Germany’s plan to phase out coal-fired power plants in order to reduce emissions does not mean the end of fossil fuel usage as the shortfall in baseload supply will have to be compensated by higher natural gas usage, Merkel said in Davos.
Germany began to phase out its nuclear power plants in the year 2000, with the “Energiewende” plan of transition to a low-carbon, environmental-friendly and affordable energy supply. When Merkel came to power in 2005, she was also dubbed the “climate Chancellor” on account of her successes in closing environmental pacts.
In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Merkel announced that all nuclear plants will be closed by 2022. This, however, left the country with a major problem: coal-fired plants now cover 40 percent of Germany’s electricity needs, but those are also being phased out so the country can meet its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 55 percent by the year 2030.
“But if we leave coal, if we leave nuclear, then we will need more natural gas. Energy after all needs to be affordable,” Merkel said. It was also in 2011 that Merkel set out a goal to cover 60 percent of energy demand from renewable sources by the year 2050. In light of the country’s higher gas demand outlined in the speech, it now seems doubtful that this latter goal can be met.