Eye-watering cost of renewable revolution

23 January 2012

Germany's energy policy could cost some €1.4 trillion ($1.8 trillion) by 2030 even before the cost of the nuclear shutdown is taken into account.

Neckarwestheim (EnBW)
Germany is to forego 14 years of
low-cabon generation from Neckarwestheim 2 (Image: EnBW)

The figures were announced by the head of Siemens' energy division, Michael Suess, at the Energiewirtschaft 2012 event organised by the Handelsblatt newspaper in Berlin and later confirmed to World Nuclear News by Siemens spokesmen.

For several years the country has planned an 'energy revolution' designed to tackle climate change and establish renewable technologies at the centre of a new power supply system. Two years before nuclear generation ends in 2022, Germany wants to have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, doubled renewables to supply 35% of electricity and cut primary energy consumption by 20%.

Siemens' calculation of the total investment in generation and transmission to do this came to €1.418 trillion ($1.848 trillion) in the period from 2011 to 2030.

However, Germany's ambition were dramatically increased on the heels of the Fukushima accident in Japan by the shutdown, almost overnight, of eight nuclear power reactors. The operating lives of the remaining nine reactors were also reduced from the terms of a 2010 agreement, costing some as many as 14 years.

Siemens' costing of the nuclear shutdown was vague, ranging from €11 billion to €252 billion ($14 billion to $328 billion). But this comes on top of the general cost of the energy policy and takes the total to €1.670 trillion ($2.177 trillion). This incredible overall figure is equal to 68% of German GDP in 2010, or slightly more than the value of the Brazilian economy - the fifth biggest in the world that year.

In September 2011 research from the KfW Bankegruppe, which supports domestic development, put the total investment to achieve German policy goals at €239-262 billion ($321-352 billion) to 2020.

Two immediate effects of the nuclear shutdown have been a rush to finish building 10 GWe of fossil power plants, and short-term reliance on an oil-fuelled plant in Austria. A Deutsche Bank report estimated that the carbon dioxide increase from the permanent shutdown of the seven reactors and the early phase-out of the rest would result in the emission of 370 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020. Before the shutdown, Germany's nuclear sector had been the biggest source of low-carbon power.

Siemens itself officially left the nuclear business in September last year, but continues to market most kinds of power industry equipment, including many that are used at nuclear power plants. The range covers transmission and distribution as well as generation including wind turbines, concentrated solar power, hydro and fossil fuels.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News