Germany may need to — er — “adjust” its own clean-energy standards

posted at 2:01 pm on July 21, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

As one of Europe’s more fiscally sane, politically organized, and self-fancied forward-thinking countries, Germany — Europe’s largest economy — has touted itself as a leader in government-sponsored clean-energy development and sustainability progress. The Germans have been supporting all sorts of venture socialism in the green-energy industry for years, and after the Fukushima metldown in Japan last year, Chancellor Angela Merkel made grandiose and expensive promises to forcibly phase Germany away from their nuclear power system and upped Germany’s arbitrarily-determined goals for implementing a greater share of wind and solar power in their domestic energy sector.

Now, of course, with Germany being roped into the fiscal crises of their less-than-thrifty European fellows, as well as facing their own economic ‘headwinds,’ reality is rearing its ugly head. It turns out it actually mightn’t be a great plan to try to eliminate the nuclear power grid that supplies about a quarter of Germans’ electricity needs by spending a huge chunk of change on offshore wind farms. Strangely enough, despite all of the public “investments” they’ve poured into making their favorite, quixotic green-energy sources viable and into making their own self-imposed arbitrary energy standards feasible, the industry is still struggling to provide jobs and keep energy prices affordable.

Germany may need to adjust its energy efficiency targets but remains committed to the “green revolution” it outlined last year, the country’s environment minister said on Tuesday. …

The minister caused a stir on Sunday by comments to a newspaper that the target would require an enormous effort and that he doubted whether it was even possible. …

Such comments are something of an embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who abruptly announced an accelerated exit from nuclear energy last year after Japan’s Fukushima disaster and laid out a vision for a switch to renewable power. …

Merkel’s goals are to increase renewable energy to at least 35 percent of power generation by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Twenty percent of electricity now comes from renewables, nearly half of that from wind turbines. …

“The problems the ministers describe are long known. The coalition’s energy revolution is nothing more than rhetoric … The expansion of the grid is not making progress, and the integration of renewable energy is a failure,” he said. …

Le sigh. Yet again, we’re presented with another demonstration of what happens when a government tries to engineer the society it wants based on the current regime’s political ambitions, rather than what is practically and fiscally possible. Is it really a good idea to just unilaterally decide that your country is going to overhaul its energy sector, just because you wish it to be so — the costs be damned? And besides spending unsustainable amounts of money on government programs to support the renewable ventures of its political favor, a perhaps greater concern is that the energy/science/tech industries are busy rent-seeking and chasing subsidies rather than a free-market profit. Government interference distorts market signals and displaces resources — what if they’re potentially wasting their time and resources on ideas that may not be worth a hill of beans while they could be researching and developing new alternatives that really could stand a shot? If this keeps up, perhaps we’ll never know.

How many examples do we need of the many ways in which government’s misbegotten green-energy ambitions can royally mess with a country’s national budget and economy before the government will just back off? Earlier this week, President Obama told a crowd at a campaign rally in Ohio that he’s much too clever to waste his time repeating his past mistakes…

…and then went on to talk about how, in his second term, he plans to spend more of our money on green-energy “investments.” …Yes, because it’s not at all like those haven’t been a gigantic mash-up of fail so far.

A study by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found that 19 of the companies that received loans or grants by the Obama administration have filed for bankruptcy or are in the process of doing so.

These include Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, Solyndra, Beacon Power, which got $43 million; AES’ subsidiary Eastern Energy, Nevada Geothermal, which received $98.5 million; SunPower, which got $1.5 billion from the government; First Solar, which received $1.46 billion from the federal government; Babcock & Brown, an Australian company which received $178 million from the administration; Ener1, a subsidiary EnerDel that received $118.5 million; Amonix, which received $5.9 million; The National Renewable Energy Lab; Fisker Automotive; Abound Solar, which received $400 million; Solar Trust of America; A123 Systems, which received $279 million; Willard & Kelsey Solar Group, which received $6 million; Johnson Controls, which received $299 million; and Schneider Electric, which received $86 million.

One can only hope the American people will be clever enough not to repeat their past mistakes this November.

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