Nemški energetski fiasko in posledična ekonomska in politična nesuverenost

Tudi (najbolj konzervativni) Nemci, kot je Hans-Werner Sinn, spoznavajo, kako zelo ga je Nemčija pokronala v svoji energetski politiki. Zapiranje nukleark s stabilno proizvodnjo in njihovo nadomeščanje s plinsko-parnimi elektrarnimi z nekaj 10-krat večjim negativnim ogljičnim odtisom, da bi zagotovili manjkajočo energijo v jesenskih in zimskih mesecih, ko ni dovolj sonca ter za regulacijo sistema, je pač slaboumno. Ob tem pa subvencioniranje gradnje solarnih in vetrnih elektrarn prek dvakrat višje cene energije za gospodinjstva sodi v isto kategorijo. Bolj kot je Nemčija gradila nove in nove solarne in vetrne elektrarne, bolj kot je nemško krajino in Severno morje spreminjala v polja vetrnic, da bi zmanjšala odvisnost od fosilnih goriv, tem bolj odvisna je postajala od njih. Hkrati pa postala odvisna še od Rusije, od koder dobi 55% vsega plina. Z izgubo energetske suverenosti je Nemčija s tem izgubila še politično suverenost. O slednjem sem pisal ob začetku ruske invazije na Ukrajino.

Od te katastrofalne nemške energetske politike sta najbolj profitirali Avstrija in Rusija. Avstrija, ker je ob sončnih dneh, ko so nemške solarne elektrarne proizvajale viške, ki jih ni bilo mogoče uporabiti ali shraniti, te viške nemške električne energije kupovala po nizkih ali negativnih cenah in z njimi podnevi načrpala vodo v višinske bazene (de facto baterije) ter jo uporabila v nočnih urah ali ob manjkih energije prek črpalnih hidro elektrarn za proizvodnjo potrebne električne energije. Rusija pa seveda, ker je bogato služila z nemško trapasto politiko, hkrati pa si Nemčijo še strateško pokorila.

Sedanja nemška razmišljanja, kako se v petih letih izvleči iz ruske energetske zanke, tudi spadajo v kategorijo slaboumne kratkovidnosti. Nadomeščanje nabav plina iz Rusije z nabavami v Libiji, Katarju ali ZDA, niti za ped ne rešuje (1) ne nemške odvisnosti od uvoženega plina, (2) ne njene odvisnosti od fosilnih virov energije in (3) ne njene energetske avtonomnosti in s tem politične suverenosti. Namesto tega bi morala Nemčija ohraniti 3 obstoječe in ponovno reaktivirati 14 zaprtih jedrskih elektrarn ter narediti načrt za pospešeno gradnjo novih. Vsaka država potrebuje kombinacijo izdatnih stabilnih virov energije (kjer so jedrske elektrarne iz okoljskega vidika seveda neprimerno bolj sprejemljive od elektrarn na premog ali plin), obnovljivih virov energije (hidro, solarne, vetrne, delno biomasa in geotermalna), sistemov za shranjevanje viškov energije (baterije, ČHE, elektroliza) ter energetskih virov za regulacijo sistema in za sistemske rezerve (tukaj plinsko-parne elektrarne najbolje odigrajo to vlogo). Prav tako mora vsaka država zagotoviti svojo energetsko avtonomnost, s čimer postane odporna na šoke – naravne in politične.

Politiki, ki v 21. stoletju tega ne razumejo, ne bi smeli priti blizu možnosti odločanja o prihodnosti države.

Germany long regarded its energy transition as cutting edge, compared to other Western industrialized countries. Policymakers expected that the country would be able to secure its energy supply entirely from renewable sources, so they resolved to phase out coal and nuclear energy simultaneously. The last three of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants are set to be shut down this year.

To cushion the twin phaseout of coal and nuclear, and to close supply gaps during the long transition to renewable energy, Germany decided to build a large number of additional gas-fired power plants. Even immediately before Russian forces invaded Ukraine, policymakers assumed that the gas for these facilities would always come from Russia, which supplied more than half of Germany’s needs.

Germany’s pledge to abandon coal and nuclear, the very energy sources that would have given it a degree of self-sufficiency and autonomy, has thus placed the country in great danger. Not so long ago, Germany was the world’s second-largest lignite producer, after China. And it easily could have procured the tiny amount of uranium needed to run its nuclear power plants, and stored it domestically for many years.

Committed Greens claim that the twin phaseout would not have been a problem had Germany pressed ahead with developing wind and solar energy to achieve green energy autonomy. If anything, they say, the need to ensure energy security is an argument for, not against, Germany’s renewables-based strategy.

This view is debatable. Despite the fact that turbines and photovoltaic panels now dot much of the landscape, in 2021 the share of wind and solar power in Germany’s total final energy consumption, which includes heating, industrial processing, and traffic, was a meager 6.7%. And while wind and solar generated 29% of the country’s electricity output, electricity itself accounted for only about a fifth of its final energy consumption. Germany would not have come close to achieving energy autonomy even if the renewables sector had expanded at twice the speed that it did.

The Green argument also overlooks the fact that the planned scaling of wind and solar-based energy supply must always be complemented by adjustable conventional electricity production, given that storage solutions are difficult and extremely expensive. This power is fed into the grid when wind and sun do not produce enough energy, and can ensure that the economy is not disrupted during a protracted wind and solar lull.

In other words, green energy cannot really end Germany’s reliance on gas imports after the twin phaseout. Germany’s only climate-neutral path to energy self-sufficiency would require it to invest again in nuclear energy.

Even those in Germany who are more optimistic about the potential of wind and solar energy should admit that, in the short term, ending Russian gas imports in an effort to squeeze Putin would also stifle the German economy. It is simply impossible for Germany to import the required natural gas from other sources fast enough. There is no excess supply in the European market, and other countries, including Italy and Austria, are in a very similar, if not worse, position. Germany has no liquefied natural gas terminals, and LNG facilities elsewhere in Europe lack the necessary capacity to replace Russian deliveries. Moreover, the capacity of existing intra-European gas pipelines is too low.

If Germany suddenly halted Russian gas imports, gas-based residential heating systems – on which half the German population, approximately 40 million people, rely – and industrial processes that rely heavily on gas imports would break down before replacement energy became available. The government would be unlikely to survive the resulting economic chaos, public uproar, and outrage should gas become unavailable or heating costs rise dramatically. In fact, the likely scale of domestic disruption would call into question the cohesion of the Western response to the Ukraine war.

Only in the longer term, say, 3-5 years, will German LNG terminals be able to replace Russian deliveries with gas from other parts of the world. But by then, Russia will be building new pipelines to China, India, and other Asian countries that will eagerly purchase and burn the gas that Germany releases.

Vir: Hans-Werner Sinn, Project Syndicate

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