German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to cap taxpayer subsidies for renewable energy is aimed at limiting the political fallout. ...Merkel's government, already preoccupied with tackling the debt crisis in the euro area, is struggling to justify the rising costs to phase out nuclear power and replace it with more expensive wind and solar plants.
The aspect of the energy policy that has drawn the greatest criticism, however, is the fact that it has been accompanied by higher electricity prices for companies and consumers alike. ...Germany's largest steelmaker, ThyssenKrupp, even blamed the policies for the sale of one of its steel mills. European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has even warned: "High electricity prices have already initiated deindustrialization in Germany."
With consumer power bills increasing and Merkel facing elections in September, Germany's energy policy is rising on the political agenda. The cost of developing wind farms in the North Sea has surged following construction glitches and delays in linking turbines to the grid.
"The entire energy switch has derailed," Marc Nettelbeck, an analyst at DZ Bank AG, said this week by phone from Frankfurt. "The difficulties connecting offshore wind farms to the power grid reduces their profitability and renders the original investment calculations of utilities invalid."
The government doesn't want aid to the renewable energy sector to exceed 3.5 euro-cents a kilowatt-hour in consumer power bills. Merkel plans to boost renewable energy output to 35 percent in 2020 from 17 percent last year.
Merkel's policy to wean Europe's biggest power market off fossil fuels and to embrace renewables has led to a boom in green energy sources, but ballooning costs have led to calls for cuts to feed-in tariffs and for industry to pay more.
"Dealing with the renewable energy reform is the most urgent of the energy topics, in my view."
Speaking at an energy conference in Berlin, Ms. Merkel said she still supports further expansion of renewable energy such as wind and solar power to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But she said the costs need to be contained as global rivals are benefiting from lower energy prices.
Utility executives welcomed her recognition, but criticized her for remaining vague on specifics.
"We're seeing a major step backward regarding clean-energy jobs because of a lack of strategic industry policy coming from the federal government," Steffen Streu, a spokesman for the economy ministry in Brandenburg, said. "It was always said that each coal job given up will re-emerge in the renewable sector. That's not the case at the moment."
Germany's largest utilities RWE and EON AG (EOAN) are shunning cleaner-burning natural gas because it's more costly, while the collapsing cost of carbon permits means there's little penalty for burning coal. Wind and solar projects, central to Germany's plans to reduce nuclear energy and cut the release of heat- trapping gases, can't produce electricity around the clock.
Merkel's main opponent in the election, Peer Steinbrueck of the Social Democratic Party, is capitalizing on discontent with the energy switch. In December, he said at an SPD summit that Germans now live in fear of power outages because of government missteps. One month later, the SPD beat Merkel's CDU in a vote in Lower Saxony -- the third straight regional defeat for the incumbent party and a sign that its lead in the national election may be eroding.
There is no sign yet of the green economic miracle that the federal government promised would accompany Germany's new energy strategy. On the contrary, many manufacturers of wind turbines and solar panels complain that business is bad and are cutting jobs. Some solar companies have already gone out of business. The environmental sector faces a number of problems, especially -- and ironically -- those stemming from high energy prices.
RWE AG (RWE) is delaying investments. SIAG Nordseewerke GmbH filed for insolvency. REpower Systems SE is cutting temporary staff. All show how German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 550 billion-euro ($734 billion) plan to replace nuclear reactors with renewable sources is stalling.
Two recent incidents could hurt Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas' reputation, which has suffered from credibility problems over the past year ...The first incident involves a Vestas wind turbine that caught fire at the Gross Eilstorf wind farm in Lower Saxony, Germany, a separate incident has resulted in the injury of a worker at the Macarthur Wind Farm, in Australia.