We note the appearance of yet another complicating factor in Europe's current trouble. Germany's reaction to the Fukushima disaster was to make a rapid (if poorly executed) about face from a highly successful nuclear power system and plunge headlong toward what they believed would be a safer and more secure "renewable energy" posture. While Merkel's bold declarations for energy transition swept that industrious nation, it seems (in less emotional retrospect) that no one had done the numbers with requisite diligence. This obvious blunder will surely be a gift that keeps on giving, and in conjunction with the festering Eurozone (Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal) debt crisis (remember who has been bailing Europe out) could snap Germany into the ditch quicker that you can say "Achtung". Perhaps the Germans have passed from the wave of hubris into the whirling pool of reality where decisions and their true costs and possibilities are examined with a better lens. Once again, we predict with 90% confidence that Merkel will very soon (before the end of 2012) find the balance of her political capital to be diminishing more rapidly than planned and without a ready means of replenishment at hand. As the world beholds Germany propping up a very sick European Union (is it also too big to fail?) forget the happy talk and watch how the parties (CDU/CSU) prepare to dump Ms. Merkel. Her success to date will soon be relegated to the "sure, but what have you done for us lately" and her fellow political travelers will turn away. If Germany slides into a deep recession as a result of current factors, the rest of Europe must inevitably follow. This is not a good time for any nation to make such a profound miscalculation, and great danger looms.
Remember, gentle reader, that this situation is not a ripple in a pond, but a set of very large waves that is already crossing the oceans in both directions.
From Der Spiegel: One year after the bold announcement, precious little has happened -- save for painful price hikes that have hit consumers' pocketbooks and companies' bottom lines. Many offshore wind farms aren't connected to the grid yet, and the massive power masts needed to transport the energy haven't been built. To add to the problems, Merkel last week sacked her environment minister, Norbert Röttgen, the very man in charge of implementing the highly ambitious clean energy plans. It appears she was more displeased with his lack of progress on the difficult energy project than his embarrassing loss in a recent state election.
Who is living in "fuel poverty"?
From Watts Up With That: Global-warming-related catastrophes are increasingly hitting vulnerable populations around the world, with one species in particular danger: the electricity ratepayer. Denmark, an early adopter of the global-warming mania, now requires its households to pay the developed world’s highest power prices — about 40¢ a kilowatt hour, or three to four times what North Americans pay today. Germany, whose powerhouse economy gave green developers a blank cheque, is a close second, followed by other politically correct nations such as Belgium, the headquarters of the EU, and distressed nations such as Spain. The result is chaos to the economic well-being of the EU nations. Even in rock-solid Germany, up to 15% of the populace is now believed to be in “fuel poverty.”
From Wind Watch: There is no recognizable strategy, no grand design upon which to organize the transition into the age of renewable energy. The only thing clear is that installing more solar panels and wind turbines won’t be enough. The other task — and the more challenging and costly one — is to adapt the rest of the energy system to new conditions. Germany lacks the power lines it needs to bring electricity from the north to the more industrialized south. It lacks the technologies needed to store renewable energy. And, finally, it lacks power plants to satisfy demand for electricity when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The estimated costs of the necessary infrastructure expansions range between €154 billion ($195 billion) in the next 10 years, according to the market research firm Trendresearch, to €335 billion by 2030, according to Bavaria’s VBW industry association. Other forecasts are even higher.
From New Geography: Yet this is not an unalloyed advantage – despite the constant claims made about “green jobs“ here in Europe as well as North America. Solar power is enormously expensive and inefficient here, most notably lacking the reliability needed by all major power suppliers. It only produces power when the sun shines, and it is very tricky to store the energy created, especially with photovoltaic sources making it enormously expensive. Some forms of solar power have been able to store off-peak power production; the parabolic-trough plants in Andalusia or the Mojave deserts use molten salts stored en masse to assure 24-hour supply, but these technologies, though provided by German companies, cannot be implemented in Germany itself due to the lack of intense sunshine about 6 months out of the year.
From Schiller Institute: Even among energy experts, there seems to be some mental block to a clear understanding of the costs of this reckless adventure, and the public, dazed by the constant static from the media, is permitting itself to collectively ignore the massive cuts in living standards that are going to hit it. And even though the utility companies are forecasting that very cold days this Winter will pose a serious threat to the power supply, and the Bundestag’s Office of Technology Assessment fears the consequences of a major power failure, on the level of a “national disaster,” in which, after a few hours, basic power supplies would collapse, the watchword is still obviously: “Shut your eyes and keep on going!”
From The Global Warming Policy Foundation: Government taxes and levies on electricity for domestic consumers have doubled since 1998. They currently stand at 41 percent. This includes VAT, environmental taxes, charges for combined heat and power and renewable energies, and the concession fee to municipalities. The levy for renewable energy increased by 70 percent this year and will further increase in the coming years. Last year, all taxes and charges for electricity customers totaled nearly 17 billion Euros according to the energy industry.