Friday, June 10, 2011

Angela Merkel's Fossil Fuel Fondness

In the immediate wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sprung into action, rescinding her decision to extend the operation of her own country's nuclear power plants and moving to have them out of operation as quickly as possible.   So just how does the Chancellor plan to ensure her country's energy security?   You guessed it - fossil fuels.

Germany needs to build twice the number of new fossil-fuel power plants than the government previously had earmarked in order to secure energy security while exiting nuclear power, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday, while sticking to ambitious emission-reduction goals.

"If we want to exit nuclear energy and enter renewable energy, for the transition time we need fossil power plants, " Ms. Merkel said in a parliamentary declaration on her government's decision to phase out nuclear power.  "At least 10, more likely 20 gigawatts [of fossil capacity] need to be built in the coming 10 years. " 

That is more than the generation capacity of Belgium, which in 2009 had capacity to generate more than 17.3 gigawatts, according to the Union of the Electricity Industry, a Europe-wide sector group.

...Michael Mueller, from the German Federation for Nature, said the climate targets can't be achieved if the additional fossil-fuel capacity were to be built, pointing to the energy industry's emissions calculations.

The switch-off of the first seven of Germany's 17 nuclear power stations will add some 25 million metric tons a year to the country's carbon-dioxide emissions, the International Energy Agency said in May.

And there you have it, kids.   Even the Iron Chancellor can't have her cake and eat it too.  CO2 it is.   In fairness, however, Germany has had its own nuclear accident - in 1986 when a fuel pebble jammed that resulted in a minor leak of radiation detectable two miles from the plant.   Zowee.


LMA said...

I'm beginning to fear that the push to renewables is going to turn out to be just another way to justify using and wasting even more energy. Even if Germany had gone ahead with their nuclear plans, they still would have built coal plants, although fewer. Canada and the U.S. will probably secure their energy future by Tar Sands oil pipelines. Deep oil drilling is taking place in the Arctic despite the fact that there is no adequate plan to handle serious oil spills.

Maybe we just won't have the will to power down until we get hit with the horrors of climate change that are headed our way.

crf said...

Climate change is a wallflower at this political Dance.

Merkel's Coal+ Massive-Renewable policies will only work if Germany's economy is not so heavily reliant today upon the cheap, abundant energy that helped it surge back from wartime devastation. Many would argue that it is now intellectual know-how, rather than energy, that adds most of the value to Germany's products. So energy costs could rise, without much affecting the value of products produced. So what occurs in Germany over the next decades is going to be a bit of an experiment.

If there turn out to be strong connections between energy and the economy, there is substantial likelihood of a nuclear (and coal) policy re-re-reversal. Especially in eastern Germany, where the voting public still has substantial numbers who remember the taste of poverty (but was also the region most affected by Chernobyl). The richer West-Germans, having led lives typical of most Westerners, may take energy for granted, and not value its current cheap abundance very highly. This has made it easier to hold anti-nuclear views: the benefits are hidden in the opaqueness of economics, the costs the public cares about (accidents) are obvious to see, if often miscontrued.

The Mound of Sound said...

Chris I think Merkel's decision is a function of political expedience. Her popularity is tanking and I'll bet she would do anything to prop up her numbers. Germany has a long history of nuclear power generation and a very minimal accident record.