Energiewende, which literally means “energy shift” or “energy revolution” is Germany’s plan to reduce polluting CO2 emissions, without relying on nuclear power.
With broad support from the public and the different political parties, the most populated country in Europe hopes to be almost carbon neutral by mid-century.
This plan was approved by Angela Merkel’s administration in October and constitutes the building block of the chancellor’s strategy to meet the climate goals.
However, the plan has had its share of controversy and suffered a severe blow when a government agency questioned its effectiveness in reaching the climate targets.
In order to meet EU climate protection regulations and decarbonisation targets, some Central and Eastern Europe countries decide to opt for nuclear power. Radostina Primova reports on Bulgaria's plans to build the new 2-GW Belene nuclear power plant. https://t.co/W8Pj0391el
— Energiewende Germany (@EnergiewendeGER) March 16, 2020
A harsh blow
Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA) recently stated that this program will not suffice to reach the emissions reduction goals.
On behalf of key ministries, the UBA ordered a study to calculate the general effect that the Climate Action Program 2030 would have on mitigating greenhouse gases.
According to the study, the program would reduce total GHG emissions by 51% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels; well below Berlin’s 55% target.
These results are a huge embarrassment for the German government, which for months has been struggling to find a commitment on how to cut carbon emissions in one of Europe’s largest economies, without causing large social and employment disturbances.
The UBA admitted that its estimations entail great uncertainty and do not represent an exact prediction. Nonetheless, it affirmed they “describe a possible and probable scenario of emissions development in Germany.”
The 75- page report was prepared by the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut) with the help of Fraunhofer ISI and the Institute for Resource Efficiency and Energy Strategies. It analyzed the energy, industry, housing, transport, and agriculture sectors.
Furthermore, the government-planned schedule for a coal phase-out would not result in a big enough emissions reduction.
The climate goals for 2030 establish that greenhouse gases should decline by 55%, compare to 1990 levels. Therefore, carbon emissions should drop from 866 million tons per year in 2018 to 563 million tons by the end of the next decade.
According to these estimations, Germany will not reach its 40% emissions reduction goal by 2020.
In its latest emissions report, the Ministry of the Environment forecasted that the emissions would go down by about 33%.
Germany’s energy transition is being closely monitored, with enthusiasts saying that the nation is giving a valuable lesson for lowering reliance on fossil fuels.
Many environmentalists are quoting this as proof that an industrialized nation can abandon fossil fuels without sacrificing its growth. However, the critics sustain that the German experience confirms some adverse effects of the renewable energy transition. For instance, the high costs for consumers and the industry. Moreover, it does not automatically reduce carbon emissions.
Without nuclear power
The plan focuses on total nuclear power phase-out by 2022. The curious thing is that nuclear power constitutes a significant source of carbon-free energy in Germany. In 2002, it accounted for 30.9% of Germany’s commercial power generation. In 2020, it was reduced by 11.9%. Being a reliable and carbon-free energy, it is hard to understand that Energiewende is leaving this potential resource out of the equation.
In part, this stems from the origin Energiewende. Originally, this was an anti-nuclear and environmental movement. Little by little, it became a large nationwide project with deep effects on society and business.
On the other hand, the anti-nuclear sentiment has been growing in Germany since the late 1970s. The current shutdown is the result of a progression of decades.
Of course, the nuclear phase-out cannot be an isolated goal. Energiewende is a combination of several politics. It includes the development of new renewable energies, upgrading buildings to meet the strictest efficiency standards, reducing power consumption, and of course, eliminating nuclear energy.
For more information, check Energía16