Myths and Facts: The German Switch from Nuclear to Renewables
As a reaction to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, starting on March 11, 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition shut down roughly 40 percent of the country's nuclear generating capacity in mid-March 2011 and roughly re-implemented the original nuclear phase-out set forth under Chancellor Schroeder’s Social-Democrat/Green government. Nearly three years later, we can see what the temporary effects have been and what the long-term effects are likely to be.
But first, we need to understand the context. Germany has one of the largest shares of renewable power on its grid of any industrialized country. In the first half of 2011, Germany crossed the 20 percent threshold for renewable electricity in its power supply (the figure for the US is less than five percent excluding hydropower). Two years later, Germany covered 25 percent of its domestic power demand with renewables. At the end of 2013, around 35 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaics had been installed. Solar power already regularly peaks at a third of power demand on sunny summer days.
Yet a number of myths remain. Craig Morris takes a look at some of these myths related to the German nuclear phase-out and puts them into context.