Germany: The world’s dumbest energy policy

This overhasty and ideologically charged energy policy is clearly reflected above all in the rapidly rising electricity prices. In parallel, the price of gas has quadrupled and German gas storage facilities are at an all-time low.

This is not only what I say, but also what the Wall Street Journal says. This overhasty and ideologically charged energy policy is clearly reflected in the rapidly rising electricity prices. Currently, we consumers pay 0.346 Euros per kWh, which is the highest electricity price in the world. And the trend is still rising, because at the end of 2021, three of the last six nuclear power plants and several coal-fired power plants in Germany will also be shut down as part of the hasty energy turnaround, further exacerbating the overall situation. In parallel, the price of gas has quadrupled and German gas storage facilities are at a low. In addition, the North Stream 2 gas pipeline has been put on hold for the time being and the country is engaged in dangerous verbal sparring with Russia, on which it is largely dependent. So all in one suboptimal.

The head of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Prof. Dr. Stefan Kooths, also attests to the failure of politics and that it is lying into its own pocket – all this at our expense. Not only are we endangering the country’s security of supply, but also our competitiveness.

The energy turnaround – a costly wrong decision

The stupidity of governments should never be underestimated”—Helmut Schmidt, former German Chancellor.

The red-green government under Gerhard Schröder decided to phase out nuclear power in 2000. Merkel revised this in 2010 and extended the operating lives of nuclear power plants, thus initially sealing the phase-out. After the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan was partially destroyed by an earthquake and a tsunami on March 11, 2011, resulting in a nuclear disaster, the entire world questioned nuclear energy. Many reactors were temporarily shut down. In Germany, too, the question of a nuclear phase-out was now increasingly being asked again.

Two weeks after the accident, state elections were held in my home state of Baden-Württemberg and the topic of nuclear phase-out was, along with Stuttgart 21, the defining issue par excellence. When there was a historic change of government in Baden-Württemberg to a red-green coalition, the Green Party nominated the prime minister and, contrary to all expectations, the CDU did not remain the strongest party in the state, the federal government was in a state of pure panic. In a hasty move, Merkel announced on June 30, 2011, that she was pulling out of the exit from the exit from the exit. Yes, I feel the same as you: I dropped out …

It is already a fact that this was another historic wrong decision by our professional politicians. Criticism is growing louder and louder from all sides – citizens, companies and associations, but even the Federal Audit Office is not hiding behind clear words: The energy turnaround is poorly coordinated and managed, decisive improvements are “unavoidable,” it says in an audit report of the financial control. In the last five years, at least 160 billion euros were spent on this. “If the costs of the energy turnaround continue to rise and its goals continue to be missed, there is a risk of loss of confidence in the ability of government action.”

According to the Institute for Competition Economics at the University of Düsseldorf, the chaotic energy turnaround will cost us citizens 520 billion Euros by 2025 – for now! Economics Minister Peter Altmaier assumes total costs of one trillion Euros by the end of 2030! That’s about 10,000 Euros per German citizen. We, the electricity consumers, are paying for the energy transition chaos:

Added to this are the constantly rising energy costs – already the highest in the world! Electricity prices in France, our nuclear neighbor, are 50 percent cheaper. In return, we have become more dependent on Russian gas – and now hold on: on French electricity (lol).

The energy turnaround is pure actionism, it is completely chaotic, it is expensive for everyone and it is becoming more and more apparent that it is not sustainable as well as even endangering our energy supply: Grid failures are occurring more and more often and the risk of a blackout is increasing. The same can be observed in other countries, and the first measures to counteract this are already taking place. It is doubtful that the “traffic light” government will do a U-turn now. People have become too committed to the new narrative. How could it come to this?

The energetic turn of the times

Worldwide, countries and even central banks have committed to a shift away from fossil fuels and a massive reduction of greenhouse gases in order to stop global warming. To this end, a total of 195 countries agreed at the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 that global warming should be stopped at below 2 degrees by 2050, and if possible even at 1.5 degrees, measured in each case against the conditions in pre-industrial times. This treaty is to be readjusted every five years. The EU has set itself particularly ambitious targets. Although it has failed in almost every crisis to date, it is now setting out to save the climate. Under EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was not nominated for election and was not elected, but was appointed nonetheless, the alliance of states wants to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases to zero with the Green Deal and thus become the first climate-neutral continent. Most recently, the EU has even further tightened its climate targets. It wants to reduce greenhouse gases by 55 percent by 2030 instead of the previous 40 percent (compared to 1990). Money from the 750 billion Euro Corona reconstruction fund will also be used for this purpose. 30 percent of the pot is to be spent to achieve the climate targets.

In order to reduce the CO2 emissions and meet the Paris climate targets by 2050, the world needs clean energy. When we think of clean energy, the first thing that comes to mind is climate-neutral, renewable energy (hydro, wind, solar and geothermal). But even for this, fossil energies and climate-damaging resources are needed and used first. This must be taken into account in the carbon footprint. Photovoltaic systems, for example, have a balanced energy balance after about three years, and wind power plants with an energy payback time (as the technical term goes) after up to a maximum of 2-6 months.

The share of renewable energies in the electricity mix in Germany continues to rise. In the first half of 2020, the share in Germany was a record 55.8 percent. In windy February 2020, it was even 61.8 percent! However, for the year as a whole, the figure was 47 percent. 2021 was extremely wind-poor and the ratio fell back to 43 percent.

However, the disadvantage of alternative energy sources is obvious: The amounts of energy generated with them depend on sunshine and wind conditions and can hardly be stored to meet demand. While the supply is reasonably predictable in the short term, it cannot be controlled at will.

The storage problem

So what to do at night and during a lull – when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing? Germany currently has about 30,000 wind turbines. But they do not supply electricity when there is no wind! Even if the number of wind turbines were to double or triple, nothing would change. 90,000 wind turbines with zero wind result in zero electricity yield. The same is true for solar power. No sun, no power!

Unfortunately, buffer capacities are not possible. Again: Renewable energies cannot be produced arbitrarily according to demand at any time of the day or night. Solar power is available when the sun is shining, wind power is not available when there is a lull. How can excess energy be stored temporarily on sunny days or when the wind is blowing hard? A sustainable solution is still missing here. On windy days, Germany has to give away excess capacity to foreign countries or even pay the buyer to take the power, otherwise the grid would collapse. Of course, this is completely irrational. Because when there is a lull, Germany has to buy expensive electricity, often from fossil or nuclear energy sources, from abroad (Poland, the Czech Republic, France) in order to maintain its base load capability. This is not taken into account in the life cycle assessment.

Info box:

Base load capability is the minimum amount of electricity needed to provide a continuous and reliable supply of electricity. The lowest daily load of an electricity grid is used for this purpose. The technologies used to cover the base load are those that can supply the power in question on a constant basis. These are primarily nuclear, coal, gas and oil-fired power plants. Photovoltaic and wind power plants are not base-load capable because of their fluctuating production volumes. The only base-load capable power generation from renewable energies is a hydroelectric power plant – but hydroelectric power is not available everywhere, and the construction of such a power plant involves a gross interference with nature.

Currently, there is only one economical solution to store electricity from sun and wind: pumped storage. However, there is only limited potential for expansion here. For this reason, research is being conducted into alternative storage technologies, such as compressed air storage, power-to-gas technology, in which water is converted into hydrogen by means of electrolysis, and batteries as storage media. However, there is still a considerable need for research and development in all these approaches before they can be used on a larger scale in practice. This may still take years or even decades.

The electric wave

Electrification of the automobile is adding to the demand for electricity, and more and more states are banning the internal combustion engine. Sales are to be banned in order to meet strict climate targets.

The car country Japan also wants to ban all “stinkers” from the road by 2035 and ban the gasoline engine. [1]

The electric car seems to be the answer at the moment when it comes to the mobility of the future. In my opinion, however, the end is still open. Neither the infrastructure nor enough electricity (especially sustainable electricity) is available to move the world electrically. Building and operating an ecologically correct car requires a lot of rare earth, which not only spoil the eco-balance but are also finite and thus more or less quickly depleted. The e-car must be driven for at least eight years until it is climate-neutral. Market leader and pioneer is Elon Musk’s company “Tesla” which is currently worth more on the stock exchange than all other car companies together!

All these developments have also led to a rethinking of the long-established car manufacturers and show the enormous transformation in which one of the most important German key industries and thus also Germany as a business location finds itself. Daimler, Porsche, Opel, Audi and Volkswagen are in the process of completely transforming their product range in a multi-billion dollar effort. VW, for example, wants to switch completely to electric motors by 2025. [2] Whether these efforts will be rewarded with success remains to be seen.

Germany switches off – everyone else switches on

To secure the energy supply and produce emission-free and clean electricity, more and more nuclear power plants are being built and reactivated elsewhere. Worldwide, 54 nuclear power plants are currently under construction. Over 200 more are planned. In addition, more and more countries are reactivating their decommissioned nuclear power plants and/or even building new ones:

  • Sweden, in an emergency, had to reconnect a nuclear power plant that had already been shut down in order to secure its power supply. [3] Something similar could threaten Germany.
  • The Netherlands also had to reactivate a nuclear power plant. They are now even planning to build ten new power plants, putting pressure on their neighbor Germany. 4],[5]
  • A new nuclear power plant is also being built in Great Britain – with German help, by the way. [6]
  • Coal-fed Poland is planning to build several nuclear power plants for the first time. [7]
  • Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Slovakia want to turn their backs on coal and are relying on nuclear energy, among other things. [8]
  • Even the oil-rich United Arab Emirates recognizes that oil reserves will run out and inaugurated its first nuclear power plant in August 2020 – also a first for the entire Arab world. [9] Three more will follow in the next few years.
  • Egypt plans to turn on its first nuclear power plant in 2026.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden is betting on the small and safe fourth-generation mini-nuclear power plants (Small Modular Reactors SMR.) [10]

In summary, no country in the world will follow Germany on its path to radically destroy its secure energy supply.

The world needs clean energy – the world needs nuclear power

Energy consumption has continued to double in recent decades. A large part still comes from fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil. About 11 percent currently comes from nuclear power. Due to the demand to become climate-neutral and to generate clean electricity, the need for emission-free alternatives that are also reliable is growing. In parallel, the demand will continue to increase due to digitalization and the electro revolution.

In addition, research has not taken a break, and so the next generation of nuclear power plants will be even more efficient and safer. Even earthquake-stricken Japan has revived shutdown reactors and is planning new nuclear power plants. [11]

The trend to ban fossil fuels and promote pollution-free solutions will bring nuclear power further into the spotlight. After all, nuclear energy is currently the only base-load capable energy source that can perform the balancing act between increasing electricity consumption and emission-free energy production, and uranium is irreplaceable for this purpose.

All this leads to one conclusion: There is currently no way around uranium.

Even if “irradiated” and unworldly experts and politicians have proclaimed the end of nuclear power – they were once again completely wrong. The opposite is true: The nuclear age seems to be just beginning.

Globally, there are 442 reactors in 31 countries (as of February 2021).

Seventeen more countries will join them in the next few years (Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Indonesia).

The U.S. operates the most nuclear power plants, with 95. China has 49, but is currently building 54 more reactors to satisfy its immense hunger for energy as the world’s workbench. By 2050, the government in China wants to build no less than 230 more nuclear power plants.

Worldwide, 112 nuclear power plants are currently under construction and 330 are planned (as of December 2021). [12]

Fact:

Without nuclear power it is impossible to reach the Paris climate goals! One may be curious, when the German policy of its expensive special way comes off. Until then we, the citizens, have to pay the bill by rising electricity prices and decreasing competitiveness.

Translated from the original German text https://www.friedrich-partner.de/blog-post/deutschland-die-dummste-energiepolitik-der-welt loaded 11.02.2022

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