REVIEW - Green Lobby, Merkel Cabinet 'Sacrifice' Environment, Public Calm On Altar Of Energy Shift

REVIEW - Green Lobby, Merkel Cabinet 'Sacrifice' Environment, Public Calm on Altar of Energy Shift

BRUSSELS (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 10th September, 2019) As the German government is determined to revive the ailing wind energy sector, the opposition slams it for putting its "energy transition" goals above the environment and people's serenity, all disturbed by an operation of "monster turbines" killing birds and keeping local communities awake at night, but arguably failing to ensure a reliable energy supply even in the long term.

On Thursday, the German government held a major meeting with wind energy leaders in a bid to salvage them from total collapse amid the continued drop in investments in the sector.

German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier chaired the close-door consultations some two weeks before he is expected to deliver a broad "climate plan" to allow Berlin to catch up in terms of climate goals.

To encourage its expansion, the German wind energy sector who has recently seen government subsidies reduced now seeks uniform nation-wide regulations, since the required distance of each home from the nearest turbine vary from one region to another.

The current efforts to revive the wind energy sector fit into Germany's long-time policy dubbed "Energiewende" (German for "Energy Transition"), which is meant to suppress carbon dioxide emissions produced by power plants burning coal, fuel or gas and replace these reliable but CO2-emitting sources with renewables.

It is during the tenure of Gerhard Schroeder of the Social Democratic Party as chancellor from 1998-2005, in coalition with the Greens, that the decision was made to radically change the way Germany produced its electricity. Since then, the price of electricity in the country has skyrocketed to the highest in Europe.

Solar and wind energy, chosen by Germany to get rid of fossil fuels, meanwhile, have a huge problem: their intermittence. Having a gigawatt of production capacity by wind turbines does not mean you will have any electricity. If there is no wind, there is no energy. For solar energy, at least the intermittence is controlled: day and night. But in a country with a climate such as in Germany, which has massively invested in solar energy, the return is mediocre.

Another aspect to take into account is that it is extremely problematic to stock electricity in large quantities. Modern batteries can store a few megawatts at best. Terawatts are what is needed.

In 2011, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, German energy policy made another turn, with the Angela Merkel government setting the goal for the country to fully get rid of nuclear energy by 2022 and become the "first big industrialized nation" that will enter the renewable energy era.

As a result, German engineering giant Siemens left the nuclear industry in 2011, while the remaining nuclear companies such as E.ON, Vattenfall, RWE and EnBW are now suing the government for the decision to close down their nuclear power plants.

The massive investment in intermittent sources of electricity, especially wind, meanwhile, has led to at least three major consequences.

First of all, electricity prices have soared to stratospheric heights as compared to neighboring countries.

Secondly, Germany had to build tens of coal and gas power plants to compensate for the absence of wind and still deliver the electricity needed.

Hence, Germany has increased its CO2 emissions instead of reduced them.

WIND ENERGY AS A NEW BONANZA AT THE COST OF CONSUMERS

To develop the wind energy sector in the early 2000s, European governments created systems to massively subsidize the construction of wind turbines.

Wind turbines were rapidly erected on shallow sandbanks at sea without much opposition and on land, with very strong opposition from the people living nearby, as giant turbines towering at 500 feet and making noise stripped them of sleep.

The profits made by small wind energy companies, which appeared like mushrooms, and electricity sector giants were incredibly high. On average, over the last six years, the price of a megawatt produced by "classical" means, such as nuclear, gas or coal power plants, has been 40 Euros ($44) per megawatt, while the price of a megawatt produced by wind turbines has reached 90 euros, which has turned into a bonanza for the producers at the cost of consumers.

Yet, over the past two-three years, the number of turbines installed on land has drastically gone down, not least because of a strong opposition from local communities.

LIVING NEAR WIND TURBINES TURNS INTO 'REAL TORMENT'

There are some 193 German civil society associations opposed to the forced installation of wind turbines. They are regrouped in the European Platform Against Windfarms (EPAW), legally challenging and seeking to postpone the installation of wind turbines in their immediate vicinity.

According to Jochen Coels, the chair of the Windkraft-stop in Mogendorf, Rhineland-Palatinate, the Federal government and the regional authorities literally impose the installation of wind turbines "by all possible means," often "very close to villages," and thereby turn life there into a "real torment."

"[Wind turbines] completely destroy the landscape, ruin the neighbouring families who can't sell their house anymore and impose awful noise and infra-sound pollution to people. For sensitive persons, it is a real torment, making it impossible for them to sleep when the wind comes from a certain direction," Coels told Sputnik.

He added that one could feel vibrations from a turbine even if it is located more than a mile from a house, affecting the sleep of local residents.

"In my house, I can even feel in bed, the vibrations of the first wind turbine, situated at more than a km from my house, the vibrations pulsing through the bedrock," the expert noted.

The construction of turbines also drives a wedge between local residents, dividing them into two irreconcilable camps.

"Farmers lend their land for a rent to install the turbine, which infuriates the neighbours. The citizens who vote for the Greens absolutely want these monster turbines to be installed 'to save humanity.' It creates anger, recriminations and people don't talk to each other anymore. It is a disaster for rural life," Coels argued.

The locals do join efforts by legally challenging the energy shift policy, but the fight proves to be very "costly," the expert notes, with the government hoping that anti-wind energy associations will not be able to pay for legal defense for "very long.

"

ANIMAL DEFENDERS ALSO QUESTION 'ENERGY TRANSITION'

Another type of opposition comes from birdwatchers and animal defenders, who are worried about the destructive impact of wind turbines on the local flora and fauna.

"Wind turbines seem to turn slowly, but the speed at the tip of the wings is something like 350 km/h. These giant wind turbines kill many birds and bats. The experts from Naturschutz Germany estimate that about 250,000 bats of different species, some very rare, have already been killed in Germany. The bats actually don't touch the wings of the turbine. They are crushed by the blast of the wind turbine passing next to them," Eveline Kroll, from campaign Gegenwind Deutschland, Bliesendorf, told Sputnik.

When it comes to birds, prey species suffer the most, with some of them being close to extermination.

"It is a disaster for prey-birds especially. The red kite for example is a beautiful prey-bird that likes somehow to play with the wings of the wind turbine. It gets cut in two rapidly. In the state of Brandenburg, they had put the red kite on their coat of arms. They can take it away! The population of red kites in the region has been exterminated by the wind turbines," she said.

The campaigner noted that very rare white-tailed eagles may be also on the verge of extinction, with tens of them already killed by wind turbines in Germany and the Baltic Sea region.

"Is it the kind of nature protection that the Green party has in mind?!" Kroll wondered.

Opposition parties have repeatedly voiced their concern over the Merkel coalition's energy policies, with Alternative for Germany (AfD) being among the most vocal critics of the Energiewende.

"The wind energy lobby and their friends in Merkel's government sacrifice environment and nature on the altar of the 'energy transition,'" Andreas Bleck, a member of the Bundestag Committee for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, told Sputnik.

According to Bleck, some 30,000 wind turbines already operating in Germany kill "hundreds of thousands of bats and tens of thousands of birds each year" but fail to ensure reliable energy supply.

"In addition, there is an urgent suspicion that they are jointly responsible for insect killing. Incidentally, because of their volatile power supply, wind turbines are also unsuitable for ensuring an affordable, secure and reliable energy supply in Germany," he added.

Meanwhile, electricity has never been so expensive as it is today, with the "nonsensical" Energiewende leading to an "absurd" situation when 56.4 percent of the price is attributable to taxes and only 18 percent goes to the energy providers, according to the AfD member.

"What happens here is ideologically driven eco-madness. Because the enormously high levies for the so-called 'Energy transition' (Energiewende) are completely ineffective," he concluded.

The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) is also very critical of the wind turbines policy.

Back in 2018, FDP President Christian Lindner called for a "reasonable 'Energiewende,'" saying that "legal minimum requirements for the construction of wind turbines must be changed so that with the increasing size of wind turbines, the distance to residential development, bird breeding sites, etc. increases accordingly."

GOV'T STEADFAST DESPITE CAMPAIGNERS DUBBING ENERGIEWENDE AS 'DISASTER'

The government initiated the meeting with wind energy leaders as the sector, which after years of rising capacity now accounts for one-fifth of German electricity production, experiences a deep crisis.

The number of new turbines installed in Germany since the beginning of 2019 is down 82 percent year-on-year, according to the national Wind Energy Association. In 2018, the sector had a production capacity that is half that of 2017.

According to industry players, the tipping point behind such a fall was 2016 when the government, judging the sector mature and subsidies too heavy for taxpayers, cut subsidies. The amendment to the German Energy Law has then abolished guaranteed income and favored competition through calls for tenders, something that scared investors.

According to Jean-Louis Butre, the French president of the European Platform Against Windfarms, the sector has "exploded" due to the ill-thought policy of pouring money into small market players.

"The fundamental error committed by Germany, with its costly and ineffective 'renewables policy' is that you cannot change a whole industrial sector in a decade, with massive subsidies. Merkel has created a bargain effect: many small players have entered the wind energy sector without a penny. Since the state guaranteed a high revenue from the wind turbines over 15 years, banks lent money without difficulty to anybody. The sector has now exploded," Butre told Sputnik.

He noted that such policy turned Energiewende into a "disaster," with the Germans now paying "double of what the French pay for their electricity (thanks to nuclear energy)" and also emitting much more CO2 than the French do, not least due to nuclear energy again.

However, Merkel is steadfast in the intention to close Germany's last nuclear power plant by 2022 and get rid of the highly polluting coal by 2038. Renewable energy, primarily wind and solar, in turn, must represent 65 percent of electricity in 2030.

In a comment to Sputnik, Marc Bernhard, the Bundestag spokesman for the AfD Baden-Wuerttemberg, argued, citing experts, that it is "technically impossible to have 65% of electricity production by intermittent sources such as sun and wind."

He also criticized Berlin's determination to "single-handedly drive climate targets," claiming that its share of global CO2 emissions is "so negligible that nothing will change," even if it dropped to zero.

The government policy, meanwhile, only "drives people into poverty," with "every inhabitant of Germany, from the newborn to the old man," now having to pay directly or indirectly over 6,300 EUR for the energy transition by 2025," according to the AfD spokesman.

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