you can see solar and nuclear (and other) production on http://www.transparency.eex.com
For example today at 1:00pm
solar: 12,4 GW
nuclear: most likely 10,7GW (data will be available tomorrow)
This now happens on every sunny day for some hours when demand is highest.
It is true that Germany now imports more energy from France & Co, but this is only half of the story. There have always been imports and exports with other European countries, that the reason why there is an European grid.
So far Germany exported more electricity over the years during the last years (roughly 20TWh/a). We will see if this will change in 2011.
Importing electricity is not only driven by the need for power but also because of market reasons. It could be cheaper to import electricity from a coal fired power plant in Poland than to switch on a natural gas fired power plant in Germany.
Germany has more than enough capacity (and there is still the "cold reserve") to compensate for 2/3rds of the nuclear reactors shut down by now, but the merit order of power plants also includes the possibilities of importing electricity.
Btw, also the French rely heavily on the European grid, because they export lots of there nuclear power during normal times but need electricity on cold winter days and in hot and dry summers when cooling water gets scarce.
I agree with those of you that claim that nuclear power is a technology that releases significantly less CO2 compared to coal for example and I will also agree, that on the global scale global warming is a much bigger problem for humankind compared to nuclear waste and the occasional failure.
So for me it is perfectly fine if China or the US build more nuclear power plants. I prefer that compared to more coal power plants.
But with nuclear power I'm also interested in the local effects and nuclear power is way to expensive and way to risky for densely populated regions like middle of Europe. Germans taxpayers pay billions of Euro for the "management" of the nuclear waste and it is scandalous how the nuclear industry and the policy acts about that.
It's also scandalous how the nuclear industry operates its reactors. Their only goal is to increase the profit and security only reduces the profit.
It is not the question IF a nuke will melt down in Europe (wasn't so far away in Forsmark/Sweden in 2006 and the Swiss already had a molten reactor core in their early nuclear days), it's only a question WHEN. I don't want to be the taxpayer of the country the nuclear accident happens.
We now have the European parliament that makes more than enough rules (some good, some less good....) and I'm sure that they can make a rule that every nuclear power plant has to have an insurance against every damage it causes. Let's think about 500-2.000 billion Euro for a major accident in Europe.
Of course such an insurance has to be backed by the government and the tax payers of that country, no such insurance is available for a company.
With such an EU law I'm sure not a single new reactor would be built.
So I don't believe in cheap nuclear technology. If you do, fine for you, just go on...
If the French do, fine for them, but they should pay to the last cent in the case of a major accident. Also we should pay of course, if a major accident occurs in our nuclear power plants.
And to the French: Please stop putting your nuclear waste from la Hague into the Atlantic (yes I know, we also did...)
Yes, we need to reduce CO2 emissions and we should reduce them much faster than we plan (and maybe the US starts to think about their emissions?)
In my opinion wind energy and solar energy are the resources Germany should use on the way to a zero CO2 nation. In the interim period we should build a few more natural gas (methane) fired power plants (Siemens now makes them at 60%+ efficiency) to compensate for the fluctuating wind+solar input, on the longer term we need more storage capacity.
Maybe NaS batteries (Mexico(!) builds a 1GW / 8GWh system), maybe more pumped (water) storage capacity, there is an interesting idea to be found here: http://www.poppware.de/Ringwallspeicher/index.htm
(only in German, sorry) or maybe the path from wind energy to hydrogen to methane is the way to go.
We have the first prototypes on wind-hydrogen power plants in the lower MW range and one energy provider now offers a tariff for natural gas mixed with hydrogen from excess wind power...
In my opinion these are technologies the world will need and buy in only a few years. Good for our export industry.
On the "other emissions" of conventional power plants. On the Eastern side of Germany you can see what effective filter systems can do on lignite power plants. There are still emissions (better to have none, of course), but I don't think that those are a significant problem at the moment. That is different in China for example, but in Germany emissions from the cars and trucks are seen as more problematic.
Dresden for example will be forced by the EU to pay millions of Euro, if they don't get their air quality problem with "fine dust" solved, so they are now discussing systems to give more space /v power to bicycles and the public transport (which is quite good in the city in my opinion)...
And don't see nuclear power plants solving those problems. Electric cars will do, but there are some years to go until they will become so common to have an effect.
So in the end I'm quite pragmatic and would say:
Let's use the technologies that have the best future for our country and in my opinion that would be wind energy and solar energy and storage systems. If fusion gets ready by 2050 (which I don't believe, but who knows) and it gets cheap and safe enough (which I also don't believe) we could use that, but to ist idle and wait for some magic technology is wasted time.
In the interim period we would need more natural gas, but on the longer end there are several options to get methane from renewable sources.
Almost everything could run on either methane or electricity, only planes would need liquid fuels (incl. liquid hydrogen or "biofuels")
The money that is made from keeping some of the old nuclear reactors running until 2015/2017/2020(?) will be desperately needed to pay for the nuclear waste treatment and "safe" storage for the next 50 years. After that we will see...
It will not be enough, so the tax payer will have to pay most of it, but that has always been the case with nuclear technology.
Lignite is the only carbon resource that Germany has in abundance. In my opinion it is very stupid to give it (almost for free) to the companies to burn it for cheap electricity and blow it into the air. We should save it for the chemical industry that still will need carbon based products after peak oil...
The last thing:
The costs of photovoltaic systems have come down by more than 50% from 2004 to 2010. This "learning curve" (similiar to those observed in the electrinic industries like the one for flat screens) is a combination of better and cheaper manufacturing in several countries and the demand created by installation programs in several countries.
Half of that global cost reduction in photovoltaic systems and the start into mass production was and is paid by Germans electricity customers.
Now photovoltaic systems have become cheaper than diesel generators in almost every "3rd world nation" so to make solar energy affordable is in my opinion (at least at 50%) Germany's part on the international fight on climate change. In the next discussion about cost transfers from rich polluters to the poor I would like to see that argument brought to the table.
What did nuclear power helped them so far?