Germany’s green energy revolution reaches a dead end

A lignite-fired power plant in Weisweiler, Germany. (
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

In 2021, Germany seems to be heading towards producing the largest increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the last 30 years. According to the observations of the first half of the year, the recovery from the coronavirus epidemic will be carried out at the cost of higher pollution than the economic recovery after the 2008 crisis, which may frustrate the achievement of German climate protection goals, even if the trend eases.

In the first half of this year, CO2 emissions from electricity generation increased by 21 million tonnes (about 25 percent compared to the same period last year) in Germany. The easing of measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus epidemic has allowed economic activity to increase and recovery to begin, which has raised energy demand to pre-epidemic levels.

At the same time, however, the unfavorable weather conditions from an energy point of view, despite increasing capacity, did not ensure that Germany’s additional demand could be met with renewables: the 25% drop in wind turbine production could not be offset by a slight increase in solar energy.

The winners for the period were fossil fuels: electricity generated by coal-fired power plants increased by almost 40 percent and electricity from gas-fired power plants by 15 percent over the previous year.

Based on data from the first half of the year, the Agora Energiewende research institute, set up to provide professional support for the German energy transition, has updated the country’s 2021 CO2 emissions forecast. From the extrapolation of the two scenarios, the study estimates a total increase of 47 million tonnes, the largest increase since 1990, considered the base year for climate policy (the highest ever, measured at around thirty million tonnes since the 2008 crisis in 2010).

In addition, based on the results of the modeling, if the unfavorable trend continues, the excess emissions could reach as much as 70 million tons. According to Dr. Patrick Graichen, director of the institute, the results are worrying mainly because they point out that the achievement of the emission reduction target set for 2020 was due to the coronavirus epidemic and other special effects and not to German climate protection measures. As a result of the increase, both aggregate and sectoral efforts will fail and the country will “return to the starting line”.

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