Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Tale of Two Countries

In the energy discourse we hear a lot about renewable energy, zero emissions, Energiewende, installed capacity, etc. However, today we are trying to clear the air a little bit by publishing the results. Yes, here we are removing the hype and the wishful thinking and presenting just the results.
Luckily, we do have two countries that pursued different paths toward a low carbon electric generation system.
The first is Germany that committed to eliminating nuclear and producing most of its electric power with renewables (sun and wind), the other is France that decades ago decided to go mainly nuclear.

Here we can see the latest report from the IEA (International Energy Agency) in which we can see the actual energy generated during 2013 by each type of fuel. First we have Germany:

As we may see, combustible fuels continue to lead in German electricity production. Nuclear is still in second place. Sun + wind, on the other hand, barely increased their actual output in spite of the fact that their installed capacity continued to increase.

Now, let's take a look at France:

Think what we may about nuclear, it is a low carbon electricity producer. So France overwhelmingly produces its electricity via low carbon means and it shows.

If we now take a look at the ultimate climate result, we may see that German electricity is more than six times more carbon intensive than the French one.

This Tale of Two Countries is trying to point out which approach is actually working in the real world.

Thank you.

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At 6:33 PM, Blogger Ana Trevino said...

Great analysis. The numbers make it clear.

At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The common antinuclear "argument" which springs to mind here (and I think an opponent would certainly attack your point thus, rather than entertain for even a moment the wonderful, obvious result of all the greenhouse gas emissions the French have saved for the world) is that with enough nuclear reactors to similarly reduce emissions on a global scale, we would witness an increased number of accidents.

Setting aside that I'm skating close to Strawman territory here, and that in the absense of more RBMK-type containment building-free Russian reactors among all this capacity, the historical experience of 2 Generation II plant accidents resulted in no radiation-related death or injury... Setting that aside, if we are simply expanding the French lesson of rapid standardised build out to ~80% capacity, we can expect 0 serious accidents and 0 deaths, which is a pretty promising starting position.

Even if we start accounting for different countries' circumstances, this expanded nuclear capacity would need to result in equal or more deaths as we see today as a result of all power generation for the above "argument" to hold any water.


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