Germany to close all 84 of its coal-fired power plants, will rely primarily on renewable energy

FILE---In this Jan.6, 2019 file photo water vapour rises from the cooling towers of the Joenschwald

In this Jan.6, 2019, file photo water vapor rises from the cooling towers of the Joenschwalde lignite-fired power plant of Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG in Brandenburg, Germany. (Patrick Pleul / AP)
Germany, one of the world’s biggest consumers of coal, will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years to meet its international commitments in the fight against climate change, a government commission said Saturday.

The announcement marked a significant shift for Europe’s largest country — a nation that had long been a leader on cutting CO2 emissions before turning into a laggard in recent years and badly missing its reduction targets. Coal plants account for 40% of Germany’s electricity, itself a reduction from recent years when coal dominated power production.

“This is an historic accomplishment,” said Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the 28-member government commission, at a news conference in Berlin following a marathon 21-hour negotiating session that concluded at 6 a.m. Saturday. The breakthrough ended seven months of wrangling. “It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it,” Pofalla said. “There won’t be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038.”

The plan includes some $45 billion in spending to mitigate the pain in coal regions. The commission’s recommendations are expected to be adopted by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

“It’s a big moment for climate policy in Germany that could make the country a leader once again in fighting climate change,” said Claudia Kemfert, professor for energy economics at the DIW Berlin, the German Institute for Economic Research. “It’s also an important signal for the world that Germany is again getting serious about climate change: a very big industrial nation that depends so much on coal is switching it off.”

Students demonstrate as Coal Commission meets to decide on future production, Berlin, Germany - 25 Jan 2019
Students demonstrate outside the federal chancellery during a meeting of the country’s coal commission in Berlin on Friday (Adam Berry / EPA-EFE/REX)

The decision to quit coal follows an earlier bold energy policy move by the German government, which decided to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. MORE

In Germany, Consumers Embrace a Shift to Home Batteries

A growing number of homeowners in Germany are installing batteries to store solar power. As prices for energy storage systems drop, they are adopting a green vision: a solar panel on every roof, an EV in every garage, and a battery in every basement.

A photovoltaic system on a single-family house in Germany.
A photovoltaic system on a single-family house in Germany. ENERIX

Stefan Paris is a 55-year-old radiologist living in Berlin’s outer suburbs. He, his partner, and their three-year-old daughter share a snug, two-story house with a pool. The Parises, who are expecting a second child, are neither wealthy nor environmental firebrands. Yet the couple opted to spend $36,000 for a home solar system consisting of 26 solar panels, freshly installed on the roof this month, and a smart battery — about the size of a small refrigerator — parked in the cellar.

On sunny days, the photovoltaic panels supply all of the Paris household’s electricity needs and charge their hybrid car’s electric battery, too. Once these basics are covered, the rooftop-generated power feeds into the stationary battery until it’s full — primed for nighttime energy demand and cloudy days. Then, when the battery is topped off, the unit’s digital control system automatically redirects any excess energy into Berlin’s power grid, for which the Parises will be compensated by the local grid operator.

“They convinced me it would pay off in ten years,” explains Paris, referring to Enerix, a Bavaria-based retailer offering solar systems and installation services. “After that, most of our electricity won’t cost us anything.” The investment, he says, is a hedge against rising energy costs. Moreover, the unit’s smart software enables the Parises to monitor the production, consumption, and storage of electricity, as well as track in real time the feed-in of power to the grid. MORE

Renewables overtake coal as Germany’s main energy source

Renewables overtook coal as Germany’s main source of energy for the first time last year, accounting for just over 40 percent of electricity production, research showed on Thursday.

Wind turbines are pictured in RWE Offshore-Windpark Nordsee Ost in the North sea, 30 km from Helgoland, Germany.
Wind turbines are pictured in RWE Offshore-Windpark Nordsee Ost in the North sea, 30 km from Helgoland, Germany, May 11, 2015. REUTERS / Christian Charisius/Pool

The shift is in part due to a surge in solar panel installations and coal-plant closures, research showed Thursday.

The predominance of renewable energy in 2018 brings Germany’s goal for renewable sources to provide 65 percent of its energy by 2030 closer. It is part of an organized, long-term plan to transition from nuclear power by 2022 and to wean the country off coal. MORE