Thanks for your comments.
The point of this article was not to say that everything is fine in Germany’s energy system. Other articles and reports address that. Instead, this article quotes elected leaders on the policy rationale they use to guide their decisions.
It is true that carbon emissions are up, but this has nothing to do with the performance of renewables. Instead, if I can describe the thread clearly –
1) Cheap natural gas in the US has led to a decline in coal consumption by US utilities.
2) That surplus coal supply is getting exported to Europe by barge.
3) European utilities are subject to a carbon cap, but emissions are low due to the recession, so there is headroom in the cap to burn cheap US coal.
4) Ergo, they are burning more coal, while still achieving the mandated carbon cap.
New coal plants are coming online now whose planning started 10 years ago, but old coal plants are retiring, and no additional coal plants are planned. The carbon and renewable targets get more stringent over time, as shown in the blue chart. There will be no room for coal eventually. The energiewende phases out both nuclear and coal over time.
And it is very true, and very interesting that owners of fossil and nuclear plants are getting creamed by the split market they have in Germany. Renewables are paid through feed-in tariffs, while fossil and nuclear plants are paid through a power exchange. Rising renewable supply drives down the apparent demand in the power exchange, reducing the price on the exchange.
That issue is beyond the scope of this article, but I will point out that the profitability of incumbent utilities is not a goal of the energiewende. In fact, Germany deregulated their power market in 1998, and they strongly believe in competition.
You said: This showboating is nonsensical, for the simple reason that a new bill can always be introduced to nullify the old.
You’ve identified the fundamental point of this essay – it wasn't me that said the debate over “whether” is over -- Minister Altmaier said it. He is the minister of the CDU, Chancellor Merkel’s dominant center right party. (Kind of like moderate Republicans, when we still had those in the US.) The center left party, the SPD (like the Democrats), created the energiewende in coalition with the third party, the Greens. Even Minister Rosler, from the Free Democrats party, called “business-minded” by the Times, was mostly concerned about introducing market-based pricing to the energiewende, not in repealing it.
There is essentially no political support for repeal currently. So I believe the politicians when they say the “whether” debate is over. Can that change? Sure, but there is no change visible now.
But the “how” debate is intense. As renewable technologies mature, they will need different policies that can be scalable, efficient, and affordable. That is the point of America’s Power Plan, to identify a set of policies that can keep up with the evolution of technologies.
- Ben Paulos