German lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly approved plans to shut the country’s nuclear plants by 2022, putting Europe’s biggest economy on the road to an ambitious build-up of renewable energy.

The lower house of parliament voted 513-79 for the shutdown plan drawn up by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government after Japan’s post-earthquake nuclear disaster.

Most of the opposition voted in favour; eight lawmakers abstained.

Lawmakers sealed for good the shutdown of eight of the older reactors, which have been off the grid since March.

Germany’s remaining nine reactors will be shut down in stages by the end of 2022.

By 2020, Germany wants to double the share of energy stemming from water, wind, sun or biogas to at least 35 percent. Until this year, nuclear energy accounted for a bit less than a quarter of Germany’s power supply.

“Some people abroad ask: will Germany manage this? Can it be done? It is the first time that a major industrial country has declared itself ready to carry through this technological and economic revolution,” Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen told lawmakers.

“The message from today is this: the Germans are getting to work,” he said. “This will be good for our country, because we all stand together. So let’s get to work.”

The government hasn’t put a specific price tag on the plan to shift to renewable sources.

“Of course it will cost something, but it won’t overburden anyone,” Mr. Roettgen said.

Thursday’s vote completed a spectacular about-face on nuclear energy by Merkel’s centre-right coalition. Only last year, it had amended a previous centre-left government’s plan to abandon nuclear power by the early 2020s and extended the life span of Germany’s 17 reactors by an average 12 years.

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