Case study: CO2-reduction achieved by nuclear, wind and solar power in some countries

This what-if analysis shows how much higher carbon dioxide emissions in some countries would be if the zero-emission power generation, nuclear power, wind power or solar power would be replaced with coal at a specific emission of 1 kg CO2 / kWh.

The statistics used is from BP and can be downloaded here, at Historical Data Workbook.

In each graph we plot actual CO2-emissions for the years 1965 – 2013. Another curve describes the situation where the nuclear, wind or solar power would be replaced by coal.

For nuclear power we compare Sweden, France and Finland.


Figure 1.


Figure 2.


Figure 3.

It is observed that, compared to coal, nuclear power has reduced CO2-emissions in these countries in 2013, as follows:

• In Sweden – 56 %
• In France – 52 %
• In Finland – 33 %

By nuclear power it seems to be possible to reduce emissions roughly by about 50 % compared to coal, but this depends largely on how much of the energy is used as electricity, and what is the actual source. In developed countries, as here, the share of electricity in total energy usage is high, so the potential for emission reduction by emission-free electricity generation is significant.

Let’s make a similar comparison with emissions of Denmark, Germany and Spain, if the wind and solar power would be replaced with coal.


Figure 4.


Figure 5.


Figure 6.

Wind and solar power has reduced CO2-emissions in these countries in 2013, as follows:

• In Denmark – 20 %
• In Spain – 20 %
• In Germany – 6 %

We can also calculate the annual emission reduction of these countries. It’s perhaps most interesting to compare Sweden and Denmark, because they are “top one” in the world. Sweden in nuclear and Denmark in wind power generation.

We draw one curve for each country in the same chart that shows the annual emission reduction achieved by either nuclear power or wind and solar. The unit here is percentage so the different amounts of electricity consumption in different countries are eliminated from the results.


Figure 7.

These countries are among the best of their kind. As a conclusion, we can see that nuclear power is in all cases at least a two times faster way to reduce emissions than the wind and solar together.

Of these countries, Spain has achieved the fastest growth in wind and solar power. However, the economy in Spain is in such poor condition that the amount of subsidies for renewable energy have drastically been decreased and installation of wind and solar power has slowed since the publication of these statistics.

Excel-sheet for these charts can be downloaded here.

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