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A Dubious Achievement
Germany’s Costly Energy Revolution Hits Milestone

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.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Let’s be clear that the cost of renewable energy has not been borne by German industry, much which doesn’t pay the above market rates that consumers do. Moving right along to the lies, damned lies and statistics, the FT article tells us that lignite (the very dirtiest of fossil fuels) accounted for as much production as did renewable energy, and that coal consumption also increased. In sum, the “milestone” achieved by energiewende was greatly increased cost and emissions.

    • Fat_Man

      A win–win if ever there was one.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Clearly the German’s are all ate up with the “Dumbass”.

  • CaliforniaStark

    The claim in the FT article that renewables provided a greater amount of German electricity than any other source is somewhat misleading. There are two types of coal listed as separate sources in Germany; lignite coal (25.6%) and other (including bituminous) coal (18%). Together they constitute 43.6% of the electricity generated in Germany; versus 25.8% for renewables. It should also be pointed out that wind and solar together only constitute 14.4% of the total electricity generated in Germany, despite billions of dollars in subsidies.

    Also, the FT article mistakenly uses the terms “energy” and “electricity” interchangeably. They have totally different meanings; “energy” not only includes electricity, but also transportation fuels, heating and industrial uses, which are primary generated by fossil fuels — with some biomass also involved. The percentages indicated in the article are only for electricity generation; and do not include sources such as oil and natural gas for non-electrical uses. In 2009, oil alone constituted 34.6% of the total energy use in Germany.

  • klgmac

    Expensive alternative electricity hurts our most vulnerable citizens the most. Progressives don’t care.

  • klgmac

    Germany is realizing it’s folly. That’s why it is razing villages to get to the cheaper coal.

  • Boritz

    Did the author mean “millstone”?

  • FriendlyGoat

    Making fun of a nation which has tried harder than others to be long-term responsible on this issue seems unnecessary.

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