The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

German Solar Energy May Get a Boost from Japan's Nuclear Disaster

The nuclear power plant crisis unfolding in Japan after the massive earthquake has already caused political fallout in Germany and could usher in a new era of renewable energy in Europe's largest economy.

On Tuesday Germany became the first European country to shut nuclear plants in the wake of the crisis in Japan. The move by the German government to temporarily close seven older plants came just one day after Chancellor Angela Merkel had imposed a three-month moratorium on the extension of the country’s 17 nuclear power stations.

During this time, experts will carry out new security checks at all reactors and, equally important, policymakers in Berlin will debate whether or not to permanently reverse a policy that could have allowed energy companies to extend the operating lives of their reactors for 12 years.

Last year, Merkel’s center-right coalition took the controversial step of prolonging the lives of nuclear power stations in a move that the chancellor said would secure the supply of affordable electricity while the country converts to renewable energy sources. That decision reversed an earlier ruling taken by the previous center-left government in 2002 to phase out all nuclear plants by 2021.

Other European governments have been scrambling to step up efforts to assess nuclear safety as well. Switzerland, for instance, has imposed a moratorium on three plants while Finland announced plans to the safety of its nuclear reactors. Along its coastlines, the Nordic country operates seven boiling water reactors of the type affected in Japan.

As European countries and others around the world rethink their nuclear power strategies, traders are shifting their money into renewable energy, solar in particular. German solar panel company, Solarworld AG, is among the biggest beneficiaries; the company has seen its stock soared more than 30 percent since the government announced its decision to shut down seven plants and reassess its long-term nuclear power strategy.

Renewable energy interest groups in Germany are seizing the opportunity to promote alternative energy sources.

"If the federal government is really serious about an accelerated development of renewable energy, it must permanently withdraw the lifetime extension of nuclear power plants and not just for three months," said Dietmar Schutz, president of the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE). "The extension is not a bridge, but a serious obstacle to the necessary restructuring of our energy system."

Currently, nuclear energy accounts for 23 percent of German energy and renewable energies 16 percent. Schutz said that renewable energies would be able to cover 47 percent of German energy demand by 2020.

Solar energy is developing rapidly in Germany, thanks largely to its favorable feed-in tariffs. Solar capacity is now around 17 GW, with 7 GW added last year alone.

In cloudy Germany, however, the government sees the greatest potential in wind power. At the end of 2009, the country had 21,164 wind power stations with a capacity of 25.7 GW. By 2025, wind power is expected to account for 25 percent of electricity generation. About 40 off-shore wind farms are planned along the country’s northern coastlines with a capacity of 25 GW.

But Germany will have to invest in new grids that can not only transport energy from the new wind parks but are also capable of handling fluctuating levels of wind and solar energy and of managing energy generated by many small facilities spread across the country.

That will cost money and that could be an issue in a country where energy prices have been going nowhere but up. The Japanese nuclear disaster, however, has heightened fears of the technology and strengthened an anti-nuclear lobby and the opposition of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Green Party ahead of upcoming regional elections. Numerous anti-nuclear rallies have taken place across the country.

Germans, who have been closely following the ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Japan, may now be willing to pay more for energy they view as safer and more environmentally friendly. 

To read a commentary about the Japanese nuclear disaster and how it might relate to U.S. politics, check out Scott Sklar's "Nuclear Debacle -- Not Clean, Not Safe," here.

RELATED ARTICLES

Renewable energy jobs

Global Renewable Energy Employment Surges 18 Percent to 7.7 Million

Andrew Burger, Correspondent Ongoing growth in renewable energy investment and deployment is creating jobs worldwide — and lots of them. This job growth is helping governments address a fundamental economic problem plaguing developed and developing cou...
Beach sand

Italian Company Uses Sun-Heated Sand to Produce Energy

Flavia Rotondi and Alessandra Migliaccio, Bloomberg

Italy’s well-known sun and sand form the basis of many beach holidays. An Italian company has also found another purpose for the combination: energy production.

Panasonic Japan solar module manufacturing

Panasonic Ramps Up Japanese Solar Manufacturing to Meet Domestic Rooftop Demand

Junko Movellan, Correspondent Panasonic Corp, a Japanese electronics company, announced that it will expand its domestic solar cell and module production to meet the rooftop solar demand in Japan. The company will invest a total of 9.5 billion yen (US$7...

Renewable Energy Is Beginning To Power Africa

Andrew Burger, Contributor According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa will require more than $300 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. Committing more than $7 billion in U.S. government support ...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 3
1505REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in Brazil – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

Brazil is one of the most promising markets for wind energy.  Ranke...

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

Energy Security: Opportunity Power with the Sunny Boy Secure Power ...

Wouldn’t it be great to have a grid-tied inverter that could still...

COMPANY BLOGS

Substrate Feeder for Biogas Facilities

RUD manufactures complete, ready-to-use conveyor systems for transportin...

Can We Just Allow Florida To Be The Sunshine State?

We attended Solar Power Southeast, a regional solar show put on by&...

The Outlook for Midwest Solar

Our whirlwind solar conference tour continues! Yesterday we touched down...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS