Germany's Energiewende on the ropes
For at least three years, I have been saying German energy policy, known as the Energiewende (Energy Transition), is doomed to fail sooner or later. Not so the German mainstream press, which, much like that of America, is firmly in the hands of leftists who have been religiously singing the praises of the Energiewende as a model for all humanity to follow. First and foremost has been the popular weekly, Der Spiegel, that has also profiled itself as viciously anti-American to the point of making up fake news to paint America as evil incarnate (Claas Relotius).
Imagine my surprise when on a flight from Washington to Vienna, the flight attendant handed me a copy of Der Spiegel with the title story proclaiming loudly that the Energiewende has been "Botched in Germany" (Murks in Germany). As if to make sure that the message is not lost, the title picture showcased broken wind turbines and hanging power lines on a dark Berlin skyline.
Had Spiegel finally come to its senses? No chance of that. The magazine continues to argue that the Energiewende was a "great idea" destroyed by German "narrow-mindedness," whatever that meant. What neither Der Spiegel nor the vast coterie of German officialdom, starting with Chancellor Merkel, can afford to admit is that the Energiewende was from its very beginning the "dumbest energy policy in the world," as the Wall Street Journal editorial board recently called it, and should never have been tried, let alone at the scale as occurred in Germany.
What Merkel & Co. cannot admit is that the whole idea of building a reliable electric supply on unreliable renewable solar and wind sources is impossible, because there are times when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. The Germans even coined a word for it: they call it Dunkelflaute (dark doldrums). Germany had also outlawed clean nuclear power after Fukushima on the asinine assumption that it could get hit with a 9 by Richter earthquake and a giant tsunami, leaving no alternative short of coal-fired plants to guarantee base-load — i.e., reliable electricity — to the highly industrialized nation.
Here are some of the facts that forced Spiegel to write this story that can no longer remain hidden. Nearly 20 years after the beginning of the Energiewende and colossal expenditures to subsidize renewable energy (160 billion Euros in the last five years alone), little has been achieved. And what has been achieved, says the story, is in "crass contradiction with the meager results" and "far distant from the self-announced targets." Of the needed 7,700 km of new power lines, only 950 km exist, and only 30 km were added in 2017. The vast majority of those (60.5%) are still in the planning stage, and 16.1% are yet to be planned. And it looks as though things will almost certainly get worse. Spiegel admits that the 1.2 million photovoltaic installations and 30,000 wind turbines currently present were erected with the help of "gigantic sums of state money," and without them, the future looks bleak. Already, curtailment of subsidies is wreaking havoc with new installations. In 2018, the 743 new turbines are 1,000 fewer than the year before, and many renewables companies are shedding jobs or filing for bankruptcy. Half of the 30,000 windmills were installed before 2004 and are rapidly approaching the end of their useful lives. Most will be closed down. And that is before we even look at the three other key anchors of the Energiewende yet to be touched: housing, industry, and traffic.
Moreover, the German people, who are now paying the highest electricity rates in Europe (nearly three times those of the U.S., twice those of France) and are forced by the state to subsidize industry, are starting to resist. There is scarcely a new project started "that is not fought over or objected to." Earlier, it took less than 40 months for a project to go online. Now it is at least 60 months.
There is one final thing that Der Spiegel does not want to tell us. All those huge expenditures would not make an iota of difference in the world's CO2 emissions as long as the greatest polluters, China and India, are allowed to continue spewing CO2 unimpeded. In other words, the Energiewende was in vain!
Alex Alexiev is the chairman of the Center for Balkan and Black Sea Studies (cbbss.org). He can be reached at email@example.com.