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Green Germany
Image: Mundus Gregorius

Renewable Germany not so green after all

Germany is the poster child for renewable electricity.  Its rapid deployment of vast arrays of Chinese wind turbines has propelled it to the top of the European green energy league table.  But the German claim to be leading the way on clean energy hides a dark secret… German carbon dioxide emissions are still increasing.  As Peter Teffer at EU Observer reports:

“The EU’s largest member state emitted the equivalent of 906 million tonnes of CO2 last year, compared to 902 million in 2015, the German Environment Agency reported on Monday (20 March)…

“The figures stood in contrast with Germany’s image as a front-runner in the transition towards clean energy – an image that it showcased on Monday at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, a conference held in the building of the foreign affairs ministry.”

According to Germany’s Environment Agency, the main reason for the increase in CO2 emissions was a growth in car usage.  However, Teffer points to another important component in Germany’s failure to reduce its national carbon footprint:

“In most EU countries an increase in renewable energy correlates with a decrease in greenhouse gases.  But that is not the case in Germany because it has chosen to use renewable energy to replace nuclear power, which is almost carbon neutral.  Some 40 percent of electricity generation in Germany currently comes from coal power plants, which are heavy emitters.”

The decision to phase out nuclear power was a knee-jerk political response to the almost unique circumstances in Japan – which sits on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire” – that gave rise to the Fukushima disaster in 2011.  In order to scrap its nuclear industry – at a time when other European states regard increased nuclear power as the only means of meeting carbon reduction targets – Germany has been obliged to maintain its aging fleet of coal power stations.

It is doubtful that the German government will address the possible closure of coal power stations ahead of the election this autumn.  It is thought that Angela Merkel’s SPD coalition partners are opposed to closures because of the impact on mining jobs.  And should the SPD win the election, growth and jobs may well take precedence over environmental concerns.

At least in this respect, Green Germany turns out to be no different to Brown Britain.

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