Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Green Germans

Recently fired German Environmental minister Norbert Röttgen has been mentioned in 13 different posts here at real economics—the latest last Sunday.  He is obviously a favorite of mine.  So when I had an opportunity to speak with a real live member of that ministry Monday morning, my first question was "Why did Angela Merkel fire Norbert Röttgen?"

Röttgen not only lost his election in North Rhine-Westphalia, he didn't seem too interested in winning.  Apparently, he likes Berlin more than Dusseldorf.  He was accused of arrogance (which I always thought was the default posture of bright German males but how he differed from that norm was not explained.) There were other examples concerning his lack of consensus-building skills but they all added up to the simple fact that the skill sets that made him an excellent environment minister did not make him a good provincial politician. Ms. Merkel wanted a loyal regional politician at the head of Germany's most populous state and Norbert Röttgen blew it big time—she almost HAD to sack him.

I asked if the problem could have been that Röttgen was too progressive for such a conservative government. I was assured that this was NOT a policy debate and that I was probably going to like his successor just as much. We will see (13 posts!). When I suggested that it was VERY important for the Germans to get it right on the environment because they set the global agenda, I was told that within Germany, there is a feeling of environmental stagnation and that leadership on environmental matters could be passing to China.

Germany sets new solar power record, institute says

Erik Kirschbaum  Reuters   May 26, 2012

BERLIN (Reuters) - German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs.

"Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity," Allnoch told Reuters. "Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over."

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources.

Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible.

The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide.

The 22 GW per hour figure is up from about 14 GW per hour a year ago. Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.

"This shows Germany is capable of meeting a large share of its electricity needs with solar power," Allnoch said. "It also shows Germany can do with fewer coal-burning power plants, gas-burning plants and nuclear plants."

Allnoch said the data is based on information from the European Energy Exchange (EEX), a bourse based in Leipzig. more


  1. "I was told that within Germany, there is a feeling of environmental stagnation and that leadership on environmental matters could be passing to China."

    Shale Gas (and oil) is a game changer.
    The German Industrialists are mad as hell because electricity is higher in price.
    Investors shun solar panel firms.
    Pure electric vehicle is not practical (too costly, won't work in trucks)
    Collecting a diffuse energy source is not that interesting. The game is storage and that is a political and R&D quagmire.

    The Germans and Japs won't abandon Nuclear unless they are truly insane.

  2. Doesn't it seem, that since shale gas is such a game changer in the market as to shut down green energy, that the time is right to remove the oil and gas subsidies, and maybe add a pollution tax to capture some funds for the damage being left behind?

    It seems to me the time for free market rules to apply to oil and gas and not just green energy, no?