German Improved Coal Compliments Renewables, Cuts Emissions

German energy company RWE has installed two new coal plants as part of their energy revolution. It sounds like an oxymoron but has considerable benefits over the old coal systems. The units 2 & 3 at BoA emit less CO2 making their operation a better option from an emissions standpoint. The two new units are highly flexible in production, something old coal and nuclear power are not. These new units can change output by 500MW in just 15 minutes. The pair has a total output of 2200MW, equal to about two nuclear power plants.

The flexibility of these units is intended to compliment renewables by filling in the gaps in production as needed, something old coal plants and nuclear are not capable of. This means more generation from renewables can happen rather than giving the coal or nuclear plant a front seat in power production and renewables following after. The old scenario frequently causes over abundance of power during high output times of day when it is sunny or windy. With flexibility in coal generation all output can be tailored to what is needed.

This is part of a broader ambitious project to either replace or rennovate coal power plants in Germany so they are more efficient, flexible and less emitting. This fits with the aggressive plan in Germany to lower CO2 output. Even knowing that these coal plants may face phase out as renewables take a larger share, Germany is making the needed change. A better system takes priority over any one companies desire to preserve profits at any cost. Germany’s goal is to be 80% renewable energy by 2050.

Germany is planning 23 new coal plants to replace the old inefficient, non flexible ones.

Environmental groups are protesting the new plants out of concern it will prolong use of coal rather than pushing for a more rapid phase out. Renewables in Germany are already beating fossil and nuclear on price. Greenpeace cited a preference for gas rather than coal if fossil production is to be used to make up renewables gaps due to the lower emissions. Gas plants are already used for peak/drop power needs as flexible plants. Part of the criticism is that the new plants could use gassification and carbon scrubbing for better emissions.

While these new flexible plants may be an attempt for an old industry to remain relevant they are still an improvement over keeping the old unflexible plants going for a few more decades.

Additional reading:

More on the BoA plant

Fossil  thermal plants in Germany 

German energy information in English 

Live data on German energy production

German power production by region

Restructuring the German energy supply


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