Germany’s Energiewende (energy policy shift) received very informative and in-depth coverage in a study by David Buchan, Senior Research Fellow with the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. The author thoroughly explores the risks and possible advantages of what he calls “Germany’s gamble”.
Already at the time of its Energy Concept 2010 that provided for an extension of the operating times of the 17 German nuclear power plants as a bridging technology for a renewable energy supply, Germany had ambitious energy targets. With the Energiewende legislative changes following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011 (energy policy shift 2011), the nuclear extension was reversed. An amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) stipulated the immediate shutdown of eight power plants and provides for a phase-out of the remaining nine nuclear power plants until 2022. With the energy targets remaining in place, Germany, a major industrial power that wants to maintain its position, has set itself a huge challenge, David Buchan points out.
David Buchan argues “that Germany is on track to meet only one of its three main targets (a one-third renewable share of electricity by 2020), and that the country will fail to reach the second target (to cut energy consumption by a fifth by 2020), and that this failure will make attainment of the third goal (emission reduction) harder”. “The gamble may still come off”, he says, “provided future gains in renewable technology and jobs can be achieved with lower subsidy costs”. Avoiding overly excessive feed-in tariffs under Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), however, proves difficult as the last round of solar feed-in tariffs cuts and the ensuing discussion about a further amendment of the EEG shows.
“No other country can tap such technical expertise from industry or such bottom-up activism from municipal companies and citizens’ cooperatives in support of low-carbon energy”, David Buchan writes. Yet the energy transformation comes with a price tag in the form of the EEG surcharge with which consumers pay for the difference between the fixed feed-in tariffs and the sale of the renewable energy at the EEX energy exchange, rising costs for the new infrastructure, in particular grid expansion costs, as well as new conventional power plants needed to back-up renewable energy.