Feature Report: The Energy Sagas

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The Saga of energies

The History of Energy in Germany

In partnership with La Recherche and L’Histoire

With one of the world's most powerful and competitive economies, Germany is a huge energy consumer and a major emitter of greenhouse gases. Whereas in France, annual emissions of greenhouse gas per capita amount to 5.8 metric tons (mt), the figure for Germany is 9 mt – due in particular to the high proportion of coal and gas still to be found in the country's energy mix.

But Germany is also the country that has surely been the most pro-active in the pursuit of energy efficiency and the development of renewable energies. The German public is also highly sensitive to environmental impact and willing to invest in developing renewable energy technologies - even if this means its households have one of the highest electricity bills of any industrialized country (the cost per kWh is more than twice that of a French household).

Germany may seem to have made some daring choices, but these choices can also be seen as a way of further consolidating its industrial power.


  • The History of Energy in Germany
  • Energy Choices
  • Germany today
  • Future Challenges

Germany's Energy Choices Over the Years

  • Middle Ages
  • XVIIIth
  • XIXth
  • XXth
  • XXIth
 
 
Middle Ages: Wood and Muscle Power
Moyen-Âge
© THINKSTOCK

As in the rest of Europe, wood was the main source of energy throughout the vast territory of the Holy Roman Empire, which encompassed the territory of present-day Germany. Wood was used essentially for heating and cooking food. The other needs were covered by human and animal muscle powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output....

11th-13th Century: The Emergence of Watermills
XI
© THINKSTOCK

Little by little, the Germans developed hydropower. A single watermill could replace several dozen men. After water mills came windmills, mainly in the North. In the 12th century, Germany started to extract coalCoal is ranked by its degree of transformation or maturity, increasing in carbon content from... from shallow mines, particularly in the Harz Mountains and Bohemia.

18th Century: Mining Takes Off
XVIII
© ThyssenKrupp / WIKICOMMONS

The first large coal mines were opened in the 18th century. The main resources were located in the basins of Silesia, Saxony, Saar and Aachen. In 1782, the Krupp family (see photo of Alfred Krupp), which would soon become one of the country's most powerful industrial families, first set up operations in the Essen region.

 
First Half of 19th Century: Customs Union

The 39 States making up the German Confederation had only their language in common. But gradually, the country's structures fell into place: the first municipal gas distribution company was created in 1826 and the Deutscher Zollverein (customs union) was launched in 1834 for the purpose of creating a single domestic market. New universities were founded to train engineers and the network of railways and navigable waterways was expanded.

Around 1850: Deeper and Deeper Mines
1850
© Familienalbum / WIKICOMMONS

In 1846, German engineers reached a depth of 736 meters in a coal mine, beating the record held up to then by the British. By around 1850, the Ruhr region had more than 300 coal mines. However, national production remained a modest 5 million mt of coal and 2 million mt of ligniteRock whose properties are somewhere between peat and coal. It has a carbon content of about 70 to 75%... (brown coal), compared to 50 million mt in the U.K.

1871: Modern Germany
1871
© THINKSTOCK

Under the leadership of Chancellor Bismarck (see picture), modern Germany was born in the aftermath of the Franco-German War of 1870 with the proclamation of the German Empire in the Château de Versailles Hall of Mirrors. With its rich subsurface energy resources, dense communication network (20,000 km of railways in 1870 compared to 16,500 km in France), and large companies (Konzerne), the country had all the necessary advantages to become an economic and industrial leader. The German coal mining industry had its hour of glory with an explosive rise in production: 70.4 mt of coal and 19 mt of lignite in 1890.

1880-1890: The Electricity Decade
1880
© Siemens corporation / WIKICOMMONS

Ten years after the first International Exposition of Electricity in Paris at the Palais de l'Industrie, Germany was on the leading edge of this new technology. The world's first electric tramway, conceived by Werner von Siemens, was put into service near Berlin in 1881. In 1883, Emil Rathenau founded a company specialized in electrical equipment (light bulbs, flatirons, tea kettles, radiators, refrigerators, etc.), which soon became one of the country's most successful companies. The first electricity company was created in Berlin in 1884 and the first experiment in transporting electricity over a long distance was performed in 1891.

1897: The Diesel Engine
1897
© WIKICOMMONS

The German engineer Rudolf DieselDiesel is the name of an internal combustion engine that works by compression-ignition... (see picture) developed the engine that still carries his name today. It was installed on ships, submarines, locomotives and trucks, and was also used by industry and the army. It was initially designed to be fueled by pulverized coal but for reasons of price and reliability, fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... oil was ultimately preferred.

 
First World War, 1914-1918: The Blockade
1914
© Deutsches Bundesarchiv / WIKICOMMONS

The Allies set up a blockade at the outbreak of the war and Germany turned to Romania for its supplies of oil and coal. In 1917, the German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmermann, proposed an alliance against the United States to Mexico, which was then the world's second largest oil producer. His telegram was intercepted and precipitated America's entry into the war.

Inter-War period: The Fischer-Tropsch Process

After the blockade imposed by the Allies and Germany's defeat, the country invested heavily in research and development of substitution industries, known as Ersatz. In 1923, two chemists, Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch, developed a process for producing a synthetic liquid fuel from coal. The idea captured the interest of Adolf Hitler, who saw it as the long-dreamed-of energy source for fueling his army. Production began, with the largest plant set up in Leuna.

1939-1945: Acceleration of Synthetic Oil Production
1939
© Deutsches Bundesarchiv / WIKICOMMONS

Until 1944, the Reich's only oil resources were in Romania, but its oil refineries were regularly bombed. In order to secure energy supplies, Germany and its allies tried to take control of the Middle East and the Caucasus, but Hitler's attempts failed. The country was hit by an oil shortage and the German chemical industry was called in to support the Wehrmacht and supply it with synthetic fuel produced through the Fischer-Tropsch processChemical process invented in Germany in 1923 in which a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen... created in 1923. In 1943, production reached 5.7 million Mt, thus covering 90% of its aircraft fleet's needs and 50% of the country's. Strategic bombing, particularly of Leuna, took its toil on national production.

1949: Founding of the FRG and the GDR
1949
© THINKSTOCK

In the aftermath of the war, Allied plans called for partitioning the country and its administration, dismantling German industry and placing its economy under surveillance. But disagreements arose rapidly between the Soviets and the Western powers. In the West, an electricity network was created that still exists today. In the East, the Soviets nationalized energy installations, including power plants, equipment and networks. In 1949, the Soviets set up the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (see flag) and the Allies, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).

1952: Creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)
1952
© AFP

Under the leadership of the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, six countries (France, West Germany [FRD], Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) signed the Treaty of Paris, which entered into force in July 1952 and founded the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Its main objective, according to Robert Schuman, was to "give massive support to European industries in the sector to enable them to modernize".

1957: Crisis in the Saar
1957
© WIKICOMMONS

Oil continued to increase its share of the European countries' energy mixThe range of energy sources of a region. and coal supplies became overabundant, resulting in a major crisis in the German coal industry. Mining was reduced to the most accessible seams. In ten years, 16 of the Saar's 23 mines had closed.




 
1961: Arrival of Nuclear Power
1961
© Sebastian Suchanek / WIKICOMMONS

The first German experimental nuclear power plant was commissioned in 1961. In 1966, Germany produced its first MWh of nuclear power. Other nuclear power plants were built rapidly thereafter. But the debate over the hazards of nuclear power began very quickly and drove Germany to think about alternative solutions.

1960s: East Germany (GDR) in Difficulty
60
© Von Karl-Heinz Münker-Appel / WIKICOMMONS

While Willy Brandt (see picture), West Germany's Foreign Minister and future Chancellor, was already convinced in 1967 of the need to draft a common European policy in the areas of transportation and energy, East Germany was still beset with endemic problems. The changeover from direct to alternating currentA flow of electric charge that changes direction twice per period... didn't take place until 1965 and the transition from 110 to 220 volts would only come later. Electrical installations were not adapted to needs and often obsolete. On New Year's Eve 1978, a sudden cold wave knocked out the power grid.

1973: Oil Crisis
1973
© WIKICOMMONS

In October 1973, the Arab member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (organization of the petroleum exporting countries (opec) Created in 1960, OPEC currently has 12 members: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia...) decided on an embargo on deliveries to States that supported Israel. As a result, oil prices quadrupled. West Germany, which, like France, depended on OPEC for 96% of its imports, was severely impacted. West Germany turned to Norway, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, countries considered more politically stable than OPEC and, more importantly, that were geographically closer. In 1975, Ruhrgas and Gaz de France began construction of the MEGAL gas pipelinePipeline used to transport gas over a long distance, either on land or on the seabed. (see picture) to transport natural gas from the Soviet Union to the south of Germany and to France.

At the initiative of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, heavy investments were made in the nuclear sector and a series of measures were implemented to improve building insulation, engine efficiency and heating equipment.

1980: The Crisis Catches Up with East Germany

For the first years after the 1973 crisis, East Germany was largely spared the economic consequences thanks to the oil rates charged in the Soviet-led East Bloc. But at the beginning of the 1980s, the crisis caught up with the country. The USSR was confronted with enormous economic difficulties and could no longer supply East Germany with crude oilOil that has not been refined. at less than prevailing world market prices. Prices soared and the country faced a severe oil shortage. Citizens were firmly encouraged to economize on fuel and had to use bicycles for urban transportation. East Germany also invested in intensive prospection on its own territory. But desperately lacking foreign currency and suitable technology, the country was forced to fall back on coal and lignite mining. The East Germany railway (the Reichsbahn) put steam locomotives back into service and the country sought billions in loans from Western countries.

1983: Beginning of Wind Energy
1983
© WIKICOMMONS

Weakened like all of Europe by the second oil crisis of 1979, West Germany commissioned its first major wind farm in the north of the country in 1983. With this move, West Germany clearly marked its determination to develop renewable energyEnergy sources that are naturally replenished so quickly that they can be considered inexhaustible on a human time scale..., in contrast to its European neighbors. This determination was only strengthened by the discovery during this same period of the devastating effects of acid rain, which appeared to affect one third of the country's forests and was attributed mainly to air pollution from sulfur emitted during coal combustion. This situation instilled an ecological consciousness in the German mindset.

1986: Public Pressure After Chernobyl
1986
© Deutsches Bundesarchiv / WIKICOMMONS

Geographically closer to the Soviet Union than the French, the Germans were already mistrustful of nuclear power. After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, they lost all confidence in this energy source. At that time, the energy policies pursued on the two sides of the Rhine were completely at odds. And even though Chancellor Helmut Kohl (see picture) affirmed that there was no alternative to nuclear energyEnergy produced in nuclear power plants. The enormous amount of heat released during fission of uranium atom nuclei is transferred to water..., the pressure of public opinion forced the government to invest ever more in the development of renewable energies.

1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall
1989
© Deutsches Bundesarchiv / WIKICOMMONS

The time for reunification had arrived. The East German energy market was redistributed among a dozen companies from former West Germany. As was already the case in the West, the energy market was then organized into three levels. Municipal public services were responsible for distribution. In the former East Germany, coal and lignite mining continued and exchanges of gas and oil with Russia intensified.

 
21st Century: Energy Turning Point
XXI
© WIKICOMMONS

In line with E.U. competition law and policy, Germany deregulated the market for gas and electricity distribution, allowing consumers to chose their distributor. Today, the country has more than 800 electricity suppliers and nearly as many gas suppliers. Four electricity suppliers (E.ON, EnBW, Vattenfall and RWE) account for 80% of the market. In 2001, three years after taking power, the Social Democrat/Green coalition implemented a policy of energy modernization based on the development of renewable energies and a withdrawal from nuclear power by 2021 through a phased shutdown of the country's 19 reactors. After winning the elections in 2009, the CDU/FDP coalition with Angela Merkel at the helm granted nuclear operators a stay and postponed the closing of plants until the 2030s.

March 14, 2011: The Fukushima Wake-Up Call
2011
© FLICKR / WIKICOMMONS

The accident at the Japanese nuclear power plant led the Chancellor to make a sudden decision to immediately shut down the country's eight oldest reactors. One week later, she set up an Ethics Commission, largely made up of philosophers and sociologists and without the participation of industry representatives. In May, it submitted a report presenting the possibility of phasing out nuclear power through the development of renewable energies, without sacrificing security of supply. The use of thermal power plants, which produce electricity through the combustion of gas, coal or fuel oil, would, however, be indispensable during the energy transition period.

A Constantly Changing Energy Mix

Renewable Energies, A New Pillar of the German Economy

The Second World War provoked by the Nazi regime, the division of the country, the impact of the oil crises and the Cold War with its military tensions have deeply affected the German people's energy choices. The country has turned towards renewable energy and a pro-active policy in support of energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system..., particularly in housing.

Germany particularly suffered from the oil crises of the 1970s. Between 1973 and 1975, West Germany's unemployment rate tripled - and then climbed again after 1979. In East Germany, unemployment didn't officially exist, but the crisis also had a major impact. West Germany chose to invest in the development of renewable energies as a way of regaining a degree of energy independenceThe ability of a country or region to meet all its energy needs without having to import primary or final energy. while also reviving the country's economy. After the reunification of 1989, this will to invest in the future was even more apparent.

Today, even though the metallurgical, mechanical engineering and automotive industries remain by far the country's largest, renewable energies are on the way to becoming a new pillar of the German economy. In 2010, Germany became the world's second largest investor in the energy sector, behind China, with more than €30 billion injected (i.e., 10 times more than France). Energy employs more than 370,000 people (compared with 415,000 in the chemical industry) and offers skilled jobs that generally cannot be offshored. And even though photovoltaics are suffering from Chinese competition, the sector's companies project growth of at least 10% per year until 2020.

The Fukushima Accident and the Phasing Out of Nuclear Power

The use of nuclear energy has always been controversial in a Germany traumatized by the Second World War and the Cold War that followed. The phase out was first announced by the Social Democrat/Green coalition government and then postponed by the Christian Democrat-dominated government that followed, before being once again confirmed by Chancellor Angela Merkel in March 2011 immediately after the Fukushima accident. This pro-active restructuring of the energy mix has dominated Germany's energy policy since then.

In addition to the attendant economic and technical problems, the decision to phase out nuclear power has confronted Germany with the issue of its citizens' rising energy bill.

Today, the cost of this energy turnaround is the subject of much debate and some, such as Peter Altmaier, Environment Minister (CDU), fear that the issue will soon become a social problem.

Citizen Commitment to Economizing Energy

Germany has implemented energy efficiency policies that are widely supported by its citizens.

Between 2004 and 2009, one million buildings were renovated and 400,000 energy efficient buildings were built thanks to €27 million in loans and public subsidies.

Households have generally become conscious of energy issues and have adjusted their behavior accordingly. As a result, their domestic energy consumption has decreased. Between 2000 and 2006, unit energy consumption for heating declined by 16% (compared with 7.5% in France).

Today, the objective for the transportation sector is to achieve a 10% reduction in per-kilometer fuel consumption by 2020 compared to 2005. Already over the last 20 years, consumption has declined by 45% for goods transportation and by some 30% for passenger transportation.

Emphasis on New Technologies and Visions of the Future

Germany has focused on innovation since 1970 and its major corporations, as well as its small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), have taken advantage of the technological advance acquired in the energy sector to export. This know-how concerns the prospection and development of oil facilities, nuclear energy and especially renewable energies.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the German branch of the Club of Rome provided the impetus for Desertec, a vast project for developing the energy potential of deserts for the purposes of supplying Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. As the German physician Gerard Knies put it, "in only six hours, the deserts receive more solar energy than mankind consumes in a year." But although several large German industrial groups, such as Bosch and Siemens, initially followed the movement, they have recently decided to step back due to an economic situation that is "more difficult than expected".

Today certain renewable energy technologies, particularly wind energyEnergy derived from the wind. Wind power involves converting the kinetic energy of moving air (wind) into electricity. technologies, seem to have reached maturity. But Germany is also carrying out R&D in the coal sector. It is developing new power plants with efficiencies of up to 50%, compared to 40% for traditional power plants. They therefore emit less greenhouse gas (ghg) Gas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... per MWh of electricity produced.

New Urban Landscapes, New Lifestyles

One sector that illustrates the country's ecological mindset particularly well is urban planning.

Towards the end of the 20th century, green districts began to come into existence. In 1996 for example, the city of Freiburg launched a vast program to rehabilitate an old French military compound based on a sustainable developmentThis term was first defined in the Brundtland Report, published in 1987, as “development that meets the needs of the present without... approach.

Today, the Vauban district is made up of positive energy homes powered by solar energy and particularly well insulated. Its buildings are topped by plant-covered roofs and are constructed from ecological materials. The district is served by tramway and is only 15 minutes by bicycle from the city center. Cars are no longer allowed and the roads on which they once drove now provide safe playgrounds for children.

Renewable Energies, A New Pillar of the German Economy

The Second World War provoked by the Nazi regime, the division of the country, the impact of the oil crises and the Cold War with its military tensions have deeply affected the German people's energy choices. The country has turned towards renewable energy and a pro-active policy in support of energy efficiency, particularly in housing.

Germany particularly suffered from the oil crises of the 1970s. Between 1973 and 1975, West Germany's unemployment rate tripled - and then climbed again after 1979. In East Germany, unemployment didn't officially exist, but the crisis also had a major impact. West Germany chose to invest in the development of renewable energies as a way of regaining a degree of energy independence while also reviving the country's economy. After the reunification of 1989, this will to invest in the future was even more apparent.

Today, even though the metallurgical, mechanical engineering and automotive industries remain by far the country's largest, renewable energies are on the way to becoming a new pillar of the German economy. In 2010, Germany became the world's second largest investor in the energy sector, behind China, with more than €30 billion injected (i.e., 10 times more than France). Energy employs more than 370,000 people (compared with 415,000 in the chemical industry) and offers skilled jobs that generally cannot be offshored. And even though photovoltaics are suffering from Chinese competition, the sector's companies project growth of at least 10% per year until 2020.

The Fukushima Accident and the Phasing Out of Nuclear Power

The use of nuclear energy has always been controversial in a Germany traumatized by the Second World War and the Cold War that followed. The phase out was first announced by the Social Democrat/Green coalition government and then postponed by the Christian Democrat-dominated government that followed, before being once again confirmed by Chancellor Angela Merkel in March 2011 immediately after the Fukushima accident. This pro-active restructuring of the energy mix has dominated Germany's energy policy since then.

In addition to the attendant economic and technical problems, the decision to phase out nuclear power has confronted Germany with the issue of its citizens' rising energy bill.

Today, the cost of this energy turnaround is the subject of much debate and some, such as Peter Altmaier, Environment Minister (CDU), fear that the issue will soon become a social problem.

Citizen Commitment to Economizing Energy

Germany has implemented energy efficiency policies that are widely supported by its citizens.

Between 2004 and 2009, one million buildings were renovated and 400,000 energy efficient buildings were built thanks to €27 million in loans and public subsidies.

Households have generally become conscious of energy issues and have adjusted their behavior accordingly. As a result, their domestic energy consumption has decreased. Between 2000 and 2006, unit energy consumption for heating declined by 16% (compared with 7.5% in France).

Today, the objective for the transportation sector is to achieve a 10% reduction in per-kilometer fuel consumption by 2020 compared to 2005. Already over the last 20 years, consumption has declined by 45% for goods transportation and by some 30% for passenger transportation.

Emphasis on New Technologies and Visions of the Future

Germany has focused on innovation since 1970 and its major corporations, as well as its small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), have taken advantage of the technological advance acquired in the energy sector to export. This know-how concerns the prospection and development of oil facilities, nuclear energy and especially renewable energies.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the German branch of the Club of Rome provided the impetus for Desertec, a vast project for developing the energy potential of deserts for the purposes of supplying Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. As the German physician Gerard Knies put it, "in only six hours, the deserts receive more solar energy than mankind consumes in a year." But although several large German industrial groups, such as Bosch and Siemens, initially followed the movement, they have recently decided to step back due to an economic situation that is "more difficult than expected".

Today certain renewable energy technologies, particularly wind energy technologies, seem to have reached maturity. But Germany is also carrying out R&D in the coal sector. It is developing new power plants with efficiencies of up to 50%, compared to 40% for traditional power plants. They therefore emit less greenhouse gas per MWh of electricity produced.

New Urban Landscapes, New Lifestyles

One sector that illustrates the country's ecological mindset particularly well is urban planning.

Towards the end of the 20th century, green districts began to come into existence. In 1996 for example, the city of Freiburg launched a vast program to rehabilitate an old French military compound based on a sustainable development approach.

Today, the Vauban district is made up of positive energy homes powered by solar energy and particularly well insulated. Its buildings are topped by plant-covered roofs and are constructed from ecological materials. The district is served by tramway and is only 15 minutes by bicycle from the city center. Cars are no longer allowed and the roads on which they once drove now provide safe playgrounds for children.

The German Power Mix in 2012

The power mix is the percentage of fossil, nuclear and renewable energy used to produce electricity. It isn't concerned with the problem of energy use in transportation and industry. Together, coal and lignite still dominate the power mix. Nuclear power will continue to be phased out in favor of renewable energy.

Changes in the German Energy Mix from 1970 to 2030

The term energy mix refers to how final energy consumption in a given geographical region breaks down by primary energyAll energy sources that have not undergone any conversion process and remain in their natural state.. source. Thanks to a proactive energy policy, the share of renewable energy (solar, wind, biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... and hydroelectric power) has risen sharply and is expected to exceed 30% of the energy mix by 2030.

Sources : Ministry of Environment

Choose two years to compare energy mix trends:

and

Sources : Ministry of Environment

FEW NUMBERS

  • AREA
  • POPULATION
  • POPULATION GROWTH
  • AGEING POPULATION
  • GDP
  • GDP PER CAPITA
  • HUMAN
    DEVELOPMENT
    INDEX (HDI)
  • co2See Carbon Dioxid EMISSIONS
 

Sources : World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Population Division.

FEW NUMBERS

  • AREA

  • POPULATION

  • POPULATION GROWTH

  • AGEING POPULATION

  • GDP

  • GDP PER CAPITA

  • HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
    INDEX (HDI)

  • CO2 EMISSIONS

Sources : World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Population Division.

Energy Choices for Future Generations

Germany is launched on the path of an energy transition, or "Energiewende", aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions and maintaining a degree of energy independence.
The Energiewende calls for a complete withdrawal from nuclear power by 2022. For the time being, this loss of production can be easily offset by a decrease in consumption and exports and by an increase in the production of renewable energy and imports of electricity and fossil fuels. Renewable energies are no longer seen as an alternative source of energy; by 2050, wind, solar, biomass and hydro should make up 80% of the country's energy mix.
That said, this policy presents a number of challenges for German industry.

The Intermittent Nature of Renewable Energies

mine de lignite
@ THINKSTOCK

Wind and photovoltaic solar energyEnergy produced by the photovoltaic effect. production depend on weather conditions. As a result, even if the law gives priority to the injectionSecondary oil recovery method in which water or gas is injected into a deposit to increase pressure in the reservoir... into the grid of electricity produced from renewable sources, wind turbines are regularly subject to forced shutdowns (1,085 in 2010). Energy that cannot be consumed immediately is difficult to store.
To overcome these difficulties, Germany is counting on the development of smart grids and improvements in electricity storage. A transitional solution could also come from an production sharing contract (or agreement)Oil contract under which the oil that is produced is shared between the state and the oil company... with Norway. This country is particularly well-equipped with hydropower plants and, thanks to pumping stations, it could receive and store surplus wind-generated electricity produced in Germany. This solution could then be combined with the mechanisms for buying and selling electricity among European countries to ensure availability in the event of consumption peaks.

A Transition Supported By Fossil Fuels

mine de lignite
@ THINKSTOCK

At least for the time being, Germany will have to compensate for the phasing out of nuclear power with fossil fuels while waiting for renewable energy development to reach maturity. For 150 years, coal and lignite have played a special role in Germany. Each year, 70 million mt of coal are extracted thanks to a mining industry that still receives State aid - and will continue to do so until 2018. But reliance on imports (which had already reached 41 million mt in 2011) now seems inevitable. Lignite reserves, on the other hand, seem to be inexhaustible and each year the country mines 180 million mt, using this cheap fuel to produce electricity. In the coming years, numerous new coal-fired power plants will come on stream. The Swedish firm Vattenfall, Germany's third largest electricity supplier, expects to extract lignite from open-pit mines until 2070.
At the same time, Germany is counting in particular on gas-fired power plants to heatIn the field of statistical thermodynamics today, heat refers to the transfer of the thermal agitation of the particles making up matter... homes. These plants emit about one half of the greenhouse gas released by oil- and coal-fired plants. Germany, which already depends heavily on Russia for this resource, will therefore probably continue to turn to Russia for its supply. This dependence explains the diplomatic closeness of the two countries and the construction of Nord Stream, a more than 2,000 km-long gas pipeline that directly connects Russia to Germany and supplies it with 27.5 billion cubic meters per year.
In August 2012, the German government also decided to organize discussions on the use of hydraulic fracturingMethod of enhancing the productivity of oil or gas reservoirs with low permeability... technologies to tap the country's major reserves of shale gasShale gas is found in deeply buried clayey sedimentary rock that is both the source rock and the reservoir for the gas.... According to the German Federal Geophysics Office, up to 2,300 billion cubic meters of shale gas lie beneath the surface, (remembering that current annual consumption of natural gas is 86 billion cubic meters). In February 2013, Angela Merkel's government introduced draft legislation aimed at authorizing development of this resource under certain conditions (mandatory prior completion of an environmental impactAny change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from human activity... study and no authorization given in areas of abundant drinking water).

The Cost of the Energiewende Borne by Consumers

Network operators estimate the cost of a nuclear phase out at between €200 and €400 billion. A broader study puts the total bill for the Energiewende at around €2,000 billion, an amount comparable to the costs of reunification. Although the government-owned development bank KfW announced in 2012 its plans to invest €100 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency, the German energy bill will be largely paid by consumers.
In addition, offshoreRefers to sea-based oil exploration and production operations, as in "offshore license" or "offshore drilling". wind energy is being developed on the edge of the North Sea, whereas electricity is mainly consumed in the south of Germany. A recent study estimates that it would cost €32 billion to adequately connect the country's North and South through the construction of 4,000 km of high voltage power lines and the modernization of nearly as many kilometers. These investment costs will be largely passed on to consumers. Transmission system operators will also have to overcome resistance from neighboring communities. A new law could facilitate authorizations and reduce construction lead times from ten to four years.
In addition, the purchase price for electricity produced from renewable energies is regulated and the extra cost is borne by end consumers. Households are the main contributors since companies are virtually exempted from supporting subsidies for renewable energies. In 2011, this contribution (EEG-Umlage) amounted to nearly €36/MWh (total cost of the MWh: nearly €250). By comparison, in France an equivalent contribution (CSPE, Contribution to Public Electricity Service) in the same period amounted to €7.5/MWh (total cost of the MWh: €120).

Energy Savings, Germany's Best Source of Energy

Even if dissatisfaction is on the rise, in the German people's mind there is no turning back. Particularly since learning to live and produce with less energy could, in time, become a competitive advantage. Alternative energies, energy storage, smart grids and construction techniques are all areas where German industry could gain a considerable advance over its main competitors.
Germany has been preoccupied with reducing energy consumption above all else since the beginning of the 20th century. Thanks to measures already implemented, Germany boasts an attractive rate of energy intensity despite the strength of its industrial sector (151 kilograms of oil equivalent per €1,000 of GDP compared to 164 for France).
By 2020, the objective is for all new construction to be zero energy buildings. Innovation is being emphasized at the same time. The Smarthouse Initiative Deutschland, for example, encourages the use of smart meters to manage household energy consumption more effectively. As for equipment efficiency, selection criteria will become even more stringent and the German government will join France in supporting an E.U. policy of standards and labels aligned with the best technology on the market.

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