It’s nice enough to engage in spirited debate over climate change and the need for renewable energy. But, the proof is in the practice. In this case we should examine what happens when a nation decides to shift its energy production from fossil fuels and nuclear to more environmentally friendly and primitive means like solar and wind power.
As we speak, Germany is engaged in leading the world toward renewable energy. Proposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel the policy enjoys support from all political groups.
Thus, it is not easy to affix blame for the new wave of what Germans are calling “energy poverty.” There's plenty to go around.
The New York Times opens its story about the fallout of the green energy initiative:
It is an audacious undertaking with wide and deep support in Germany: shut down the nation’s nuclear power plants, wean the country from coal and promote a wholesale shift to renewable energy sources.
But the plan, backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and opposition parties alike, is running into problems in execution that are forcing Germans to come face to face with the costs and complexities of sticking to their principles.
German families are being hit by rapidly increasing electricity rates, to the point where growing numbers of them can no longer afford to pay the bill. Businesses are more and more worried that their energy costs will put them at a disadvantage to competitors in nations with lower energy costs, and some energy-intensive industries have begun to shun the country because they fear steeper costs ahead.
Newly constructed offshore wind farms churn unconnected to an energy grid still in need of expansion. And despite all the costs, carbon emissions actually rose last year as reserve coal-burning plants were fired up to close gaps in energy supplies.
A new phrase, “energy poverty,” has entered the lexicon.
No one seems to have thought out all the potential obstacles, because, in all fairness, no one could have done so. Yet, it feels like a perfectly reactionary policy, designed to make enlightened people feel like they are doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences.
The Times continues:
One of the first obstacles encountered involves the vagaries of electrical power generation that is dependent on sources as inconsistent and unpredictable as the wind and the sun.
And no one has invented a means of storing that energy for very long, which means overwhelming gluts on some days and crippling shortages on others that require firing up old oil- and coal-burning power plants. That, in turn, undercuts the goal of reducing fossil-fuel emissions that have been linked to climate change.
Last year, wind, solar and other nonfossil-fuel sources provided 22 percent of the power for Germany, but the country increased its carbon emissions over 2011 as oil- and coal-burning power plants had to close gaps in the evolving system, according to the German electricity association BDEW.
The best part of the story is that the new policy has effectively increased carbon emissions.
Hats off to the new greener Germany. Will the last person leaving the room blow out the candle.