On April 16, 2023, the Federal Republic of Germany, shutdown the Emsland, Neckarwestheim II, and Isar II, nation’s last three nuclear power plants. Anti-Nuclear activists cheered the news at rallies in Berlin and Munich. Others, like Bavaria’s governor, Markus Soeder called the shutdown “an absolute mistaken decision.”

Germany’s recent decision to close the last nuclear power plants is one of many curious environmental decisions. The nation has relentlessly campaigned for all nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address the very real threat of climate change.

In 2009, Germany as a member of the European Union (EU) committed to the “Renewable Energy Directive,” which requires each country to use renewable energy for 20 percent of its total energy needs by 2020 and 27 percent by 2030. In 2016, Germany as a member of the EU signed the “Paris Climate Agreement”[1]. The EU committed to a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

To achieve its EU commitments, Germany developed numerous zero-carbon, renewable energy projects. In 2010, Germany commissioned its first of many offshore wind projects[2], In 2021, German utilities used renewable energy to generate 39.6 percent of the nation’s electricity[3].

However, Germany’s energy policies have been inconsistent at best. In 2011, Germany closed eight nuclear power plants even though nuclear power generates zero-greenhouse gas emissions. The nation’s last three nuclear power plants was scheduled to be permanently closed by year-end 2022.

As Germany was closing zero-carbon nuclear power plants it was increasing shipments of natural gas, a fossil fuel from Russia. In 2018, Germany granted permits to the Russian energy company, Gazprom to increase the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline capacity into the country by 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As a result, German utilities used fossil fuels (natural gas, coal, and oil) to generate 48.5 percent of the nation’s electricity[4] in 2021.

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting the European Union, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand to place economic sanctions on Russian imports and exports. On August 30, 2022, Russian energy company, Gazprom halted natural gas exports to Germany[5] for refusing to pay in the official Russian currency, rouble.

As winter of 2022 approached, Germany and other EU countries dependent on cheap, Russian natural gas were faced with a looming energy crisis. As a result, Germany announced on September 5, 2022, that the nation’s remaining nuclear power plants would not be closed in 2022, as previously planned to ensure adequate power to the nation’s power grid.

In 2022, Germany and the EU were able to meet energy demands due to mild winter weather and increased imports of liquified natural gas from the Middle East, Africa, and the United States. Although nuclear power provided 6.3 percent of Germany’s electricity, government permanently closed the nation’s last three nuclear power plants on April 15, 2023.

Anti-nuclear activists in Germany have put pressure on successive governments to end the use of a proven technology that they argue is unsafe and unsustainable. German environmental activists support the closure of the nuclear power plants. However, no one has provided a plan to replace the power from the three shuttered nuclear power plants that does not include increasing the use of fossil-fueled power plants.

Other industrialized nations like the United States, France, United Kingdom, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China see nuclear as a viable power source, until all fossil-fuel power plants have been shuttered.

Is Germany committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions? If so, it would appear the country is studying for the wrong test.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio, podcast, and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on a diverse range of energy issues.

[1] Carbon Brief – “2015: Tracking Country Climate Pledges”

[2] Clean Energy Wire, “German Offshore Wind Power – Output, Business and Perspective” by B. Wehrmann, 23 January 2023

[3] Our World In Data, Germany: Energy Country Profile by Hanna Ritchie and Max Roser

[4] Our World In Data, Germany: Energy Country Profile by Hanna Ritchie and Max Roser

[5] New York Times, “Russia Halts Natural Gas Flows to Germany Again” by Stanley Reed, August 30, 2022

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