Germany's trouble with abandoning nuclear power
Now that Germany is turning away from nuclear power, it is more reliant on renewable and traditional energy sources – both of which comes with problems of their own.
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The windmill opposition
Baden-Württemberg's top government official and Germany's first Green state premier, Winfried Kretschmann, says he wants to boost renewables but seeks a "quiet revolution" to reconcile both environmental and economic interests. But that is already proving difficult. For instance, in Münstertall, a village in Baden-Württemberg, locals have formed the Energy and Landscape Protection citizens' initiative to fight plans to build at least four big wind turbines.Skip to next paragraph
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"Baden-Württemberg always said, 'We don't need [wind energy], we don't want it,' " says Frank Musiol of the Baden-Württemberg Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research. "Now people say we want wind energy but not in our backyard."
In 2000, Germany created conditions for the green sector to grow. It set an attractively high price at which it would buy surplus electricity from wind turbines and solar panels. This helped triple consumption rates of renewable power from 3.8 percent to 11 percent in 2010. Investment in the sector grew more than 75 percent in the past five years, more than almost anywhere else in the world, says Lutz Weischer of the World Resource Institute in Washington. Today, the industry supports 340,000 jobs.
But in Baden-Württemberg, home to both Daimler and Porsche, the nuclear industry is an economic pillar. And critics of Merkel's plan say shutting off reactors by 2022 will cost jobs, jeopardize the country's energy supply, and make Germany reliant on energy from France (the world's biggest nuclear power producer).
More coal-fired plants
Critics also say the nuclear fade-out will hurt Germany's ambitious carbon-reduction goals, too. Until green energy can make up for nuclear's shortfall, Merkel wants to build new gas and coal-fired plants over the next 10 years, potentially producing billions of tons of greenhouse gases.
When its nuclear plant, one of four in Baden-Württemberg, shuts down, the town of Neckarwestheim, near Stuttgart, stands to lose 250 jobs and huge tax revenues. But the 3,500-inhabitant community is showing signs of thinking green, budgeting €50,000 ($71,000) to install solar panels on its new cultural center.
A local farmer, Alexander Geuß, did not give his vote to the Greens, who scored a historic victory in Baden-Württemberg, but he still wants nuclear energy's end. Nestled in the Black Forest, his village, Sulzburg, sits next to two nuclear plants that could burn long after Germany has taken its own off the grid: one in Leibstadt in Switzerland, and the other in Fessenheim, France, that country's oldest nuclear plant. "We are surrounded by it, the problem is everywhere."
He has no sympathy for Hotzenwald's hydroelectric reservoir opponents. "Nothing is pain free," Mr. Geuß says from his farmhouse. "If you want to produce more energy you have to be able to store it."
"A lot of hope has gone in those elections; now it's time to get down to business. It is not easy, but if we never start this discussion we will never arrive anywhere."
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