Climate

German State Minister: We Can Decarbonize With Renewables Because “We Don’t Have the … Koch Brothers”

atomkraft_nein_danke_2-750599A state in Germany’s industrial heartland is moving quickly to replace nuclear power with renewable energy, a transition that supporters say could be applied in the United States to reduce our reliance on coal.

The state of Baden-Württemberg, home to Mercedes-Benz and a strong manufacturing sector, faces abrupt changes to its energy systems as Germany strives to close its 17 nuclear power plants over the next 12 years. About half of the state’s electricity derives from nuclear generation, or double the national average.

Officials aim to lean heavily on renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydro and biomass, which are expected to provide at least 80 percent of the state’s electricity by 2050. Germany is already moving in that direction, with about 20 percent of its power currently coming from renewable sources.

So Climatewire (subs. req’d) reports today.

At the same time, NPR reports the pro-pollution extremists running the House say American’s aren’t up to the task:

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), who chairs an energy and commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, originally supported the program when Congress created it….

We can’t compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines,” Stearns says.

Seriously.  We invented the modern solar cell, but after that, the GOP says, Americans can’t compete.

UPDATE:  CAP’s Kate Gordon explains at the end why the GOP’s stunning willingness to conceding the clean-energy race to other countries is un-American.

How can Germany do what the GOP says Americans can’t?  They have a bipartisan consensus and no climate denial machine, according to a leading German politician:

“The state government of Baden-Württemberg is extremely committed to the transition towards a low-carbon economy,” Franz Untersteller, state minister for the environment, climate and energy, said yesterday at the Center for American Progress. “We aim at decarbonizing our economy by midcentury.”

The state, the capital of which is the industrial hub of Stuttgart, is already complying with a national renewable energy standard and European initiatives that reduce greenhouse gases and increase energy efficiency. But it’s pursuing its own goals, too, including one state initiative requiring homeowners to use renewable energy for residential heating….

The great advantage we have in Germany at the moment is we really have the broad consensus in society that corresponds to the size of the task we face,” said Ulrich Luscher, who represents the CDU, the conservative party, on energy issues. “I definitely agree … that we have enormous possibilities for the economy in that [clean energy] sector.

There’s also agreement about the impacts of fossil fuels on the environment.

“The other thing is we believe in climate change,” said Frithjof Staiß, managing director of the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, which develops clean energy technologies with funding from the government, industry and research groups.

Bracken Hendricks, a scholar with the Center for American Progress, says the German model shows that renewable energy can be ramped up quickly without large electricity price spikes. It can also create jobs, he adds, not decimate the workforce, as Republicans often claim.

“The costs turn out to be grossly exaggerated and the benefits are understated in our political debate,” Hendricks said.

There’s another element at play in the United States that the Germans found unusual. That’s the amount of skepticism around climate change and the industrial forces at play to promote scientific doubt.

We don’t have the situation like you have in the U.S., where you have this Koch brothers,” Untersteller said, referring to the billionaire heirs of Koch Industries.

And that may be Germany’s biggest competitive advantage.

UPDATE:  TP Green has a post by Kate Gordon, Vice President of Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress, responding to the GOP’s apparent surrender on clean energy:

The statement by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) that we can’t compete with China on clean energy manufacturing is not only untrue, it’s frankly un-American. Lest we forget, the U.S. is a major manufacturer, with 12 percent of our GDP coming from the manufacturing sector. To put that in perspective, when we recently lost less than 4 percent of GDP after the housing bubble burst, we called it a “Great Recession.” Twelve percent is a lot. And in the clean economy, including renewable energy, efficiency, clean transit, and transportation, more than a quarter of all jobs are in manufacturing.So maybe Mr. Stearns didn’t get the memo, but we’re already competing with China on clean energy manufacturing in general, and in solar and wind manufacturing in particular. We actually export solar panel components to China, which – along with Germany – is actually the leading destination for most of those exports. And in the wind sector, there are over 400 manufacturing firms across America making the component parts of our domestic wind turbines, and we not only make about 50 percent of all the wind components we use here in the U.S., but we also export parts to Canada, Mexico, Chile, and other countries.

Sure, China may sometimes out-compete us when it comes to mass manufacturing of mature technologies, using lower labor costs and strong subsidies. But where America excels has always been in more advanced manufacturing of new and emerging technologies, where our high-skill workers, proximity to inventors and engineers, and strong university and lab support make us a leader.

The big question facing the U.S. is not whether we’re capable of competing with China to manufacture the clean energy future. The question is whether political leaders like Mr. Stearns will develop the courage and vision to embrace that future. Right now there are millions of Americans with jobs in clean energy innovation, manufacturing, installation, operations, and maintenance. But if Congress can’t get it together to pass the policies and programs we need to ensure a stable market for clean energy technologies, our existing clean energy companies may just start looking elsewhere for a better deal. And then China really will win.

Indeed, in this case, the U.S. will end up third, behind China and German.

55 Responses to German State Minister: We Can Decarbonize With Renewables Because “We Don’t Have the … Koch Brothers”

  1. Sasparilla says:

    It’s great to see other countries (Germany) moving forward, breaks my heart to see where the U.S. is going in comparison.

  2. It’s not just Germany – most of Europe is moving in the same direction to a low carbon economy:

    “Climate change is now seen as an opportunity to deal with the economic downturn in Europe,” said Jürgen Lefevere, a European Commission negotiator at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating session that ended late Friday in Bonn.
    http://stephenleahy.net/2011/09/15/europe-works-to-end-oil-addiction-and-reap-financial-social-and-environment-advantages-officials-say/

  3. Michael Tucker says:

    No matter what a conservative or a Republican might say always remember that Republicans Are Quitters!!! NO WE CAN’T is their motto. Stearns is a defeatist.

  4. Wes Rolley says:

    Thank goodness we have some Congressmen more hopeful that Stearns. I was reading “Clean Energy Nation” today where my own Congressman, Jerry McNerney and co-author Marty Cheek wrote:
    “Here at the junction of one road leading to oblivion and another road leading to hope, we must make the wise choice for our future. For the sake of preserving America’s values, let us now begin traveling to a better world.”

    There are a few who really get it. It is our job to increase that number.

  5. Anna says:

    Jerry McNerney will be in a tough re-election fight; it was down to the recount-wire last time. I urge people here to support him!

  6. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Here’s a little framing suggestion that should be adopted by ALL progressives.

    ALWAYS refer to Ayn Rand as “The atheist, Ayn Rand.”

    It’s just a little tool to short circuit the Libertarian cause with the religious right wing.

  7. Tim says:

    Sorry, but I’ll not be joining in on this little smear. This kind of “guilt by association” tactic is beneath a true progressive and borders on bigotry against atheists. I might point out that the members of the National Academy of Sciences are strongly atheistic and count among their members a significantly higher number of progressives than the general populace.

    It is also worth noting that belief in god among Germans – ya know, the people who are the subject of this article – is much higher than in the “christian” USA.

  8. Tim says:

    Oops, that should have said “…disbelief in god among Germans…”

  9. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Being an atheist myself I find the idea amusing. The gist is to point out the absurdity of the whole Libertarian movement amongst the religious right.

    The Libertarianism is, quite literally, only a movement funded by the Koch’s to create a Plutocratic rule in America today.

  10. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Crap… I wish I could edit my posts. Oh well. You get what I mean.

  11. John Tucker says:

    With the greenwashing one hardly needs the Koch brothers.

    Corporate creative accounting meets the environmental movement.

    Germany to fund new coal plants with climate change cash ( http://www.thelocal.de/national/20110713-36277.html )

    Germany Looks to Fossil Fuel Amid Nuclear Exit

    Ms. Merkel said in a parliamentary declaration on her government’s decision to phase out nuclear power. “At least 10, more likely 20 gigawatts [of fossil capacity] need to be built in the coming 10 years.” (
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304259304576375154034042070.html )

    Thankfully as bad as America is adopting clean energy we have yet to set ourselves back at lest 10 years in the effort.

  12. Heinrich says:

    @John Tucker, Merkel is really dead in the water. “Sitting duck” is too weak a term for her situation, where a large part of the population just laughs at her, and some 90% disdain the FDP (the “tax exemption party”) she needs to govern. So she’s trying hard, left and right, to find things that get her support, including cuddling up even more to the energy industries. All of them. And after she knifed Big Electricity in the back with the nuke ban, she now needs to mollify them again.

    Depending on when the next election comes (the CDU/FDP absurdity called a coalition may break any day) we may not even see one of these plants get into the zoning planning phase.

  13. otter17 says:

    Exactly! I have heard this type of defeatist rhetoric from any climate denier that I have tried to talk about solutions with. There is no point debating the science; go straight to talking about solutions. Anyway, when you ask them what mitigation solution is acceptable to them… they got nothing for the most part.

  14. SecularAnimist says:

    What Rep. Stearns means to say is that the GOP will not allow America to compete with China in solar and wind manufacturing.

  15. Ziyu says:

    The quote from Stearns should have included what he said right after it, which made his statement all the more defeatist. He said we should focus on the energy industries we CAN win, meaning oil, coal, and gas. It implies that we need to give up clean energy to China and drill baby drill like there’s no tomorrow (there won’t be if we keep going this way).

  16. Herman says:

    Bracken Hendricks should visit and talk abt the German greenwashing at the #OccupyWallstreet assembly. Take good ideas to the street!

  17. Paul Magnus says:

    May this be on the front pages of the NYT, USTODAY and TIMES….

  18. John Tucker says:

    The problem with sterns is he is already wrong – the US has a solar trade surplus with China, by far, unbelievably still.

    U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011
    ( http://www.seia.org/galleries/pdf/GTM-SEIA_U.S._Solar_Energy_Trade_Balance_2011.pdf )

    It comes mainly from our polysilicon manufacturing, a major raw component in higher efficiency solar cells.

    So as someone with a chair on The House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus he is basically either incompetent or on the take.

    My money is on the take:

    I am working with my colleagues in Congress to reduce our dependence on imported oil. I believe that Congress should open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to environmentally sensitive production, increase offshore drilling at least 125 miles from the coast, reduce bureaucratic barriers to build more nuclear power plants, and allow more refineries to be built.

    In addition, America possesses about one-quarter of the world’s coal supply, enough to meet current demand for 250 years. There is already a workable process that turns coal into a liquid fuel for trucks and automobiles, and clean-coal technologies are reducing the environmental impact of using this fuel

    H.R. 6107 – would allow environmentally sensitive production of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Energy exploration will be limited to just 0.01% of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s total acreage.

    H.R. 6108 – authorizes the exploration, development, and production activities for mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.

    H.R. 6132 – would authorize DOE to enter into a competitive, long-term contract with the private sector to recycle spent nuclear fuel.

    H.R. 5656 – would repeal section 526 of the 2007 energy bill, which banned government purchases of oil from sources such as tar sands, shale, coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids.

    H.R. 6138 – would repeal the FY2008 Udall amendment that banned development of western shale oil.

    H.R. 2208 – would provide loan guarantees for up to six coal liquefaction plants in the United States.

    H.R. 6139 – would streamline the permitting and sitting process for refiners while preserving environmental protections.

    ( http://www.cliffstearns.net/issues.cfm )

  19. John Tucker says:

    He is well funded and no real serious challenges in 2010 – he takes a populist stance on most issues so is able to carry rural areas effectively.

    The district is gerrymandered to fit rural areas. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:United_States_House_of_Representatives,_Florida_District_6_map.png )

  20. John Tucker says:

    Note: I actually like H.R. 6132 but it should be a requirement.

  21. Mike Roddy says:

    It’s not just the Kochs- it’s Exxon, the media, and the banks. They feed off each other, and don’t care about us or are future. That makes it easier to fight them.

  22. Mike Roddy says:

    Sweden is really the best example. The US press never talks about them because they are afraid to say anything good about “socialism”. This shows how pathetic our media has become.

    Meanwhile, Sweden has economic equality, and a much higher percentage of renewables than Germany.

  23. prokaryotes says:

    Germany has it’s denial machine outlets as well. Sponsored primarily from ExxonMobil. They were even partnering up with some of a german party. The FDP (maybe the closest thing to the tea party, but really something different, not radical). They are pro business and after years have managed to become for the first time part of the government. They done so much for businesses and lobby groups that they are now considered by most germans as incompetent and a total fail. The last elections they lost groundbreaking and just got 1.8 in the berlin elections last september.

    The FDP had meetings with deniers and even invited Fred SInger to speak in the Bundestag to some from the FDP and some of the major party CDU. Though it was regarded as controversial within the parties too and this year it has become very quiet about support for deniers in the german political landscape. Exactly with this kind of lobbing the FDP made it’s testament.

    To bad that in the US ill-advised company infiltration into political circles is dealt and judged differently by the voter or so it seems so far.

    Maybe more education into the implications of the current republican politic when it comes to climate and national security could help to bring more awareness to the topic and influence votes.

  24. David B. Benson says:

    Can you supply a reference for that last clause?

  25. Villabolo says:

    A another Atheist, I agree that we should use the Ayn = Atheist line.

  26. prokaryotes says:

    Sweden leads the European Union on renewable energy, producing 44.4 percent of its energy from renewable sources http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/sweden-leads-the-european-union-on-renewable-energy-2026290.html

  27. Mark Shapiro says:

    How astonishing and sad that German politicians seem more aware of the Koch brothers’ corruptions than most Americans are.

  28. prokaryotes says:

    Notice that the Sweden economic success story started when introducing a carbon tax!!

    “In January 1991, Sweden enacted a CO2 tax of 0.25 SEK/kg ($100 or EUR 72 per ton) on the use of oil, coal, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, petrol, and aviation fuel used in domestic travel. Industrial users paid half the rate (between 1993 and 1997, 25% of the rate), and certain high-energy industries such as commercial horticulture, mining, manufacturing and the pulp and paper industry were fully exempted from these new taxes.
    In 1997 the rate was raised to 0.365 SEK/kg ($150 per ton) of CO2.[108][109] In 2007, the tax was SEK 930 (EUR 101) per ton of CO2.[110] The full tax is paid in transport, space heating, and non-combined heat and power generation. Owing to the many exemptions, oil accounts for 96% of the revenues from the tax, although it produces less than three-quarters of CO2 from fuel combustion.
    The tax is credited with spurring a significant move from fossil fuels to biomass. As Swedish Society for Nature Conservation climate change expert Emma Lindberg said, “It was the one major reason that steered society towards climate-friendly solutions. It made polluting more expensive and focused people on finding energy-efficient solutions.”[111][112]
    “It increased the use of bioenergy,” said University of Lund Professor Thomas Johansson, former director of energy and climate at the UN Development Programme. “It had a major impact in particular on heating. Every city in Sweden uses district heating. Before, coal or oil were used for district heating. Now biomass is used, usually waste from forests and forest industries.”
    Economic growth appears to be unaffected. Between 1990 and 2006, Sweden’s economy grew by 44-46 percent (approx 2,8% annually), depending on source.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_tax#Sweden

    Sweden today is one of the most competitive economies in the world.

  29. No other place to put it, a story on the Arctic Ozone Hole…

    Given the cooling of the Arctic stratosphere due to the enhanced greenhouse effect and a strengthened polar vortex, ozone loss which is usually limited to the Arctic winter extended into the spring resulting in a well-defined ozone hole. Although smaller than the Antarctic ozone hole, the Arctic hole in the Spring of 2011 was comparable in strength, and it tends to wander to lower latitudes where solar radiation is more intense. This story is of some significance given the potential for skin cancer and cataracts that may result from the Arctic ozone hole where the hole is capable of reaching even the lower 48 states (Seattle is at 47.62°N and this wandered as low as 46.8°N), resulting in dangerously high ultraviolet radiation levels.

    Please see:

    “Although the Arctic polar vortex is smaller than its Antarctic counterpart, it is also much more mobile, often moving over densely populated lower latitudes, where UV radiation is more intense than near the pole. By mid-April 2011, the lower stratospheric vortex had shifted off the pole and sat over central Russia, remaining intact and enclosing total ozone values less than 275 DU through late April (Figure 5). Significant increases in surface UV radiation were associated with these low ozone levels. For example, under a lobe of the vortex extending south over Mongolia on 22 April, the clear sky UV index (UVI, a commonly used metric for gauging the impact of surface UV radiation on human skin36,37) at 48°N, 98°E was 8.60, compared to the long-term average of 5.36, an anomaly roughly seven times the standard deviation. The 22 April value was close to the highest UVI at that location in mid-summer. On 17 April, a tongue of vortex air extended over the Alps. Even though this tongue had experienced some in-mixing of extra-vortex air, the UVI at Arosa (46.8°N, 9.7°E) increased to 7.4, about four standard deviations above the long-term mean. UVIs exceeding 7 can cause sunburn within minutes.”

    Manney, G.L., et al., 2011, Unprecedented Arctic ozone loss in 2011, Nature (2011), doi:10.1038/nature10556. (Subscription Required)
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10556.html

  30. Bill Goedecke says:

    Hi there. I am glad that Germany is moving in this direction. But I have questions about a variety of things regarding the production and use of solar. On emissions, it seems, looking at this paper – http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es071763q – that PV panels have good environmental lifecycle performances. However, there is a gas used in the production – Nitrogen trifluoride – that is a dangerous greenhouse gas which has been found in greater amounts in the atmosphere (http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/10-08GreenhouseGas.asp). Also, I wonder if the energy output will ever be enough to replace the energy dense fossil fuels. I really think a no-growth economy (or deliberately contracting the economy) is required in order to transition to a no fossil fuel world.

  31. prokaryotes says:

    “The gas is 17,000 times more potent as a global warming agent than a similar mass of carbon dioxide. It survives in the atmosphere about five times longer than carbon dioxide. Current NF3 emissions, however, contribute only about 0.04 percent of the total global warming effect contributed by current human-produced carbon dioxide emissions.”

    Wiki

    “Nitrogen trifluoride is used in the plasma etching of silicon wafers. Today nitrogen trifluoride is predominantly employed in the cleaning of the PECVD chambers in the high volume production of liquid crystal displays and silicon-based thin film solar cells. In these applications NF3 is initially broken down in situ, by a plasma. The resulting fluorine atoms are the active cleaning agents that attack the polysilicon, silicon nitride and silicon oxide. Nitrogen trifluoride can be used as well with tungsten silicide, and tungsten produced by CVD. NF3 has been considered as an environmentally preferable substitute for sulfur hexafluoride or perfluorocarbons such as hexafluoroethane.[2] The process utilization of the chemicals applied in plasma processes is typically below 20 %. Therefore some of the PFCs and also of the NF3 always escape into the atmosphere. Modern gas abatement systems can decrease such emissions.
    Elemental fluorine has been introduced as an environmentally friendly replacement for nitrogen trifluoride in the manufacture of flat panel displays and solar cells.[3]
    Nitrogen trifluoride is also used in hydrogen fluoride and deuterium fluoride lasers, which are types of chemical lasers. It is preferred to fluorine gas due to its convenient handling properties, reflecting its considerable stability.
    It is compatible with steel and Monel, as well as several plastics.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen_trifluoride

  32. Bill G says:

    Germany lacks something we are saddled with. A huge pro-business propaganda media (Fox, Limbaugh, Savage, Levine, etc.) that supplies a low information public with false “news” shaped ultimately to help the rich and corporations.

    Germany suffered such a propaganda machine once in its history. Theirs had different goals, but it still boiled down to a democracy being badly deceived through propaganda. The lesson was so severe, such a national disaster, they will never be fooled again.

    Our nation seems not yet fully aware that it is the propaganda machine on the right that led to the damage we see here.

    Maybe the shape of our disaster and its cause is becoming clearer at last to the average citizen – the bank fraud, the Wall St. theft, the phony but profitable wars, the resulting personal and national debt.

  33. Stan says:

    To be fair, we only know what the Germans *intend* to do over the next 12 years. We don’t yet know if they will succeed, or what the economic impacts will be. The possibility exists that this doesn’t work as well as planned, and 12 years from now we will be wondering what happened to that former manufacturing powerhouse and exporter. I wish them well with their experiment.

  34. Florifulgurator says:

    Dito

  35. Florifulgurator says:

    The crazy thing here in Germany is, it’s not the adherents of libertarian market religion who are prone to deny science. More often than not I meet hippies, artists and other sort of “alternative” types who tell me all the lame stuff about GW on Mars, cosmic rays, the iris effect, etc.

    (I don’t watch much of German politics, having TV thrown away long ago. But my impression is, the Greens aren’t very vocal about AGW. Perhaps the conservationist green folks of the 1980s can’t stand the picture.)

  36. Joan Savage says:

    The energy cartels can manipulate the US market as long as we depend on them.

    German towns are more compact than those in the US, and usually with well-located public transportation links. It’s easier to walk or bike or use a rechargeable. Converting to an electric car that can be parked at a rail station seems quite accessible.

    Rebuilding neighborhoods with local services and setting up public transport with logical scheduling and destinations could do a lot to wean the US from the grip of fossil fuel cartels.

  37. Teemu says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Sweden

    Almost all of that 44.4% renewable is hydro power, most Western countries have most of the available dam sites already tapped. 45% comes from nuclear power. So basically Sweden has nuclear power as their main base power, and dams give a nice flexible power source, since the water flow can be turned up or down pretty fast. So nuclear and hydro power add up to almost 90% of Sweden’s electricity production so it isn’t surprising that they have very low emissions.

    Germany’s plan to shut all its nuclear power plants by 2022 will add up to 40 million tones of carbon dioxide emissions annually as the country turns to fossil fuels according to analysts

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/31/us-german-nuclear-carbon-idUSTRE74U2Y220110531

  38. John McCormick says:

    Joan, I hear your suggestion about rebuilding our cities. But, that is not going to happen.

    There is about one or two trillion dollars+ need to replace water and sewer systems, upgrade school buildings, repair roads, bridges and escalators on our subway systems. Just a few basic needs. No money there.

  39. Scooby says:

    I’m going to need a source on your claim that Germans believe in God at a much higher rate than Americans. A quick google search yields quite the opposite…

  40. Bill Goedecke says:

    I figured there would be a replacement for Nitrogen trifluoride. I wonder in the economic order of things how well this replacement will be employed given cost, sunk costs, etc. If panels are produced in relatively unregulated areas (such as in China), would this substance still be used even if it became a priority to remove its use.

  41. Paul magnus says:

    Yep.

  42. Paul magnus says:

    Nationalization of fossil fuel industry is going to be the first significant step in tackling GW.

  43. emjayay says:

    Great discussion. The Koch/Fox/Heritage etc. right wing propaganda machine gets away with it in the US because there is a huge number of uncritical thinking know-nothing fundamentalist Xian types ready to believe whatever fits their worldview. If you believe the Rapture is coming any day now to whisk people like you to heaven, and an invisible uber-Daddy figure is listening to your every word and telling you what to do…well, you’ll believe anything, or disbelieve for example a century or two of established science. You might even be a top candidate to run for President (Bachman, Perry, LaSarah, etc.)

    Europeans already use half the energy per capita than we do (or something like that).

    Even in England, you get big car registration fees every year based on the carbon output of your car.

  44. Joan Savage says:

    And I hear you.

    There are some low cost improvements, though.

    Some bus routes and schedules haven’t been seriously revised in decades to accommodate potential passengers, those who lament that they’d be happy to give up their car, “if only.”

    Zoning changes can allow neighborhoods to develop, like a business area in a formerly all-residential tract, or smaller lot sizes for housing in among larger.

  45. _Flin_ says:

    Devious… I like it :-)

  46. _Flin_ says:

    The thing about PV is that it
    1. scales well, cost of modules has been going down 22% for every doubling of capacity for 25 years now.
    2. It is easy to install, can be mobile
    3. There is no waste heat, so the energy capacity can be way lower than a comparable amount of fossil fuels
    4. It will arrive at a price parity around 2020. It is already rather cheap in good locations, like Hawaii or the Great Basin, where you get 2000 kWh per Year from 1 kWp.
    5. No external costs. Not like coal. Check out Nordhaus et al 2011 http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.101.5.1649 . When external costs of coal electricity are internalized, the costs of coal are likely to exceed the generated value.

  47. _Flin_ says:

    They aren’t pro Business. They are pro certain businesses. How is killing off your workers and making them ill pro Business? When the people cant go to work, are sick, not insured… This is not pro-Business, it’s anti-human.

  48. Chris says:

    Never mind the EU, Norway (non-EU) has been powered by hydropower for the last century. It’s still >99% hydropowered.

  49. Pangolin` says:

    Call me crazy but I think domestic solar panel and wind turbine production capacity are national security priorities far more important than whatever the new fighter is that the pentagon wants to spend a trillion dollars on.

    That means we should tax, tariff, demand domestic production from foreign manufacturers or otherwise do whatever it takes.

    This idea that the needs of the american people should be subservient and secondary to corporate profits needs to be ash-canned.

  50. Shadowlayer says:

    Sorry, but this is the same kind of dumb useless populism that we saw during the Bush years when a bunch of ignorant neocons were breaking French products in the streets.

    The problem with most renewable sources of energy is costs, and in a still-industrial country like Germany going for pricey renewables like solar is suicidal.

    The irony gets even worst when you see how the German solar industry its being gutted by the Chinese.

    The other day I was reading in Der Spiegel how the Chinese are even taking advantage of the many tax exemptions and loans the German government gives to their citizen.

    I guess admitting their error would be too much for the eurocrats, specially considering a prc bureaucrat wouldn’t be caught dead giving the same benefits to imported goods that they give to national products.

    But my point is that renewables ARE the future, but NOT NOW, and while cutting down on fossil fuels like oil and coal is the smart thing to do (in fact it should’ve been done 40 years ago!) killing nuclear and depending completely on if there’s sunshine or if the wind is blowing it’s plain stupid.

    What nobody likes to mention is that the RMBK-class reactors in Chernobyl were a disaster, and that TEPCO was so corrupt that no matter what business they get in something is going to explode.

    There’s actually more radiation being released to the atmosphere from coal burning than nuclear reactors, but then again try to explain that to the idiots in the gas guzzlers who can’t even understand the basic concept of fission.

  51. Observer says:

    @John Tucker

    Sorry, but this greenwashing-blabla is just misleading. I live in Germany and our energy concept has nothing to do with greenwashing.

    Off course, there will be about 10 GW worth of fossil capacity built. But this is no contradiction with our climate goal and is just a pragmatic step on our way. Mainly the whole thing has two reasons:

    First, we *need* flexible power plants which can balance fluctuations in renewable power generation. With our existing coal and nuclear plants this is not possible, because they take to long to start up or shut down. A smart-grid which can mainly balance itself is also not yet on hand. So we are building new combined cycle gas turbine plants, which are very efficient, very flexible and allow us to assure, that we can handle the big amount of renewables in our energy mix.

    Second, a lot of old base-load coal power plants are scheduled for retiring. Also, we shut down all our older nuclear plants, and we will phase out the remaining plants in the next 10 years. Therefore, a huge gap has to be filled, and we can’t fill that up completely with renewables as fast as we would need, so we are *replacing* *some* of our oldest and dirtiest existing coal plants with more efficient and cleaner newer ones or with flexible gas plants as described above.

    Altogether, the fraction of fossil fuel power generation will not rise and instead renewables in our energy mix will increase drastically over the coming years, and that is the whole point of the story, or not? So nothing is greenwashed here. In 20 years we will already have around 50% of our electricity coming from renewables, starting from less than 10% just 10 years ago. So I am very optimistic, that we will achieve to be powered mostly by renewables until the mid-century.

  52. Observer says:

    @Heinrich

    But the difference in Germany is, that it doesn’t matter if this term will be Merkel’s last term and if the center-left parties will take over in 2 years, because in Germany there is consensus throughout all politicial parties and in the general population about the need to drastically build up renewable energies.

  53. Observer says:

    Well, that was not very difficult for Norway, given the ideal topography of the country for hydropower. But this is not a possible way for most other countries, because they simply don’t have the topography for such a huge amount of hydropower. Only some countries like Switzerland, Austria and Sweden have a notable amount of hydropower.

    But those are all small countries with an execeptional topography. The big european countries like Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, the UK or the Netherlands can’t do that. They have to use mainly wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other renewables, depending on their geographic and climatic conditions.

  54. Observer says:

    But this is not in any way comparable with climate denial in the US. Even in the FDP the mainstream opinion is that we must develope renewables and limit our CO2 emissions because of global warming. And also in the media and all other political parties climate denial plays no significant role in Germany. Of course their are some small groups of deniers which are trying to do the same like their US counterparts, but with no success. They have no influence and no media coverage and mainly the get only smiled at them.

    In the US in contrast you have a powerful denial machine with a huge influence on actual politics and public opinion. This is in no way comparable with the situation in Germany.

    And comparing the german FDP (Liberal Party) to the right-wing Tea Party is even more weird, because the FDP is a non-right-wing, secular and science-friendly party. The only thing those two have in common is a strong market-orientation, but apart from that, they are diametrically opposed in nearly all things.

  55. Observer says:

    As one living in Germany, I can fully agree.