Will Germany really make it and phase out nuclear completely?

Kirjoittajavieraana Vihreässä blogissa on tällä kertaa saksalainen vihreä europarlamentaarikko Reinhard Bütikofer. Hän pohtii blogissaan, onnistuuko Saksa todella tavoitteessaan luopua kokonaan ydinvoimasta ja tuottaa pääosa maan energiasta uusiutuvilla. Bütikofer on optimistinen: onnistumisen puolesta puhuvat monet seikat.

”Energiewende” is, of course, a German word. Or, I should say, it is a German Green word, because it describes the goal of changing the energy basis of our economy fundamentally by substituting renewable energies for fossil and nuclear. But ”energiewende” more recently has also become an internationally used word, pronounced with an English ”dubya”. This new pronunciation is often times used in sentences from observers of Germany's energy policy that end with question marks: ”Will Germany really be able to make good on its plan to phase out nuclear completely over the next ten year and to make renewable energies the main stay of energy supply?”

My message is an optimistic one. First: a clear majority of our people support that policy, unwaveringly. Second: no political party dares to openly oppose the goal. Third: Greens are still very much able to influence the development and the implementation of the relevant policy goals, because we command more trust on these issues in the broad population than other parties and because we can influence the course of events through our participation in the Lander governments of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Schleswig-Holstein and Bremen. Fourth: relevant sectors of our business community are setting their hopes on a renewable energy future. This is not only true for the wind industry or solar sector but also for major companies like Siemens, who have decided to withdraw from nuclear technology, or Bosch, an importatnt tier one automotive supplier.

On the other hand, making the ”energiewende” real is not at all smooth sailing. The present German government has basically wasted a full year without tackling any of the hard decisions that have to be taken to implement the policies of change. Presently a great lobbying war is being waged over the price of energy. Opponents of the ”energiewende” and industry lobbyists of all types are trying to blame renewables for high energy prices in Germany. The government dishes out energy price privileges to an increasing number of businesses, burdens the average consumer with the cost of that policy, and then starts a discussion whether there shouldn't be a slowdown in the transformation process to relieve the self-created social burden. Consumer advocates, who feel that their concerns have not been adequately adressed by the renewable energy supporters, all of a sudden seem to be in bed with conservative forces they would usually oppose. One of the basic lessons that we as Greens must not forget is this: in such a hugely difficult, yet strategically important transformation process you can never give up on building and re-building and enlarging the coalition of supporters. If we think it's on the way and allow ourselves to become complacent, we might still fail.

One aspect that has been underrated in the German discussion about the ”energiewende” is the European dimension. The decisions to start our Energiewende was a unilateral national decision. But in many ways our energy policy is connected to that of our neighbours. We can start the process, and lead the way. But we cannot reach our goals without paying attention to the European context. That, I think, will need a little more consideration as we progress.

Reinhard Bütikofer


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