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Original nuclear phase-out was agreed in Germany in 2000

Original nuclear phase-out was agreed in Germany in 2000

Financial Times, 2014-10-13

Sir, Your editorial “The costly muddle of German energy policy” (October 7) is incorrect in claiming that Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power was a “huge mistake” by Angela Merkel. The original nuclear phase-out was agreed in 2000, in consensus with the energy industry and supported by an overwhelming majority in German society. Ms Merkel in fact initially suggested slowing down the phase-out. She reverted to the original timeline after Fukushima – but it was far from a knee-jerk response to the Japanese disaster in 2011.

As regards renewable energy, renewables in Germany are now cheap, as costs have come down hugely. Electrical power from new solar and wind turbines comes at the same or even lower cost than power from new gas and coal power plants. There is a substantial “backpack” on consumer bills, but that is from earlier support for renewables not future support. Due to highly efficient household appliances the average power bill in Germany is on exactly the same level as the average bill in the US, Japan and Spain. Heavy industry in Germany is largely exempted from subsidy costs, and benefits from very low wholesale prices, which have been pushed down by renewables.
In addition, to claim that the nuclear shutdown has increased Germany’s reliance on Russian natural gas is palpably untrue, as Germany mostly imports gas for heating and cooking, which would not be influenced by nuclear. The shift to renewable energy even decreased the amounts of natural gas used for power generation. In fact, the main reason for increased coal burn in Germany is that gas generation has collapsed because of high gas and low carbon-dioxide prices, which predate the current Ukraine crisis by several years.
Germany’s coal problem is real, but not specific to that country. Coal burn in the UK also rose to extremely high levels in 2012-13 – which is caused by a weak EU Emissions Trading System and the failure of all EU policy makers to address coal usage.
Patrick Graichen, Executive Director, Agora Energiewende, Berlin, Germany