(Montel) German carbon emissions will climb by their fastest pace in at least 30 years this year as the country’s coal plants benefit most from recovering power demand, think tank Agora Energiewende said on Monday.
The midpoint of this range would return them to around 37% below 1990 levels, shattering last year’s success in reaching a goal of a 40% cut by 2020.
The disruption of the coronavirus pandemic last year saw German emissions fall to 739m tonnes, or 41% below 1990 levels.
“What is particularly worrying about this increase is that it is not only a rebound effect,” the think tank said in a report. “It also reflects structural deficits in the implementation of the energy transition.”
These included a particularly sluggish expansion of renewable energy – especially wind power – as well as stagnating emissions in the industry and transport sectors over the previous decade, Agora said.
Coal emissions surge
The largest increase in emissions would come from power generation this year.
The power sector was likely to see emissions climb by between 20-40m tonnes, depending upon how renewable energy performs in the second half of the year and whether gas prices remain exceptionally expensive.
German power emissions climbed by 20m tonnes year on year in the first half of 2021 and could repeat this growth in the second half if renewables were to generate similar output to levels produced over the second half of 2020, Agora said.
German power consumption had returned to 2019 levels while renewable energy declined by roughly 16.4 TWh in the first half, mostly due to a 20% slump in wind output this year.
Lignite-fired generation rebounded this year despite record high carbon prices. One reason for this was much higher gas prices, especially due to demand for LNG in Asia, Agora said. Lignite generation climbed 14.2 TWh or by 38%.
Other sectors struggle
Industrial emissions were likely to rise 7m this year to 185m tonnes, though a rise to 195m tonnes was possible. This compares to a target of 182m tonnes for this year.
Building emissions were likely to remain relatively flat – coming in anywhere between 116-124m tonnes compared to 120m tonnes last year. This left them on track to remain well above a target of 113m tonnes this year.
Agora expected transport emissions to rise as much as 10m tonnes this year to come in between 145-155m tonnes depending on how the pandemic unfolds. Germany aims to limit emissions here to 145m tonnes in 2021.
The first half of the year saw transport emissions fall further due to low levels of flying and lockdowns at the start of the year. Emissions didn’t rebound as strongly thereafter, likely due to a greater return to public transport than over the same period last year.
Agricultural sector emissions continued to fall marginally in line with their long term trend as they were all but unaffected by the pandemic. They are likely to reach between 64-68m tonnes this year, under a goal of 68m tonnes.
Germany’s next government after elections in September would need to introduce an immediate action programme to put the country on a path to delivering its goal of a 65% cut in emissions by 2030, Agora said.