Premier Angela Merkel, herself a physicist, was stricken with remorse during the Fukushima accident and vowed to close all of Germany's reactors in the next decade. In the year previous, she had revived Germany's program by renegotiating a 2000 agreement to phase out all reactors by 2020. Now Germany has embarked on an ambitious, government-subsidized effort to switch to renewable energy. The results so far have been unpromising. This winter the output of Germany's 2.5 GW of solar collectors has been operating at less than 5 percent cent capacity and the country has survived only by importing nuclear electricity from France and the Czech Republic. At one point it had to ask Austria to fire up an old oil-burning plant. Siemens, the country's largest manufacturer, has complained the transition will cost $2 trillion and RWE and E.ON, the two largest energy companies, are laying off 14,000 workers because of slumping profits. What Germany's effort is likely to prove is that powering an industrial country with wind and sunshine is a mirage.
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