Germany Substitutes Wind for Nuclear Power

BERLIN, Germany, June 11, 2001 (ENS) - The German government has unveiled plans for massive development of offshore wind power to help the country reconcile its climate protection goals with its nuclear phaseout policy.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (Photo courtesy IISD/Linkages)

A deal between the German government and German utilities to shut down the country's 19 nuclear power plants has been in the works for years. It was finally sealed today as Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and executives of four power companies signed an agreement in Berlin. Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, a Green member of the German Social Democrat/Green coalition government has been pushing for the nuclear phaseout since he took office in October 1998.

Trittin told journalists in Berlin that the wind power plan could see between 75 and 80 terrawatt hours of electricity annually from offshore wind parks by 2030. This is equivalent to nearly 60 percent of the nuclear electricity produced last year in Germany.

The German nuclear plants have a standard life span of 32 years, which means Germany's newest nuclear plant would close in 2021. The first of the plants, at Stade in northern Germany, will shut down in 2003.

A ministry spokesperson said the plan is a "cornerstone of changing Germany's energy production system, to stop nuclear power, reduce fossil fuels and increase renewables."

German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin is a proponent of the nuclear phaseout. (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)

The spokesman said that the spectacular growth in offshore wind energy envisaged under the government's plan would be achieved entirely through private capital investment. The country's renewable energy support law guarantees the price for wind energy at euros 0.09 (DM 0.178) per kilowatt hour. This brings the industry to "near economic" status, the ministry says.. Trittin said that two areas of the North Sea have been identified as appropriate for the construction of wind turbines which could total 4,000 by 2030. He said that the areas avoid all marine and bird conservation areas.

Offshore wind power is contentious among Germany environmentalists who are deeply divided about its environmental impact. The ministry does not expect its plan to get an easy ride so it has invited ecologists to a two-day congress this week to debate the "integration of climate protection, nature protection, marine protection and energy policy fit for the future."

Antinuclear activists from Greenpeace Germany protest nuclear waste transport in front the Social Democratic Party office in Berlin today. (Photo courtesy Domenic Butzmann/Greenpeace Germany)

Environmentalists are also displeased about the nuclear power plant phaseout schedule, which they view as too slow.

Pro-nuclear industrialists and politicians do not want Germany to back away from nuclear power, and some have expressed the intention to reverse this move under future governments. They warn it could slow efforts to limit global warming in line with the international pact signed in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, by forcing Germany to burn more fossil fuels which emit greenhouse gases.

A May 2000 study by the German Flensburg University conducted at the request of Greenpeace Germany concluded that a rapid phaseout of nuclear energy would result in huge financial benefits estimated at DM 83 billion, the equivalent of US$35.8 billion.

Employment does not have to decrease in case of a rapid closure of nuclear plants, the Flensburg study said. About 24,500 new jobs are to be created if a change is made towards renewable energy by 2025. Although the emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the scenario would increase until 2005, after that year they would be reduced.

Commento: chissą perché da noi in Italia invece le fonti alternative di energia non vengono prese seriamente in considerazione. Bisognerebbe fare una seria indagine in questo senso. Prima delle prossime elezioni, magari.