Failure of Renewables in Germany Relaunches Debate on Nuclear Power

Unless changed, the timetable of the German government on nuclear power is to switch off three of the remaining six nuclear power plants by the end of 2021, and the other three by the end of next year. Germany’s neighbors are shaking their heads over this strategy, most notably France.

In an interview on Aug. 2 with Die Welt, the executive director of the state-owned French energy company EDF, Cedric Lewandowski, called the German nuclear exit “the most drastic” example of anti-nuclear policies, which will cause the country “enormous difficulties” by increasing the need for carbon-based coal and gas. That contradicts, of course, government announcements about the shift of the energy mix into “renewables”.

And in fact, a survey presented a few days later showed that with the exception of mineral oil, all other fossil energies as well as nuclear power provided more to the national German energy mix in the first half-year of 2021, than “renewables” such as solar, wind and biomass. Mineral oil use was down by 12.1% due to the Corona-related reduction of motor vehicle use and because its high market price deterred citizens from stocking reserves for the coming winter period. But for the other sources, natural gas consumption went up during the same period by 15.6%; hard coal by 22.7%; lignite by 33.5% and nuclear by 7%. Renewables decreased by 1%, and wind power by a huge 20% due to less wind blowing. The year-on-year figures, taken from a report of the AGEB (Working Group Energy Balance), show a sobering reality, which the Greens notoriously refuse to acknowledge.

With national elections only weeks away and the prospect of major gains for the Greens, a rethinking of the nuclear exit strategy may be on its way: on Aug. 10, Theo Sommer, editorat- large of the Die Zeit weekly, wrote that Germany will need nuclear power for some time to come, noting that the Federal Audit Office has warned of a blackout due to the energy transition. Sommer points to the considerable gap between the ambitious target of 65% of energy generated by renewables and what such sources can actually produce, especially if the Green’s proposal to shut down all coal-powered plants by 2030 instead of 2038 is implemented. At best, Germany will face a gap of 40% that cannot be provided by renewables, he writes, citing an assessment by Siemens Energy.

The only way out, concludes Sommer, is to extend the operation of the six remaining nuclear power plants beyond the end of 2022. He also points out that with 28 countries internationally that want to enter the nuclear power era, the global trend is diametrically opposed to the official German policy.

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