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Asian Concerns Over German ‘Energiewende’ Failures: Bangladesh, India Need To Draw Their Lessons

Ritu Sharma, Energy Bangla

For a long time the developing countries have been learning from the Germany’s ‘Energiewende’ (literally translating to Energy Transition) programme, which entailed dismantling its 19 nuclear power stations by 2022 and replace it with other renewable energy sources. However, as per experts the daunting project to substitute a cheap, reliable, secure power source with renewables has failed to achieve its goals despite huge investments.

Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions remained at the levels similar to that of 2009 and in fact registered an increase in 2016 as the country relies on coal-fuelled power plants to meet its energy demands as it shuts down its nuclear power plants in a politically supervised transition in the aftermath of the Tsunami catastrophe at The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The German government also averred to stick to its goal of cutting down emissions by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.

“Germany’s carbon emission is not declining much despite renewables increasing to almost 30 per cent of the country’s power mix this year and 50 per cent of its installed capacity. Unfortunately coal has also increased to about 30 per cent along with other purchases from France and other countries in Europe, which is used to load –follow, or buffer, the intermittency of the renewables… So electricity in Germany remains six times more carbon intensive compared to France,” former Chairman of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission Dr Shafiqul Islam Bhuyan told Nuclear Asia. Bangladesh is one of the South Asian countries that has embraced the nuclear power to fuel its burgeoning economy.

Dr. Bhuyan also added that in 2016, 7 out of 10 of the Europe’s biggest polluters were German Lignite plants. “Since Germany is phasing out its Zero emission Nuclear Plants, in the several years the situation will only get worse,” he opined. So far, as per a recent report in the New York Times, Germany has spent an estimated 189 billion euros on renewable energy subsidies since 2000 but the results in terms of emission cuts has not commiserated the spending.

While the ‘Energiewende’ policy still enjoys popular support, the German experts are waking up to its perils and enlisting problems of intermittency, grid and stability of distribution, market distortion, storage problems and its damaging effects on bio-diversity to build a case against ‘Energiewende’. Fritz Vahrenholt, who has served in several public positions with environmental agencies such as the Federal Environment Ministry and Deputy Environment Minister and Senator of the City of Hamburg, gave a presentation titled ‘Germany’s ‘Energiewende’: A disaster in the making’ at the House of Commons earlier this year. Owing to the heavy subsidies given by the German government to push its ‘Energiewende’ programme, the energy prices in Germany are the second highest in the Europe.

“Germany has nine neighbours with whom power can be exchanged. If the ‘Energiewende’ had happened in the UK, the electricity system would have already imploded, but in Germany, on windy days, surplus power can be dumped onto the neighbours’ electricity grids. During the dark doldrums – in Germany we call times when there is not wind in winder or at night the Dunkerflaute – we can be saved by calling an old Austrian oil-fired power stations, Polish hard-coal plants or French and Czech nuclear power,’ Vahrenholt told the House of Commons. Incidentally, Vahrenholt has founded the wind energy company Repower.

The energy demand in Germany is low during holidays and weekends is at the lowest, leading to problems of oversupply. And when it happens per unit power cost in Germany becomes negative and the country is forced to dump excess power into the grids of neighbouring countries. The preferential treatment to the renewables have made power generation for conventional power plants, which form Germany’s second line reserve, expensive; thus distorting the market. […]

India needs to diversify its energy resources, but heeding to lessons from German ‘Energiewende’, it is imperative to strike a balance between energy resources for cleaner energy.

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