The climate-policy goals of the German government are no longer attainable
after the decision last month to phase out nuclear power plants, according to
Prof. Hans-Werner Sinn, president of the Ifo Institute for Economic research at
the University of Munich.
wrote last week that fresh from a victory in forcing the German government
to abandon its nuclear policy, NIMBYs (people afflicted with the Not In My Back
Yard syndrome) are bracing to battle against the massive new power lines and
wind turbines that are being built across the country as part of the green
objections to the inconveniences of green energy is one big challenge and
according to Prof. Sinn electrical power from the sun and wind can indeed
replace the electricity that comes from nuclear power plants in Germany - -
on paper at least - - since atomic energy only provides 4.6% of Germany’s final
electricity supply, whereas electricity from wind and solar power amounts to
1.8%. He says the phase-out option is indeed in the realm of possibility, if one
disregards the irregularity of the supply but the original hope that nuclear
power would displace fossil fuels in order to curb global warming cannot be
fulfilled with wind and solar power. Energy from fossil sources accounts for
84.7% of German final energy consumption.
Prof. Sinn says
replacing nuclear electricity will be hard enough; replacing the electricity
generated by fossil fuels on top of that is well nigh impossible. If the
electricity supply in Germany, which amounts to 20.3% of final energy
consumption, were to come from wind power, using present technology, a surface
area the size of North-Rhine Westphalia would be needed, with turbines packed as
closely together as technically feasible.
He says it is downright utopian to think that considerable portions of
transportation, which consumes 26.1% of final energy, could also be driven by
electrical motors fed with energy from the wind and sun. Should Germany yield to
French pressure to increasingly electrify European transportation, the German
strategy based on wind and solar power would not stand a chance against French
With bioenergy, which accounts for a good two-thirds of renewable energy, the
energy calculation is more favourable. Here, however, there is the basic problem
of competing with food crops. If bioenergy is restricted to biowaste, its
potential would be correspondingly limited.
Since Germany is in the process of relinquishing the nuclear option for a
gradual substitution of fossil energy sources, it will not be able to prevent
persistently high CO2 emissions. The climate-policy goals of Chancellor Merkel
will not be attainable.
Prof. Sinn says Germany can hope that its continued reliance on fossil energy
sources will force the other European countries, via increasing prices in the
European emissions trading system, to achieve the planned reductions in CO2
emissions themselves. But Germany cannot prevent other countries from attaining
these savings by way of a further expansion of atomic energy.