Germany’s “Green” Policy Threatens EU Climate Goals

  • Date: 22/06/14
  • Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

With its Energiewende, Germany hoped to teach the world a thing or two about responsible green governance. The policy experiment has been a resounding failure on both economic and environmental terms. Germany has taught everyone a lesson, all right: how not to craft energy policy.

Europe has styled itself a global green leader, and has some ambitious plans to reduce emissions. Within the European Union, Germany has attempted to blaze this new green trail, unveiling a comprehensive green energy strategy that involved boosting wind and solar energy with guaranteed long-term, above-market rates for producers. But Germany also began shutting down its nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, and to make up for the loss of that consistent source of base load energy it has had to burn record amounts of coal.

Now, Berlin’s reliance on coal isn’t just tarnishing its own image as a paragon of green virtue, it’s also threatening emissions goals across the European Union. Bloomberg reports:

While Germany pledged to cut heat-trapping gases 55 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels, it’s managed 25 percent so far and is moving in the wrong direction, according to the European Environment Agency. [...]

Germany’s emissions rose even as its production of intermittent wind and solar power climbed fivefold in the past decade. Utilities boosted production from profitable coal-fired plants after Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to close all 17 of the country’s nuclear plants by 2022 in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

With its Energiewende, Germany hoped to teach the world a thing or two about responsible green governance. To that end, it succeeded, but not in the way environmentalists had envisioned. The policy experiment has been a resounding failure on both economic and environmental terms. Feed-in tariffs for renewables have sent electricity prices skyrocketing, while the nuclear drawdown has led to an increasing dependence on coal, which brings with it high emissions and localized air pollution. Germany has taught everyone a lesson, all right: how not to craft energy policy.

Yet Berlin’s green fervor seems to be contagious, as France announced this week that it would be reducing nuclear reactors’ share of the national energy mix in favor of boosting solar and wind production. The sooner greens come to terms with nuclear’s important role as a zero-carbon baseload energy source, the better.

The American Interest, 21 June 2014