Energiewende, Fracking and Lower Rates

Deck: 

German Energy Portfolio Grows Smaller

German Energy Portfolio Grows Smaller

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2017
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In 2013, I made my first trip to Germany to see what “Energiewende” was all about. This German word means “Energy Transformation,” and Germany has made considerable effort to persuade the world with its message to phase out nuclear power and develop renewable energies in the power sector.

Germany’s new energy policy is a revolutionary, bold and new approach by anyone’s definition. When I came back from my first trip to Germany, I joined fellow Commissioner McDonald in approving a uniquely Georgian version that ushers in our own energy transition. 

Our renewable energy policy has made Georgia one of the fastest growing solar states in the nation – without a subsidy and without a mandated Renewable Energy Portfolio. And now, after another trip to the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue to hear the latest from the German brain trust, I still think we need to stay the course in Georgia.

EES North America

First, we have something in the U.S. that Germany does not: cheap natural gas. This has made all the difference for America. Germany, hostage to Russian gas prices, has lignite coal and a vast nuclear fleet. 

However, after the Fukushima accident, political leaders from just about every political party felt it was time to end nuclear energy power generation in the country. They publicly stated their exit strategy for nuclear and announced the closure of all reactors by 2022, whether the nuclear plants were at the end of their lives or not.

The closure schedule for the reactors forced Germany to expedite Energiewende to meet electricity demand in their country. Clearly, if they had an abundance of natural gas, as we do, their transition would have been much easier. 

Natural gas burned in power plants creates half the carbon dioxide of coal, and doesn’t contain the other pollutants we use scrubbers to eliminate. More importantly, the German people don’t view gas as negatively as they do nuclear and coal.

Second, we are diversifying our energy portfolio, and Germany is narrowing theirs. With widespread political opposition to nuclear energy and nuclear reactors closing, they are desperately looking for effective clean sources of power. 

Thanks to Tesla and research from German and Chinese companies, battery technology is almost prime-time. Massive utility scale battery arrays will allow Germany to store that extra energy they get when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining.

Across the U.S. and in Georgia, we are experimenting with batteries, but Germany plans to deploy them in an even bigger way. Large scale battery farms and extensive energy upgrades in homes and businesses are the next giant step for Germany.

Finally, let’s not forget the impact of low rates. Georgia’s electricity cost is fourteen percent below the national average, and our bills are about one-third the price of a German power bill. These high energy bills, while

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