Perhaps we should thank Canada’s Financial Post newspaper. The media’s Whack-a-Mole attacks on Germany’s ambitious renewable energy program are usually passed off as objective reporting, analysis sans bias.
At least the piece below sports red flags all over the page.
Note the rectangular banner with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers‘ (CAPP) logo and the tagline: Energy at work for all Canadians. This, and other similar ads along the right border, feature the quote, “The oil sands are tremendous for Ontario.”
You’ll find an even more telling (if much smaller) note in the page’s ENERGY section heading, where the fine print indicates that the page is brought to you “in association with” CAPP.
Well, now. According to a recent study, the Canadian oil sands program is one of the most dangerous fossil-fuel projects currently being planned, primarily because of the 420 tons of CO2 that oil sand-combustion would pump into the atmosphere.
To be fair, the article under the headline “Germany grapples with switch to renewables,” comes from Reuters news service. Still, the piece contains several errors about the German energy program, mistakes that are common in the Schlagen-ein-Maulwurf genre.
- “Renewables are currently not competitive against conventional forms of energy…” Renewables are already competitive with electricity produced by coal, natural gas or nuclear power in many areas. And the price of power produced by renewables continues to drop, even as the price of fossil-fuel and nuclear power rises.
- “Subsidies mean renewable technologies have not necessarily been installed in the most efficient places…” A lot to unpack here. For starters, the German energy transition, or Energiewende, is not based on subsidies. On the contrary, the author of the German Renewable Energy Act, Hans-Josef Fell, told me in an interview last April that subsidies would have doomed the project.
“Money to pay [for renewable energy] must come from electricity consumers,” said Fell. “It must not come from the government. If you pay it with tax money, when the [Energiewende] is successful you need a lot of money and the finance minister will say, ‘Oh, my budget!’ and he will have no money for you. No public budget is high enough to finance the transition to renewable energies. Only private money can do this.” (From Clean Break)
The mechanism used, the Feed-in Tariff, pays producers of renewable energy a premium only for the power actually produced and sent onto the grid. Renewable power generators located in sub-optimal locations are money-losers. People want to make money, so they work to maximize electrical production.
- The situation in Germany “is getting ever nearer to destroying the business model of companies meant to invest in renewables, namely the big sector leaders…” So very, very wrong. One of the key goals of the German Energiewende is to increase distributed generation of electricity by individuals, small groups, and cooperatives. Which is why over 50 percent of renewable power production is in the hands of citizens. Sure, the “big sector leaders” (read: giant utilities) aren’t happy with these changes. But millions of Germans are smiling.
It is true that the German energy transition faces many challenges. Its leaders understand that.
But the project has already cleared many hurdles on its way to becoming the most successful program of its kind on the planet. And, for all its real problems (as opposed to the specious ones raised by the fossil-fuel industry), the German energy program is succeeding.
For more, read Misreporting of Energiewende, by Craig Morris.