Germany's carbon emissions

The Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) project released their report on nuclear power in the context of Germany on 14 May 2019. This is part of a long running controversy as to whether Germany’s nuclear phase‑out policy has indeed led to an increase in electricity sector emissions or not.

The Clean Energy Wire (CLEW) also reviewed the report (Wehrmann 2019).

ScientistsForFuture fact‑checked the report on 14 May 2019 and found it free from identifiable errors.

It is worth noting that in Germany, “carbon” is used as a placeholder for “greenhouse gases”. Indeed some researchers, including industrial chemists, object to the term “decarbonization” and prefer “defossilization” instead.

The key points of the report were machine translated and then checked manually by someone knowledgeable with the content of the report:

Key points

In 2018, CO2 emissions in Germany fell markedly to 866 million tonnes for the first time since 2014. This is shown by calculations by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). This is not enough to achieve the climate protection targets. Why don’t emissions fall more, even though wind and solar power plants are constantly being expanded? After all, renewable energy sources covered almost 38% of Germany’s gross electricity consumption in 2018. In the new publication Kurz erklärt! (Shortly explained!) experts of the academy project Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) name four main reasons:

  • Emissions outside the electricity sector have hardly fallen at all.

  • The production of electricity from lignite has remained at almost the same high level. For a long time, electricity from emission‑intensive lignite was cheaper than other energy sources such as natural gas due to low prices for CO2 certificates.

  • Electricity from renewables partly replaces low‑CO2 nuclear energy. At the same time, generation from nuclear power plants was partly replaced by fossil‑fuel power plants due to security of supply considerations.

  • Germany produces more electricity, of which more and more is exported abroad. High volatile renewable generation capacities and consistently high and inflexible fossil‑fuel electricity production lead to low electricity prices, which are attractive to other European countries.

See also


acatech, Leopoldina, and Akademienunion (editors) (May 2019). Warum sinken die CO2-Emissionen in Deutschland nur langsam, obwohl die erneuerbaren Energien stark ausgebaut werden? [Why are CO2 emissions falling only slowly in Germany, even though renewable generation is being strongly expanded?] (in German). Germany: acatech, Leopoldina, Akademienunion. Webpage.

Wehrmann, Benjamin (14 May 2019). Energy researchers spell out four reasons for slow emissions reduction in Germany. Clean Energy Wire. Berlin, Germany.