05/30/2013 - 16:18

The politics of phase-out

Miranda A. Schreurs

Miranda A. Schreurs is director of the Environmental Policy Research Centre (Forschungszentrum für Umweltpolitik) and professor of comparative politics at the Freie Universität Berlin...

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The German decision to phase out nuclear energy following the Fukushima crisis builds on earlier political decisions to support the growth of renewable electricity, to improve energy efficiency, and to turn Germany toward sustainable energy and away from nuclear power. Germany is now embarking on what is known as the Energiewende, a plan to turn the entire economy to a low-carbon energy structure that does not make use of nuclear energy. The last nuclear power plants are scheduled to be shut down in 2022. Although there are still many skeptics of the phase-out plan, it has support across the political spectrum; Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union sees this as one of her top priorities, as do the opposition Greens and Social Democratic Party. In part, this support stems from the financial benefits that the shift to renewables has brought to many small- and medium-sized German businesses. The expansion of renewable energy capacity has been dramatic and now accounts for one-quarter of electricity production, up from about 3 percent in 1990.