Library filed under Energy Policy from Germany
Solar subsidies cost German consumers billions of dollars a year and are widely regarded as inefficient. Even environmentalists are concerned that Berlin's focus on solar comes at the detriment of other renewables. But the solar industry has a powerful lobby, and politicians have proven powerless to resist.
Almost a year after Germany decided to shift away from nuclear power and sharply raise production from renewable sources, critics doubt that the move will go ahead as scheduled. The government has so far failed to present a plan for filling the gap in its future energy capacity, as the switch has proven more difficult than initially thought.
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."
Germany's energy revolution has hardly begun, but it's already running out of steam. There is a lack of political decisiveness and companies are complaining of a dearth of incentives to invest billions in necessary infrastructure. Progress or no progress, taxpayers continue footing the bill.
"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."
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.
The costs of subsidizing solar electricity have exceeded the 100-billion-euro mark in Germany, but poor results are jeopardizing the country's transition to renewable energy. The government is struggling to come up with a new concept to promote the inefficient technology in the future.
The wind farm operator, German utility RWE, has to keep the sensitive equipment -- the drives, hubs and rotor blades -- in constant motion, and for now that requires diesel-powered generators. Because although the wind farm will soon be ready to generate electricity, it won't be able to start doing so because of a lack of infrastructure to transport the electricity to the mainland and feed it into the grid. The necessary connections and cabling won't be ready on time and the delay could last up to a year.
In eastern Germany, turbines in strong wind can produce more than all German coal and gas plants put together, while the need to switch off turbines in high winds causes a drop-off in electricity of 12GW - equal to two nuclear power plants. Outages are likely if there is too little demand or storage capacity to accommodate the jumps in supply.
Green energy used to be Germany's great hope for its economic future. But now the German solar industry is in trouble amid huge losses, job cuts and the threat of bankruptcies. Chinese firms are gaining an ever greater share of the German market -- and are benefiting from German subsidies for renewable energy.
"Germany, in a very rash decision, decided to experiment on ourselves," he said. "The politics are overruling the technical arguments." ...To be prudent, the plan calls for the creation of 23 gigawatts of gas- and coal-powered plants by 2020. Why? Because renewable plants don't produce nearly to capacity if the air is calm or the sky is cloudy, and there is currently limited capacity to store or transport electricity, energy experts say.
"It is important that we remain competitive in comparison with other countries. If not, a company of global stature like Bayer can think about moving its production to countries where energy costs are lower," he said.
Offshore wind parks are often hailed as the future of renewable energy in Germany. But they actually lag far behind their terrestrial counterparts. ...Meanwhile dissent is growing amongst citizen groups who dislike the presence of turbines on their doorsteps.
Germany plans to shut down its last nuclear power plant in 2022. It's an ambitious timetable. But even more ambitious is its plan to replace that energy with renewable sources, such as wind and solar power. If the plan works, within 40 years Germany will get 80 percent of its power from "renewables." But there are major challenges.
Mr Vogt says he is sceptical about the timing of the renewables phase-in. "The public accepts projects only when it can see the sense in them," he says. "We need politics to help us with that. We need to tell people the switch to renewables will not come without costs."
The study by the WBGU is utopian because it requires a high degree of idealism, altruism and sacrifice by both individuals and society that goes beyond the normal dimensions of the reality of life. It is impossible to realize democratically. Why should people around the world voluntarily give up their demands for material welfare and security? Consequently, the WBGU admits frankly, that the decarbonization of the society can only be achieved by the limitation of democracy – both nationally and internationally.
Shutting down reactors earlier than planned would require greater efforts to increase the share of renewables, build new power lines and reduce overall energy consumption to ensure Germany would meet its climate protection targets. It also may involve building new coal- or natural gas-fired power stations to provide base-load capacity.
According to Frondel, things haven't worked out as Germany's politicians and environmentalists said they would. Rather than bringing economic benefits in terms of lower cost energy and green energy jobs, Frondel found that implementing wind and solar power raised household energy rates by 7.5 percent. While greenhouse gas emissions were abated, the cost was astonishingly high.
The German government plans to replace nuclear reactors with thousands of wind turbines and thousands of kilometers of high-voltage "monster masts" in a move that will deface vast swathes of territory. Germans, though desperate to phase out atomic energy, are gearing up to protest against the green revolution.
Both the environmentalist Greens and Social Democrats (SPD), who enacted legislation under ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that created the basis for a boom in solar investment, said they were open to paring back assistance the industry receives. "In view of recent developments, a measured reduction in allowances for photovoltaics is definitely possible."