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Global Warming Targets and Capital Costs of Germany's 'Energiewende'

Willem Post's picture
President Willem Post Energy Consuling

Willem Post, BSME'63 New Jersey Institute of Technology, MSME'66 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MBA'75, University of Connecticut. P.E. Connecticut. Consulting Engineer and Project Manager....

  • Member since 2018
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  • Dec 3, 2012

Each year, since 1997, a meeting is held by the parties to the U.N.’s 1992 Treaty on Climate Change. The first meeting, COP-1, was in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.


COP-18 in Doha, Qatar, in 2012, drew at least 10,000 attendees from around the world, for a 2-week period of conferences, at a total cost of about $250 million. As Qatar is No. 1 in CO2 emissions/capita, any conferences held there will be most CO2 emissions intensive.




COP-18 delegates did not agree to increase Least Developed Nations, LDN, funding levels, but agreed to extend present funding levels at about $10 billion/yr.


COP-18 delegates extended the Kyoto Protocols, KP-2, from 2013 – 2020.


COP-18 delegates agreed to finalize a new treaty by 2015, to take effect in 2020.


The only real winners appear to be the bureaucrats in the “diplomacy industry” for whom endless rounds of expensive, CO2-emission-intensive conferences with no agreements, year after year, means visibility and jobs, jobs, jobs.




At COP-16, held in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, the Parties to the UNFCCC agreed future GW should be limited below 2 C (3.6 F) relative to the pre-industrial temperature level. Stabilizing CO2 at 450 ppm could be associated with a 26 to 78% risk of exceeding the 2 C (3.6 F) target. 


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, has produced a range of projections of the world average temperature, WAT. The “likely” range (assessed at >66% probability of being correct, based on the IPCC’s expert judgment) is a WAT increase of 1.1 – 6.4 C for the 2000 – 2100 period. The IPCC projections are “baseline” projections which assume no additional efforts are made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, i.e., if any efforts are made, the WAT increase would be less?


Note: The IPCC is NOT a scientific entity, i.e., does not perform independent research. It is a diverse collection of government representatives, NGOs (such as Greenpeace) and mostly pro-RE scientists. There may be serious concern about neutrality, objectivity and quality of IPCC reports. 


Comments on the 2 C target: 


Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist in Paris:

“Nice utopia — well-intentioned, but unfortunately totally unrealistic”.


Jochem Marotzke, director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg: 

“Although physically speaking it is still possible to reach the 2 C target, it seems to me that it’s hardly feasible politically. It’s more realistic to limit global warming to 3 C. Even that, of course, would be associated with massive efforts worldwide.” 


“Our computer models show, to comply with the 2 C target, worldwide CO2 emissions would have to consistently decline by 1%/yr, starting in 2020, to end up at almost zero by the end of the century. That would require a carbon-free global economy, in which no more oil or gas is burned anywhere on the planet, and in which all cars operate without fossil fuel and aircraft fly without kerosene. Is this realistic? No. In general, this raises the issue of whether it’s good policy to proclaim unachievable goals”




Original Kyoto Protocols, KP-1: The 1997 Kyoto Protocols became effective February 2005 and expired at the end of 2012; this period is designated KP-1. As of September 2011, it had 191 ratifiers and 83 signatories.


Signatories to KP-1 agreed to reduce CO2 emissions by 5.2% from the average of the 2008 – 2012 period, the “base period”, with 1990 as the “base year”, by the end of 2012. Emissions from aviation and shipping are excluded. The 5.2% assumed the US would become a ratifier, but it remained a signatory, effectively reducing the 5.2% to 4.2%.


KP-1 ended on December 31, 2012, leaving the world with 58% greater annual CO2 emissions than in 1990, instead of the 5.2% (or 4.2%) reduction its signatories had sought. KP-1 was a failure.


Note: The CO2 emission reductions of ratifiers are voluntary, of signatories are mandatory, and fines are imposed for failure to comply. Typically, developing and underdeveloped nations are signatories. Usually, they are wooed by the developed nations with committee assignments, all-expense-paid attendance of conferences, such as COPs, and funds for projects that reduce CO2 emissions; about $10 billion/yr is made available by the developed nations for those purposes.


Note: Canada had committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by 6%, per KP-1 requirements, but as Canada’s 2009 emissions were already 17% greater than allowed, it withdrew from KP-1 in 2011 to avoid penalties imposed for failure to meet commitments.


Extension of Kyoto Protocols, KP-2: An extension of the Kyoto Protocols, KP-2, effective from 2012 to 2020, was agreed to, but Japan, Canada and New Zealand will not be signing up for KP-2.


This leaves only 37 signatory nations, including Australia, all members of the European Union, Croatia, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, committed to the KP-2 targets. Collectively, these 37 nations committed to reduce their CO2 emissions 18% below their 1990 level between 2013-2020. The targets may be strengthened by 2014.


Note: It is likely, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan will continue as signatories, but not as ratifiers of KP-2, due to a last-minute amendment to KP-2 at the Dohu conference, which requires their CO2 emissions during the KP-2 period to not exceed their averages of the 2008 – 2010 period. As they previously had an easier path towards CO2 emissions reduction, they claim this new requirement would hamper their economic growth. They may withdraw from KP-2, or not ratify it.


After “defections”, whereas KP-1 had enough signatories committed to cover at least 55% of the world’s CO2 emissions in 1990, the nations (33?) committed to KP-2 will cover significantly less than 15%. It appears, the KP-2 impact will be meaningless, and the world’s CO2 emissions will increase unabated.


Note: For a more rational approach, the baseline requirement should be: All CO2 emissions are covered by CO2 emission reduction protocols. Each year these emissions should be reduced by a percentage, etc., as above mentioned by Jochem Marotzke, director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. 


Developed Nations: The 27 nations of the European Economic Community, EEC, in recession, with big budget deficits, high unemployment and deadlocked EEC budget talks in Brussels, stated it cannot yet determine any increased funding for Least Developed Nations to reduce their CHGs.


Developing Nations: China, a developing nation, ruled out a cap on fossil fuel particulate and CO2 emissions before 2020, because it would restrain economic growth, slow the rise of living standards and the eradicating of poverty. China, India, etc., think nations with high CO2 emissions/capita, such as the US, etc., should reduce THEIR CO2 emissions/capita now, before China, India, etc., do it. 


Least Developed Nations: The level of climate change funds supplied by Developed Nations to Least Developed Nations, LDNs, has been about $10 billion for each of the past 3 years. Some COP-18 proposals aim to double the funding level to at least $20 billion/yr for the next 3 years, with further increases in subsequent years until it is $100 billion/yr in 2020. 


What entity decides to allocate how much funds, for what purpose, to which LDNs? A CO2 emission reduction program disguised as a foreign aid program? The US paid the expenses of some of the LDNs to enable them to attend the conference. What are the quid-pro-quos? Vote buying?


As the LDNs represent very little of the annual CO2 emissions, why bother to include them in the CO2 emission reduction effort with subsidies? Those funds would more effectively reduce the CO2 emissions of China, India, Brazil, etc. 


Some of the LDNs are low-lying island nations which would have part of their areas permanently flooded due to rising sea levels that have been rising since about 1850. The LDNs plead in international fora to get money that they might not spent effectively. 


A rational approach would be to relocate their people to higher ground, or to other islands less prone to flooding, just as people on the US East Coast need to finally move away from flood-prone shore areas, instead of rebuild, rebuild, rebuild, etc. 




GHGs: Below are the major GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. The CFC emissions are from refrigeration and air conditioning systems. 


CO2 emissions, ppm: straight line increase from 337 in 1979, 390 in 2011

Nitrous Oxide, ppm: straight line increase from 298 in 1979 to 324 in 2011

Methane, ppb: 1520 in 1979, 1800 in 2011

CFC-12, ppt: 280 in 1979 to 520 in 2011, slowly declining since 2004

CFC-11, ppt: 150 in 1979 to 245 in 2011, slowly declining since 1994


Projected World Energy Consumption by 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 Btu = 1 quad = 10 to the power 15.


                                         1990         2015        2035

World                                  354           573          770

NON-OECD                           159           343          525

OECD                                   195           230          245


The above indicated OECD emissions will increase about 26% {(245-195)/195} from 1990 (Kyoto base year) to 2035, based on IEA assumptions.


The above indicated NON-OECD emissions will increase about 230% {(525-159)/159} from 1990 (Kyoto base year) to 2035, based on IEA assumptions. Most of the CO2 emission increase will be due to increased “dirty” coal combustion by China, India, Brazil, etc.


Projected World CO2 Emissions (million metric tonnes) by 2035 


22,700 in 1990

29,890 in 2008

31,630 in 2009

33,160 in 2010

33,990 in 2011

43,200 in 2035, projected based on IEA assumptions.


In 2011, some major CO2 emitters (million metric ton) were:


                                                     2011        2010          


China                                              8,880           8,330

USA                                                6,027           6,145

India                                               1,800           1,700

Russia                                             1,670           1,700

Japan                                              1,300           1,300

Germany                                             804              828

World Renewable Energy Investments, 2004-2013, $ billion












The world consumption of coal grew from about 3.8 billion metric tonnes in 1980 to about 7.3 billion metric tonnes in 2010. China and the US consumed about 3.2 and 1.0 billion metric tons of coal in 2010, respectively. China consumption is increasing, US consumption is decreasing. 


Coal contains about 10% ash, on average. After combustion about 80% of the ash becomes flyash, the other 20% becomes bottom ash. It takes about 1.1 lb of coal, 10,000 Btu, to produce a kWh which yields 0.11 lb of ash of which 0.088 lb is flyash.


A modern AQC system collects about 99.9% of the flyash, whereas a mediocre AQS system collects about 95% or less, i.e., particulate emissions are either 1 lb in a 1,000 lbs of flyash, or greater than 50 lb in a 1,000 lb of flyash.


Because of a lack of high-efficiency air quality control, AQS, systems, a ton of coal combusted in China, India, Brazil, etc., is at least 50 times worse than in the US and Europe regarding particulate emissions/kWh, but about the same regarding CO2 emissions/kWh. 


Currently, developing nations represent about 50 to 55 percent of the gross world product, a “dirty” percentage that is rapidly growing, whereas the “relatively clean” percentage of the developed world is decreasing. 


Annual world energy production is about 20,000 TWh, of which the US is 4,000 TWh, Germany 600 TWh, Vermont 6 TWh. At least 12,000 TWh is from “dirty” coal-burning, mostly by developing nations. 



Production – Self use, about 5% = Delivered to the grid.

Delivered to the grid – Trans. & Distr. losses, about 5% = Consumption.




For the 2008 to 2011 period, China’s CO2 emissions significantly increased. US, EU-27 and German CO2 emissions slightly decreased.


                                 2008            2009             2010             2011


World                         31.51           31.10            33.16          33.99

China                           6.81             7.43              8.33            8.88

US,                              6.37             5.95              6.15            6.03

EU-27                          4.20             3.90              4.00            3.80

Germany                     0.860            0.800            0.828         0.804


Units: 1,000 million metric tonnes


World, China, the US, Europe and Germany projected 2030 emissions are (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) 40.0, 11.7, 6.4, 4.4 and 0.55*, 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.


World CO2 emissions (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) increased from 33.16 in 2010 to 33.99 in 2011, an increase of 0.83


Nations with greatest CO2 emissions decreases were:


Russian CO2 emissions (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) decreased from 1.700 in 2010 to 1.674 in 2011, a decrease of 0.026, mostly due to increased use of gas, decreased use of coal, and increased efficiency amd conservation; it was 1.08 times greater than Germany’s reduction.


US CO2 emissions (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) decreased from 6.145 in 2010 to 6.027 in 2011, a decrease of 0.118, mostly due to increased use of gas, decreased use of coal, and decreased economic activity; it was 4.92 times greater than Germany’s reduction.


German CO2 emissions (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) decreased from 0.828 in 2010 to 0.804 in 2011, a decrease of 0.024, mostly due to increased use of gas, renewable energy, and decreased economic activity.


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


Even if all of Europe were to instantly reduce its CO2 emissions to zero in 2012, the projected emission of other nations would increase from 33.99 in 2011 to 43.2-3.8 in 2035, for a net increase of 5.41, about 1.42 times (5.41/3.8) greater than Europe’s decrease, by 2035, i.e., global warming of at least 2 C (3.6 F) is a given, unless China, India, Brazil, etc., become part of a worldwide CO2 emission reduction effort. This would require a  worldwide, rapid ramp-up of investments/yr, which appears highly unlikely.




 – The capital cost estimate for Germany to implement its ENERGIEWENDE would be about $4.5 trillion by 2050, according to a cost estimate by Siemens. 

– The US capital cost would be about $18.7 trillion by 2050, if the US were to follow Germany’s course. 

– The world’s capital cost would be about 3-4 times the US cost, if the entire world were to follow Germany’s course. See details below. 


Siemens estimates the total price tag of meeting Germany’s 2030 renewable, energy efficiency and CO2 emissions goals at about 1.7 trillion euros ($2.26 trillion); the estimate includes build-outs of renewables; reorganizing electric grids; increased energy efficiency; decommissioning nuclear plants and waste disposal; electric, thermal and hydro energy storage; and CO2 sequestering systems.

Remember that does not get Germany to its 2050 goals, which would likely be about another 1.7 trillion euros, for a total of $4.5 trillion by 2050.


If the US were to follow Germany’s example, the cost would be about ($14.5 trillion, US GDP)/($3.5 trillion, German GDP) x $2.26 trillion = $9.36 trillion for 2030 goals, plus about another $9.36 trillion for 2050 goals, for a total of about $18.7 trillion by 2050. The US cost likely would be even greater, as it is more spread-out than Germany and more of its aging electrical systems would need to be upgraded and replaced.


If the whole world were to follow Germany’s example, the cost would be about 3-4 times the US cost.


As the US, unlike Europe, Japan, etc., has a 100 – 150 year supply of domestic coal and of domestic oil and natural gas due to advanced drilling techniques, it is 100% sure, the US will NOT follow on Germany’s course anytime soon, if ever, and almost all other nations will not either.


A less inclusive estimate of capital and other costs are in these URLs.


EEG Capital and Surcharge Cost Summary:

This section has an estimate of the capital and surcharge costs of the EEG-1 phase; start 2000 – end 2014 (15 years), and EEG-2 phase; start 2015 – end 2030 (16 years). The assumptions take into account the EEG surcharge build-up and wind-down periods of RE systems built during the phases. RE subsidies are for 20 years.

EEG – 1

The total EEG-1 surcharges on electric bills increased from zero at start of 2000 to about 24.5 b euro in 2014, will be decreasing to zero by end of 2034.

Costs During the EEG-1 Build-up and Wind-down Period:

Surcharge during build-up from start 2000 to end 2014, b euro……..111.6

Surcharge during wind-down from start 2015 to end 2034, b euro…..275.8

Total surcharge, b euro……………………………………………………..387.4

200.1 b euro capital cost to build the RE systems, which typically last only 20 to 25 years!!

Costs, such as grid build-outs, capacity adequacy, balancing losses, etc., are not included.

EEG – 2

The total EEG-2 surcharges on electric bills increased from zero at start of 2015 to about 11.7 b euro in 2030, will be decreasing to zero by end of 2050.

Costs During the EEG-2 Build-up and Wind-down Period:

Surcharge during build-up from start 2015 to end 2030, b euro…….102.3

Surcharge during wind-down from start 2031 to end 2050, b euro….111.0

Total surcharge, b euro……………………………………………………213.2

243.0 b euro capital cost to build the RE systems, which typically last only 20 – 25 years!!

Costs, such as grid build-outs, capacity adequacy, balancing losses, etc., are not included.


– RE systems installed at the start of 2000 receive feed-in rates to the end of 2019, i.e., for 20 years, etc.

– (EEG-1 + EEG-2) surcharge peaks at about 25.68 b euro during 2019, will be decreasing to zero by end of 2050. 

Conclusion: The above data indicates Germany restructuring a major part of its economy towards renewables, a.k.a. ENERGIEWENDE, would make no global warming and/or climate change difference, but would adversely affect Germany’s future economic well-being, because it would end up with an energy systems that would 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 and least developed nations, do not have the resources, and/or the willingness, to follow Germany.


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John Miller's picture
John Miller on Dec 3, 2012

Willem, is it not amazing that Germany appears to position itself as the world example or leader in reducing carbon emissions irrespective of the costs.  Germany has been one of the only successful EU countries that have avoided the economic recession disasters experienced by most other members.  I wonder how long this exceptionalism will last if they actually follow through with the clean energy investments you have outlined?

Another potential gap or flaw with Germany’s clean energy plans is to shutdown their nuclear power generation capacity.  Without nuclear or fossil fuel power generation baseload/backup and the lack of available industrial scale electric power storage, this strategy does not appear very promising.  Of course, they could still proceed provided their neighboring EU countries provided them with on-demand power supply to meet their local power grid reliability requirements during peak and off-peak periods.

Your referenced Spiegel article also points out a curious fact that the Germany Political Elite talk a good game about reducing everyone else’s carbon emissions, but somehow exempt themselves so that they can continued to be chauffeured around in limousines; which they obviously are deserving of based on their social status.

One last question, why do the international representatives continue to travel to distant places such as the Doha, Qatar Climate Conference (COP-18) via airlines, private jets, yachts and limousines?  This meeting attendance activity creates a large carbon footprint relative to available, lower carbon options.  You would think that these folks would set a better example for the world by utilizing modern video conferencing technologies, which has a carbon footprint just a small fraction of these face-to-face meetings at distant locations around the world.

John Miller

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Dec 3, 2012

The problem with all those 'projection' is that they are just that, projections. Made by bureaucrats.

I remember reading such a projection from the same organisation in 1985, warning that we would get out of crude oil by 2015 and CO2 emissions would quadruple in europe, because we would revert to coal as a backup for crude oil burners being out of crude oil.

Today, we are still swimming in oil, and the US is becoming the new saudi arabia thanks to shale gas/oil extraction technologies that didn't exist back then in 1985.

Fast forward from 1990 levels, and now europe is on target to DECREASE BY 20% it's CO2 emission levels, compared to 1990 levels, instead of quadrupling them as was stated in that 1985 projection. Meanwhile, Europe's economy has grown by >30% since 1990.

The projections made in 1985 now appears to be awfully 'off the chart', because of RE investments, energy efficiency gains in cars, trains, airplanes, housing, heating. What's next in the pipeline, to change those current projections for 2035 to the dustbin of history ?

Curiously, I read an article on another website of a revolutionary airplane engine (SABRE engine), in development in the UK, a mixture of a rocket engine and a turbine, allowing to go halfway around the globe in 4 hours, fly in the stratosphere or in earth orbit a mach 5, while being much more energy efficient than the current generation of airbus turbine engines. And a sub-scale model has past month been certified as valid by ESA, who paid to get it tested in a real life condition, very successfully.



Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 4, 2012

The Germans have certainly chosen an expensive route to clean energy.

Consider the following alternative:

1) Implement money saving efficiency improvements.

2) Export nuclear power plants to countries where it is cost competitive (this only works if we invest enough in the technology so that our products can beat those from other countries).

3) Phase-in modern CC natural gas plants in the US as needed to replace decommissioned plants (currently cheaper than new coal or nuclear in most places, and lower CO2 than coal).

4) Implement cng cars (currently cheaper than gasoline, and lower CO2).

( #3 and #4 will within a decade or so cause the price of natural gas to rise in the US).

5) Phase-in new US nuclear plants (or solar with storage if that's cheaper) as needed to replace decommissioned fossil fuel plants.

6) Implement cars, trucks, trains, and ships that run on carbon-free ammonia made from coal (ammonia is already cost competitive with gasoline), with captured CO2 sold for enhanced oil recovery.

7) Implement nuclear and ammonia as carbon-free sources of industrial process heat (for large and small applications, respectively).

8) Implement CC natural gas plants with CC&S (carbon capture & sequestration) for peaking.

9) Implement bio-fuel for aviation only.

This route might actually save us money (compared to business as usual, or compared to fossil fuel with a renewable veneer), since some studies claim that the external costs of burning coal (mainly for healthcare) make it more expensive than nuclear.

Presumably, #8 and #9 are not free, and would probably only happen with a carbon tax of some sort.

In summary, we don't need to emit CO2 in order to enjoy energy-rich lifestyles.  The price need not be excessive, as long as we are open minded enough to use the cost saving technologies (nuclear and carbon sequestration) that we have available to us. 

Jessee McBroom's picture
Jessee McBroom on Dec 4, 2012

Personally I think Woody the owl of the US Forrest Service has better advice the the combined intellect displayed here with his saimple quip "Give A Hoot Don't Pollute". It's still simple but very good advice and if applied; very effective.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Dec 4, 2012

Willem, what most people in the U.S. don't seem to realize is that the wind/solar industries have gotten a free ride over the years by expanding and utilizing existing base-peak generation capacity from coal, NG, nuclear and hydro.  In your experience have you found any studies that indicate at what total level of variable wind/solar power generation (5%, 10%, etc.) makes it necessary to build added NG intermediate/peaking power capacity required for U.S. power grids reliability?

 Installing hydropower pumped storage is the only industrial scale option or alternative to incremental NG power capacity (i.e. low carbon option) that is reasonably economical.  The environmentalist will, however, never allow this option to expand significantly in the states based on current biases towards new-added reservoirs.  Other politically popular options such as compressed air, fuel cells, etc. are technically feasible, but horribly inefficient and costly.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 6, 2012

I am planning to write pieces on cng cars and on ammonia as a fuel in the near future.  

The part about natural gas cc and nuclear plants seems an awful lot like "business as usual" though (i.e. doing whatever is cheapest).

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