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Germany’s Renewable Energy Unicorn Hunt Stumbles, Again

On Monday, Germany announced that it is about to be hit by a huge hike in electricity prices. Under the new rates, German consumers can expect to pay nearly $26 billion in surcharges on their electric bills next year in order to promote renewable energy. The program wasn’t supposed to increase costs for the average consumer, but now green energy surcharges have gone up by fifty percent.

Yet even after pocketing huge sums from consumers, Germany is still struggling to develop a renewable energy sector that can stand on its own two feet. Much of the money raised by these new surcharges is wasted on programs of dubious value, Der Spiegel reports:

The central question in all of this is whether the money coming from electricity consumers is being spent wisely. If the federal government wants to have all of Germany’s nuclear power plants phased out by 2022, why is it doing so little to ensure that the project will succeed?

Billions are currently being spent on the unchecked expansion of solar energy—a technology that contributes the least to a reliable power supply in Germany, which isn’t exactly famous for abundant sunshine. The comparatively efficient building renovation programs, on the other, have come to a standstill because the federal and state governments have been quarreling over funding for more than a year now. There is far too little storage capacity to serve as a buffer against the fluctuating supply of wind and solar energy. In addition, there are no conventional replacement power plants in the works.

Greens the world over have often touted Germany’s renewable energy programs as international models and have spent a great deal of time and money lobbying for similar measures in various countries. News like this suggest that perhaps those countries should wait a bit to see how Germany’s green energy unicorn hunt plays out before staging hunts of their own. So far, lots of money has been shuffled around, with no unicorn pelts to show for the effort.

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