time of the day and night to see the changes in energy sources.
They should have subsidised the renewable engeries much longer.
Now we went from nuclear back to coal, which doesn't help anybody.
When they started to subsidise solar and wind, I hoped in the next decades we would have a clean country, but then they stopped it and now we are stuck with coal for much longer than needed :\
Can anyone comment about how liquefied coal is currently used or could be used? As I understand, the resulting products burn much cleaner.
I'm not sure if this would reduce their CO2 emissions, but it should at least reduce other pollutants.
The current coalition negotiations between the four parties expected to form a government also include shutting down more coal power stations.
The Greens demand twenty to be shut down, the others want to go slower.
Well they just had to close all those nuclear reactors. By contrast France is doing just fine with ~70% nuclear power.
Let's also not forget German car makers forcing the EU to dilute emissions limits. All very well having recycling bins all over the place, but when push comes to shove, the attitude is apparently !!!! the environment.