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Emissions Decrease in Germany Emissions Plummet to Historic Lows in Germany as Coal Use Declines

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    Emissions Plummet to Historic Lows in Germany as Coal Use Declines

Germany has witnessed a staggering 46% drop in emissions, hitting the lowest levels recorded since the 1950s. This transformation is a momentous leap from the reference year of 1990. Markedly, it marked a reduction of about 49 million tonnes of CO2, well below the annual target of 722 million tonnes under the Climate Protection Act.

The Decline in Coal-Fired Power Generation

One of the pivotal factors steering this seismic shift was the significant decrease in coal-fired power generation, which plummeted to its lowest ebb since the 1960s, singlehandedly accounting for a savings of 44 million tonnes of CO2. This dramatic downturn was catalyzed by a noticeable dip in electricity demand and an upsurge in electricity imports from neighboring countries, nearly half of which were sourced from renewable energy. Moreover, there was a corresponding decline in electricity exports coupled with a marginal increase in domestic green electricity production.

Furthermore, emissions from the industrial sector also experienced a notable nosedive, primarily attributable to reduced production by energy-intensive firms due to the prevailing economic conditions and global crises.

The Battle with Short-Term Effects

While the decline in emissions paints a rosy picture, only a fraction of the saved CO2 can be deemed as a permanent reduction. Shockingly, the analysis reveals that merely 15% of the emissions cuts result from long-term endeavors, such as increased renewable energy capacity, efficiency enhancements, and the transition to low-carbon fuels. Conversely, nearly half of the emissions plummet is attributed to short-term effects, such as diminished electricity prices.

This prompts a sober reflection on the sustainability of the emissions drop. The looming threat of emissions rebounding as the economy gathers momentum or a portion of Germany’s industrial production moves permanently overseas casts a pall over the current euphoria.

Challenges Persist in Buildings and Transportation Sectors

The study has shed light on the fact that CO2 emissions from buildings and transportation showed almost no change in 2023. Consequently, both these sectors failed to meet their climate goals for the fourth and third consecutive years, respectively.

Simon Müller, director of Agora Energiewende Germany, in the report stated, “2023 was a two-speed year as far as climate protection in Germany is concerned.” He added, “The energy sector notched up a climate policy success with its record level of new renewable power, taking us closer to the 2030 target. However, we don’t consider the emissions reductions seen in the industrial sector to be sustainable.

The Call for Renewable Energy Deployment

Müller emphasized the imperative need to substantially bolster the deployment of renewables to permanently replace CO2-intensive forms of electricity production in the nation’s energy mix. He highlighted the urgency for industry-friendly conditions to incentivize investments in climate-neutral steel production and the shift from gas to electricity for process heat.

Coal’s Performance and Renewable Energy’s Contribution

The report underscores that emissions from electricity generation nosedived by 46 million tonnes of CO2, plummeting to a mere 177 million tonnes of CO2 – less than half of the level logged in 1990.

Additionally, the significant decrease in coal-fired power generation was attributed to a drop in electricity consumption and the surge in renewable electricity generation across Europe, with Germany importing more electricity instead of producing it in domestic coal-fired power plants. Furthermore, the supply situation in the energy market eased in 2023, leading to a decline in electricity and natural gas prices compared to the previous year.

Renewables’ Stellar Performance

The report spotlights the record levels of newly installed solar capacity that contributed to the plunge in electricity prices. Germany also witnessed a remarkable expansion in wind energy generation due to favorable weather conditions and a marginal increase in the number of wind turbines.

Overall, renewable energy sources managed to surpass supplying 50% of the total gross electricity demand in Germany for the first time in 2023.