Germany abandoning all coal fired plants to save the world or something

Sounds like Germany is starting to take their commitments to the Paris climate agreement seriously. (And about time. While the United States was reducing our greenhouse gas output, the Germans have been falling woefully short of the mark.) Unfortunately, the plan being put forward this week may turn out to be a case of cultural suicide. After already deciding to shut down all of their nuclear plants (which produce zero greenhouse gases), now they’re announcing plans to shut down all of their coal-fired power plants in the next two decades. (LA Times)

Germany, one of the world’s biggest consumers of coal, will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years to meet its international commitments in the fight against climate change, a government commission said Saturday.

The announcement marked a significant shift for Europe’s largest country — a nation that had long been a leader on cutting CO2 emissions before turning into a laggard in recent years and badly missing its reduction targets. Coal plants account for 40% of Germany’s electricity, itself a reduction from recent years when coal dominated power production.

“This is an historic accomplishment,” said Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the 28-member government commission, at a news conference in Berlin following a marathon 21-hour negotiating session that concluded at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Insert #Golfclap hashtag here.

Well done, Germany. (Note sarcasm.) You’re going to wipe out 40% of your energy production in that relatively short amount of time and replace it with… renewables. I’m more than curious as to how they plan to do that.

Germany is already a European leader in renewable energy, having dumped vast amounts of resources into launching such production systems. They’re currently producing about 50GW of wind energy. And while it puts them well ahead of countries like the United States, that still accounts for barely a quarter of their total energy output. Due to the normal weather conditions, solar doesn’t thrive as well in Germany so that accounts for a little over 5% of their electricity.

The bottom line is that all of their nuclear plants are scheduled to be offline in three years. The coal plants will be going dark in the following years. They’re cutting off all of their energy sources that work whether or not the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. As we’ve learned from experiments here in America, those conditions can be fickle. The renewables are a great supplement to fossil fuels and nuke plants, but relying on them entirely can lead to grid starvation if you hit a bad run of weather.

Have the Germans considered just converting all of those coal plants over to natural gas as we’ve done in the United States? We’re producing huge amounts of it now and will be for at least the next century. And since Germany is an ally, I’m sure we could cut them a sweet deal to supply them.

But hey… you do you, Germany. If you bring about some nights that send you back to the dark ages, at least your country has plenty of experience with that.