4 August 2011 by Pelle Neroth
And yet Angela Merkel's government told the voting public that the renewables energy revolution was going to cost almost nothing extra: only one eurocent per kilowatt hour.
In fact, the RWI institute think tank finds that electricity prices could rise by more, several cents per kWh, as renewables prove more expensive than thought. There is also the definite rise in the fixed surcharge imposed on all consumers to subsidise renewables, from the next electricity bill, all this leading to electricity bill increases annually of several hundred euros extra per household.
Since shutting down seven nuclear power plants earlier this year, Germany has gone from being a net electricity exporter a few months ago to a net importer. Much of this electricity, ironically, comes from nuclear power plants just outside Germany's borders - France, for instance, or the Czech Republic, and, of course, it's more expensive than the domestic nuclear power that went offline. The remaining nine Germany nuclear power stations will be phased out by 2022.
One solution is to stop subsiding photovoltaics, a transfer from the poor to the better off, since most people with solar electricity panels installed are people living in their own homes.
Photovoltaics receive half of Germany's renewable energy subsidies. They are flashy and popular yet, in energy terms, are doing little to pull their weight, contributing only a tenth of the German renewables energy production. The country is hardly ideal for solar panels, as it's often dark and overcast, and little electricity is generated on winter days.
Analysts say it's better from an economic point of view the money go to wind power, which is more effective than photovoltaics. However, wind is still not perfect, as wind is concentrated in the north and is also intermittent.
To keep electricity flowing, therefore, especially next winter when other countries will need all their domestic supplies, the reopening of at least one nuclear power stations is in prospect, to prevent blackouts in December, according to the Federal Network Agency.
That has caused some controversy, as has a recent decision to spend some of the money earned from selling emissions trading certificates to subsidise the construction of new coal-fired power stations with the unfamiliar CCS technology.
In doing so, the authorities are only following a trend conducted by the large power companies themselves. According to the head of the German Energy Agency, in a recent interview, German energy companies are turning to burning cheaper but more polluting brown lignite than more expensive natural gas to keep their costs down. In the long run, such trends could jeopardise Germany's 2020 emissions cuts promises.
Earlier this month, the nuclear companies said they were considering suing the government for breach of contract to supply the country with electricity.
Does Angela Merkel have any regrets about her 180 degree turnaround and go with public opinion? It's too late.
With the latest news being that the hitherto robust German economy is beginning to cool very slightly, the government soldiers on, politically committed to its decision to be nuclear free by 2022 and have 35% of its energy mix as renewables by 2020.
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 04 August 2011 11:23 PM Energy
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