Last week I took the Energiewende on the road along the US East Coast. Over there the Energiewende gets a lot of attention. The assumption is: If an industrial powerhouse like Germany can power its factories, heat its homes and run its trains on renewables, then basically any country can.
This only tells half of the story, though. Apart from a transition from dirty to clean technologies the Energiewende is also a story of a political transition: from a centralized, corporate dominated to a smaller, more distributed and decentralized energy system. What makes the Energiewende unique is that citizens, not big utilities, are driving this transition. It is the reason why Germany may be the only country in the world where the switch to renewables is a switch to energy democracy, as we show in our book Energy Democracy. Continue Reading
Back in 2014 Craig Morris and I wrote a paper on the German coal conundrum. The question was whether Germany is building new coal plants to replace nuclear power despite the country’s climate ambitions. Many observers in the Anglo-Saxon world concluded so, given Germany’s nuclear policy shift in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident. But, as our report shows, the growth of renewables has more than replaced nuclear power over the past decade. Coal was not needed to implement the nuclear phaseout. And coal is not making a comeback in Germany. Continue Reading
A survey of American climate activists by Grist inspired us to conduct our own survey on the priorities of German activists. Both surveys include a dozen or so leading figures of the climate movement in each country. Before comparing the two, let’s first look at what sticks out in each country’s survey. Continue Reading
In January, US environmental website Grist.org published a survey of leaders in the environmental community to see what they thought the focus should be this year. A similar survey was conducted among leading German environmental activists and climate thinkers. What do they prioritize for 2015? Continue Reading
The last post showed the impressive overlapping between French and German energy goals. This article places a focus on historic targets for nuclear and renewables in the two countries. One key finding is that French nuclear history is not properly understood. Continue Reading
Repeatedly, critics of Germany’s energy transition say that France’s is a better model to follow. A closer look, however, reveals an impressive amount of overlapping. Contrary to the conventional wisdom even of many energy experts, France and Germany are pursuing a similar energy path.
Is Germany building new coal plants to replace nuclear despite the country’s green ambitions? Many observers conclude so. But the growth of renewables has more than replaced nuclear power over the past decade. Coal is not making a comeback in Germany. However, German policymakers should reduce the country’s coal dependency sooner than scheduled. Continue Reading
Recently, the editorial board of the Washington Post asked if the world can fight global warming without nuclear power, looking to Germany and Japan for the answer.
Both countries are known for a nuclear shutdown path. In Japan, only one of the 54 nuclear reactors currently remains in operation. Germany has closed eights reactors following the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima in March 2011 and the remaining nine are scheduled to be closed by 2022.
That obviously must lead to rising emissions, the Post claims. Germany’s “electricity sector emits more carbon than it must after eight reactors shut down last year.”
If you look at the most recent emissions data, however, the opposite is happening. Germany reduced its carbon emissions in 2011 by 2.1 percent despite the nuclear phase out. How can that be? Continue Reading
After the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima, as a German living in the U.S., I often get asked these days: What’s going on in Germany with the shutdown of nuclear power plants — is that all mass hysteria? There are good reasons why Germany is moving away so quickly from nuclear power. Certainly, fear is a factor. However, this angst in the face of a nuclear catastrophe has a rational core. Fukushima provides enough grounds to take every single nuclear power plant on the face of the Earth off-line. Regardless of whether the cause is an earthquake, a tsunami, a flood, a plane crash, a terrorist attack, or simple human error, failure of the emergency power system leads to uncontrollable consequences. Continue Reading