Can renewable energy substitute nuclear?
Why is there such an aggressive campaign by some economic leader?
Here are answers to the most often asked questions:
1. Last days there has been an aggressive campaign by the so called atom lobby against the governmental plans for a fuel rod levy. There was even a newspaper campaign joined by such people like Oliver Bierhoff or Josef Ackermann, who are not part of the energy industry and have nothing to do with it. How is it possible that the debate reached such a heated state? What are the goals of the nuclear lobby?
The nuclear lobby tries to avoid a nuclear tax, as it would increase costs and capital oriented companies try to avoid any high costs. The heated debate is a result out of the very late and vague information by the German government how an energy road map will look like. The whole debate always circulated around the question how long the lifetime of nuclear power plants should be extended- this has caused uncertainties and protest.
2. At the moment the government gives an impression that there is no real state energy policy. Is there any? What are its main goals?
The energy policy will be defined in autumn. The government has lost a lot of time as they did not immediately start to define a energy road map at the very beginning. This causes a lot of uncertainties to the utilities. Instead, the German government has asked for scientific reports that look at the electricity production with a short and long term lifetime of nuclear power plants. The results of this report will be published soon. Although we have to see that many of such scenarios have been analyzed in the last years. The government could have saved time by just evaluating the existing reports.
3. According to existing law, nuclear powerplants in Germany have to be closed until the year 2022. What would happen if they closed at that date? How would the price be affected? Would the renewables be able to produce enough energy at that point? If not, when (which year) do you see the point at which the atomic plants can be shut down?
If nuclear power plants will all shut down by 2021, a lot of new coal power plants will be built. There is a plan to construct 26 new coal power plants. Almost 50 % of the German electricity is produced by coal, 22 % by nuclear, 16 % by renewable energy and rest by gas fired power plant. In the next 10 years, almost half of the existing old coal power plants will be shut down. If we would not create all the new coal power plants, 25 % could be replaced by gas fired combined heat and power plants. Gas has the advantage to produce less greenhouse gases, and is flexible to install and handle so that it can be easily combined with renewable energy. It would be the better alternative to extend the lifetime of nuclear power plants than to construct new coal power plants. The share of renewable energy will increase independendly from the rest of the electricity system, we have a feed in tariff which guarantees a fixed price for 20 years. The infrastructure as well as energy storage is crucial. We could use nuclear as long as the share of coal is at 10 %, this could be in 2030.
4. What will be the immediate effect of the nuclear power plants closure? Will the unemployment rise? The price of electric energy?
The utilities are prepared as the nuclear phase out is current law- so no black out, unemployment etc will happen. The higher share of coal power plants which will fill the gap will increase the price for electricity as the CO2 price will increase as well.
5. How much will the switch from nuclear and coal energy to renewables cost? How will the costs be shared between the taxpayer and the private sector?
Germany has a so called feed in tariff system since 10 years, which guarantees as certain price for the individual renewable energy. For example, companies which produce electricity by offshore wind energy get a price of 13 Cent /kwh, the market price is around 5 Cent/kwh. The difference is paid by the consumer (no tax). All electricity consumer pay it by the electricity bill, it costs app 4 % of the current bill, app 8 bill Euro per year in total.
6. The four of German nuclear companies argues that switching off the nuclear plants earlier would make the energy price rise to a level, which will make the German industry less competitive. Do you agree with that?
Not necessarily as electricity prices have been rising since many years, although we had a high share of nuclear. One reason is lack of competition, as the four companies control the market. They own almost 75 % of all power plants. The electricity price at the stock exchange declined drastically during the last years, nevertheless the companies have increased the electricity price. The fact that the electricity price did not fall is an indicator of less competition. The other reason is the other components of the electricity price have been changing, there are the net fees, taxes and the renewable energy fee. Net fees have been stable, taxes as well and the renewable energy fee has been increased by 2 %.
6. According to you opinion, which of the proposed options – the fuel levy (which provides money for to balance the budget deficit) or the fund for renewable technologies – is a better option for the public (the taxpayer)?
The latter one. But we do not need the money necessarily for renewable energy but for the infrastructure, energy storage, energy saving of buildings and sustainable mobility. Part of the revenue should be spent for the energy transformation.