The aggregate amount of power generated from renewable sources in Germany last year was greater than any other source of energy, according to a new study. The FT reports:
Nearly 26 per cent of Germany’s power generation came from renewable sources in 2014, according to figures compiled by Agora Energiewende, a Berlin think-tank, up from just over 24 per cent in 2013. Electricity output from renewables has grown eightfold in Germany since 1990. […]Of the energy derived from renewables last year, 8.6 per cent came from wind, 8 per cent from biomass, 5.8 per cent from solar, while hydropower contributed 3.4 per cent.
Greens will hail this as a triumph, but as we’ve known for some time, renewables’ rapid rise in Germany’s energy mix has come at a very high cost. In order to incentivize the installation of solar and wind farms, the government guaranteed producers long-term, above-market rates, the costs of which have been passed on to consumers in the form of higher power bills. That’s left Germany with some of the highest electricity rates in Europe—a problem both for the country’s vaunted industry and its households, especially its poorest.Of course, the ascent of renewables couldn’t have happened without the decline of nuclear, as Berlin’s decision to phase out the zero-emissions baseload power source has left unfilled demand capable of being filled (during windy and sunny days, of course) by solar and wind energy.Read properly, this is less a story of the triumph of the little energy sources that could, and more an illustration of how effective government subsidies can be in distorting markets and propping up industries incapable of competing on their own. When you consider that Germany’s energiewende has helped cause a sharp uptick in German coal and lignite consumption, this so-called green energy revolution starts to lose a lot of its shine.