Germany’s energiewende was supposed to be a triumph for clean energy, so why is coal enjoying a renaissance there? Angela Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear energy has put Berlin in a tight spot, and created a world in which Germany is less energy secure and more reliant on fossil fuels than it was before this “green” revolution. The FT reports:
Scrapping the country’s nuclear power stations will make an already difficult situation even worse. Ms Merkel took the decision following the 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima. Bowing to voters’ concerns, she abandoned her usual caution and acted hastily. But there have been two big costs for German energy policy.First, the closure of those reactors means Germany is burning more coal to meet its energy needs. Because the electricity generated from solar and wind sources is intermittent, Germany would always have been forced to rely on fossil fuels to provide back-up. But removing nuclear power, which accounts for nearly a quarter of electricity generation, means coal consumption has soared. Germany will end up opening nine coal power plants between 2010 and 2015. Last year, its electricity production from brown coal rose to its highest level since 1990.Second, Germany’s anti-nuclear policy makes it ever more reliant on imports of Russian natural gas. Rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine makes this an uncomfortable position. If Germany and its allies are to stand up to President Vladimir Putin’s aggression they need to make themselves less dependent on Russian gas. By hollowing out nuclear energy production, Ms Merkel makes this harder to achieve.
Read the whole thing. It eviscerates Germany’s ill-conceived green energy revolution, and highlights the hypocrisy of a supposedly climate change-friendly energy policy portfolio that has phased out zero-carbon baseload power in favor of that dirtiest fossil fuel of them all: coal.The energiewende has been a remarkably ambitious undertaking, but what was once held up as proof that green idealism could be realized in policy form has become a monument to the deep inconsistencies that underlie the environmental movement. Nuclear energy is about as green an energy source as they come, but knee-jerk, emotional reactions to the 2011 Fukushima disaster have led Germany down a decidedly brown path in recent years.