Last fall I was on trip in Germany when we came across seas of solar panels and a mixture of power lines and wind turbines. A person on the bus asked our guide about them. He mumbled that we don't talk about them and then went on to a local history topic.
A bit later I pinned the guide down and asked why he reacted that way to the traveler's question. He was a trained electrical engineer turned translator guide and was very bitter about Germany's push for solar and wind.
The short version of the guide's explanation was that too much German subsidy money was spent on the renewable energy sources. They were temporary failed technologies that were too expensive, they have driven up the price of electricity, and were not creating the jobs that were promised. He claimed that the influx of the green energy folly had reached the point that the lack of their reliability was affected the grid and causing brown-outs and high production peaks of wasted energy.
He was especially bitter because he had lost his job when his company left Germany because of the sudden spikes in electricity prices. He blamed his company's demise on the Government's green energy mistakes and their false claims that solar and wind would eliminate the need for nuclear generating stations.
Recently Christopher Sultan translated from German an article from Spiegel Online International. It confirms a lot of what the young German electrical engineer turned guide was telling me.
Rising energy prices endanger German industry
Last spring, Chancellor Angela Merkel set Germany on course to eliminate nuclear power in favor of renewable energy sources. Now, though, several industries are suffering as electricity prices rapidly rise. Many companies are having to close factories or move abroad.
The red signs are still hanging in front of the gate to the steel mill on Oberschlesienstrasse. “Hands off!” they read, or “The Krefeld steel mill must stay!”
|Toying with the bad business model of|
industrial wind has put Chancellor
Angela Merkel in disfavor with German citizens
who are seeing electricity rates go out of sight.
But now it’s all over. Despite the signs, protests and pickets, ThyssenKrupp, Germany’s largest steelmaker, sold its Krefeld stainless steel mill to Finnish competitor Outukumpu two weeks ago. The new owner plans to shut down production by the end of next year, leaving more than 400 workers without a job. The economic loss to this stricken city on the lower Rhine will be significant.
The closing of the Krefeld mill cannot be blamed on low-wage competition from the Far East or mismanagement at ThyssenKrupp’s Essen headquarters, but rather on the misguided policies of the German government. That, at least, is the view held by those affected by the closing. Since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government abruptly decided to phase out nuclear energy last spring in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, the situation for industries that consume a lot of electricity has become much more tenuous.
Energy prices are rising and the risk of power outages is growing. But the urgently needed expansion of the grid, as well as the development of replacement power plants and renewable energy sources is progressing very slowly. A growing number of economic experts, business executives and union leaders are putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of Merkel’s coalition, which pairs her conservatives with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP). The government, they say, has expedited de-industrialization.
The energy supply is now “the top risk for Germany as a location for business,” says Hans Heinrich Driftmann, president of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). “One has to be concerned in Germany about the cost of electricity,” warns European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger. And Bernd Kalwa, a member of the general works council at ThyssenKrupp, says heatedly: “Some 5,000 jobs are in jeopardy within our company alone, because an irresponsible energy policy is being pursued in Düsseldorf and Berlin.”