The numbers on Germany’s Energiewende are not good

Michael Shellenberger writes a compelling piece in Forbes about Germany’s disastrous Energiewende results. They were, he argues, inevitable. The headline puts it succinctly: “The Reason Renewables Can’t Power Modern Civilization Is Because They Were Never Meant To.”

Read the article for his argument. Here are some numbers on Energiewende:

Now comes a major article in the country’s largest newsweekly magazine, Der Spiegel, titled, “A Botched Job in Germany” (“Murks in Germany“). The magazine’s cover shows broken wind turbines and incomplete electrical transmission towers against a dark silhouette of Berlin. …

Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany €32 billion ($36 billion) annually, and opposition to renewables is growing in the German countryside. …

Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany “€3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),” or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2025, to increase solar and wind three to five-fold by 2050.

Between 2000 and 2019, Germany grew renewables from 7% to 35% of its electricity. And as much of Germany’s renewable electricity comes from biomass, which scientists view as polluting and environmentally degrading, as from solar.

Of the 7,700 new kilometers of transmission lines needed, only 8% have been built, while large-scale electricity storage remains inefficient and expensive. “A large part of the energy used is lost,” the reporters note of a much-hyped hydrogen gas project, “and the efficiency is below 40%… No viable business model can be developed from this.”

Meanwhile, the 20-year subsidies granted to wind, solar, and biogas since 2000 will start coming to an end next year. “The wind power boom is over,” Der Spiegel concludes.

All of which raises a question: if renewables can’t cheaply power Germany, one of the richest and most technologically advanced countries in the world, how could a developing nation like Kenya ever expect them to allow it to “leapfrog” fossil fuels?

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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