Germany Leading From Behind

While going in the wrong direction. With lots of wind in its face.

Energy

At one point this month renewable energy sources briefly supplied close to 90 percent of the power on Germany’s electric grid. But that doesn’t mean the world’s fourth-largest economy is close to being run on zero-carbon electricity. In fact, Germany is giving the rest of the world a lesson in just how much can go wrong when you try to reduce carbon emissions solely by installing lots of wind and solar.

After years of declines, Germany’s carbon emissions rose slightly in 2015, largely because the country produces more electricity than it needs. That’s happening because even if there are times when renewables can supply nearly all of the electricity on the grid, the variability of those sources forces Germany to keep other power plants running. And in Germany, which is phasing out its nuclear plants, those other plants primarily burn dirty coal.

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