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German Energy Consumers Pay Double Due to Ineffective Solar Subsidies



(p. B1) BETZIGAU, Germany -- Katharina Zinnecker's farm in the foothills of the German Alps has been in the family since 1699. But to squeeze a living from it today, she and her husband need to do more than sell the milk from their herd of cows.

So they carpeted the roofs of their farm buildings with solar panels. And thanks to hefty government guarantees, what they earn from selling electricity is "safe money, not like cows," Ms. Zinnecker said. "Milk prices go up and down."

The farm has been a beneficiary of "Energiewende," the German word for energy transition. Over the past two decades, Germany has focused its political will and treasure on a world-leading effort to wean its powerful economy off the traditional energy sources blamed for climate change.

The benefits of the program have not been universally felt, however. A de facto class system has emerged, saddling a group of have-nots with higher electricity bills that help subsidize the installation of solar panels and wind turbines elsewhere.


. . .


(p. B2) . . . renewable energy subsidies are financed through electric bills, meaning that Energiewende is a big part of the reason prices for consumers have doubled since 2000.

These big increases "are absolutely not O.K.," said Thomas Engelke, team leader for construction and energy at the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, an umbrella organization of consumer groups.

The higher prices have had political consequences.

The far-right party Alternative for Germany, which won enough support in the recent elections to enter Parliament, has called for an "immediate exit" from Energiewende. The party, known by its German initials AfD, sees the program as a "burden" on German households, and many supporters have come into its fold in part because of the program's mounting costs.

Julian Hermneuwöhner is one such voter. Mr. Hermneuwöhner, a 27-year-old computer science student, said his family paid an additional €800 a year because of Energiewende.

"But it hasn't brought lower CO2 emissions," he said. "It's frustrating that we're paying so much more, because the country hasn't gotten anything for it."

As a clean energy pioneer, Germany has not always seen the results it desired from its heavy spending.


. . .


. . . progress has been undone somewhat by the government's decision to accelerate its phase out of nuclear power after the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japan. That has made the country more reliant on its sizable fleet of coal-fired power stations, which account for the bulk of emissions from electricity generation.

The country has yet to address the transport industry, where emissions have increased as the economy boomed and more cars and trucks hit the road.



For the full story, see:

STANLEY REED. "$222 Billion Shift Hits a Snag." The New York Times (Thurs., OCT. 7, 2017): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the title "Germany's Shift to Green Power Stalls, Despite Huge Investments.")






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