France and Germany: Electricity and Emissions

There is a question at the bottom of this post - maybe you have an answer.

The vast majority of French electricity is generated from from nuclear and hydro-electricity. There are only residual amounts of electricity generated from fossil fuels.

You can see live data on French electrical generation Here At GridWatch. Below is a snapshot taken today.

In the snap shot, along with coal at 0.01GW (0.02%) France is using gas to generate 0.68 GW (1.4%) and Oil 0.13GW (0.27%)

So in France electrical generation from fossil fuels account for less than 2% of production.

But how does this relate to emissions?

For simplicity I'll leave out the real nasties like Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrous Oxide and just deal with Carbon Dioxide. When we compare these figures with Germany (see below) the real nasties would be just about in the same in country to country proportion as the Carbon Dioxide.

From The EIA FAQs here (and a little bit of maths) we know that electricity generated from coal produces about one Tonne of Carbon Dioxide for every MWh of electricity.

Over the day, from burning coal to make electricity, France dumps 10 x 1 x 24 Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Or 240 Tonnes

From gas (550Kg/MWh) they dump 670 x 0.550 x 24 or 8844 Tonnes.

Finally today oil (816Kg/MWh) will dump 130 x 0.816 x 24 or 2545 Tonnes.

In total today, from producing electricity from fossil fuels, France will dump 11629 Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. So say: 12000 Tonnes max.

Now let us look at Germany. To reduce emissions and do away with its nuclear fleet, Germany has invested hugely in a plethora of wind turbines and solar panels. But its generation is still dominated by coal, with no real prospect of any significant reduction.

The German daily generation data is presented as a graph and the live graph can be found Fraunhofer interactive chart here. A snapshot is below

First of all, notice that Germany is actually using the dirtiest fuel known to man as base load (thats lignite or brown coal). Also its remaining nuclear fleet still adds about 9 GW.

Useage of coal and lignite averages out over the day at around 31GW. Gas averages out at about 2GW.

Although Lignite is significantly more polluting than hard coal I'll treat it all as hard coal for simplicity. Although Oil use is significantly above that in France we'll ignore it as it gets buried in the rounding as the rest of Germany's fossils fuel numbers are so large.

31GW of coal generation will over the day, produce 31,000 x 1 x 24 or 744,000 MWh and will dump 744,000 Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Gas produces 2000 x 0.55 x 24 = 26,400 Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. So say 750,000 Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide in total.

So, today in the real world, Electrical generation in Germany will dump somewhere around (750000/12000) 62 times more Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere than Nuclear France.

Of course, Germany 82.5M has a larger population than France (64.5M) So per capita the
emissions ratio is less, at about 50:1

But just think on that.

In Energiewende obsessed Germany, every time an electric kettle is boiled to make a cup of coffee, 50 times as much Carbon Dioxide is released as when a kettle is boiled in nuclear France.

So tell me, who has the more valid solution to the emissions problem?


Todd D said...

Great article and timely since Germany shut down a nuclear plant end of June 2015. Biomass might be Germany's largest growing renewable electricity source? I know it would be difficult to know how much CO2 emissions this causes, but seems it could be at least 121kg/MWh?

BilloTheWisp said...

Thank you Todd. Yes sadly another of Germany's safe reliable effective and clean nuclear stations shut yesterday. Over 1.2GW emissions free power lost for no sensible reason.

The more I read about Biomass the more suspect it looks. The Carbon Brief article is an eyeopener. I blogged about it back in March

It is difficult to see how Germany would be much different to the UK with respect to biomass pollution. In fact one thing we can be certain of is that the Germans are burning a hell of a lot more than just forest "residues" (which in the UK gives the lower figure as 121Kg/MWh.)

I would appear that German biomass which is the dominant though "invisible" renewable is nowhere near as beneficial as they make out, if at all.

Unknown said...

Great article!
I employ exactly the same logic! The German Energiewende is a fallacy. Current world production rate of solar panels is about 200 million and rising. I always benchmark to the Topaz PV plant of 9 million panels that produces about 1.1 TWh. The Germans produce about 600 TWh annually. Which means that by today's production levels in "topaz style pv panels", giving them 20% of the global stock of PV panels, it'll take Germany 135 years to supplant their current generation with PV...

The problem compounds itself due to the limited lifespan of the panels, requiring of us to cumulatively increase our production capabilities without end...