Germany loses billions in search for alternative energy

The disaster at the Japan's Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant forced the leaders of many European countries to reconsider their attitude to the "peaceful atom." The German government decided not to procrastinate and put an end to nuclear power, rushing to find renewable energy sources. Yet, the losses from this decision would amount to billions of euros.

First, it was not difficult to shut down the first eight of the seventeen units, but unused nuclear fuel still remains in them. Apparently, it will never be used. However, tax on nuclear material was already paid by the owners of nuclear power plant before loading the fuel into the reactor. The economy must be economical. As befits to zealous owners, the owners of the plants considered themselves robbed by the government that encroached on their money, and sued it, demanding the return of what has been paid.

Three operating companies - E.On, RWE and EnBW - have filed a complaint in their land courts. Hamburg and Munich financial courts sided with E.On and RWE, and acknowledged the tax unconstitutional, but the federal government has pledged to appeal against all. The trial in federal court is yet to come. As practice shows, such cases can drag on for years, leaving gaps on the balance sheets of plant owners. There are still other stages of the judicial system: the German Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice. The case is complicated by the fact that the Stuttgart court - the land of Baden-Wuerttemberg - denied a similar claim on January 11 and ruled the tax legitimate (in this land the majority supports the Green Party).

The fourth owner of the German nuclear power plants, the Swedish government company Vattenfall chose a different route: it does not oppose the tax, but demands financial compensation for the forced cessation of operation of its two nuclear power plants that it estimated at 1.5 billion euros for six months of 2011. The company filed a complaint under the auspices of the international law that is more advantageous for it than the German legislation. RWE Company believes that it lost 900 million euros, and will be losing $200 million annually. EnBW estimates its losses at 100 million euros a year, while E.On threatened that the shutdown of its nuclear plant would force the company to eliminate a total of 11 thousand jobs.

Second, the experts calculated the economic impact of the elimination of nuclear energy "as a class." The refusal of Germany to use nuclear power would cost 1.7 trillion euros in the period until 2030, which is equivalent to more than 65 percent of annual GDP. "These costs will fall on electricity consumers and taxpayers," said on January 19 a board member of Siemens Michael Suess, who oversees the company sector of nuclear technology. According to him, this assessment is based, in particular, on the expected increase in the cost of electricity due to planned dramatic expansion of renewable energy.

The energy issues in Germany have already begun. In early January, the country was forced to turn to neighboring Austria for power. The German grid operators began experiencing failures of the electricity supply due to the abandonment of the nuclear energy by Germany. As a result, they had to resort to back-up Austrian power stations to ensure stable operation of the power grids. According to the power grid operator, companies have to resort increasingly more to emergency measures to provide consumers with electricity, and it costs millions of euros. The hopes to use renewable energy sources on a mass scale (solar and wind) and energy-saving technologies are scientifically unfounded. These measures will in no way be able to provide the powerful German industry with energy.

One cannot help but recall sarcastic words of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who wondered if Germans were not developing nuclear power hoping to heat their houses with wood He then added that they would have to go for firewood to Siberia. As evident from the experience, even a momentary disruption in the gas supply by Ukraine created glacial period in Europe and caused significant financial losses. What then can be said about such serious measures as ostracizing "peaceful atom"?

In the field of nuclear energy gloomy German genius is in stark contrast with the sharp Gallic wit. France at the highest level does not even consider fighting against the atom as 75 percent of the energy is brought by nuclear power. It continues building new nuclear power plants, and the French analogue of the Russian "Rosatom" AREVA has ambitious development plans.

However, ill-conceived decision by the German authorities to eliminate all nuclear power plants was an unexpected gift for the Russian energy sector. First, the "Gazprom" can get new major customers in Germany. And secondly, the neighboring countries have plans to build generating capacity, including nuclear power, which promises "Rosatom" new orders or accelerated construction of new nuclear power plants in the EU that are far from "green" extravagance of German intellectuals.

Vladimir Teslenko, Ph.D.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov