German households in 2000 paid just over 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, according to the OECD. In 2012, they paid 33.9 cents—nearly three times as much s they did in the year 2000. Why the radical price spike?
Because Germany enacted in 2000 a law mandating that “renewable” energy sources, wind and solar mostly, increase at least twofold in the national electricity generation mix. Wind and solar production would be financed through a feed-in tariff which paid them above-market rates. Moreover, local utilities were obliged to buy this production whether it was needed or not.
This was all in the interest of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal man-made greenhouse gas, from power plants, which in Germany were dominated by coal-fired technology. The above-linked PNNL/University of Maryland study traces Germany’s renewables policy back to the 1973 oil price shock, but it is more accurate to say that that event was the impetus for nuclear power, not renewable, since it was nuclear and not renewables that essentially replaced oil in German power generation after 1973. The real impetus came from the global concern over man-made CO2. (One of the cheerleaders of the so-called energiewende, the Heinrich Böll Foundations, publishes a website replete with the usual propagandistic drivel on the alleged benefits of renewable energy; the main one is “Fighting climate change.”) Hence the 2000 renewable energy law.
Well, that was 14 years ago. German households, who bear the brunt of the cost of renewable energy, now pay nearly three times for electricity what they paid in 2000. How has Germany’s fight against climate change gone?
It has been an abysmal failure. The chart to the right draws from the OECD publication Electricity Information 2013. As you can see, power-sector CO2 emissions were higher in 2012 than they were in 2000.
Germany’s use of combustible fuels, i.e. mostly coal and gas, has also increased since 2000, and especially since 2011. That is why Germany CO2 emissions from power generation went up. And why did Germany’s use of combustible fuels rise after 2011? Because Germany decided, on the basis of Green Party opportunism and hysteria following the casualty-free Fukushima meltdowns in Japan, to get out of the nuclear business. Nuclear, as I mentioned above, got Germany off oil in power generation. It is the only non-CO2-emitting energy source that can get Germany off combustible fuels.
Renewables have been utterly irrelevant in Germany’s efforts to reduce CO2. They are not irrelevant, however, in the cost of electricity in Germany. They are the least efficient, and therefore the most expensive, ways to make electricity.
If you really want to reduce CO2, go nuclear.
The latest Green talking points I’m seeing are along the lines of “But France’s costs have escalated rapidly in the last three years!”
Yes, interesting coincidence there. Three years ago is also when another country over-reacted massively to a relatively benign (at least in terms of direct human injury) industrial accident which was caused by the Tohoku quake/tsunami. Perhaps if France just reconsidered the last 3 years of policy, those costs would go back down again.