German Shift from Nuclear Triggers an Increase in Coal Burning


The German government’s decision to phase out all of the nation’s nuclear power plants following the 2011 Fukushima disaster has led to an increase in coal-burning within Europe’s largest economy.

Coal consumption in Germany has grown by 4.9 percent since Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to shift away from nuclear power over the next decade, according to a Bloomberg News report. While German leaders intended the new policy to strengthen the nation’s reliance on renewable energy, Germany’s largest utilities have built coal plants instead of cleaner-burning natural gas projects because coal plants are cheaper.

The collapse of the European Union’s carbon permit costs also means that there is little penalty for burning coal. “Angela Merkel’s policy has created an incentive structure which has the effect of partially replacing nuclear with coal, the dirtiest fuel that’s responsible for much of the growth in the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions since 1990,” Dieter Helm, an energy policy professor at the University of Oxford told Bloomberg News.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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