The Moral Case for High Feed-in Tariffs in Germany

At the occasion of the increase in surcharges to be announced officially tomorrow in Germany, there has been a lot of discussion about the cost of feed-in tariffs.

One point deserving more attention is the distribution of the burden between industry and private consumers. Not everyone is convinced that this is done right at the moment. That point has been discussed by various people.

In contrast, as far as I am aware of, no one has yet raised the following moral point.

Germany is one of the countries with the highest CO2 emissions per capita, if one includes all historical emissions since the 19th Century. The United Kingdom leads that particular list, but Germany comes in third, after the United States (figures from this Guardian FAQ, with small countries Luxembourg, Belgium and the Czech Republic left out).

That makes sense, since the United Kingdom and Germany have been early developing countries, while China has got the top spot on the emission record list only recently.

That in turn gives Germany a special responsibility to help with dealing with climate change. Germans have enjoyed some of the best standards of living world wide for  decades. They have done so by burning fossil fuel early, and burning it plenty.

For this reason, the fact that Germany has paid for most of the early price reduction in solar power does at least partly compensate for all those historical emissions.

Since Germany has been one of the countries most responsible for the problem in the first place, it is only fair from a moral point of view that it is also one of the countries paying most for the solution.

And the German feed-in tariffs have contributed. They were the main reasons the prices for solar went down massively in the last decade. And that ebbing tide lifts all boats.

Look at this big picture. And then tell me again why I should care about a couple of cents a day in surcharge increases.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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