This week we have witnessed the incredible announcement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Germany will abandon nuclear power totally by 2022, when it will shut down the last threeremaining nuclear plants that will be in service on that date. Germany has a total of nine nuclear plants providing energy to the grid as of now, accounting for 23% of the energy mix. Merkel's bet is to replace nuclear power with renewable energies, a move that is expected to harm German industry greatly by increasing its energy bill. In fact, this will be the second most important factor to hit Germany's industrial competitiveness in a row, the first one being the actual exchange rate of the euro against its clients' currencies.
Neckarwestheim nuclear plant
Even though Germany is the world's fourth biggest economy and Europe's number one, it is not bullet-proof. The last thing the German industrial sector needs is its energy bill rising non-stop or being unpredictable. Because let's face it, whether you are pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear you know shifting from nuclear power to any other source of energy is an expensive move.
In the case of Germany, the shift will be made towards renewable energies, which are expected to add up to 35% of the total energy mix in 2022 (up from 13% today). In a country where the industrial sector takes more than 50% of the total energy used, the main problem with renewable energies will not be their price, but its unpredictability causing blackouts. The sun not shining, the wind not blowing, or simply a specially cold winter day could cause a blackout in peak hours. When renewable energies are used to cover domestic demand, this unpredictable behavior can be covered with some natural gas power plants, which are fast enough to be plugged into the grid when needed and disconnected shortly afterwards. But industrial demand is far bigger and more important, so that could mean said natural gas plants would have to be on most of the day to avoid power disruptions, which would probably kill Merkel's objective of slashing carbon emissions by 40% in 2022, meaning she would have hurt German industry for nothing.
So what are the reasons for such a sudden rush in leaving nuclear energy behind?
The answer is very simple (and unfortunately typical): short-sighted electoralism by Merkel's political party, CDU (the Christian Democratic Union). The CDU lost the state election last march in the Baden-Württemberg Länder, one of the most important ones, to the Green Party. This happened shortly after the Fukushima disaster, so the Green's anti-nuclear talk was heavily supported by traumatized citizens thinking about similar catastrophes happening in their country. This regrettably obvious, desperate move to avoid losing power by the CDU puts pressure on the German economy unnecessarily. But the worst part is that the anti-nuclear move seems deeply unplanned, with the German government unable to estimate the cost of the nuclear shutdown plan when questioned about it.