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14 May 2019, 13:30
Benjamin Wehrmann

Energy researchers spell out four reasons for slow emissions reduction in Germany

The rapid expansion of renewable power sources in Germany has not been matched by a parallel drop in carbon emissions and energy research experts of science academy ESYS say that there are four main reasons why the country’s trademark energy transition, the Energiewende, so far has not ensured that climate targets are being reached. First, the researchers argue, emissions remain high in non-power sectors, namely transport and buildings, which cannot be directly influenced by the expansion of wind, solar and other renewable sources. Second, coal-fired power production has not changed substantially over the past years since emissions allowances under the European emissions trading systems (EU ETS) were too cheap and made coal less expensive than other energy sources like natural gas. Third, renewables so far had to replace low-emission nuclear power plants, which are being phased out by 2022 in the framework of Germany’s nuclear exit. Part of the nuclear capacity had also been replaced with fossil sources, the researchers add. Finally, Germany has continuously increased its power export volumes in recent years, as volatile production with renewables at times means that power production grossly outpaces demand, but other times it is too low to keep the grid stable.

After years of almost stagnant total emissions, Germany last year saw the greatest emissions drop since the 2009 recession. Warm weather and higher prices dampened the use of climate-damaging fossil fuels, bringing overall greenhouse gas emissions down by 4.5 percent. However, Germany is still struggling to meet some of its national and European climate targets in the coming years, for example for emissions reduction in sectors not covered by the European Emissions Trading System (ETS), such as transport and construction.

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