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“If they keep at it, Germany's greatest export will be their economy.”

Germany's Stalled Energy Transition


By —— Bio and Archives--February 16, 2019

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Germany's Stalled Energy TransitionHaving wasted billions of euros on renewable energies, saddling consumers with ultrahigh power prices, and shutting down nuclear power plants, Germany has decided to shut down its coal power plants by the year 2038 and rely primarily on renewable energy. 1

Coal plants account for 40% of Germany’s electricity, itself a reduction from recent years when coal dominated power production. The decision to quit coal follows an earlier bold energy policy move by the German government, which decided to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. 2

The Wall Street Journal has called this the world’s dumbest energy policy. “Dumb environmental policies are routine across Europe—see Emmanuel Macron’s riot-inducing fuel tax in France—but even by that standard Germany’s new plan to abandon coal is notable. Having wasted uncountable billions of euros on renewables and inflicted some of Europe’s highest energy prices on German households and businesses, now Berlin is promising to kill the one reliable power source Germany has left.”3

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Perhaps Germany’s phasing out of coal fired power stations could be delayed beyond 2038 if the deadline creates problems for the security of electricity supply, a senior legislator in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said. The phase-out has drawn criticism from some in industry who fear the impact of higher energy prices. Reports Pierre Gosselin, “For political leaders, shutting down what today is still Germany’s backbone of power supply so quickly would mean economic and political suicide. So the decision to push everything off to 2038 (and beyond) was yet again the German government punting the ball down the field and leaving the messy issue to the next generation of leaders. The government is not taking action; it ‘s avoiding it.” 4

Today the German energy policy (Energiewende) finds itself stalled and floundering. Germany’s carbon emissions have stagnated at roughly their 2009 level. The country remains Europe’s largest producer and burner of coal. Moreover, emissions in the transportation sector have shot up by 20 percent since 1995 and are rising with no end in sight, experts say. German consumers have seen their electricity bills soar since 2000, in part because of the renewable energy surcharge. If Germany continues on its present course, its carbon emissions will fall by only 62 percent by 2050, well short of the government’s goal of slashing emissions up to 95 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century.5

While Germany tries to get out of coal, China approved nearly $6.7 billion worth of new coal mining projects in 2018 and production increased 5.2% to 3.55 billion tons. China is now responsible for 46% of global production and 51% of global demand.

India is digging for more coal also; 52 coal mines opened in 5 years to provide electricity for homes according to a government announcement. These 52 mines represent 86% growth over the number of mines added in the five year period between 2009 and 2014. 6

So what is Germany’s token gesture all about? With China and India ramping up coal production and generation with gleeful abandon, Germany’s effort will have just zero effect on worldwide production of industrially produced CO2 levels. 1

As one reviewer has noted: “If they keep at it, Germany’s greatest export will be their economy.”7

References

  1. P. Gosselin, “Wall Street Journal comments that German government is running world’s dumbest energy policy,” notrickszone.com, February 8, 2019
  2. Erik Kirschbaum, “Germany to close all 84 of its coal fired power plants, will rely primarily on renewable energy,” latimes.com, January 26, 2019
  3. The Editorial Board, “World’s dumbest energy policy,” The Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2019
  4. P. Gosselin, “Coal [non] exit debacle…Germany’s coal burning could rise around 16% by 2030,” notrickszone.com. February 9, 2019
  5. Paul Hockenos, “Carbon crossroads: can Germany revive its stalled energy transition?”, e350.yale.edu, December 13, 2018
  6. Sanjay Dutta, “52 coal mines opened in 5 years to fuel power drive,” timesofindia.com, January 23, 2019
  7. Anthony Watts, “Germany totally kills coal-will likely end up in the dark, without heat and light,” wattsupwiththat.com, January 27, 2019

 


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Jack Dini -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.


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