Fact checking Bill Maher on German Green Power

Bill Maher did a service this Friday by discussing climate change. But he did mislead on the point about Germany’s achievement on Green Power or renewables. He said that Germany was running on 74% renewables. One of the panel, Ian Bremmer, pointed out that that was only for one day. Actually, the appropriate qualification was that it was only for a brief period around noon when solar would be at a maximum, and presumably when wind was also close to a maximum. It was also not noted that it was on a Sunday, when industrial power requirements would have been at a minimum. The report in Climate Progress on May 13, 2014 would indicate that the Sunday was that of May 11, when the country was also not using power for summer air conditioning. The same article also said that renewables accounted for 27% of Germany’s electricity for the first quarter of 2014, far below the 74% of one propitious moment.

While Germany’s renewable sources are praiseworthy, as I have pointed out before, their solar power at their latitudes are only half as efficient as solar power in Mediterranean climate countries. They also may be needlessly shutting down their clean nuclear power, since they are not in earthquake or tsunami zones.
The various sources of Germany’s power from Wikipedia up to 2012 is below.

From the EIA, in 2012, Germany generated 576 TWh of electricity. Renewabes was 139 TWh or 24%. Nuclear was 94 TWh, or 16%. Together, this means that 40% of Germany’s electricity was cleanly generated.

Germany closed 8 nuclear reactors made before 1980. It plans to close the remaining 9 before 2022.

Germany’s total renewable capacity at the end of 2011 was 65 GW.

Bill Maher’s comment was to challenge the US to achieve the 74% renewables, but let us look at a comparison of recent US and German power sources below.

usa-germany sources


Coal is on top (in light blue).  Coal is increasing in Germany as they shut down nuclear (in orange).  The US, on the other hand, is replacing coal with natural gas (in gray).  Since natural gas only produces about half the CO2 of coal and is much less polluting, this is a dramatic step forward for the US.  Germany’s unnecessary shut down of nuclear eliminates greenhouse gas free power.  Germany has increased its share of renewables to 24%, and the US is on its way there.  California has a goal of 20% renewables by 2010, and of 33% by 2020.


About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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