22 January 2014

Europe's New Emissions Goals

The European Commission has recommended a set of new goals for its climate and energy policies. The centerpiece of the proposed policy is a 40% reduction target for each member nation from 1990 levels. The BBC reports:
Climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said that, given the economic climate, the 40% target was a significant advance.

"A 40% emissions reduction is the most cost-effective target for the EU and it takes account of our global responsibility," she said.

"If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape."

Officials emphasised that the 40% target would have to be achieved "through domestic measures alone", meaning that member states couldn't offset their reductions by paying for carbon cutting in other countries.
The graph at the top of this post, which I earlier shared via Twitter and is of the sort that I have shown previously, shows the implications of a 40% emissions target for the proportion of carbon-free energy in Germany in 2030.  The graph assumes that (a) carbon-free energy replaces the most carbon-intensive sources (i.e., coal), (b) that nuclear is phased out and (c) that energy demand remains constant at 2012 levels to 2030. Such assumptions could of course be varied, the data come from BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

The graph indicates that achieving a non-nuclear, renewables-based energy system in Germany, while also reducing emissions to 40% below 1990 levels, will remain a formidable challenge. For now, Germany is building more coal plants and moving away from that 2030 target.


  1. I am quoted in the New Scientist referring to this analysis. Here is the full text of what I provided NS:

    "See attached. This graph shows how much carbon-free energy (and it is energy, not electricity) Germany would need to hit the EU target (currently being discussed) for a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030. (The size of the red bar would be the same if you moved it over the 2020 for a 40% by 2020 target.)


    1. It assumes constant demand at 2012 levels. Obviously this assumption could be varied.
    2. It assumes that new carbon-free energy replaces the most carbon-intensive sources first, meaning coal.
    3. Carbon-free could be nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, whatever.

    It seems highly unlikely that Germany can hit a 40% reduction target by 2030, much less 2020, on the course that it is now on if the goal is to reduce actual carbon dioxide emissions. There may of course be some way to use offsets, permits to give the impression of reductions. The Energiwende is indeed causing a change, and that change is leading to greater reliance on coal and more carbon dioxide emissions. Whatever one happens to think about nuclear, it offers the best tool available for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, as we are learning in Germany, Japan and South Korea. The Energiewende may yet succeed over the long run, but at present it is moving emissions in the wrong direction.

    Hope this helps, happy to redo the graph under different assumptions."

    Here is the NS article:

  2. Why are you assuming energy demands to be constant at 2012 levels?

  3. -2-Joshua

    Thanks, it is not a prediction, just a starting assumption. See Pielke et al. 2008 for discussion.

  4. The graph shows that the share of carbon-free energy in Germany now is 17 %? If you eliminate the contribution of operational nuclear power plants, how much is it then?

  5. -4-Pirate

    Good question -- Answer = ~10%

  6. So, am I correct to assume for 2013 onwards the proportion of carbon free energy consumption in Germany (green bars) will drop by ~7% due to the rapid phase-out of Germany's nuclear shutdown? And that the challenge ahead to meet the 2030 demands are thus much larger?

  7. -6-Jos

    Correct. By 2030 Germany will have to quadruple its non-nuke carbon-free energy under the assumptions here, to hit a 40% CO2 reduction target. Thanks.

  8. So, to sum it up, Germany's current deployment of renewables produces 10 % of their energy. And gobbles 24 billion euros a year (2014) in subsidies.

    Solar subsidies are cut in Germany ( and the sun barely shines from November till February). Wind subsidies are being cut, biomass can't be expanded and offshore wind target has been cut down.

    Sounds like renewable equivalent of invasion of Russia....

  9. Roger, follow up question: the relatively "fast" rise in the 1970s, is that related to the increase of nuclear in their energy mix? And just for reference/perspective, what is fastest rate of carbon-free energy increase (decarbonization, if you like) Germany has reached in the past EXCLUDING nuclear and hydro?

  10. OK, if I have had a proper look at the data then Germany's nuclear energy consumption has been stable since the late 1980s, so the increase in carbon-free energy consumption since the late 1980s is attributable to mainly solar, wind and biofuels. Germany thus achieved an increase in carbon-free energy use of approximately 5% in 25 years. And now the EU wants to go to 40% in a mere 20 years? Good luck ...

  11. "If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape."

    The corollary of this is that if other regions don't follow suit, this reduction will make very little difference to the Earth's climate...and the evidence that setting an example of self-sacrifice changes the course of international affairs is?

  12. Of course it's not a prediction. That's why you said it was an assumption. So that's why I asked why you made that assumption. Sheese.

  13. Instead of wasting Roger's time with your usual nit-picking Joshua, why don't you find a better assumption, then explain why it is better. Or is this just another of your usual attempts to derail a sensible exposition of energy fantasies with stupid side-tracks?

    Given Germany's energy consumption over the last thirty years (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Germany) I think Roger is has every reason to think per capita use won't change that much.

    But go on, enlighten us on how much you think they will be using.

  14. Hello Roger,

    I think your data basis, methodology and approach is flawed and you mixes alot of things.

    1. You use BP statistics, which are good in terms of fossil fuel consumption, but useless for nuclear & renewables.

    BPs primary energy consumption data for non-Hydro RES is solely based on renewable power generation (substitution methode). It completly ignores RES for heat demand.

    2. A statement about real world outcomes by predicting constant primary energy demand is extremly unrealistic for Germany.

    3. Basing an argument on a graph/calculation that creates a direct correlation between the share of clean energy in the primary energy supply and carbon emissions lacks any academic honesty. Reality is more complex.

  15. -14-Thomas

    Thanks for your comments. Just a few replies:

    1. What numbers would you use and how does such an analysis look with these values?

    2. Perhaps so, but note that this analysis reflects starting assumptions. It is not a prediction.

    3. We will simply agree to disagree. Of course carbon emissions are directly related to the energy supply mix.

    You are welcome to comment, but I'd request that you refrain from allegations related to "academic honesty." Let's stick to the substance please.


  16. ==]] Instead of wasting Roger's time with your usual nit-picking Joshua, why don't you find a better assumption, then explain why it is better. [[==

    How interesting that a question asking for information is interpreted as being "nitpicking."

    Not the case. I was asking for information. Thanks for stepping in for Roger and supplying some information that helps to provide an answer.

    Apparently you think that I was pursuing some goal by asking Roger for his rationale. Just curious, what goal is it that you think I was pursuing?

  17. ===]]] You are welcome to comment, but I'd request that you refrain from allegations related to "academic honesty." Let's stick to the substance please. [[[===

    Hmmm. Goose/Gander, Roger?

  18. -17- Joshua

    I am not sure why all of your participation here always ends the same way, but here we are. This post is about emissions/energy/Europe. If you have comments on that topic you are welcome. If not please take it elsewhere. Thanks.

  19. -15- Roger

    1. If you are serious about discussing future emissions and energy systems, you should focus on final energy consumption, aswell as the changes in conversion efficiency (=> resulting primary energy demand).

    Looking into the future on the basis of primary energy demand statistics is doomed to be ridiculess. Primary energy consumption statistics are great for discussing emissions from fossil fuels, not much else.

    Why don't you use the far more detailed & well sourced official German data?

    2 & 3:
    I get that you choose a very strange starting assumption. On the basis of those unrealistic assumptions it might even make sense. However, you also choose to use your fantasy-analysis to comment of developments in the real world.

    Making statements about the real world, based on your unrealistic starting assumptions is what I called dishonest.

  20. -19-Thomas

    Thanks, a few more:

    1. The BP numbers are consumption figures, and are widely used in such analyses. In addition, the data from BP is global, allowing comparative analyses. Of course they could be methodologically suspect or even in error -- always a risk with data.

    So if you think other data indicates different results, I'd be very interested in seeing your (or other) analysis.

    2&3. Usually people get called dishonest for hiding their assumptions. I've made mine explicit. I've even offered to explore alternative scenarios with other assumptions. If you like other scenarios, great.

    I am quite comfortable with my conclusion that hitting Germany's emissions targets remains a "formidable challenge." Others may disagree. Again, great. Disagreement does not imply dishonesty.


  21. Helpful post and comment up to comment #10. Always appreciated your work Roger

  22. German Energy Blog presents key points of EEG reform:


    If the Germany continues to add solar and wind power according to the upper levels of cabinet-determined power "corridors", they will have 8 GW of offshore wind, 54 GW of onshore wind and 63 GW of solar capacity in 2022. That's when all nuclear plants are shut down.

    Winters will be interesting. Using 50% capacity factor for offshore wind and 30% for onshore wind, 100% for hydro and biopower generation, Germany will have 34 GW of renewable electricity on average available. Peak demand is currently 80 GW.

    Looks like Germany has to keep a large number of fossil fuel plants as a backup also in the future.