The Merkel government’s “energy revolution” was hailed across the political spectrum in Germany as an inspired step forward.
But after a forceful start following the Fukushima disaster, the Energiewende has stalled, partly as a result of internal bickering but also because of the tremendous challenges involved in its implementation. Critics are calling on the government to come up with a master plan that will show how the Energiewende’s ambitious targets can be met. “Where we want to be is in black and white. The problem is how to get there”, notes one German expert. The world is watching for the next moves from Berlin.
During two weeks of Arctic winds and sub-zero temperatures this February, Germany’s energy transition got perhaps its biggest boost since the Merkel administration pulled the plug on nuclear energy and embraced a future based on renewables. Merkel’s critics, especially the owners of the country’s nuclear power plants and grid operators, had warned of blackouts and skyrocketing prices in the winter. None of these dark prophecies came true. Actually, during the cold spell, fueled by the winds on the Baltic coast and clear, sunny days in the south, Germany ended up exporting electricity to France, even though its grid was pushed to its limits (and though Germany did have to import electricity in the summer). Moreover, greenhouse-gas emissions fell 2.1 percent in 2011, despite the loss of the emissions-free nuclear sources and the burning of more brown coal in order to compensate. (It was because less energy was used and milder temperatures.)