When an entire country goes green you don’t expect for pollution to rise, electricity bills to skyrocket and carbon emissions to increase. But in Germany, that is exactly the case.
In an attempt to forgo nuclear power and run Europe’s largest economy on wind and solar power, chancellor Angela Merkel’s “Energiewende,” is hoping to turn Germany into an energy-efficient powerhouse by shifting from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewables.
In 2002 a law passed announcing all of Germany’s nuclear power plants must close by 2022. Revised by Merkel in 2010, she extended the nuclear power plants phase out by 2032. Then after the Fukushima disaster Merkel decided to scratch that idea, closing eight nuclear power plants immediately and ruling that all would close by 2022.
But closing all these plants left a gap in energy sources, so in order to keep the lights on, Germany is turning to coal-powered plants.
Specifically, they’re burning lignite, a filthy fossil fuel, and large amounts of it. In fact, just last year coal-burning escalated to its highest level for more than 20 years. More coal-burning means more gas emissions.
Last year Germany emitted 951 million tons of greenhouse gases, up 1.2% than 2012.
Confused? Me too. I get that coal is cheap, and thousands of jobs come from mining, but for a country priding itself in taking the green initiative, aren’t there cleaner, natural gas solutions?
And apparently, I’m not the only one lost at what exactly German is doing. American economist Mark Perry tweets, “Germany shows how NOT to push green energy. It fails the poor, while protecting neither energy security nor climate.
It fails the poor? Shouldn’t going green mean less money spent by the everyday citizen? While that makes logical sense in my mind, electricity bills in Germany are higher than any other EU country, and only rising. Even the government in Berlin admitted recently that already 6.9 million households live in energy poverty. This means that nearly 7 million households are spending more than 10 per cent of their income on energy.
Financial Times writer Bjorn Lomborg writes this is a result of the price for renewable energy. Between 2000 and 2013, electricity prices for households have increased 80 per cent in real terms, according to the OECD and the IEA, the International Energy Agency. This is quite interesting seeing that the Energiewende website states this transition is “affordable.”
While Germany’s attempt at doing away with fossil fuels, and nuclear energy is noteworthy, the price of current green technology is just too high to meet the country’s demand for dependable electricity.
On the bright side, there are now 1.4 million solar photovoltaic installations in Germany and over 24,000 wind turbines, increasing the share of renewable electricity from 5.4% (then chiefly hydropower) to nearly 25%. David Scrimgeour writes the Energiewende has also created over 500,000 new jobs.
But overall it just blows my mind reading that wind and solar power sources are not consistent and ironically need conventional backup power sources. Even more mind-blowing is the fact the more electricity created by wind turbines and solar panels the more expensive it becomes.
No country has pushed for going green more than Germany, and this country’s green dream, may just in fact be a nightmare.