Germany’s Failed Gamble on Green Energy Is a Lesson for America

Germany’s Failed Gamble on Green Energy Is a Lesson for America
Wind turbines spin at a windpark near Neubrandenburg, Germany, on Oct. 17, 2012. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Chris Talgo
In September 2010, the German government released its “Energy Concept for an Environmentally Sound, Reliable and Affordable Energy Supply” (pdf).

According to the document, “Germany is to become one of the most energy-efficient and greenest economies in the world while enjoying competitive energy prices and a high level of prosperity.”

Twelve years later, it’s clear that Germany’s giant gamble on green energy hasn’t come close to meeting the ambitious goals its architects promised. In fact, one can make a solid argument that Germany’s Energy Concept has backfired and created a host of new problems, while failing to address the primary problems it was supposed to correct in the first place.

Part of the reason for the spectacular failure of Germany’s quest for an “Energiewende” (energy turnaround) is the fact that it abandoned a key component of the plan less than a year into its implementation: “nuclear power as a bridging technology.”

Per the Energy Concept, “A limited extension of the operating lives of existing nuclear power plants makes a key contribution to achieving the three energy policy goals of climate protection, economic efficiency and supply security in Germany within a transitional period. It paves the way for the age of renewable energy, particularly through price-curbing impacts and a reduction in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.”

In 2011, less than a year after the Energy Concept was announced, Germany decided to close all of its nuclear power plants. Why? Because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Never mind that tsunamis do not occur in land-locked Germany.

In 2000, Germany received about 30 percent of its power from nuclear energy. By 2020, it had decreased to 11 percent. By the end of 2022, all of Germany’s nuclear power plants will have been shuttered.

As Germany has weaned itself off of nuclear energy and increased its wind and solar capabilities, it has also become a large importer of crude oil and natural gas from Russia.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA), “Germany was the largest consumer of natural gas in Europe in 2019.” Natural gas makes up 25 percent of total energy consumption in Germany, with 97 percent of it being imported. Russia, naturally, is the largest supplier of Germany’s growing dependence on natural gas.

Further, as EIA notes, “In 2019, Russia (with a share of 31.5%), Norway (11.3%), and the United Kingdom (11.9%) combined accounted for 54.7% of total crude oil imports to Germany.”

The point is that Germany’s economy, although increasingly reliant on solar and wind power, is still dependent on Russia for much of its energy supply. And what happens when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining?

Perhaps this is why Germany has been so reluctant to play hardball with Russia over the Ukraine situation.

As for the promise that Germany’s green energy transformation would create competitive energy prices, that has fallen by the wayside as well.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported, “Some 4.2 million German households will see their electricity bills rise by an average 63.7% this year and 3.6 million stand to pay 62.3% higher gas bills as suppliers pass on record wholesale rates, data showed on Tuesday.”
Germans are also paying through the nose for gasoline, which costs $7.49 per gallon on average.

So, more than a decade into Germany’s grand green energy gamble, energy prices are through the roof, Germany is dependent on Russia for fossil fuels, and the nuclear bridge has been blown-up.

In other words, Germany’s Energiewende has been a colossal failure, which should serve as a lesson for the United States.

In the United States, many on the far left are also pushing for an energy turnaround; they call it the Green New Deal. Like Germany’s Energy Concept, the Green New Deal would fast track expensive, unreliable wind and solar power while reducing affordable, reliable energy from fossil fuels.

But, unlike Germany, the United States has an abundant supply of natural gas. In fact, the United States is sitting atop one of the largest untapped reserves of natural gas on the planet. Per the EIA, the United States has enough natural gas to last close to a century.

However, despite ample amounts of natural gas and oil that could be used in the United States and exported to Western Europe, the Biden administration has put the kibosh on American energy production. Making matters worse, Biden terminated the Keystone XL pipeline his first day in the Oval Office.

Since then, the United States has gone from energy independent (and a net energy producer for the first time in 70 years) to dependent on OPEC and Russia for oil. In Biden’s first year as president, the United States has purchased more than 230 million barrels of oil from Russia, the very nation we are currently sanctioning.

Like Germany, the United States is unnecessarily painting itself into an energy corner. It could be too late for Germany to reverse course; however, the United States still has time on its side—as long as it learns from the errors of Germany’s disastrous Energiewende.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Chris Talgo is an editor at The Heartland Institute. Talgo writes op-eds, articles for Health Care News and Environmental and Climate News, and hosts podcasts.
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