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Busting the carbon and cost myths of Germany’s nuclear exit

Damian Carrington, The Guardian
With the UK taking another step towards supporting new nuclear power on Tuesday – at either no extra cost to the consumer if you believe ministers, or substantial cost if you believe most others – it’s worth taking a look at what actually happens when you phase out nuclear power in a large, industrial nation.

That is what Germany chose to do after the Fukushima nuclear disaster…

On security of supply, critics predicted that Germany would have to import energy to make up that lost by the closure of the nuclear plants. It’s an important issue for a nation that imports 70% of its energy. But what actually happened is that Germany simply exported less in 2011: 7TWh instead of 70TWh. “We are still a net exporter,” says Franzjosef Schafhausen, a senior civil servant.

This was helped by a large decrease in energy consumption of 5.3% in 2011, delivered by big increases in energy efficiency in buildings, homes and industry, as well as in part a milder winter. Aha, I hear you say, but Germany’s economy must have shrunk as well: it grew by 3%, in rather stark contrast to double-dip Britain…
(23 May 2012)

…and in response…

The truth about Germany’s nuclear phase-out

Duncan Clark, The Guardian
I agree with Carrington on most issues but in this case I don’t believe the argument stacks up. I want to explain why, not because I have a particularly strong view on nuclear power, but because it’s a good opportunity to make a broader point that I think is important and too often missed.

It boils down to this: to meaningfully measure the impact of any action on a climate change, you need to recognise that the world is interconnected and measure the effects as widely as possible…

This isn’t an argument for nuclear power. It’s an argument for thinking about things the right way. The marginal impact lens also affects how you view lots of other situations. For example, even if you sign up for a green electricity tariff, the marginal impact of switching the lights on or off will be to boost or reduce fossil fuel use, because the renewable energy on the grid will always be running at maximum capacity anyway…

There is, however, yet another layer to all this. Signing up for a green tariff or buying a wood stove has cultural ripple effects – such as sending a signal that you care about the environment – in addition to any direct carbon ripple effects. These are even harder to pin down, but they can’t be ignored…
(28 May 2012)

Germany sets new solar power record, institute says

Erik Kirschbaum, 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…

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.”..
(26 May 2012)

Germany Stalled on the Expressway to a Green Future

Frank Dohmen, Alexander Jung, Michael Sauga and Andreas Wassermann, Der Spiegel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), will see federal diversity on display this Wednesday when she hosts Germany’s governors for an energy summit in Berlin. She can expect to see 16 governors and hear 16 different opinions — at the very least.

Each delegation has a different notion of what Germany’s energy revolution should look like. The delegation from the northwestern state of Lower Saxony wants to promote offshore wind farms, while the representatives of the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg favor projects that make more sense farther inland. The Bavarians are calling for new gas-fired power plants in the south, while politicians from the northeastern state of Brandenburg are championing the unfettered expansion of the solar industry, which is ailing in the east.

The cacophony reflects the current state of affairs. Things are all over the place in the energy turnaround at the moment, and nothing seems to be working. The key project of the coalition government of Merkel’s CDU, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) is stalling before it has truly begun…
(23 May 2012)