Germany was very quick to shut down their ageing nuclear generating plants in the wake of Fukushima, driven to a large extent by the hysteria whipped up by Greenpeace and the Green Party here, both of which have long anti-nuclear credentials. The problem was, of course, how to replace them. All the 'renewable' technology is expensive, ecologically extremely damaging in the places where the necessary minerals have to come from, and needs to be supported by more 'conventional' technology. Plus, of course, the distribution 'grid' was not designed for rapid switching from one source to another, or to distribute power across very long distances.
Anyone familiar with electricity distribution and generation knows that ideally one has the generating station and the user as close as practicable to one another as possible to maximise efficiency. The greater the separation, the greater the power drop across the 'net' and the less efficient the whole thing becomes. Less efficiency also means more cost. And that is what is currently exercising the German government, industry and commerce - and the ordinary people more than anything else.
In the last sixteen years 'energy' prices have gone up exponentially for the ordinary householder. The rise starting in 1998 is due mainly to the drive to switch from coal and oil to wind and solar, but is now further complicated by the rushed closure of the nuclear plants in 2011. For the ordinary householder electricity has risen from €0.17,11c per kW/hr to €0.28,73c per kW/hr (3.5% per year). The main reason for this is that the biggest users - heavy industry - are being subsidised in order to protect jobs. To hold their costs low (and protect the employment of the individuals who pay for household use) the cost of the 'Greening' of energy is being passed to the private individual.
The problem for the 'Greens', most of whom are middle to upper income earners or students and others on 'supported incomes' is that the larger population has noticed, and are starting to complain bitterly. Their complaint is, as the Chancellor, Frau Merkel acknowledges, justified. But now everyone is between a rock and a hard place. Efforts to reduce energy use have failed, and failed spectacularly. Resistance to building more windmills is stiffening, with increasingly angry exchanges between rural communities and city dwelling Greens and energy chiefs who want to cover every landscape with towering windmills and, of course, the power lines for distribution.
The government here is acutely aware of these concerns and is trying to find alternatives. They are also very aware of the fact that a large slice of the gas used in generating and heating of homes comes from Russia - a particularly tricky source at the moment - while we are actually sitting on vast quantities of a material that sends the Greens into a frenzy - brown coal. Ironically most Green campaigners have failed to realise that diesel and gas turbine generators are being installed to 'support' their beloved 'renewables' while they furiously oppose the building of new clean technology conventional power plants. And don't even mention anything nuclear ...
So the costs continue to rise while the politicians struggle to balance the need to ensure a stable and secure power supply, the Greens continue to dream of 'restoring' the climate to a non-existent idyllic past 'norm' and the rest of us pay. The greatest irony is that the poorest members of society are, in effect, paying proportionately more for this than those who so passionately enforce their vision of a 'better world' on the rest of us. As they say, there is the view from the Ivory Tower, and then there is reality.