German Nuclear Power
Nuclear power in Germany accounted for 17.7% of national electricity supply in 2011, compared to 22.4% in 2010. German nuclear power began with research reactors in the 1950s and 1960s with the first commercial plant coming online in 1969. It has been high on the political agenda in recent decades, with continuing debates about when the technology should be phased out. On 30 May 2011, Germany formally announced plans to abandon nuclear energy completely within 11 years. Germany may have to slow down its planned transformation to green energy, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said in an effort to assuage worries that consumers will bear the brunt of the immense costs of the switch from nuclear. A year before an election, fears of rising energy bills in Europe's biggest economy have become a major concern for Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right government which has ambitious targets for renewables to replace atomic power.
Thanks in part to a law that guarantees renewables above-market rates, Germany has seen a rapid expansion in solar panels and wind turbines. With about 25% of German power already derived from green sources, experts say it is well on track to hit its 2020 goal of 35%.
"If we keep up the current tempo, we will soon have a surplus of energy which will have to be reduced," Altmaier told the Financial Times Deutschland on yesterday (28 August).
Altmaier said the rapid and expensive expansion of green power was causing high costs for consumers, who end up footing at least some of the bill, and putting strains on the grid. "These are costs that can be avoided with good planning."
The German unit of Swedish energy group Vattenfall said on Monday consumers may end up paying up to 30% more by 2020 to pay for the switch which will require investments of about €150 billion.
Some members of Merkel's government want a new law which would reduce the burden on consumers who have a fee added to their power bills to help fund the switch to renewables.
"It is a very complex subject, so we need time," Altmaier told the newspaper, adding a major reform stood no chance of being passed by parliament for the time being.
A senior opposition Social Democrat, Ulrich Kelber, criticised Altmaier's comments, saying: "It is completely unacceptable to slow the expansion of renewable energy."
The uproar over prices in Germany - which has the second-highest power prices in Europe - has intensified before a decision in October on whether to raise the fee paid by consumers.
Such a jump would mean most households would pay an extra €70 ($90) on an average annual power bill of €900 ($1125).
If Merkel's government does decide to scale back the transformation due to concerns about the costs to the consumer, the offshore wind sector could be the main victim.
During the chancellorship of Gerhard Schröder, the social democratic-green government had decreed Germany's final retreat from using nuclear power by 2022, but the phase-out plan was initially delayed in late 2010, when during chancellorship of center-right Angela Merkel the coalition conservative-liberal government decreed a 12-year delay of the schedule. This delay provoked protests, including a human chain of 50,000 from Stuttgart to the nearby nuclear plant in Neckarwestheim.
For further information see German Power.
Nuclear Plant image via Wikipedia.