In March, Care2 reported on Germany temporarily closing seven aging nuclear plants that began operating before 1980. At the time, Germany promised to examine the possibilities for accelerating its switch to renewable energy sources.
Today, the German environment minister announced that Germany will shut down all of the country’s nuclear power plants by the year 2022. According to the CBC, the seven plants previously closed will remain closed and the remaining ten nuclear power plants will be shut down by 2022 (see map by Spiegel for details on location of plants).
This move represents a significant about-face for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, shown in the above image on an election poster posed with The Simpsons’ Montgomery Burns with the slogan “We’re voting for nuclear power.” The 180 degree reversal of Merkel’s energy policy came after the earthquake and nuclear disater in Japan and accelerates the previous plan, which had scheduled an end to nuclear power in the country in 2036.
A big job
The Germans will have a lot of work to do over the next decade or two. Currently, only about 17 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydroelectric. Just under a quarter of Germany’s electricity came from nuclear power as of March 2011, just before the seven reactors were taken offline. Part of Germany’s energy plan is to increase the share of renewable energy to around 50 percent. (Source: CBC)
Germany’s Spiegel wrote a fascinating article looking at the difference in the language in the reactions to the announcement in each of Germany’s newspapers, from the Conservative right to the more left wing papers. While the conservative papers characterize the move as a “creeping rejection of the economic model which has transformed Germany into one of the richest countries in the world” and expresses concern about the cost of the new energy approach to Germans, the more left-leaning papers have characterized it as a “historic moment” because no industrialized country has ever set out a roadmap like this for switching to sustainable energy. Germany’s Die Tageszeitung even goes as far as calling this a “moment like the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
The decision certainly is a historic one. If Germany is successful in meeting its targets without significant economic implications, this will hopefully provide a model and inspiration for other industrialized countries to do the same.
Photo credit: hcmeier on flickr