Every time we see Germany’s eco-energy transition, dubbed the energiewende, in the news lately, someone’s upset about it. The plan is a raft of different energy policies that can be boiled down to the following plan: phase out nuclear energy while boosting wind and solar by guaranteeing producers long-term, above-market rates called feed-in tariffs. It was a plan that from the outset reflected all the unexamined beliefs central to the modern green movement, and it’s been plagued by problems at every step.Der Spiegel criticized the energiewende‘s “aggressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power,” rightly pointing out that German consumers are shouldering the costs of those feed-in tariffs in the form of sky-high electricity bills. Those power bills have encouraged some of Germany’s heavy industry to look abroad for a better environment in which to do business. The Financial Times observed that by shuttering its nuclear reactors, Berlin was increasing its consumption of much dirtier coal and making it “ever more reliant on imports of Russian natural gas.” Shutting down those reactors hasn’t been a cheap undertaking, costing much more than was initially estimated.When Germany decided against levying an extra charge on its older coal plants last week, we noted that Berlin was struggling to find a balance between its vaunted green ideals and harder economic realities. Now, as Reuters reports, some analysts are saying that, by failing to bill those dirtier facilities, Germany has taken a route that satisfies neither green nor economic goals:
Analysts warn that safeguarding the utilities’ income stream could drive up climate protection costs and hurt consumers, and prevent the depressed power market from shedding overcapacity. […]“It may make sense politically, but it is not economic and not the best solution for climate policy,” [said Roland Vetter, head of research at energy risk management firm CF Partners].
If this were some computer simulation it might be worth celebrating—creating an energy policy that so consistently fails to satisfy the concerns of such a wide variety of stakeholders is truly remarkable. But this isn’t a virtual strategy, and it’s hurting real businesses and real households. The energiewende does manage to do some good by serving as a cautionary tale to the rest of the world: this is what happens when you let starry-eyed greens take the reins.