Germany and the U.S. Have Different Ideas About Energy
Comment of the Day

May 26 2016

Commentary by David Fuller

Germany and the U.S. Have Different Ideas About Energy

Here is the opening of this topical article from Bloomberg:

The share of Germany's electricity generated from renewable sources has tripled during the past decade, to 30.1 percent. That's impressive, especially when compared with what has happened in the U.S.

On the other hand, the percentage of Germany's electricity generated by burning coal isn't all that much lower than it was a decade ago, and is higher than it was in 2010. In the U.S., coal's share has been falling a lot in recent years.

Both countries are going through major shifts in how they keep the lights on, but they're very different shifts. Germany is in the midst of a large-scale, government-driven energy transition toward renewables (the "Energiewende"). The U.S. has also favored renewable energy with tax incentives and other subsidies, but the effort has been modest compared with Germany's. Here, the big news has been rising natural gas production thanks to fracking, plus pressure on utilities from the government and private groups to shut coal-fired power plants.

So which country is doing a better job of shifting its energy mix? It depends on your priorities. The Germans have long been uncomfortable with nuclear power, and in 1998 made plans to phase out its use by 2022. There was some hemming and hawing in subsequent years, but after the 2011 Fukushima reactor accident in Japan, the government recommitted to the 2022 phase-out. Since 1998, nuclear power has gone from supplying 27.5 percent of German electricity to 18.1 percent.

David Fuller's view

The article above does not address critical point regarding average costs of electricity in Germany, the USA and a number of other countries. 

However, another article from OVO Energy shows three separate bar graphs for average energy costs in over a dozen countries, based on: “How much does electricity cost”, and “Electricity prices relative to purchasing power”.  On average, electricity prices are almost 200 percent higher in Germany than in the USA.  That is why heavy manufacturing firms have been moving some of the factories out of Germany and other European countries, and moving them to the USA and other nations which have lower energy costs. This will continue to be reflected by comparative GDP for countries over the longer term.  

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