Germany’s citizenry now no longer lives with the threat of a nuclear accident happening within its own borders. But five of the nine states – France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the Czech Republic – along its periphery host nuclear power plants. And Germans, many of whom still remember the radioactive cloud from the Chernobyl meltdown wafting over central Europe in the spring of 1986, know that a mishap at one of these aging stations would imperil them as well. Paul Hockenos reports. Read More
The new evidence that the German CEO of Europe’s largest media publisher, Axel Springer, (mis)uses his flagship tabloid, the arch-conservative Bild, to advance his personal views on the climate crisis and climate activism is hardly surprising, as the Springer Media group has been mixing right-wing politics and public information for decades. But 2023-leaked emails and text messages have exposed Axel Springer chief executive and part owner Mathias Döpfner’s unvarnished personal views on these issues and others. Paul Hockenos reports. Read More
In response to Russia’s invasion and brutal war of aggression against Ukraine in 2022, many European nations, particularly Germany, have banned Russian fossil fuels imports. For Germany this has meant not only finding new sources of liquified natural gas (LNG), but also spurred the government to establish several new LNG terminals. However, LNG, which is mainly cooled and compressed methane, represents a major source of climate-harming emissions. Read More
Horsepower-flush automobiles and the 7,200-mile highway system that accommodates those vehicles, called the autobahn, belong to Germany’s national mythology. For decades, German drivers have relished the ostensible perk of its long stretches of asphalt without a speed limit. But the climate crisis has called this cherished tradition into question, prompting Germans to rethink their relationship to internal combustion engines – and to the autobahn itself, writes Paul Hockenos.
When looking at clean energy expansion and the drive toward a sustainable future, it makes sense to start with the big picture. After all, one can easily get lost in the myriad of bit pieces. But the micro is important, too, and there’s a universe of innovation happening in the private sector: small start-ups that are filling niches in the sustainable economy (like Tesla once did.) An annual competition organized by the German Energy Agency’s Start-Up Energy Transition reflects the private sector’s advances on the countless parts of the larger Energiewende.
In 2022, negative prices occurred during 69 of the total of 8,760 hourly prices in German day-ahead trading. Last year, there were 139 cases of hours when utilities had to pay to give away electricity. This adds to the high price of electricity in Germany, but it doesn’t explain it. Paul Hockenos has the details.
Although overall energy consumption fell, Germany’s emissions declined only slightly: because coal-fired power plants stepped in for Russian gas. A leading German energy think tank argues that Germany has to undertake structural reforms to get on track. Nevertheless, Germany’s emissions are lower than ever before – evidence that Germany can hit targets by replacing fossil fuels with renewables. The catch is that once replaced, fossil fuels must be eliminated from energy production altogether. Experts think that Germany can still phase out all coal-fired generation by 2030.
Hands down, Germany has become the world leader in transforming its post-coal mined lands into solar farms, particularly in the nation’s eastern Lusatia region, where more than a century of intense surface mining has despoiled much of the landscape. According to a 2018 report, region-wide there are some 9 GW of solar project potential across nearly 50,000 hectares of torn up land. Spurred on by 2022’s energy crisis while looking long-term as the price of emissions certificates rise and global carbon budgets shrink, several European fossil fuel producers are re-evaluating their strategies, perhaps none more so than one of Europe’s dirtiest energy generators, LEAG. In 2022, this German-Czech company announced plans to close their lignite mines and replace them with new solar and wind farms built across their surfaces while they transform their existing power plants into battery and storage hubs. Lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, takes us through their vision of supplying more than four million households with the clean electricity of the future, starting now. Read part 1, part 3 and part 4 of this series.
By the time you read this, the village of Lützerath may already be gone – part of the price paid for getting RWE, Germany’s largest energy producer, to stop mining and burning brown coal by 2030. Yet short term, RWE is ramping generation at their lignite-burning plants, among the most polluting in Europe, to make up for sanctioned Russian gas and help Germany get through the next two winters. But climate scientists warn, burning all the coal underneath the activist-occupied town could risk breaking the emissions limits set under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Worse, as lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum relates, the steep terms of the deal are splintering the Greens, potentially setting party leadership against its most ardent climate activists.
Heralded as a “courageous step for climate protection,” Germany’s government has in 2022 reached a compromise with RWE, Europe’s most polluting energy firm, to stop mining and burning its filthy brown coal by 2030 – a full eight years ahead of previous plans. But the deal, negotiated by several Green-Party led ministries, also authorizes RWE to keep several units at one of the world’s most toxic power plants to stay longer on the grid, at least through 2025, instead of closing at year’s end. And despite cheers that the new agreement will keep 280 million tonnes of carbon in the ground, scientists fear the heaps of lignite now set to be burned will prevent Germany from meeting emissions limits set under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reviews the controversial decision.