The cost of Germany’s nuclear phase out

Climate change is considered one of the greatest threats we currently face. Therefore, reducing CO2 emissions is considered a priority in most countries (at least on paper). To achieve this goal renewable energy must be a key component in the low-carbon energy mix. Where many would disagree is the role that Nuclear energy should play in this aspect.

Many have argue that nuclear energy can give us the time we need to phase out FOSSIL FUELS and Germany might become the best example on why nuclear energy is really needed. Germany will have to replace 23% of its energy generated by nuclear with something else. It is predicted that renewable energy will account for approximately 13% of the energy lost and the other 10% will come from gas, energy imports and a reduction in energy consumption. This increase of 13% of renewable energy could mean a 5-20% increase on the energy bills for each household. Germany will also have to invest 9.7 billion euros just to modify the grid to distribute the energy produced by renewables. No data is currently available on the direct cost of increasing the output of renewables by 13%.  Additionally, during winter when renewables are even less efficient but the energy demand is even higher the government will have to rely even more on coal, gas and imports from neighbouring countries.

Apart from this economic cost and with the current plan Germany will have little or no reduction on CO2 emissions since all massive investment on renewables will only go to replace part of the energy produced by nuclear power, a low-carbon emission energy source. Recently, the International Energy Agency have shown that the energy related CO2 emission reached a new high in 2010 with 30.6 Gt (billion tones). This value is considerably close to the emissions that were expected until 2020 of 32 Gt. Germany is about to show the necessity of having nuclear energy to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.

To put renewable energy a bit more into perspective, the installed wind power capacity in Germany in 2009 was of 25,777 MW but only produced 7% of the overall energy. On the other hand, nuclear had a capacity of 21,507 MW but produced almost 20% of the energy in the country.

(UPDATE: 26/09/2011)

New figures have appeared on the economic cost of Germany’s nuclear phase out. According to KfW Bankegruppe, Germany will have to invest around €25 billion per year (between €239-262 billion until 2020) if it wants to reach its target of 40% reduction on greenhouse gas emissions, including doubling the use of renewable energy and reducing energy consumption by 20%. These numbers include around €10 billion on 10 GWe produced from fossil fuels, €144 billion for renewable energy and €29 billion on 360 kilometres of high-voltage power lines.

On the human cost, EON has announced up to 11,000 job cuts due to heavy losses and the change in Germany’s policy.

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