Germany, Europe’s industrial giant, is set to commence an unprecedented reconstruction of its energy infrastructure, the government has announced.
Not since it emerged from the devastation of World War II has Germany generated a plan to alter its energy industry on such a scale. As Bloomberg reports, Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to spend 200 billion euros ($263 billion) developing an energy program that will create a series of offshore wind farms that will cover an area six times the size of New York City.
The program will also see a restoration of the country’s transmission lines — if put in a straight line, the new power lines Germany is creating would be stretch from London to Baghdad.
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year, Merkel’s administration pulled an about face on nuclear power — a major source of energy generation in the country and one that Merkel’s government was aiming to grow in the future. The public’s distaste for the energy source went so far, it pushed the government to not only eliminate its plan to build more nuclear facilities, but also shut down all operating nuclear power plants by 2022.
The decision to eliminate nuclear energy from the power supply left many wondering believing the country would have to turn to fossil fuels to fill the gap. The administration was adamant that it look to renewables to not only fill the nuclear void but also to become a bigger player in the energy supply. Germany has a plan to boost its renewable energy production to 35% of the country’s energy consumption by 2020; 50% by 2030; and 80% by 2050.
The country has well developed solar and onshore wind industries. A renewable energy area that is has largely left untapped is: offshore wind. Currently Germany only generates 48 megawatts of offshore wind power. In comparison onshore wind provides 27 gigawatts of energy. The administration has a set a target of producing 25 GW of offshore wind energy by 2020; the Chancellor’s new program will go a long way to satisfying this goal.
Nevertheless, Europe’s biggest economy faces a steep challenge in its attempt to move supplant nuclear energy with renewables. Stephan Reimel, CEO of General Electric Co.’s energy unit in Germany says the country will have to experiment with new, and possibly, untested technologies and policies to fill the gap: “Germany is like a big energy laboratory. The country has a political and societal consensus to drop nuclear power but lacks a clear technological solution.”