Germany’s green revolution—its energiewende—has been sputtering for some time, but the chorus of media voices decrying the ill-thought-out green policy is getting deafening. Der Spiegel lashed out at length at the renewable energy plan earlier this month, and last week the FT added its two cents on the ugly effects of propping up expensive renewables. By guaranteeing solar and wind energy producers minimum prices with feed-in tariffs, the German government has overseen an explosion in zero-carbon energy production. But the costs of this program—higher electricity prices—are being borne by German industry and German households. The situation has gotten so bad that even the New York Times is taking notice:
German families are being hit by rapidly increasing electricity rates, to the point where growing numbers of them can no longer afford to pay the bill. Businesses are more and more worried that their energy costs will put them at a disadvantage to competitors in nations with lower energy costs, and some energy-intensive industries have begun to shun the country because they fear steeper costs ahead.Newly constructed offshore wind farms churn unconnected to an energy grid still in need of expansion. And despite all the costs, carbon emissions actually rose last year as reserve coal-burning plants were fired up to close gaps in energy supplies.A new phrase, “energy poverty,” has entered the lexicon.
A German industry group is calling for a complete overhaul of the system after the conclusion of this month’s national elections. Addressing this green policy failure will be at or at least near the top of the agenda for the new German Chancellor. The energiewende has been held up by environmentalists around the world as a triumph and an example of what can be accomplished if politicians buy in to green thinking. But what’s happening in Germany should serve as a warning to leaders around the world: subsidize nascent technologies at your own peril.[Wind turbine image courtesy of Shutterstock]