Germany: Talk of the Cleantech Town this Week

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Germany is all the talk lately. And for obvious reasons. It’s already a world leader in clean energy and now its decided to close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 (as I reported a little more than a month ago). This has instigated political controversy, wild claims, clean energy enthusiasm, and a number of new reports. It has also helped to light a fire under other countries slower to react on the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan and slower to implement progressive clean energy policies to tackle catastrophic global climate change.

A number of stories focused on Germany have popped up this week that I thought I’d give a little extra attention to.

Germany Could Close All Nuclear Reactors by 2017 (not 2022)

A new report out by the Umweltbundesamt (UBA) — for non-German speakers, that would be the German Environment Agency — shows that while Germany has made an unprecedented commitment to close all its nuclear plants by 2022, it could actually do so by 2017.

The report also dispelled a number of myths regarding the country’s strong anti-nuclear decision. Paul Gipe of Renewable Energy World writes:

Critics of the reversal have charged that:

  • Germany will suffer power outages
  • Germany will import nuclear power from other countries, notably France
  • Germany will build massive new coal plants to make up the shortfall

The analysis by the German environment agency was undertaken to specifically examine these questions. They concluded that Germany can close the reactors within five years and do so:

  • Without power outages
  • Without importing nuclear power from other countries
  • Without building new coal plants
  • With only a modest increase in the cost of electricity

The agency does propose building 5 GW of natural gas power plants to make the grid more flexible while still cutting greenhouse gas emissions the promised amount.

Germany’s Plan to Phase Out Nuclear NOT a Knee-Jerk Reaction

Jennifer Morgan over at the World Resources Institute expounded on how the world’s 4-th largest economy is phasing out nuclear and phasing in renewable energy and more energy efficiency and how this is not a reactionary, careless plan but one that has been in the works — to some degree or another — for years.

“Far from a short-sighted political reaction to the nuclear crisis, Germany has put in place the laws, infrastructure and has the public support to make this transition happen,” Morgan writes.

Check out more on the “roots of Germany’s energy transition,” its feasibility assessment and setting of goals, and it smart energy (and smart economy) policies over on WRI.

Nuclear Costs vs German Solar Power Costs

Our climate- and clean-energy-focused friends over on Climate Progress also had a great post on Germany this week, one focusing on how solar is just much more sensible to invest in for strictly economic reasons (never mind that it doesn’t require storing nuclear waste for longer than humans have existed).

Paul Gipe writes:

…it’s the sheer cost of nuclear that may overwhelm any industry “renaissance”.

Little data exists on the actual cost of new nuclear generation. Rumors persist in Ontario, Canada that the government’s delay in building its promised new reactors was due to “sticker shock” after receiving costly proposals.

Looking at some of the most reliable studies out there on the elusive cost of new nuclear, Gipe finds that the cost of nuclear in California in 2018 (if it were legally possible) could be more than the cost of German solar power today.

Furthermore, Gipe mentions the fact that nuclear power is practically uninsurable today — so, relying on nuclear to cut your greenhouse gas emissions has more than one major problem.

In an unrelated study for the German Renewable Energy Association (Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie), consultants in Leipzig found that nuclear reactors are effectively uninsurable.

While this has been common knowledge in the energy industry for decades, the question has again been raised in light of the costly disaster in Japan and claims by proponents of a nuclear “renaissance” that the technology is “safe”.

The 157 page report by Versicherungsforen Leipzig estimated that the premium necessary to insure a nuclear reactor from accident would cost from €0.14/kWh ($0.20/kWh) to a staggering €2.36/kWh ($3.40/kWh).

Thus, the cost to insure a nuclear reactor — at a minimum — would cost as much as the electricity itself from a nuclear plant built in California in 2018.

Hmm, not the super power source its made out to be by nuclear energy enthusiasts.

For more details on these issues, check out: Stunner: New Nuclear Costs as Much as German Solar Power Today — and Up to $0.34/kWh in 2018.

Germany and the Nuclear vs Renewable Energy debate that it has further stirred up are likely to be hot topics for awhile. I’m sure you’ll hear more form me on them soon.

Related Stories on CleanTechnica:

  1. Germany: Nuclear Power 100% Shut Down by 2022
  2. Renewable Energy in Germany Going to Get a Boost from Wind Energy Superhighway
  3. 1.8 GW of Midsize German Solar Installations Due to Feed-in Tariffs
  4. How Risky is it For Germany to Shutter its Nuclear?
  5. My Thoughts on Nuclear

Photo via Ariaski

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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