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The Failure of Germany’s 20-Year Renewable Energy Experiment

Will The U.S. Stop Repeating Germany’s Mistakes?

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In 2000, Germany launched Energiewende, which translates to “Energy Transition,” to decarbonize its energy.

By the year 2020, solar capacity in Germany is more than 100 times what it was in 2004, and there are nearly 30,000 onshore wind turbines.

In 2000, fossil fuels accounted for 84% of Germany's energy, and this share only fell to 78% by 2019. 

Despite spending over 500 billion euros, Germany will fall short of its goal of significantly reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and becoming carbon neutral.

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Germany still needs reliable energy, so it continues to import fossil fuels.

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In December 2019, the US signed a law that imposed sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 (an undersea pipeline that will aim to double the volume of natural gas exported directly from Russia to Germany), due to the project being a security risk - thus tightening Russia's grip over Europe's energy supply. In July 2021, the Biden administration lifted the sanctions and the project resumed. In February 2022, the US reinstated sanctions and Germany suspended the project. Natural gas still produces about half as much carbon dioxide than coal.

The average cost of electricity for German households has doubled since 2000. As of the end of 2019, German households paid 45% more for electricity than the European average.

In the U.S., we are seeing similar trends in California due to its evolving energy policies.

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While Germany plans to shut down all nuclear energy by the end of 2022, its neighbor, France is building the world’s largest nuclear fusion project. Fusion does not create any long-lived radioactive nuclear waste.

Nuclear energy equals zero emissions (no CO2). If Germany had invested this money in nuclear, it could have produced 100 percent of its electricity from zero-carbon-emission sources.

Solar consumes too much land for intermittent and unreliable energy.

A pivotal report was released in 2021, examining Europe's spatial requirements of renewables and their respective costs.

If the EU and its global partners really want to tackle issues such as climate change, recycling, waste, emissions and pollution, food quality and food security, then the EU needs to adopt sensible and sustainable measures which do not place unnecessary and costly burdens...The EU’s 2050 climate neutrality strategy involves a high risk of ineffectiveness. Intermittent renewable power generation, in the EU as elsewhere, requires reliable sources of energy, realistically preventing the rapid phase-out of fossil fuel power generation.

Germany’s ongoing experiment with renewables foreshadows the problems the U.S. faces if it blindly adopts renewables and retires its traditional baseload power generation. Because of the need for backup power generation when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, the cost of integrating more renewables into the grid can increase overall costs. In addition, it isn’t clear that U.S. citizens will accept the massive use of land resources required by solar and wind – where industrial-scale solar requires 450 times more land than nuclear plants and wind turbine projects take 700 times more land than natural gas well to produce the same amount of electricity. Resistance to renewable projects is even growing in Germany, whose population generally supports the transition to renewable energy.

There is a place for utility-scale solar on marginal land or industrial-zoned land.

Even proponents of “green" energy don’t advocate for the loss of forests, the destruction of wildlife habitats and devalued property.

In the U.S., we need to learn from mistakes already made, continue to course correct, evaluate through the lens of changing energy innovation, and strive for better, balanced and reliable energy solutions.

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