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Renewables beat coal as Germany's power source

Darko Janjevic
January 3, 2019

Germans broke new ground in 2018 by receiving more electricity from "green" energy sources than from coal power plants, a new study said. But experts warn that Berlin could still miss its energy goals for 2030.

Modern electricity-producing windmill in Germany silhouetted against the sun
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Stratenschulte

Renewable energy became Germany's dominant source of electricity in 2018, beating coal for the first time in history, experts from the Germany-based Fraunhofer Institute said on Thursday.

"Green" energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower accounted for 40.3 percent of German net electricity production last year, rising by 4.3 percent compared to 2017. Experts said coal-fired power plants supplied about 38 percent of electricity in 2018.

Germany has set ambitious energy targets for the upcoming decade, aiming to have renewable sources provide 65 percent of energy by 2030. The percentage had grown from 8.5 in 2003 to 16.2 in 2008 and 27.2 another five years later.

Even with the 2018 landmark, the change is "not happening quickly enough," Fraunhofer Institute professor Bruno Burger told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

"If Germany continues at this rate, we are going to miss our 2030 targets," he said.

Read more: Germany falls farther behind on climate protection

Renewable energy booming in Germany

More sun, less water

Nuclear energy accounted for around 13.3 percent of electricity in 2018. However, the country is committed to shuttering its nuclear power plants by 2022.

Climate change seemed to have a positive effect in 2018. A dry and hot summer meant solar power provided 16 percent more energy than the previous year, but it also shrunk the output by hydropower plants, according to the Reuters news agency.

The German government's coal commission is set to present its plan for finally phasing out coal in early February.

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