I’m sure you’ve all seen the news articles condemning the energy policies of your country, and comparing them unfavourably to the shining green energy future being built in Germany. According to these articles, Germany is pretty much going solar for its power from now on, in a determined bid to cut its carbon emissions.
The only thing is, that story just isn’t true. Germany is powered by coal and, away from the climate summits and the international Earth Day junkets, is arguing powerfully to maintain subsidies on coal! Let’s take a look at what Germany’s real energy policy is.
In the German media, the national energy policy is an open secret. As Der Spiegel reported back in 2007:
Everyone in Germany is talking about climate protection — everyone, that is, except for energy companies. They’re planning to build dozens of new coal-fired power plants — with the support of the governing coalition in Berlin.
That’s right – dozens of new, massive coal-fired power stations, including many that will purely burn lignite, known as ‘brown coal’ and the dirtiest source of power that there is. As Der Spiegel pointed out, “German politicians are explicitly encouraging them to do so”. The scale of this planned investment in coal-fired power stations is impressive, and gives the lie to Germany’s place as the green man of Europe:
A total of 12 plants are being planned or built in North Rhine-Westphalia alone. If they were all to be connected to the electricity grid, they would produce an annual 68 million tons of emissions, according to calculations by North Rhine-Westphalia’s Green Party — more than Switzerland’s total annual emissions.
That’s just for one region of Germany alone, remember. Add in the other regions, and it makes a mockery of the UK’s monstrously expensive efforts to reduce its own Co2 emissions. People in the UK will be freezing to death as the wind turbines freeze up, whilst Germans will be warming themselves with cheap, plentiful coal.
How do we know that Germany’s coal will be cheap? Because we’re helping to pay for it, that’s why. Yes, you’ve guessed it – Germany has just recently won its battle in the European Parliament to get other countries to help subsidize their coal, as Reuters reports:
(Reuters) Germany and other coal-mining nations secured an extension of coal subsidies until 2018 after a months long battle with environmentalists.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive, had proposed in July that the coal mining industry should only get four more years of state aid before subsidies are phased out in 2014, the sixth such extension of state aid since 1965.
But with thousands of jobs on the line, Germany led other coal-mining countries such as Spain in pushing hard to extend subsidies to 2018, to fit around Berlin’s own national laws.
That’s right – not only Germany, but Spain as well, are getting their coal extraction subsidized by other, dumber nations.
But what about Germany’s much vaunted solar power revolution? Well, as The Economist reported recently, “Germany’s support for solar power is getting ever harder to afford” (perhaps because the rest of Europe isn’t subsidizing it). It observes that the German government is actually cutting support for solar power, and not planning to ramp up production of solar panels.
And how much of Germay’s electricity does the solar miracle currently provide? The Economist article reports that:
solar modules are now thought to furnish close to 2% of Germany’s electricity, up from about 1% in 2008
But don’t worry, the Germans aren’t stupid. They have “dozens” of massive coal-fired power stations in the works, ready to supply cheap, reliable electricity for years and years to come. How about the country you live in?