BERLIN – As the Lufthansa airplane made its final approach to land on a runway at Berlin’s Tegel airport, wind turbines appeared scattered across the landscape. Germany has been at the forefront of renewable energy which has gained impetus, especially after Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to speed up the shuttering of the nine remaining reactors by about a decade, to 2022.
As Germany is bracing itself for the outcome of a referendum among Social Democrats on whether the party should form a new coalition government with Merkel’s conservatives that would allow her to take the oath office for her third term as chancellor on 17 December, one thing is for sure – “the new government will never again switch to nuclear power.”
Or at least that’s what Uwe Leprich from the Institute for Future Energy Systems (IZES) in Saarbrucken, is arguing, who told New Europe that “nuclear power is dead in Germany”.
The majority of the population appears to be against nuclear power in Germany. “Even before Fukushima there was a huge majority,” Leprich said, referring to the catastrophe that became the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
“But I think that the new government does not want to continue with the speed of building renewable energies. They have this target now pushed to 2025 and after the year 2025 there are signals they want to come down to say 50-55% of renewables and not going for 100% renewables,” Leprich said. “Three years ago all three parties in the German Bundestag agreed to a 100% renewable target,” he added.
A source close to the German Parliament told New Europe that the new government “does not plan to subsidise renewables to the same extent”. But she noted that “Energiewende” is a reality, referring to the German word for “Energy Transition” to a sustainable economy by means of renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable development.
The Reichstag building itself, where a mirrored cone in the centre of the dome directs sunlight into the parliament chamber, was reconstructed with ecological considerations.
However, Leprich claimed that the new government does not want to push for energy efficiency. “There are no targets whatsoever for energy efficiency any longer and I think that is really a new course they’re heading for that is a little bit frustrating,” he said.
Leprich said one of the main options Germany has is to flank the nuclear energy with natural gas. “We have some new gas power plants which are not operational right now because the prices are so low at the power exchange. This is because we still have a lot of nuclear and lignite. As long as we have these partly old power plants, gas has no chance. But I hope that in the next 10-15 years a lot of these old power plants will shut down and then gas has more options. The power exchange price will rise and this will be a signal to build new gas power plants,” he said, adding the gas will come mostly from Russia through Gazprom’s Nord Stream pipeline and from the North Sea until resources from the latter run out.
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