PHOENIX — In an ambitious declaration, Germany recently announced it will shut down its 84 remaining coal-fired power plants over the next two decades.
Germany has led the way worldwide pursuing solar and wind energy policies, investing hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastructure and public programs. But the country has seen mixed results from its efforts, and APS CEO Don Brandt harshly criticized Germany’s public commitment to going green.
Brandt, a prominent player in the energy industry who wields heavy influence among politicians, made two claims about Germany’s efforts. His comments came in an Arizona Chamber of Commerce video produced last September.
“About 8 years ago, they (Germany) embarked on a massive solar buildout and shut their nuclear plants down. And they found out the reality the sun doesn’t shine all the time, particularly after about 8 o’clock at night. Their carbon emissions today are three times what they were.”
The question: Are carbon emissions really three times higher, as Brandt contends, since Germany transformed its energy policies?
The answer: FALSE. We took that claim to Dr. Klaus Lackner at the Arizona State University School of Sustainable Engineering. Lackner specializes in carbon emissions research and is especially familiar with Germany’s efforts because he is from there.
“The carbon footprint in Germany has gone up slightly but not three-fold,” Lackner said.
Numbers from the World Bank and Germany’s environment agency, UBA, confirm that Germany’s carbon footprint has shown slight variations up and down in recent years (to the disappointment of many).
As Brandt accurately points out, the country’s decision to shut down nuclear production hurt its overall efforts. But 12 News can confirm the carbon footprint is nowhere near a three-fold increase.
We asked Brandt to provide a source for that claim. He declined through an APS spokesperson.
Brandt’s second claim is that consumers in Germany are paying a lot more for power.
“Their electricity prices, depending whether you are residential, commercial or industrial, are six to nine times what they were before they went on this thing,” Brandt said.
The question: Are electricity prices really six to nine times what they were before Germany’s energy transformation?
The answer: FALSE.
Once again, we asked Brandt to provide a source for that claim, but he declined.
As best we can tell from published reports and a German consumer advocates organization, costs for electricity have doubled, possibly even tripled for some customers since the year 2000.
“The overall household electricity prices undoubtedly went up. And that has, politically, been a hot potato for Germany,” Lackner said.
In a general sense, Brandt is correct to argue that German consumers are getting squeezed. Germany’s great experiment is a bumpy ride, to say the least.
According to Lackner, this is partly due to the country’s politicians backing away from nuclear energy out of safety fears. Such fears are not nearly as commonplace in the U.S.
But Brandt’s claim of a cost increase that is six to nine times what it used to be to consumers is unfounded.
According to Lackner, there may be some lessons for Arizona to learn from Germany’s ambitious experiment with renewable energy. But Lackner says Germany’s climate and its history with nuclear power are much different than Arizona and, therefore, it is a difficult comparison to make.