04:23 - Source: CNN
Supplying Germany with cheap, clean energy

Story highlights

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to permanently shut down the country's 17 nuclear reactors by 2022

The government is investing heavily in wind farms and solar technology to reduce carbon emissions

Renewable power to contribute 35% of the country's electricity consumption by 2020 and 80% by 2050

CNN —  

As Germany’s switchover from nuclear power to renewable energy gathers pace, concerns are mounting over the cost to the country’s prosperity and its already squeezed consumers.

Politicians in Europe’s largest economy want renewable power to contribute 35% of the country’s electricity consumption by 2020 and 80% by 2050 as part of its clean energy drive.

The country’s “energiewende” – translated as energy transformation – is part of the government’s plan to move away from nuclear power and fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, following Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Michael Limburg, vice-president of the European Institute for Climate and Energy, told CNN that the government’s energy targets are “completely unfeasible.”

“Of course, it’s possible to erect tens of thousands of windmills but only at an extreme cost and waste of natural space,” he said. “And still it would not be able to deliver electricity when it is needed.”

The government is investing heavily in onshore and offshore wind farms and solar technology in an effort to reduce 40% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Last year Chancellor Angela Merkel, who this week won her third term as Germany’s leader, proposed to construct offshore wind farms in the North Sea, a plan that would cost 200 billion euros ($270 billion), according to the DIW economic institute in Berlin.

As part of the energy drive, Merkel also pledged to permanently shut down the country’s 17 nuclear reactors, which fuel 18% of the country’s power needs. Under Germany’s Atomic Energy Act, the last nuclear power plant will be disconnected by 2022.

Limburg told CNN the rapid transition to renewables is economically “insane,” arguing that wind farms will cost at least 13 times more than traditional coal plants.

He added: “Offshore wind is somewhat better in performance, cost and usability but still you have to spend six times as much as what you have to spend for a conventional power plant.”