Germany’s recent success in growing its renewable energy sources may have been green, but it was by no means natural. Solar and wind energy comes at a premium to fossil fuels, so to incentivize their production, the German government instituted guaranteed above-market prices for solar and wind energy producers called feed-in tariffs. However, Berlin was too successful in stimulating renewables, and many farmers now see their eponymous occupation—that is, farming—as secondary to producing solar and wind energy. The result has been a German energy landscape that is, simply put, unsustainable. The FT reports:
A growing chorus of critics complain that an earnest attempt to nurture green energy has spun out of control, creating a welfare system for farmers and landowners while saddling Germany with some of the highest household electricity bills in Europe. […]One [resident of the small rural German village of Reussenköge], Johannes Rabe, said: “Let’s put it this way, a large part of the community is now in the top income tax bracket – and more than half of their income is from renewable energy.”
Of course, these costs are being paid by someone—in this case, German consumers, who are paying ever-higher prices for their electricity. Not only is that hurting German households (at least the ones not producing solar or wind energy themselves), but it’s also hurting German industry’s ability to compete internationally. The German government has shielded some of its most energy-intensive manufacturers from these rising costs, but that might not last much longer, as Brussels has taken an interest in seeing these exemptions scrapped.Merkel’s new coalition government is expected to walk back some of Germany’s overzealous green policies as one of its first orders of business. That has plenty of environmentalists and newly flush farmers upset, but it’s a move that the average German household and business should welcome.