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Does Germany Make a Difference in Global Warming?

In September 2010, the German government announced the following three targets:


Renewable electricity: 35% (or 38.6%) of total electricity production, TEP, by 2020, 50% by 2030, 65% by 2040 and 80% by 2050


Renewable electricity was 16.8%  of TEP in 2011 and 19.8% in 2011.


Renewable energy: 18%  of gross energy consumption, GEC, by 2020, 30% by 2030, and 60% by 2050


GEC was 13,411 pitajoules in 2011, of which 236 PJ from wind and hydro and 1,213 PJ from other renewables, i.e., renewable energy was (236 + 1,213)/13,411 = 10.8% of the GEC. It was 5.3% in 2005, 6.4% in 2006, 7.9% in 2007, 8.1% in 2008, 8.9% in 2009, 9.4% in 2010. See reference 19, “Energy Consumption in Germany” in this URL


Energy efficiency: Reduce national electricity consumption, NEC, 50% below 2008 levels by 2050.


Efficiency measures, (more efficient light bulbs, appliances, HVAC systems, etc.) that reduce the NEC by about 1.07%/yr, which compounded over 38 years (2012 to 2050), would reduce the NEC by 50%. However, if the long-term growth of the GDP is 1.8%/yr, the NEC will double by 2050 thereby completely offsetting the reductions from efficiency measures. To have an NEC reduction of 50%, PLUS have 1.8%/yr GDP growth, efficiency measures that reduce the NEC by about 3.7%/yr compounded over 38 years would be required. 



– Greater percentages of GDP growth would require greater efficiency percentages.

– Germany’s electricity consumption per unit of GDP decreased by an average of about 1.7%/yr from 1990 to 2010. During that period the GDP grew, but the primary energy consumption remained about the same; 14,905 PJ in 1990 and 14,044 PJ in 2010. 

– One way to “manage” the NEC and CO2 emissions is for Germany to build energy consuming plants abroad, instead of domestically; Germany’s GDP would increase, but not its NEC and CO2 emissions.

See reference 14 in this URL.


CO2 Emissions: Germany has a target to reduce its nationwide CO2 emissions from all sources by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, 55% by 2030, and 80% by 2050. That goal could be achieved, if 100% of electricity is generated by renewables, according to Mr. Flasbarth, the director of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Germany is aiming to convince the rest of Europe to follow its lead.


Germany’s CO2 emissions, excl. other GW gases, were (in million metric tonnes): 1,037 in 1990 (Kyoto base year), 861 in 2006, 834 in 2007, 833 in 2008 and 765 in 2009, 826.5 in 2010. 


Germany’s CO2 emissions, incl. other GW gases, were (in million metric tonnes): 1,232 in 1990 (Kyoto base year), 984 in 2006, 958 in 2007, 959 in 2008, 878 in 2009, 946.5 (est) in 2010. The 2008 – 2012 Kyoto goal is 974.


The CO2 emissions decrease in 2009 was mainly due to decreased goods production in heavy industry and the increase in 2010 was mainly due to renewed economic growth.


A 2009 study by EUtech, engineering consultants, concluded Germany will not achieve its 2020 CO2 emissions target (40% below 1990); the actual reduction will be less than 30%. Jochen Flasbarth is calling for the government to improve CO2 reduction programs to achieve targets.,1518,644677,00.html



World Energy Consumption in 2035: The Energy Information Administration, EIA, is projecting the world’s energy consumption to increase from 505 quadrillion Btu in 2008 to 770 quadrillion Btu in 2035, an increase of 53 percent. 


Worldwide, the renewables fraction (which includes hydro) of total consumption is projected to increase from 10.6% in 2010 to 15.2% in 2035, the fossil fraction to decrease from 84.1%  in 2010 to 79.1% in 2035.  

Note: 1,055 Btu = 1 Joule; a quadrillion = 10 to the power 15.


World CO2 Emissions in 2035: World CO2 emissions (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) were 29.89, 31.63 and 33.51 in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively, projected by the EIA from 29.89 in 2008 to 43.2 in 2035.


Germany’s CO2 Emissions Reduction: China, the US, Europe and Germany emitted (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) 7.46, 5.27, 4.3 and 0.79 in 2009, respectively.


China, the US, Europe and Germany projected emissions are (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) 11.7, 6.4, 4.4 and 0.55* in 2030, respectively.


*Germany’s CO2 emissions target for 2030 is 55% below the 1990 Kyoto base year, or (1 – 0.45) x 1.232 = 0.55.


This means significantly greater quantities of CO2 will be emitted in 2035 than in 2008 and that any efforts made by Germany to reduce its CO2 emissions will be extremely insignificant regarding global warming. 


Even if all of Europe were to reduce its CO2 emissions to zero, the increase by other nations would be about twice as great as Europe’s decrease by 2030. 


Conclusion: The above data indicates Germany’s (quixotic?, misguided?, irrational?) exuberance towards renewables will make no global warming and/or climate change difference, but will adversely affect Germany’s future economic well-being, because it will end up with an energy systems setup that will have about 2 to 3 times the levelized (owning+O&M) cost of competitor nations that did not follow Germany.


Germany is implementing renewables through subsidies more so than other nations, because it has the excess capital to do so, and because it claims to want to set an example to the world. Other nations, especially the developing nations, do not have the resources, and/or the willingness, to follow Germany.


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Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Nov 25, 2011

Yes, Germany has and will make a difference in “Global Warming.”

They recently hosted an international conference (Bonn2011) linking food, water, and energy. To grow food you need carbon in the soil. To preserve water you need carbon in the soil. To consume energy you usually put carbon in the air.

Clearly, we need to do better at all three topics or the 7 billion of us have a problem in the future. The discussion has moved beyond an energy only solution, and Germany is a leading part of the discussion.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Dec 6, 2011

Gunnar, Willem, you are both right, philosophically. And both wrong, practically.

I had a nice visit Friday by two old hippies who want to build new co-ops in Minnesota.

One has a Lebanese brother-in-law setting up solar electric in an African nation where he once lived after the Christians were kicked out of Lebanon. He is using German technology (among others).

My suggestion was to build with concrete, steel, and rock, much like Willem’s German “passivehaus” promotion, using geothermal mass storage (which is important in Minnesota). The petrochemical houses (glueboard, vinyl, etc.) are a very expensive bad idea sitting everywhere empty from foreclosure.

And they want some food and agriculture included in their hippie old age housing. There is plenty of dead farmland turning to brush. And the Indians are a prosperous part of our community and want to be more than gambling industries. So, Gunnar, your garden blog should start taking some roots.

These two have long, successful experience in these efforts. The politicians who thrive on discontent and failure, and the bankers who thrive on debt are a threat, as always. But there are people who are doing something constructive with German ideas that make a difference in peoples’ lives. To hell with politics and economics, people need practical food, energy, and housing.

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