Second Thoughts about Green Energy in Germany

Der Spiegel, Germany’s top news magazine, has been second to none in promoting green energy, striking pious poses over the U.S. failure to jump on the Kyoto bandwagon, and trashing nuclear energy.  All this propaganda has succeeded brilliantly.  Germany has a powerful Green Party and is a world leader in the production of wind and solar energy, the latter in a cloudy country, the lion’s share of which lies above the 50th parallel of latitude.  Now the bill has come due.  In 2012 German consumers paid more than 20 billion Euros for green energy that was worth a mere 2.9 billion on the open market.  True to form, Der Spiegel has been churning out shrill condemnations of the high prices, as if it never had the slightest thing to do with promoting them in the first place.  In an article entitled “Green Energy Costs Consumers More Than Ever Before,” we find, among other things, that,

The cost of renewable energy continues climbing year after year.  At the beginning of the year it increased from 3.59 to 5.27 (Euro) cents per kilowatt hour.  One of the reasons for the increase is solar energy:  more new solar facilities were installed in Germany in 2012 than ever before.  The drawback of the solar boom is that it drives up the production costs paid by consumers.  The reason – green energy producers will receive guaranteed compensation for every kilowatt hour for the next 20 years.

As a result, German consumers saw their bills for electricity increase by an average of 12% at the beginning of 2013.  The comments following the article are at least as revealing as its content.  The environmental hubris of the population shows distinct signs of fading when tranlated into terms of cold, hard cash.  Examples:

What a laugh!  The consumers pay 17 billion Euros, and the producers receive 2.9 billion Euros.  Conclusion:  End the subsidies for solar facilities immediately!!  It’s too bad that the pain of consumers – if the Green Party joins the government after the Bundestag election – won’t end, but will only get worse.  Other than that, solar facilities belong in countries with significantly more hours of sunlight than Germany.

Those were the days, when (Green politician) Trittin told shameless lies to the public, claiming that the switch to green energy would only cost 1.5 Euros per household.

In ten years we’ll learn what the green energy lies are really going to cost us.

The real costs are even higher.  When there’s no wind, or clouds cut off the sunlight, then the conventional energy sources held in reserve must make up the deficit; the oil, coal and brown coal energy plants.  If production costs are calculated correctly, then their expense should be included in the price of green energy.  All at once there is a jump from 17 billion to 25 billion Euros in the price we have to pay for the “favors” the Green-Red parties have done us.

Specious arguments about the supposedly comparable costs of the nuclear power plants Germany is in the process of shutting down are no longer swallowed with alacrity.  For example, in response to the familiar old chestnut of citing exaggerated costs for decommissioning nuclear plants and storing the waste a commenter replies:

Hmmm, if nuclear energy is so expensive, why are so many countries in central Europe – for example, the Czech Republic – interested in nuclear power?  Certainly not to breed actinides to build nuclear weapons in order to become “nuclear powers.”  The cost of long term waste storage in terms of the energy produced only amounts to about 0.01 Euros per Kw/h.  Even decommissioning expenses don’t add significantly to the overall cost… Let us split atoms, not hairs.

A “green” commenter suggests that the cleanup costs for the Fukushima reactors be automatically added to the cost of all reactors:

According to the latest figures for November 2012 for Fukushima:  100 billion Euros.  Distributing this over the total energy production of 880,000 GWh (according to Wikipedia) that’s 11 cents per kilowatt hour.  That amounts to twice the “prettified” cost of nuclear power (without insurance and without subsidies) of 5 cents per kilowatt hour.  And even then the Japanese were lucky that the wind didn’t shift in the direction of Tokyo.  But the 100 billion won’t be the last word.

Drawing the response from another reader:

Let’s see.  Japanese nuclear power plants produce 7,656,400 GWh of energy.  In comparison to economic costs in the high tens of billions, 100 billion suddenly doesn’t seem so unreasonable.  It only adds 1.3 cent per KWh to the cost of nuclear energy.  Peanuts.  In Germany, renewables are currently costing an average of 18 cents per KWh.  That translates to 100 billion in under four years.  In other words, thanks to renewables, we have a Fukushima in Germany every four years.

In response to a remark about all the wonderful green jobs created, another commenter responds,

Jobs created?  Every job is subsidized to the tune of 40,000 Euros; how, exactly, is that supposed to result in a net gain for the economy overall??  According to your logic, all we have to do to eliminate any level of unemployment is just subsidize it away.  That’s Green politics for you.

Another unhappy power customer has noticed that, in addition to the hefty subsidy he’s paying for his own power, he has to finance his well-healed “green” neighbors rooftop solar array as well:

Whoever is surprised about the increases in the cost of electricity hasn’t been paying attention.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  At the moment the consumer is paying for the solar cells on his neighbor’s roof right along with his own electricity bill.  Surprising?  Who’s surprised?

It’s amazing how effective a substantial and increasing yearly hit to income can be in focusing the mind when it comes to assessing the real cost of green energy.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

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