Berlin, Germany — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 24 March 2011 – Germany is determined to show the world how abandoning nuclear energy on a permanent basis can be done.
The world’s fourth-largest economy stands alone among leading industrialised nations in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its inherent risks. It is betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demand instead.
Associated Press reports that the transition was supposed to happen slowly over the next 25 years, but is now being accelerated in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster, which Chancellor Angela Merkel has called “a catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions.”
Berlin’s decision to take seven of its 17 reactors offline for three months for new safety checks has provided a glimpse into how Germany might wean itself from getting nearly a quarter of its power from atomic energy to none.
And experts say Germany’s phase-out provides a good map that countries such as the United States, which use a similar quantity of nuclear power, could follow. The German model would not work, however, in countries like France, which relies on nuclear energy for more than 70% of its power and has no intention of shifting.
Germany currently gets 23% of its energy from nuclear power “’ about as much as the U.S. Its ambitious plan to shut down its reactors will require at least US$210 billion investment in alternative energy sources, which experts say would likely lead to higher electricity prices.
Germany now gets 17% of its electricity from renewable energies, 13% from natural gas and more than 40% from coal. The Environment Ministry says that in 10 years renewable energy will contribute 40% of the country’s overall electricity production.
The government has been vague on a total price tag for the transition, but it said last year about US$28 billion a year would be needed, acknowledging that US$107 billion alone would be required through 2030 to install offshore wind farms.