Skip to main content

Germany: Nuclear Back Pay and the Return of Coal

lightningHere in the United States, the government has imposed a tax on nuclear facilities to pay for a used fuel repository. But there isn’t one and the courts have made it clear that until one is at least on the drawing boards, no more waste fee. That’s supposed to take effect in May.

In Germany, the government has also run afoul of the courts:

he Hamburg Financial Court has ordered authorities in Germany to refund German utilities more than EUR2.2bn (USD3bn) in nuclear fuel taxes. The refund is to be paid to five energy companies, including E.ON and RWE.

---

Courts in Hamburg and Munich have both opined that they believe the tax to be unconstitutional, and have requested instruction from Germany's Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice.

That last part can lead us to believe that this would have happened even if the nuclear facilities continued to operate. But it does seem like garish exploitation to keep the fee, like getting hospital bills after the patient has expired. It doesn’t smell right.

---

So that’s one thing. Here’s another:

What’s a beleaguered utility to do when forced by the government to close its profitable nuclear power plants?

It turns to lignite, a cheap, soft, muddy-brown colored form of sedimentary rock that spews more greenhouse gases than any other fossil fuel.

Lignite! That makes my head shake unbidden, as in, No you can’t be doing that.

You can guess how this turns out.

The result: RWE now generates 52 percent of its power in Germany from lignite, up from 45 percent in 2011. And RWE isn’t alone. Utilities all over Germany have ramped up coal use as the nation has watched the mix of coal-generated electricity rise to 45 percent last year, the highest level since 2007.

The story goes on to say that RWE and its colleagues can’t count on lignite continuing to be plausible, thus mandating a change to renewable energy, like it or not. You sometimes see complaints about American legislators choosing energy winners and losers. Without wading too deeply into that issue, this is what that is really like.

---

A little expansion on these points from CNN:

For German consumers who ultimately foot the bill, the tab for renewable subsidies comes to $32 billion this year, and soaring electricity bills are hitting households and businesses hard. The Energiewende [switch to renewable energy] also requires construction of a costly and extensive new infrastructure of high-voltage transmission lines to carry power from northern wind farms to the industrial south. The spreading visual blight has sparked local outbreaks of Nimbyism.

“Germany’s electricity prices are already the highest in Europe, 40 to 50 percent higher than the EU average and twice as much as in the U.S.,” notes Jurgen Kronig, a prominent Energiewende critic who writes for the German weekly Die Zeit.

Nimbyism certainly didn’t do nuclear energy any favors in Germany. Pretty soon they’ll be complaining that their neighbors’ candles are too bright.

Comments

trag said…
Jurgen Kronig is wrong. German electric bills are 3.5 times larger than USA electric bills. Residential electricity in Germany is about Eu .30, which is about $.42/ KWHr. Average cost at the doorstep for residential electricity in the USA is below $.12/KWHr.

Twice. Hah! The Germans would love to only pay twice.

For what they've wasted on "renewables" they could have converted all of their electricity production to nuclear and have CO2-free electricity generation -- 100$ instead of the few percent they currently manage.
Tom said…
Typical knee jerk reaction without logically thinking about the long term ramifications...pay me later! The sad thing is, it wasn't like their nuclear fleets were about to expire operationally, so why the aggressive action instead of carefully and methodically planning a phaseout? The German situation has that ominous feeling to it, like there's a train coming and they know it, but they're going to see if they can jump it anyway. Hey Germany, no complaining about filthy air and energy prices for the next several decades while you attempt to get your act together! There is no current silver bullet to energy issues but you've put all of your eggs in one basket.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …