Renewable Energy

Has German Chancellor Angela Merkel figured out something Barack Obama hasn’t?  As recently as last June, her government had set a goal that by 2020, renewable energy (vis., wind and solar) would comprise 35% of Germany’s electricity production.  In the first half of 2012 (ending that June), Germany already was generating 25% of its electricity from wind and solar, among other renewables.

Then some other things became apparent.  Germany’s Renewable Power Act requires power companies to buy wind- and solar-originated electricity in significant quantities.  Their largest industrial electricity users consume 18% of the electricity produced,  However, they pay only 0.3% of the extra costs generated by those required buys—German taxpayers pay the difference.

The power grid hasn’t kept up with the growth in alternative energy sources—like the offshore windparks in the Baltic and North Seas off the country’s north coast.  Many of those projects are at a standstill, with no way to deliver the power they generate to the mainland.

That Renewable Energy Act provides incentives to build wind turbines, but it doesn’t provide incentives to build the natural gas-fired power plants the country needs for when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing (see the figure).

Withal, German consumers are faced with skyrocketing electricity bills.

Now Merkel is changing her mind.  She; her Environment Minister, Peter Altmaier; and her Economy Minister, Philipp Rösler are meeting with industry and union representatives “to discuss the rising costs for consumers.  In the run up to that meeting, Altmaier has indicated that he hopes to…put the brakes on the current rush toward renewables.”

In the US, we have these: green energy subsidies (guaranteed loans, tax credits) and a Federal requirement that power companies buy power from renewable energy producers.

Off the New England coast, special interests found the views from their beach front manses would be offended by wind farms, and the potential farms themselves were declared a “hazard” to aircraft, so they are not even being built.  In central California, environmentalists won’t allow some solar farms to be built and won’t allow the power cables that would deliver solar electricity to cities to be built.

The EPA still requires ethanol to be blended into our gasoline, even though not enough of that is being produced to meet EPA requirements, much that is produced is exported, and the whole charade is driving up the cost of food.

Maybe we should, in  this case, try Obama’s meme of being more like Europe, or at least more like Germany.

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