Posts Tagged ‘Fossil Fuels’

July 22, 2011 | 2:03 pm

Spotlight: Germany’s nuclear exit will mean burning more fossil fuels

by Jarrett Adams

As Germany begins its trek toward shutting down its nuclear plants by 2022, it has to answer several questions about what effect this will have on the nation’s energy and environmental outlook. Some opponents to nuclear energy have stated that Germany’s plants, which until recently produced 24 percent of its electricity, will be picked up by expanding renewables. But, at least in the short term, much of this shortfall will be met by building new fossil fuel-fired plants.

In a recent piece, Guardian columnist George Monbiot wrote:

Germany’s promise to ditch nuclear power will produce an extra 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. In June Angela Merkel announced a possible doubling of the capacity of the coal and gas plants Germany will build in the next 10 years. Already Germany has been burning brown coal, one of the most polluting fuels on earth, to make up the shortfall.

In fact, the German chancellor has called for construction of 20 new fossil plants to replace the 17 nuclear plants until additional renewable capacity is available. According to Der Spiegel, a portion of funds originally directed for investment in renewables “has now been earmarked to subsidize the construction of new coal-fired power plants.”

Part of Germany’s solution will be to replace the electricity supplied by nuclear energy with renewable generation. We applaud the intent to build more renewable generation – AREVA has built six offshore wind turbines off the German coast and, with a production facility in Bremerhaven, working to developing many more. As these renewable sources cannot supply all of the power yet, the German energy demand will have to be supplemented through coal and natural gas. This increased dependence, mostly imported from Russia, has other drawbacks besides producing more greenhouse gas emissions.

Some recent articles have highlighted how Russian industry is positioning to help Germany with its transition away from nuclear energy, including the Voice of Russia. Last week an article plainly titled “Germany to renounce nuclear energy, Gazprom is ready to help,” detailed the new partnership between Gazprom and German utility RWE to build coal and gas fired plants in the country.

Blogger Rod Adams has written an interesting post on the Energy Collective examining Russia’s stake in the German nuclear phaseout.

Other analyses have pointed out that even if Germany meets its objective to phase out nuclear energy, it will not meet the supply the nuclear plants had provided with renewables. According to an insightful post from the Breakthrough Institute:

To fully replace nuclear power with renewable energy, the country would have to scale renewable energy to provide over 42.4% of the country’s projected 2020 electricity demand, a substantial increase from the 17% of electricity demand renewable energy provided in 2010, and far greater than the country’s goal of 35% of electricity demand in 2020. In terms of non-hydro renewables, that’s an increase of 2.6 times today’s levels.

The German people have the right to choose their energy sources, including deciding against nuclear energy. But this is not necessarily the trend. Many other countries understand the constant, low-carbon energy generated by nuclear plants and are moving forward aggressively with new nuclear plants, including China, which now has some 25 plants under construction, and India and the United Kingdom.

September 3, 2009 | 3:20 pm

Energy By the Numbers from the New York Times

by Katherine Berezowkyj

David J.C. Mackay’s recent piece in the New York Times discussed a question that surprisingly few have considered amid rising concerns about future energy supplies, “Where will the world get its energy from next ─ when, inevitably, humans stop using fossil fuels?”

The Cambridge University physics professor has broken down the debate by asking:
“How much energy does our chosen lifestyle use?”
“How much land area do we have?”
“And how much could we produce, from each source, and at what cost?”

He asks these questions because to consider using only renewable energy sources to power a country, it’s necessary to know how much power that country uses relative to its size.

Mackay says that knowing how much land area is used by power sources is valuable because “almost all renewables are harvested on land, and it is possible to quantify the potential power production from renewables in exactly the same consumption: watts per square meter.”
“Countries with power consumption per unit area of more than 1 watt per square meter, like Britain, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium and South Korea, would have to industrialize much of their countryside to live on their own renewables. Alternatively, their options are to radically reduce consumption, use nuclear power and buy additional renewable power from other, less densely populated, countries.”
Mackay also describes what a portfolio of one-third wind, desert solar, and nuclear power would be:

If a country with the size and population of Britain — 61 million people — adopted that mix, the land area occupied by wind farms would be nearly 10 percent of the country, or roughly the size of Wales. The area occupied by desert solar power stations — in the case of Britain, they would have to be connected by long-distance power lines — would be five times the size of London. The 50 nuclear power stations required would occupy a more modest 50 square kilometers.

This is not to downplay the importance of renewables to meeting the future energy needs of the United States and other highly developed nations. AREVA fully supports a range of renewable generation and is actively engaged in developing biopower and offshore wind projects around the world. However, it is important to recognize different energy sources bring with them distinct requirements that cannot be ignored as options are discussed.

The rest of his article, “Illuminating the Future of Energy,” really breaks down these watts per square meter calculations for a look at renewable options.

For a look at his book, “Sustainable Energy—Without the Hot Air,” see

May 22, 2009 | 4:01 pm

AREVA's Thomas A. Christopher on the Future of Nuclear Energy

Jason Ribiero over at Pro-Nuclear Democrats found this great MIT lecture by AREVA’s own Thomas A. Christopher from 2007 about careers in the nuclear energy field and the challenges faced by the energy industry.

Jason also provides a great overview:

Mr. Christopher makes some enlightening points about the increasing demand year after year placed on energy producers. With only a 2 or 3% demand increase in the USA, this translates to 20-30 thousand megawatts a year, that’s 20-30 GW of power, that’s more than double all of the wind capacity that’s been added in the last 10 years! Not only do we face the extreme challenge of converting our infrastructure to emission free energy, it’s hard enough just to keep up with demand using conventional fossil fuels. For the anti-nuclear advocates out there, you need to wake up to the reality that closing even one nuclear plant will put tremendous strain to meet demand and virtually guarantee millions of tons of more CO2 emissions.

Here’s the video. It’s 1:31 long and absolutely worth the time.