No nukes, No problem. Germany is proving a rapid transition to renewable energy is possible
ClimateProgress.org: 16 May 2011 06:52 AM PDT
Within four decades, one of the world?s leading economies will be powered almost entirely by wind, solar, biomass, hydro, and geothermal power.
Stephen Lacey: As Germany is showing, it is very possible to get large penetrations of renewable energy while phasing out nuclear energy. With bold political and social support, a consistent incentive framework for clean energy investment, and creative thinking about how to deploy geographically-dispersed resources, Germany is undergoing a major transition in its energy sector.
Below, two experts on the German experience ? Wilson Rickerson of Meister Consultants and Arne Jungjohann of the Heinrich Boll Foundation ? describe how the country will ?reduce carbon emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 (and 80% by 2050)? without nukes.
During the last several years, there has been talk of a global ?renaissance of nuclear energy?. That was yesterday. Today, the tragic disaster in Fukushima, Japan, has raised worrying questions about the safety standards of existing nuclear power plants. Countries around the world have prompted safety reviews of active reactors. In the US, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will publish a review of the 104 active reactors within three months. China has meanwhile suspended new plant approvals and Switzerland has shut down its plans for nuclear expansion.
But safety issues are not the only concern for nuclear power these days. Rising costs and perceived financial risks are significant barriers to new investments. President Obama supports nuclear power and has included it in his plans to achieve 80% clean energy by 2035. The Administration has also tripled the Bush-era nuclear loan guarantees to $54.5 billion. But despite this federal support, the financial outlook is grim and several projects in the U.S. are delayed or have been cancelled. Analyses suggest that even before the Fukushima crisis, nuclear energy was not competitive in free market economies without significant government support.