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Germany’s green image sullied

January 7, 2014

Germany’s switch to renewable energies is proving surprisingly good for brown coal as the use of it surged to a new high in 2013. Environmentalists are fuming and claim Germany’s clean energy image is sullied.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The share of German electricity generated from environmentally dirty brown coal rose 6.5 percent year-on-year in 2013, soaring to its highest level since 1990, latest energy industry figures released Tuesday showed.

Brown coal accounted for electricity to the tune of 162 billion kilowatt hours, equivalent to about 25 percent of Germany's total electricity production of 629 billion kilowatt hours in 2013, industry group Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen said.

The use of hard coal - compared with 2012 - also increased, the group added, rising by 8 billion to 124 billion kilowatt hours. As a result the two energy sources accounted for 45.5 percent of Germany's gross energy output, up from 44 percent the previous year.

According to the industry data, heavily subsidized renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass and hydropower were also able to raise their contribution to the German energy mix. Rising to 23.4 percent, or 147 billion kilowatt hours, the share of green energy rose by less than 1 percent in 2013.

Energy experts said the gain in the use of pollutant coal was the result of a German policy aiming to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 and promoting the use of renewable forms of energy.

Gas-fired plants outpriced

More efficient and less polluting gas-fired power plants were currently crowded out of the market, they said, as green energy was given preferential treatment on the power grid and coal energy was substantially cheaper than electricity generated from gas.

German environmental organizations called on the government to make sure that coal power prices fully reflect their costs to the environment. BUND energy expert Tina Löffelsund said steps must be taken to increase the price of emissions certificates on the EU carbon market to force utilities to curb the use of coal.

According to BUND, the rise in coal power was threatening to undermineGermany's climate protection goals which includes a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. German emissions had risen steadily since 2009, the organization added, with especially strong increases recorded in 2012 and 2013.

uhe/ipj (AP, AFP, dpa)