Germany Talks Solar, But Goes Coal.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the news articles condemning the energy policies of your country, and comparing them unfavourably to the shining green energy future being built in Germany. According to these articles, Germany is pretty much going solar for its power from now on, in a determined bid to cut its carbon emissions.

The only thing is, that story just isn’t true. Germany is powered by coal and, away from the climate summits and the international Earth Day junkets, is arguing powerfully to maintain subsidies on coal! Let’s take a look at what Germany’s real energy policy is.

In the German media, the national energy policy is an open secret. As Der Spiegel reported back in 2007:

Everyone in Germany is talking about climate protection — everyone, that is, except for energy companies. They’re planning to build dozens of new coal-fired power plants — with the support of the governing coalition in Berlin.,1518,472786,00.html

That’s right – dozens of new, massive coal-fired power stations, including many that will purely burn lignite, known as ‘brown coal’ and the dirtiest source of power that there is. As Der Spiegel pointed out, “German politicians are explicitly encouraging them to do so”. The scale of this planned investment in coal-fired power stations is impressive, and gives the lie to Germany’s place as the green man of Europe:

A total of 12 plants are being planned or built in North Rhine-Westphalia alone. If they were all to be connected to the electricity grid, they would produce an annual 68 million tons of emissions, according to calculations by North Rhine-Westphalia’s Green Party — more than Switzerland’s total annual emissions.

That’s just for one region of Germany alone, remember. Add in the other regions, and it makes a mockery of the UK’s monstrously expensive efforts to reduce its own Co2 emissions. People in the UK will be freezing to death as the wind turbines freeze up, whilst Germans will be warming themselves with cheap, plentiful coal.

How do we know that Germany’s coal will be cheap? Because we’re helping to pay for it, that’s why. Yes, you’ve guessed it – Germany has just recently won its battle in the European Parliament to get other countries to help subsidize their coal, as Reuters reports:

(Reuters) Germany and other coal-mining nations secured an extension of coal subsidies until 2018 after a months long battle with environmentalists.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, had proposed in July that the coal mining industry should only get four more years of state aid before subsidies are phased out in 2014, the sixth such extension of state aid since 1965.

But with thousands of jobs on the line, Germany led other coal-mining countries such as Spain in pushing hard to extend subsidies to 2018, to fit around Berlin’s own national laws.

That’s right – not only Germany, but Spain as well, are getting their coal extraction subsidized by other, dumber nations.

But what about Germany’s much vaunted solar power revolution? Well, as The Economist reported recently, “Germany’s support for solar power is getting ever harder to afford” (perhaps because the rest of Europe isn’t subsidizing it). It observes that the German government is actually cutting support for solar power, and not planning to ramp up production of solar panels.

And how much of Germay’s electricity does the solar miracle currently provide? The Economist article reports that:

solar modules are now thought to furnish close to 2% of Germany’s electricity, up from about 1% in 2008

But don’t worry, the Germans aren’t stupid. They have “dozens” of massive coal-fired power stations in the works, ready to supply cheap, reliable electricity for years and years to come. How about the country you live in?



20 responses to “Germany Talks Solar, But Goes Coal.

  1. Thatcher did a lot of good in the UK, but one insane action to be laid at her feet is her decision to bury the coal industry. Hundreds of pits were abandoned (thousands of tons of stone and concrete were dumped down the shafts to seal them off from a warming world – or union interference) and tens of thousands of jobs were lost. She beat Scargill but threw away energy independence and placed the UK at the mercy of foreign suppliers for its energy.

  2. Wow, this sort of thing can cause riots. I can understand our pommy cousins getting really really mad over this.

  3. Just a note of caution. the der Spiegel article is dated 2007. Reuters is 2010 and the economist is 2010

    • Hi Humbug.

      Thanks for the comment – I’ve dated the first article only in the post (the 2007 Der Spiegel piece) in the interests of full disclosure so people know it’s not a recent news article. The other two i have left undated, as they are both (as of 2011) very recent news articles).

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  4. This was Maggie’s huge failing (in hindsight).

    But she did it to get rid of the draconian control of the labor (coal miners) unions.

    In hindsight, the unions probably would have withered anyway, but she acted out of political necessity/strategy at the time.

    Now, we (sane, rational people) must strike back against the well-funded enviro entities allied with the doctrinaire socialist/communist types seeking to control daily life through “greenhouse” regulations.

    The conversation needs to be cast in terms of ‘efficiency”. The touted “green” energy sources are demonstrably, hugely in-efficient in the absence of tax subsidies (i.e., stealing from producers to fund slugs). So let’s frame the discussion in terms of verifiable dollars (or euros) per kilowatt-hour over ten years duration in the absence of any subsidies.

    Winner take all. Put up or shut up.

    And let’s find ways to provide basic, cheap living-space heat/energy to the impoverished world because they’re gonna need it in the next 2-3 frigid decades.

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  6. There were a number of things Thatcher got wrong, one was not stopping the Socialist education reforms, she didn’t – wrong.

    The mines, she was wrong but she’d thought of that one (excuse), she and Tickell launched Global warming (on the world – very clever, now though – she admits it and regrets this ‘play’) and then, she (or her ministers did) got it even more wrong in the ‘dash for gas’, using North Sea gas for electricity production (bonkers).
    The miners had to be broken, they however didn’t receive the generous subsidies, that their European cousins did, we had (some – not all) of the most efficient pits in the world.
    These (super pits) and the expertise of many miners should have been kept, the coal industry slimmed down but not buried – Thatcher remembered the humiliation of the Heath government, it was a very personal thing.
    We always knew that the EU particularly Germany and France were protecting their coal industries, they too desired the closure of the British Pits, Thatcher obliged them.

    The British stupidity advances, now we are even more stupid, then we were in the Thatcher years, we cannot build any new coal fired generating capacity without ‘clean coal technologies’ (pie in the sky b*ll*cks), it should be remembered what kept the lights on in the recent frigid conditions we have experienced……………why COAL!!

    Yes coal kept our lights on, trouble is, there are no ‘lights on’ in our politicians heads.

  7. I’m slightly confused. Reading the latest news on the issue it appears that the eu has extended subsidies till 2018. These appear to be national subsidies from Berlin but I’ve looked and found no eu funding for these new power stations and for coal in general. Of course indirectly it will impact on other nations so I guess indirectly we all pay but is there any evidence of direct payments, so to speak.
    Excellent blog and keep up the good work.

  8. Maggie was not wrong about coal . the mines were losing a fortune and we were getting free gas and oil from the N Sea. All the good and shallow seams of coal were exhausted and coal mining was having to go deeper and deeper . this meant escalating costs .
    Anyway what coal there is, is still there and as energy prices go skywards it will become economic to mine it again . With Polish miners of course . LOL .

  9. canada were i live would love to sell the uk some coal or oil just back off with the green poop ps im a expat dig burn baby and send the atom free

  10. Hi, i’m German.
    I don’t know how many of these plants were or are actually being built. The German Greens boast that they stopped seven of such projects from going forward. Doesn’t mean they stopped all of them, though, and probably the industry plans with redundancy – get approval for three when you want to build one and sacrifice two of the projects so the Greens can feel important.

    As for the subsidies: European nations who want to subsidize an industry need approval from the EU commission; because formally, the EU is a “free” market and supposed to be against market distortions. Only after you get this approval can a nation use its own money to subsidize some of its own industries.

    This happens all the time, France is very big in this, but it doesn’t mean that one nation transfers money to the other to subsidize their toys. A little bit of political haggling and you get your approval. But no money from other nations.

    There are other, transnational subsidies, but this coal subsidy is none of them – they are agricultural subsidies, and the rest is mostly money for developing econonomically weak regions, ATM that’s the new member states in the East who get the latter.

    So, no Scot is freezing to death because he has to pay for German lignite plants. Sorry 😉

  11. whatever feels good to you, my man. regardless,i want nothing to do with this. dunno. Anyway, i subscribed to your rss feed which really should work! Have a nice day!

  12. Thanks for this post. I for certain agree with what you are saying. I have been talking about this subject a lot lately with my father so possibly will this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!

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  14. Good question: I know you are using wordpress for this blog, but have you tried any other platforms. I am trying to decide for my blog? and I ask because I like yours.

  15. A man is what he thinks about all day long. – Ralph Valdo Emmerson

  16. I’m usually to blogging and i actually recognize your content. The article has really peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your web site and keep checking for brand new information.

    • Hi,

      I tried Google blogger some time ago and found it easy to use, but frankly the presentation seemed very dull and uninspiring.

      WordPress is pretty easy to use – if you can use a Word Processor you can use WordPress. The help system is pretty good as well. All i do is just google “wordpress” and my query if i need to know how to do anything. I would recommend it.

      Let me know when you get your blog up and running!


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