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The companies' undertaking to limit the operational lives of the reactors to an average of 32 years meant that two of the least economic ones – Stade and Obrigheim – were shut down in 20 respectively, and the one non-operational reactor (Mülheim-Kärlich, 1219 MWe) commenced decommissioning in 2003.Brunsbüttel was shut down in 2007, as was Krümmel, apart from a few weeks operation in 2009.
When Germany was reunited in 1990, all the Soviet-designed reactors in the east were shut down for safety reasons and are being decommissioned.
Germany’s electricity production in 2016 was 651 TWh, with demand of 597 TWh and net exports of 54 TWh.
Of the total generation, lignite provided 150 TWh (23%), hard coal 112 TWh (17%), nuclear 85 TWh (13%), gas 81 TWh (12.5%), onshore wind 68 TWh, offshore wind 12 TWh, biomass 45 TWh, solar PV 38 TWh, hydro 21 TWh, and household waste 6 TWh (Preliminary figures for 2017 are 147.5 TWh from lignite, 92.6 TWh from hard coal, 76.3 TWh from nuclear, 86.5 TWh from gas, 6 TWh from oil, 20 TWh from hydro, 45.5 TWh from biomass, 106.6 TWh from wind, 40 TWh from solar, 6 TWh from waste and 27.7 TWh from others (Germany is one of the biggest importers of gas, coal and oil worldwide, and has few domestic resources apart from lignite and renewables (but see later section). The preponderance of coal makes the country Europe’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.
Handing out enormous long-term subsidies to solar farms was unwise; abolishing nuclear power so quickly is crazy. The price of globally traded hard coal has dropped in the past few years, partly because shale-gas-rich America is exporting so much.
But Germany’s biggest error is one commonly committed by countries that are trying to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewables.
In particular, the agreement put a cap of 2623 billion k Wh on lifetime production by all 19 operating reactors, equivalent to an average lifetime of 32 years (less than the 35 years sought by industry).