Energy Initiative Blogs

Germany breaks the record, but why is there still coal?

by Dora Gacsi | Sep 16, 2015

On July 25, 2015, 78 percent of power consumption in Germany came from renewable sources. Even though it was only for a couple of minutes, it was a huge accomplishment for Germany and for the future of renewable energy production.

After Fukushima, Germans said no to nuclear power, started developing renewable energy production, and have continued to invest in this area as an alternative to nuclear. This is great news for Germany, Europe and potentially the world. 

Interestingly between July and August 2015, according to ISE, Germany used more energy from coal than from renewable sources (wind, solar, hydro) combined.

So why does Germany prefer coal over nuclear?

used energy sources

 Figure 1: German electricity produced between July 1 and August 5 2015 (in TWh)  Source: Frounhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

Nuclear energy is considered carbon free energy since it doesn't cause air pollution. It is true, if there is a nuclear accident, the effects are more serious than a coal factory accident. On the other hand, if we look at the number of lives lost per unit of energy generated, we can see that nuclear energy has caused fewer fatalities than coal (coal fatalities are caused mostly due to air pollution.) And if we are running out of coal (as some suggest), nuclear energy seems to be the more sustainable and carbon-free choice, at least presently.

Germany has done an amazing job with increasing its use of renewable energy sources. What concerns me is that they still rely heavily on coal plants.  In 2013, 286 of 630 TW/h (45%) were produced by hard coal and lignite (softer coal) power plants. It will be interesting to see how Germany continues to progress with their long term energy transition plans. 


Pyper, Julia.
A New Record: Renewables Make Up 78% of Germany’s Power Consumption in an Afternoon, Greentechsolar, July 31, 2015. (accessed on September 16, 2015.)

 Csurgó Dénes. A németek túlvannak az atomenergián,, August 7, 2015 (accessed on September 16, 2015)