Germany must spread cost of energy shift fairly: IEA

May 24, 2013
Lightning illuminates the sky over a wind farm near the German city of Jacobsdorf, on May 9, 2013

The International Energy Agency said Friday that Germany must shield its consumers from paying too much of the cost of its ambitious switch from nuclear power and fossil fuels toward renewable energy.

The IEA also said Europe's biggest economy should make greater use of natural gas to smoothe the transition and reduce the use of coal to meet its targets to combat climate change.

Given the scale of the "Energiewende" or energy shift, the size of the German economy and its location at the heart of Europe, the agency said in a regular review that further steps are needed "to maintain a balance between sustainability, affordability and competitiveness".

Chancellor decided after Japan's 2011 to phase out nuclear power by 2022, an about-turn that started with the immediate closure of the eight oldest plants.

Since then Germany has accelerated a boom in wind farms, solar power and biofuels, promoted by subsidies and legal reforms, with the goal of gaining half of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

Legal reform in 2000 "has proven very effective in introducing renewable energies; notably from biomass, wind energy and solar photovoltaics," the report said.

However, the Paris-based IEA pointed to a political debate in Germany about discounts given to industry, which have been financed in part by higher power bills for consumers and a tax surcharge.

"The costs and benefits need to be allocated in a fair and transparent way among all market participants, especially households," the report said.

It also pointed to the geographic spread between the renewables' supply and demand. While most are in Germany's coastal north, the highest demand is in the industrial south and west.

Germany is planning to massively expand its transmission and distribution networks, a costly process complicated by local opposition in many places to the new power infrastructure.

"To date, Germany's record with regard to the construction of new grid infrastructure is patchy and planning and consenting procedures present a major stumbling block," said the IEA.

In the global effort to halt climate change, melting ice caps and rising seas, Germany has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020—and by 95 percent by 2050.

Ironically, a drop in the price of coal, one of the biggest polluters, along with the rise of cheap renewables, has seen coal make a comeback at the expense of cleaner-burning natural gas.

"As a result of weak carbon prices and high gas prices in Europe, existing gas-fired plants have lost competitiveness, and evidence suggests that some are being taken off-line," said the report.

The IEA said gas plants now "struggle to make a return despite the flexibility they offer to the market" in terms of quickly evening out troughs in the fickle supply of weather-dependent renewables.

"The strategic role of natural gas in the Energiewende needs further clarification," said the IEA, "and greater thought should be given to its use and place in the electricity supply mix of the future."

Explore further: Research proves there is power in numbers to reduce electricity bills

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

German energy shift faces headwinds

May 19, 2013

Tense engineers have their eyes peeled on complex colour-coded diagrams on a wall-sized screen that makes their control room look like the inside of a spaceship.

German greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2012

Feb 25, 2013

Germany saw increased emissions in greenhouse gases last year due to more coal and gas usage while the country seeks to develop its renewable energy sources, officials said Monday.

IEA: Australia coal, gas exports 'to surge'

Nov 19, 2012

Australia's coal and gas exports will surge as its resource sector booms, but it faces challenges such as labour shortages and infrastructure bottlenecks, the International Energy Agency said Monday.

German minister says 'never again' to nuclear power

Jan 04, 2013

German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said Friday his country would never again return to nuclear energy, hitting back at a top EU official who doubted Berlin's commitment to phase out nuclear power.

Recommended for you

Many tongues, one voice, one common ambition

13 hours ago

There is much need to develop energy efficient solutions for residential buildings in Europe. The EU-funded project, MeeFS, due to be completed by the end of 2015, is developing an innovative multifunctional and energy efficient ...

Panasonic, Tesla to build big US battery plant

14 hours ago

(AP)—American electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. is teaming up with Japanese electronics company Panasonic Corp. to build a battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. expected to create 6,500 jobs.

Simulation models optimize water power

15 hours ago

The Columbia River basin in the Pacific Northwest offers great potential for water power; hydroelectric power stations there generate over 20 000 megawatts already. Now a simulation model will help optimize the operation ...

Charging electric cars efficiently inductive

16 hours ago

We already charge our toothbrushes and cellphones using contactless technology. Researchers have developed a particularly efficient and cost-effective method that means electric cars could soon follow suit.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
not rated yet May 24, 2013
Chancellor Angela Merkel decided after Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident to phase out nuclear power by 2022

No. Angela Merkel (of the christian democratic union - CDU) decided to phase nuclear BACK IN 3 months BEFORE Fukushima.

The phaseout by 2022 had been put into law by the previous administration under the coalition of social democrats (SPD )and the green party - and she was in the process of overturning that.

She merely then re-reversed her attempt to kowtow to her industrial puppet-masters because it would have been political suicide to stick to nuclear post-Fukushima.

And she's still pandering to big industry (and energy providers) by hindering the expansion of energy infrastructure wherever she can.