Germany is at the forefront of renewable energy generation, but coal-fired power is proving difficult to phase out
GERMANY IS QUICK TO FLAUNT ITS GREEN
energy credentials. It’s easy enough to see why: The country has more photovoltaic capacity than any country on Earth, at over 38,000 megawatts (MW), and is a global leader in clean energy innovation, as part of its ambitious Energiewende program. But there is another side to Germany’s image as a renewable energy powerhouse.
The country still depends heavily on coalfired power generation, like the 4,200-MW baseload lignite-fired facility (pictured) located near Neurath, in western Germany. In 2014, Germany generated 44 percent of its electricity from coal, more than any other European Union member. By comparison, 26 percent of Germany’s power was generated from renewable sources. Another 16 percent came from nuclear power plants, which the country began phasing out in 2011 after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and hopes to close by 2022. The space being left in the energy mix by nuclear power is supporting coal-fired power. The country also has a strong coal lobby.
In Canada, the phase out of coal – often called a “sunset industry” – is underway, but not as quickly as some would like. Ontario successfully eliminated the last of its coal-fired power in 2014, which made up about 25 percent of its capacity in 2003. Electricity rates went up by about 30 percent between 2010 and 2015 as a result. Under the NDP, Alberta also plans to phase out coal, this time by 2030, though at 55 percent, the fossil fuel accounts for most of the province’s total electricity production. So the sun may be setting on coal, but not for some time yet.