BERLIN — The crisis in Ukraine has added an extra dose of uncertainty to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s biggest domestic project: shifting the country from nuclear to renewable energy sources.
Merkel launched the drive to transition the country away from nuclear after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster. Since then, the “Energiewende” — roughly, “energy turnaround” — has created increasing headaches.
Now, the tensions with Russia could complicate the plans further.
Germany, other European countries and the U.S. have slapped some sanctions on Moscow and threatened to impose more. The problem, however, is that Germany and several European economies depend heavily on Russian energy. Germany gets about a third of its natural gas and crude oil from Russia.
Tension with Russia
Merkel is still pushing ahead with the plan to shift away from nuclear energy. But if the situation with Russia escalates and Germany decides to try and reduce its reliance on Russian gas, there could be problems staying on track.
Deciding to switch off nuclear reactors by 2022 was popular in Germany. But readying Europe’s largest economy to switch power sources has proven complicated and, at least until Merkel’s new “grand coalition” of right and left took office in December, a recipe for political gridlock.
Germany’s coast and flat northern plains offer plentiful wind power, but planning the ugly lines to get that electricity to the southern industrial heartland is hitting resistance. A subsidy system meant to build up renewable energies is causing mounting problems.
“Make no mistake: the world is watching with a mixture of incomprehension and curiosity whether and how we will succeed in this energy turnaround,” Merkel told lawmakers in January as she set out her priorities for the next four years. “If we succeed, then I am convinced that it will be another German export hit.”
What’s the plan?
Merkel’s ambitious plan is for renewable energies including wind and sun to make up 40 to 45 percent of Germany’s energy mix by 2025, compared with just under a quarter now, and 55 to 60 percent by 2035.
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