Germany’s Moonshot: Go-for-Broke Run at Renewables

March 23, 2012

One time, not so long ago, America was known as the country that took risks and lead the world in technology.

With a powerful Tea Party Taliban longing 19th century technology and medieval culture, those days may be in the past.

In the absence of American leadership, our competitors are ramping up their efforts to be first in line for the revolution that will make the internet boom look like a minor speed bump.


Not since the allies leveled Germany in World War II has Europe’s biggest economy undertaken a reconstruction of its energy market on this scale.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to build offshore wind farms that will cover an area six times the size of New York City and erect power lines that could stretch from London to Baghdad. The program will cost 200 billion euros ($263 billion), about 8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2011, according to the DIW economic institute in Berlin.

Germany aims to replace 17 nuclear reactors that supplied about a fifth of its electricity with renewables such as solar and wind. Merkel to succeed must experiment with untested systems and policies and overcome technical hurdles threatening the project, said Stephan Reimelt, chief executive officer of General Electric Co. (GE)’s energy unit in the country.

“The German energy transformation is as challenging as the first moon landing,” said Peter Terium, who in July takes over as chief executive officer of RWE, Germany’s second-largest utility. “It’s a huge challenge we’ll be able to master only if everyone works together.”

Germany is among the first nations to grapple with a global need to upgrade power stations. By 2035, at least $10 trillion of investment is needed to add 5,900 gigawatts of generation worldwide, more than five times the capacity of all U.S. utilities, the International Energy Agency estimates. Half of that will come from renewable. A gigawatt is about enough to supply 800,000 homes in the U.S. and a bit less than the capacity of a nuclear reactor.’

“If Germany succeeds, it could be a role model for economies all over the world,” said Claudia Kemfert, DIW’s senior energy expert. “If it fails, it will be a disaster for Germany’s politicians, society and economy.”


2 Responses to “Germany’s Moonshot: Go-for-Broke Run at Renewables”

  1. mrsircharles Says:

    Now imagine that Merkel is the leader of a center-right government in Germany. No Greens involved, no Social Democrats.

  2. MorinMoss Says:

    Just taking the risk isn’t enough and could be detrimental, as Claudia Kemfert points out. It has to be well-planned, reviewed often and adjusted as necessary.

    Since a lot of the manufacturing for the necessary equipment is done outside Germany, there are cost factors they simply cannot control.

    Also, they have to guard against efforts to undermine this initiative.
    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Die Kalte Sonne was recently published.

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