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Updated: July 23, 2011 10:45 IST

New energy architecture: Germany's decision

Guido Westerwelle
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Chancellor Angela Merkel votes during a debate, at the Bundestag on June 30, on Germany’s decision to close all nuclear reactors by 2022. Photo: AFP
Chancellor Angela Merkel votes during a debate, at the Bundestag on June 30, on Germany’s decision to close all nuclear reactors by 2022. Photo: AFP

The shift away from nuclear power and towards renewables is based on reasoned debate and aimed at achieving objectives which are ambitious but realistic.

By 2022, Germany will have phased out nuclear energy. Until then, we will be investing even more heavily in the radical new direction of German energy policy. This decision represents another surge forward on Germany's road towards sustainable energy provisions sourced largely from renewables. In taking it, we have set ourselves an ambitious objective. Our intention now is to map out our long-term and irreversible progress along that road, heading for energy provision that is clean, affordable and safe. We will be investing in industries which are set to dominate the future.

The decision to phase out nuclear energy has the backing of a broad majority in German society. Civilian nuclear power has been the subject of a highly charged debate in both politics and society for many years. The broad democratic consensus we have reached is that this change of track on energy policy is possible — technically, conceptually and economically. The tragedy at Fukushima triggered a reassessment of the risks of nuclear power and accelerated our change of direction. However, Germany had decided before Fukushima to move towards renewable energy sources and bring about an end to its relationship with nuclear power. That policy chimes with our commitment to combat climate change. The targets for developing renewable energies, which the German government set in October 2010, have simply been shifted forward.

Our neighbours and partners have been observing our accelerated change of direction with great, sometimes sceptical, interest. But one thing is indisputable: on the basis of reasoned debate, we have set ourselves objectives which are ambitious but realistic. We will act responsibly in our work towards all these goals, seeking always to ensure security of supply, affordability and respect for the climate and the environment. Until March 2011, Germany's 17 nuclear reactors generated 22 per cent of our country's electricity needs. After eight reactors were taken off the grid in March 2011, the remaining nine cover 15 per cent of the demand. Even with the eight oldest reactors offline, our guaranteed capacity is still more than our highest ever domestic consumption.

For the time being, the deficit caused by taking those reactors out of the equation is being met by new, renewable capacities, better system management and improved efficiency.

In future, nuclear power will gradually be replaced by energy from renewable sources and low-carbon gas power plants. We will continue to need fossil-fuel power plants for an interim period, to bridge the technological gap. Nevertheless, our climate change targets will remain unaffected. We still aim to achieve the EU-wide target of lowering CO{-2} emissions by at least 20 per cent by 2020 as well as our national target of a 40 per cent reduction.

In 2010, 17 per cent of Germany's electricity came from renewable sources. We plan to make this 35 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2030. Germany's change of direction is not going to make us more dependent on other countries. The German government is investing more than ever in the three key areas to ensure its power supplies: enhancing the grid, developing renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency.

Each country must decide its own energy mix, this has recently been underlined by Chancellor Merkel during her talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the first Indo-German governmental consultations. However, there are many dangers which do not stop at national borders. It is, therefore, a good thing to have EU stress tests to provide reliable and comparable assessments of nuclear power plant safety. We should also be making it our common goal in international bodies like the IAEA to ensure the greatest possible safety by establishing the highest possible standards. We must not allow a disaster like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima to happen again.

If we are to achieve our goals in energy and climate change, we need to complete the European internal market for energy too. This will involve working on energy efficiency, continuing to enhance the internal energy market and competition to benefit the consumer, improving infrastructure to better secure supply, and diversifying among sources and supply routes. National grids need to be connected intelligently and with an eye for what is needed. Any potential for saving energy needs to be optimally exploited. Energy saving is crucial as a source to help cover our energy needs.

In my work as Foreign Minister, I campaign for all of us around the world to be able to use the opportunities opened up by globally developing renewable energy. We are helping to implement the Desertec concept, which enables clean electricity from solar, wind and even photovoltaic power to be generated in desert regions and delivered to industrialised countries across the globe. Solutions that yesterday seemed utopian or completely unaffordable are now technically and economically possible or tangibly close to realisation. In Germany, renewables have already created a lot of jobs. Fast growing emerging and developing countries can also benefit from the new technology to make their growth more sustainable.

Our partner India has great potential to be a leader in the production of renewable energies and the German government observes India's policies in this area, such as the Solar Mission, with great interest. Renewables have become a prominent topic in our Indo-German Energy Forum, which was established in April 2006 by Prime Minister Mr. Singh and Chancellor Ms Merkel, and which brings government and industry representatives together for a political and project dialogue on a yearly basis. The Forum is something very special: it is the only such body we have ever set up to foster our energy relations with another country.

Both renewables and energy efficiency are also a priority area of our bilateral development cooperation. We are jointly planning to set up solar plants in India and working on models which are economically viable, ecologically sustainable and manageable for government administration, for example in decentralized renewable energy supply, an area of particular importance for rural livelihoods. There is a lot of fruitful cooperation already going on — and Germany stands ready to expand this in the future.

With this acceleration of its energy revolution, Germany, one of the world's leading industrialized nations, is pursuing a path which it has been travelling in terms of technology and planning for some time. Our new direction on energy will not be to the detriment of our capacities, our environment or our neighbours. It will open the door to efficient, sustainable, safe and economically sound energy policies for the 21st century. We invite our partners to collaborate on this closely and constructively, and to make full use of the opportunities at hand.

(The writer is Foreign Minister of Germany.)

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One more point is that in Germany average Transmission & Distribution loss is only 4 % whereas it is 33 % in India. If India 'imports' the efficient transmission technology from Germany , we can tap atleast 25 % energy spent unused instead of importing risky nuclear reactors from US, Russia, France etc anc risking its own citizens life.
I suggest Kyoto protocol should demand its signatories to save energy first rather than producing green energy.

from:  Prakash
Posted on: Nov 30, 2011 at 14:47 IST

The greatest danger of nuclear power is the power shift that will occur from the Central Government to the Nuclear Industry. Since this is a dangerous technology, it can be used as a weapon by the foreign country that brings the technology in. Do any of our ministers or government officials know how the plant works? The knowledge is entirely in the hands of the foreign company that brings this power plant to India. Some Indians will be trained but they can be quickly corrupted or intimidated. Right now the Japanese government is HELPLESS as Tepco and the Japanese Nuclear Industry continue to wield power by clamping down on truthful information that could benefit others but does not benefit them. The Prime Minister is derided by the nuclear industry when he expresses desire to do away with nuclear energy entirely. Ironically Tepco uses the word 'Under Control' when speaking of it's 3 meltdowns! But it is only the Japanese Government and world govts that are under it's control.

from:  Angela Alvares
Posted on: Jul 24, 2011 at 20:27 IST

If the PM of India is convinced about the pitfalls and dangers of nuclear power plants, why Jaitapur project is being pushed? India has huge potential to harness solar & wind energy, and also huge agro waste mass to be used for generation of energy. The wastage of energy is rampant especially in industry sector. Such industries should be penalized who consume energy inefficiently. Lastly the theft of energy and free energy supply in the name of subsidy to the farmers, or to BPL masses etc also offer a huge potential for saving in energy. Any free dole will always tend to be misused. India must do away completely by stopping of any new nuclear power plants and phasing out existing units before it is too late.

from:  R N Lohia
Posted on: Jul 24, 2011 at 06:47 IST

The article is good enough to provide sufficient scope for re-thinking and reviewing the on going ruthless initiatives to go for neuclear reactors through out our country, the reactors being imported here mostly from United Stes of America. In the light of Chernobil and Hukushima Tragedies it is high time we thought of reviewing the decision to go for neuclear power in the interest of safety to us and to our neighbours as well. Hope the political leadership will act in a prudent manner to do goodness and not disaster to the posterity. It is in this backdrop the article is commendable and and thanks to the HINDU.

from:  A.M.NANU
Posted on: Jul 23, 2011 at 22:58 IST

Mr. Shankar is very right and I fully agree with his viewpoint. But we can hope this change only after a revolution( Anna like) as loud sound is needed to make the deaf hear. When the common man understands what is beneficial for our country then why not the so called representatives of our country?? why to risk the lives of so many people in the name of benefitting them??Or is it just the personal benefits that these politicians seek??

from:  Monika
Posted on: Jul 23, 2011 at 18:06 IST

I read a lot about using solar energy from the website, the portal for solar energy adaptation around the world. I made cardboard box for cooking and later purchased a parabolic solar cooker and demonstrated it to hundreds of people in various towns and villages nearby. The public observed with curiosity and understood that the hot sun cooks but later expressed that it is not a practicable method as it takes a long time to cook, on cloudy and rainy days it cannot be used, etc. I bought a electric scooter (Rs.28000), but the Chinese product was falling off in pieces in our road condition and the battery had to be replaced (Rs. 8000)within one year. It was thrown into the dustbin. Three persons in our area were given solar lights as sales promotional gifts but within few months all three failed. No service centre is around here. Non conventional energy must be practical in usage and service points must be available at all places to attend the faults.

from:  chandrasekaran T.K.
Posted on: Jul 23, 2011 at 16:45 IST

While every nation has a clear lesson to learn from what Germany is doing today to ensure a better future for its citizens, India has much more to learn from the conscious decision by the German society to close all nuclear reactors by 2022. If a country, which generated 22 per cent of its electricity needs prior to Fukushima disaster, can take such a conscious decision to move away from nuclear power in just 11 years, there is no reason as to why India having generated only 2.8% of its electricity from nuclear power last year cannot do so. It is all the more important to note that, as a tropical country, India has much more renewable energy potential than Germany. It is eminently feasible for India to meet all its legitimate electricity demands on a sustainable basis without nuclear power. all we need is the required political will. Can we hope for the Civil Society to bring about such a paradigm shift in our own life time?

from:  Shankar Sharma, Power Policy Analyst
Posted on: Jul 23, 2011 at 13:14 IST
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