Germany’s Green Energy Revolution On Verge Of Collapse

  • Date: 22/01/14
  • Fred Pearce, New Scientist

Germany’s energy revolution has gone sour, as have its efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “Energiewende” policy aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent between 1990 and 2020, mostly by closing coal-fired power plants and boosting renewable energy. Yet in 2013, coal burning soared to its highest level for more than 20 years.

Then, last week, economy and energy minister Sigmar Gabriel said he will slash wind and solar subsidies by a third, to cut rising energy bills. Subsidies for renewables currently cost German consumers €23 billion a year.

Merkel is also shutting down Germany’s nuclear power plants, its largest source of low-carbon energy. This means emissions, which had fallen by 27 per cent by 2011, are now on the rise.

At the coalface

“The Energiewende is moving emissions in the wrong direction,” says Roger Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado in Boulder. He calculates that Germany will have to more than double renewables’ contribution to energy from 17 to 38 per cent to reach the 40 per cent target.

“It seems highly unlikely that Germany can hit the reduction target by 2030, much less 2020,” says Pielke, who believes nuclear is “the best tool available for reducing CO2 emissions”.

The problem is made worse by a continued slump in the price of European Union permits to emit CO2, which act as a tax on dirty fuels like coal. The low cost has allowed coal plants to restart.

Full story