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Germany’s coal power output falls to lowest level in decades despite nuclear shutdown

A wind farm in Germany
A German wind farm. Photo: Conny Pokorny/Dreamstime

In 2023, Germany’s coal power production was back at levels last seen in the early 1960s, according to a study by research firm Fraunhofer ISE. That’s despite the country shutting its last nuclear plants in mid-April.

Coal’s contribution to the generation mix slumped to 27% as wind increased its share to 33%. Including solar, hydro and biomass, renewables in aggregate accounted for 60% of output.

Yes, but: These figures refer to generation only and exclude imports, which increased in 2023 thanks in part to low prices in neighbouring states.

The bulk of imports came from Denmark, Norway and Sweden, all of which have cleaner power grids than Germany’s.

A separate study, which focused on power consumption rather than output, showed that renewables covered 52% of Germany’s electricity needs in 2023, surpassing the half-way mark for the first time.

This as Germany’s installed renewable energy capacity rose 17GW in 2023 to reach 170GW, according to the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA). Conversely, gas consumption fell 5% from the prior year, the agency says.

Solar is catching up: While wind is comfortably the largest contributor to Germany’s electricity mix, solar installations are accelerating, new data shows.

More than a million solar systems were installed in 2023 — a new record, according to the German Solar Industry Association (BSW).

This translates into 14GW of new capacity, which is nearly double the rate of installations in the previous year.

“We expect a sustained solar boom in 2024,” BSW managing director Carsten Körnig said.

In 2024, more than 1.5 million private property owners plan to install solar systems on their roofs, BSW said, citing a recent survey.

Meanwhile, Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions fell to their lowest level in 70 years in 2023, according to think tank Agora Energiewende, which said the country’s economic malaise was partly to blame.

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