Germany, the world’s most aggressive adopter of renewable energy, is taking a bold leap toward a future free from nuclear energy. In March, the German government announced a program to invest 200 billion euros, or approximately $270 billion, in renewables. That’s 8 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the DIW Economic Institute in Berlin.
Last year, in response to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a plan to close down all 17 of Germany’s nuclear reactors and replace them with renewable energy, mostly solar and wind power.
Germany has already closed eight nuclear reactors, and the rest will be shut down by 2022. For now, natural gas is filling the void left by nuclear power, which formerly produced 20 percent of the country’s electricity. Under Merkel’s plan, 80 percent of Germany’s energy will come from renewables by 2050, according to the German Advisory Council on the Environment. Studies by the council show that 100 percent renewable power is a realistic goal for Germany.
In contrast, the United States has been much less ambitious. The president’s “New Energy for America” plan aims to supply the country with 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.
Eighty percent of German residents want to see their country abandon nuclear power, but some Germans have also opposed new energy projects in their backyards. The website for “Wind Power Opponents,” Windkraftgegner.de, lists more than 70 protest campaigns, most of which are regional, grassroots groups organized to stop specific projects.
Germany’s renewables plan will be expensive, but so was the Fukushima meltdown—it did $50 billion in damage to Japan’s economy by some estimates. Dealing with the effects of climate change won’t be cheap either. Even German nuclear power companies are investing in the plan. Not only will it make Germany’s energy infrastructure among the safest in the world, it should provide many chances for economic growth, according to press statements by Philipp Rösler, Germany’s economics minister.