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Germany's Electricity Was Nearly 10 Times Dirtier than France's in 2016

Minshu Deng's picture

Minshu Deng is a senior writer at Environmental Progress, an environmental research and advocacy organization that aims to lift everyone out of poverty and address climate change. She is a former...

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  • Mar 2, 2017 10:00 am GMT

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German electricity was nearly 10 times dirtier than France’s in 2016, according to an Environmental Progress (EP) analysis.

In 2016, Germany generated 545 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity at an average rate of approximately 560 grams of carbon dioxide emitted per kWh. By contrast, France generated 530 TWh of electricity at an average rate of approximately 58 grams of carbon dioxide emitted per kWh. In terms of carbon emissions from electricity, this means that Germany emitted almost exactly ten times as much as France — over 300 million metric tonnes.

The analysis is based on German hourly generation data from Franhofer ISE, and French hourly generation data RTE-France, as of February 6, 2017. Conversion of German generation data to Specific Carbon Intensity uses emissions factors of 1150g, 900g, 369 g, and 983 g of CO2 per KWh for lignite (brown coal), hard coal, natural gas, and biomass respectively. Conversion of French generation data to Specific Carbon Intensity Uses RTE-France’s emissions factors, which are higher for France’s hard coal and gas fleets.

Germany’s overall emissions increased in 2016 as a result of the country closing one of its nuclear plants and replacing it with coal and natural gas, an EP analysis last month found.

German emissions would have declined had it not closed a nuclear plant and replaced it with coal and natural gas.

Not only did new solar and wind not make up for the lost nuclear, the amount of solar and wind electricity produced in 2016 actually decreased from 2015 despite new additions of solar capacity and extensive additions of wind capacity.

By Mark Nelson

The original posting of this article can be found here.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 2, 2017

Minshu, thank you and Environmental Progress for the delicious Truth Sandwiches you’re serving to the renewables community, to regulators, to energy policy wonks. Though they’re not to everyone’s liking, they’re an acquired taste.

We can either repeat Germany’s mistakes or learn from them.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on Mar 2, 2017

Germany is as much a climate leader as Donald Trump is a feminist.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Mar 2, 2017


In 2016, gross electricity generation was 648.4 TWh, of which 456 TWh was from conventional generators and 188.3 TWh was from renewables, i.e., about 29% of gross electricity generation was from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, hydro, bio, etc.

Of the 188.3 TWh, about 77.4 TWh was from wind, about 38.2 TWh from solar, for a total of 115.6 TWh. About 21 TWh was from hydro and 51.7 from bio, etc. On an annual basis, wind and solar (stochastic sources) was 115.6/648.4 = 17.8% of electricity generation.

In 2016, domestic electricity consumption was gross generation (648.4), less self-use (30), less net exports (53.7), less transmission and distribution (30), less pumped storage and misc. (19.4), or about 515.6 TWh.

Germany generated 648.4 – 77.4, wind, – 38.2, solar – 21, hydro = 511.8 TWh of electricity from CO2-emitting sources (fossil, bio, etc.) at about 560 g of CO2/kWh in 2016.

France generated 530 TWh of electricity at about 58 g of CO2/kWh in 2016.

Germany’s electricity generation has 511.8 x 560/530 x 58 = 9.32 times more CO2 emissions than France, which gets about 80% of its generation from nuclear.

Germany has been replacing nuclear (near-zero-CO2) with mostly coal and natural gas, and some solar and wind; regarding CO2, bio energy does not count, as it emits CO2.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Mar 2, 2017

Trump has a good looking wife and daughters.
All are very smart and accomplished.
Ivanka is especially cool.

I know of other billionaires who married less well

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on Mar 3, 2017

The so-called green Germany has pulled itself into an expensive and dirty mess.
However, the green lobbies are active – even in France.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on Mar 3, 2017


I totally agree on Trump’s wife and daughters. Germany also is full of people who have environmental concerns and they put a lot of money on renewables.

However, a goodlooking wife and daughters don’t make Trump a feminist and German environmental concerns, and renewable investment will not clean their grid.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Mar 3, 2017

– The factor 10 calculation is highly questionable

France has a 7.5% share of generation from fossil fuels as of 2015, and has been so for a generation; Germany 56% from fossil fuels, and far higher residential electricty rates. France is no longer on a path to low emissions in their electricity generation, they have arrived.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Mar 4, 2017

I personally would not be caught dead being a man hating biased feminist. Agree on the Germany assessment.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Mar 4, 2017

Sadly the “Greens” have successfully sold their dogma as the only way to save the planet, and being “Green” is frequently intricately seen as progressive, which is in turn the current unassailable sane path that Europeans of this era are allowed to follow to avoid derision.

I pity the French (and the planet) for them buying into the great green con job that is now setting them on the path toward dirty electricity.

By the way Biomas should not be included as “renewable”. If Nature has so kindly locked up CO2 in plants/biomas, what is so good about us re-releasing the said CO2, even if we promise to later reabsorb said CO2 back into plants.

Why not just use energy that releases no CO2, and keep grow new plants that trap even more CO2?

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Mar 5, 2017

The simple fact that the author had to handle renewable biomass as fossil like coal, shows that her conclusions are biased…

Which judgment is supported by the official figures.
Consider also the other figures she used; similar bias.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Mar 5, 2017

Nuclear emits substantial amounts of CO2! Far more CO2 per KWh than wind & solar (2 to 5 times more)!
It’s demonstrated by the high costs of new nuclear incl decommission and nuclear waste storage ~€200/MWh. Those costs are mainly for CO2 emitting activities. Workers spend the money they earn to CO2 emitting activities and products. Mining & processing nuclear fuel also emit major amounts of CO2, etc.

So French emissions will be reduced!
Except in the eyes of pro-nuclear fanatics who try to spread the fantasy / lie that nuclear is emission free or climate neutral.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Mar 6, 2017

We arm-chair analysts must strenuously avoid the temptation to trust our own calculations above those of professional scientists. I for one, trust the US DOE NREL much more than I trust you. They say nuclear’s life cycle emissions are about the same as solar and wind, and those are very small compared to fossil fuel.

If you can find a newer source, maybe you could make me believe NREL was off by a few percent. Your belief they are off by an order of magnitude is ridiculous.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Mar 6, 2017

Your NREL graph is based on studies in previous decade (check the full report) when:
– PV was 2-5 times mote expensive;
– wind was ~2 times more expensive;
– new nuclear was thought to cost (as no new nuclear in USA or EU) less than half the real costs which now show up with e.g. Vogtle C.

When you correct for those changes nuclear emits already substantial more than wind+solar.

And the difference will increase as the cost decreases of wind and solar are widely expected to continue during next decades.
Also because the operating costs of old wind & solar are ~10 times lower than that of old nuclear!

How come that you assume that the high costs of nuclear don’t translate into more CO2?
Has nuclear magical steel whose production don’t imply emissions?
Or magical workers who use their earnings only for products & activities that don’t emit CO2 (please tell me which)?
Or magical transportation trucks that don’t emit either?

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Mar 15, 2017

Bentvels is a propagandist (ie. a professional liar).  He will say anything and is immune to facts and reason.

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