Green Power Germany prepares to light the charcoal kilns

One way or another, Germany, a country with a strong government commitment to “green” energy, is preparing to start coal-fired power plants. This move is all the more remarkable given that officials stubbornly refuse to restart mothballed nuclear facilities, or even reconsider the timetable for the withdrawal of those that remain online. This is an amazing situation for a country that very recently boasted that it would soon meet all of its energy needs with sunshine and cool summer breezes.

“A bill providing the legal basis for burning more coal for electricity generation is being passed by Parliament, aimed at increasing the output of so-called reserve power stations which are used irregularly. for network stabilization and which were to be taken offline over the next few years,” Deutsche Welle Noted this week. “German Economy Minister Robert Habeck recently described his current energy policy as ‘a kind of tussle’ with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” the story added in reference to Russia’s reduction in energy consumption. flow of natural gas to countries that imposed sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine.

There is no doubt that Putin’s retaliation against Western Europe has driven up energy prices and raised concerns about dark months ahead followed by a cold winter. But, like the woes of the American gas price, Germany’s problems predate the war in Ukraine and are closely linked to the goals that the country’s political class has set for its energy future in the absence of a realistic plan to achieve it. In 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami triggered a disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the German government has recommitted to shutting down all its nuclear power plants and sourcing solar and wind power. The decision was prompted by public fears of nuclear energy, but also by a strong insistence that the energy source has no place in a sustainable future.

“Germany is going to be ahead on this and they are going to make a lot of money, so the message to Germany’s industrial competitors is that you can base your energy policy not on nuclear, not on coal, but on renewable energy,” Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace told the BBC at the time.

But “nuclear power is very close to the same shade of green as most renewables” when you compare mining and manufacturing inputs to each approach, energy expert Gail H. Marcus wrote for physics world in 2017. And nuclear is reliable – the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, which means that the electricity produced by these sources comes and goes. This is a big problem for power grids that require a constant supply of power.

“Large amounts of intermittent electricity create huge variations in supply that the grid must be able to cope with,” Bloomberg reported in January 2021. “The problem is not limited to Europe. Australia has had start-up problems in the transition to a cleaner grid. Wind energy was blamed for a blackout in 2016 which cut power to 850,000 homes with a solution and was the first country to install a 100 megawatt megabattery in 2017.”

Months later, the challenge for renewables was made even worse when Europe suffered a “wind drought” that left turbines idling.

“During the summer and early autumn of 2021, Europe experienced a long period of dry conditions and low wind speeds,” said Hannah Bloomfield, climate researcher at the University of Bristol. wrote in October 2021. “The beautifully clear and calm weather may have been a good reason not to seek out our winter coats, but the lack of wind can be a serious issue when considering where our winter coats might be coming from. electricity.” Bloomfield pointed out that a reliable flow of energy requires “other renewable resources such as solar power, hydroelectricity and the ability to intelligently manage our electricity demand.”

Of course, until you have enough diverse sources of reliable, renewable energy to tap into, you’re going to keep the lights on through now disadvantaged but reliable means such as coal, nuclear, and natural gas. But if you’re Germany and in a rekindled Cold War with Russia, which is the main source of your natural gas, your options are limited when that country closes pipeline valves.

“Europe’s largest economy is now officially running out of natural gas and is stepping up a crisis plan to preserve supplies as Russia turns off the taps,” CNN said. noted on June 23. “Germany activated the second phase of its three-stage emergency gas program on Thursday, bringing it one step closer to rationing industry supply – a step that would deal a heavy blow to the manufacturing heart of Germany. its economy.

You are even more at an impasse if you have just shut down half of your nuclear power plants and insist on closing the rest in a few months, even if your energy problems worsen.

“Currently, only three nuclear power plants are still connected to the grid in Germany”, Deutsche Welle reports. “As things stand, they will be closed by the end of 2022 as part of the country’s complete withdrawal from the controversial energy source.”

The classical-liberal FDP, the smallest party in the coalition government, does not agree with this policy as well as many other things that its partners do. But its officials have been largely reduced to a role of Cassandra, ignored even as their prophecies come true. And this is how a country long committed to 100% renewable energies prepares to light the charcoal stoves. Oh, and also for electricity rationing, cooler homes, and less production.

“Whatever path Germany takes, [German Institute for Economic Research]the scientific research center Forschungszentrum Jülich and the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) all agree that a loss of Russian natural gas cannot be fully replaced by other energy sources », Deutsche Welle adds. “They say less energy needs to be consumed overall.”

The fate of Germany is a disturbing testament to where you can end up if you commit to a vision of a “green” future that has no room for the most reliable source of clean electricity. . On the other hand, neighboring France plans to build up to 14 new nuclear reactors because of, and not in spite of, its environmental objectives. This attitude reflects the assessment of energy analyst Marcus and is shared by the International Intergovernmental Energy Agency (IEA). “Long-term operation of the existing nuclear fleet and a near doubling of the annual rate of capacity additions are needed” to meet clean energy goals by 2050, the organization says. precise.

Visions of a cleaner future based on more efficient and less polluting technologies are laudable and shared by almost everyone. But getting from here to there requires planning and making realistic decisions. Unfortunately for the German people, most of their political leaders relied on entrenched wishes and pixie dust to bring about a green utopia and instead deliver real lumps of coal.

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