Germany does not need any foreign nuclear power
Imports of nuclear power to Germany did not increase after the shutdown of eight nuclear power plants in March 2011. This is the conclusion of a report by Öko-Institut which was commissioned by Greenpeace and is published today. The report refutes the often heard assertion that Germany’s phase-out of nuclear power would be counterbalanced by increased nuclear power imports. “No one can continue to support the false notion that foreign nuclear power has replaced German nuclear power,” stated Niklas Schinerl, energy expert at Greenpeace.
The numbers confirm it: Power exchange with the Czech Republic – a country with a considerable proportion of nuclear power – has changed very little. To be sure, somewhat more power was imported from France in 2011, but this amounted to only one percent of German power generation and did not entail an increase in the production of French nuclear power plants. The vast majority of electricity imported from France was shipped onward to neighboring countries like Switzerland. In 2012 France delivered less power to Germany than before the nuclear phase-out.
Power imports are governed by the power price
The current price on the power exchange is the decisive driver of imports and exports, and not any supposed threat of a supply bottleneck. “Cost optimization of power plant dispatch on the European power market is the decisive factor. The power plants with the lowest production costs come on-line first,” stated Charlotte Loreck, co-author of the report and energy expert at Öko-Institut. “The shutdown of eight NPPs did not change anything with respect to this mechanism."
Germany has the capacities to meet its own energy needs and, beyond that, to export power abroad. According to the German Federal Association of Energy and Water Industry (BDEW) Germany exported more power in 2012 than ever before. “International power sales in recent years have unjustly gotten a bad reputation. Imports and exports provide additional flexibility – a great advantage for the expansion of renewable energies,” says Schinerl. Traditionally, before the nuclear phase-out, Germany imported more power in summer than it exported. But in 2012, for the first time in ten years, Germany exported power in the summer. This is because of the increase of renewable energies and in particular of photovoltaics: in the summer of 2012 Germany exported the most electricity in the early afternoon hours.
The reason for the power surplus is the German coal-fired power plants which can only adjust rather slowly to the short-term power demand and continue to operate for financial reasons. Inexpensive CO2 allowances promote coal-fired power which harms the climate. “The EU must raise the CO2 price through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme; the German government must mandate the phase-out of coal-fired power by law. Then flexible gas-fired power plants will replace the coal-fired units – and gas is the bridge fuel toward 100 percent renewable energies,” said Schinerl.
Contact at Oeko-Institut
Energy & Climate Division
Oeko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology), Berlin office
Phone: +49 30 405085-337
Contact at Greenpeace
Greenpeace energy expert
Oeko-Institut is a leading European research and consultancy institute working for a sustainable future. Founded in 1977, the institute develops principles and strategies for realising the vision of sustainable development globally, nationally and locally. The Institute is located in Freiburg, Darmstadt and Berlin.
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