Renewables and well wishes aren’t enough to power a modern society, Germany’s energy ministry begrudgingly admitted recently. As Reuters reports, a spokesperson for Energy and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel refuted reports that Germany was planning to wean itself off of coal, noting that something has to provide power:
Germany dismissed on Sunday a report suggesting it planned to exit coal-fired power generation in order to protect the climate, saying this would impose too great a burden on industry as the country is also phasing out nuclear energy. […]“For a country like Germany with a strong industrial base, exiting nuclear and coal-fired power generation at the same time would not be possible,” a spokeswoman for his ministry said in an emailed statement.
A key component of Germany’s “green” energy transition—its Energiewende—has been the phaseout of the country’s nuclear reactors. If eliminating one of the only zero-carbon sources of baseload power generation as part of a clean energy revolution sounds a bit funny to you, well, it should. But Berlin charted this course in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster (despite the fact that German reactors are seemingly much more safely sited than are Japan’s), and now finds itself burning more coal than it has since 1990 in order to compensate.Wind and solar energy production is booming in Germany, but, setting aside the huge increases in electricity costs that have resulted from the subsidization of renewables, these green options can’t replace the kind of power nuclear reactors were providing. Wind and solar can only produce when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, and can therefore only be relied upon to help supplement grid needs at times of peak demand. For all of its vaunted environmental ambitions, Germany still needs reliable baseload power production, and without nuclear, that means fossil fuels like coal.The Energiewende is the product of the modern green movement’s faulty logic laid bare. It’s a cautionary tale of what happens when well-meaning idealism runs roughshod over sound policymaking: higher costs and dirtier power production.