Propelled by, among other things, rising anti-nuclear-power sentiments post-Japanese tsunami, Germany recently announced plans to shut its 17 nuclear-power plants by the year 2022. That’s all well and good if they can find a suitable replacement for a power supply that, as recently as March, accounted for almost a quarter of the country’s electric-power generation.
Combine this heavy reliance on nuclear power with the fact that Germany is Europe’s biggest economy – and the world’s 4th largest – and it’s obvious that Germany is about to create a huge vacuum, both electrically and economically.
So, where will they turn to fill this void? Coal? It supplies about half of the country’s electricity, but the outlook on coal is anything but positive, given the continent’s carbon-cutting plans. Natural gas? Potentially, but given the fuel’s price volatility and the difficulties facing European shale gas, there are significant roadblocks. Wind and solar? Both will certainly ramp up but with myriad negatives, including the fact that (1) both are intermittent resources that cannot (like nuclear power) provide steady, ’round-the-clock power, (2) both are expensive, particularly on an equalized (cost-per-power-produced) basis, & (3) both are reliant on government assistance, surely not a positive given the Euro-zone’s debt crises and Germany’s outlays to the economically weaker Euro nations.
At the end of the day, the fact is that Germany is blackballing an energy resource that has, to this point, been safe, commercially-viable, and reliable. Moreover, they’ve done so without a promising (economically, politically, and/or technologically) replacement ready to step in and pick up the slack.