Germany Finds Going Green is Tough Going

Earlier this month, I posted about Germany’s decision to shutter it nuclear-energy fleet, in an effort to “green” their economy. My chief sentiment was, “Good luck with that.” Good luck weening your economy off of non-renewable forms of energy after you axe nuclear and are left with a gaping hole where 23% of your country’s electric generation used to reside.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reports on Germany’s carbon-cutting plans:

“It’s not impossible,” said Laszlo Varro, head of the gas, coal and power markets division at the Paris-based International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental body that acts as energy-policy adviser to 28 industrialized member countries. “But if you take out nuclear energy, decarbonization will be more expensive and more difficult.”

…in the short term, Germany has already said the policy reversal means it will have to build additional coal-power plants.

Last week, while formally presenting the nuclear phaseout plan before Parliament, Ms. Merkel said the country would need to boost its fossil-fuel power-generating capacity twice as much as already planned over the next decade, by roughly 20 gigawatts in new coal and natural gas-fueled plants instead of the 10 gigawatts it had earmarked before its nuclear-policy reversal.

“If we want to exit nuclear energy and enter renewable energy, for the transition time we need fossil-fuel power plants,” Ms. Merkel said, without specifying how much would come from more carbon-intense coal-fired or gas-fueled plants.

Although most experts believe Germany can double its renewable energy share to 35% by 2020, the aggressive target isn’t quite enough to fill the gap left by nuclear power. That leaves it with importing electricity from its neighbors and building new gas and coal-fired plants.

Allow me to package this up for you nice and tidy: We, Germany, are prematurely wiping out almost a quarter of their electricity supply, in the wake of the nuclear situation in Japan. But, not to worry, technologies that are currently unreliable and not commercially viable will eventually, we think, with a big push from government (a.k.a. taxpayers), might one day power our lives. In the meantime, since we know no non-fossil-fueled technology (other than nuclear power, which we’re nixing) can meet our needs, we’ll ramp up coal-fired power production. We’ll burn more natural gas, too. Yes, we know they, unlike nuclear plants, emit carbon and traditional pollutants, but our hands our tied. Yes, we tied them ourselves, but enough with the finger pointing. Yes, we know that we can’t say for sure whether this “transition period” will actually lead to the widespread use of our favored renewables, but we’re hoping for the best.

Comments (3)

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  1. Kennedy says:

    Is Germany particularly earthquake-prone? If not, I’m not sure why they’ve freaked out about nuclear power so much. I understand that the situation in Japan is bad, but is there really a risk of something like that happening in Germany?

  2. Joe Barnett says:

    And if they had an earthquake, would it trigger a tidal wave sweeping over Germany?

  3. Paul D Perry says:

    Political correctness is the tidal wave sweeping over Germany.

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