Oettinger: Stop Solar, There May be Better Technology Later

Wirtschaftswoche cites EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger with an anti-solar talking point I never heard before:

If solar deployment in Germany proceeds with the same speed as in the last years, we will miss out on improved technology that may be developed later (my translation from German).

I am not sure if I can support this position unconditionally.

For one, it obviously means that there never is a right time for deploying. There might always be some technological advance later.

Next, global warming is kind of urgent as a problem. We need to deploy, deploy, deploy, and then deploy some more whatever is available right now. Waiting for new technology makes the problem worse, since early action on decarbonising is worth much more than later action.

And, while it is true that there will be better technology in 2015, people will be free to deploy that as well. There are still enough empty roofs left.

Anyway, the most important improvement in technology is that of getting prices down. And for that to happen, stopping deployment would be very bad news.

Therefore, I fail to see how this is a convincing argument against solar energy. And I am not sure why the EU Commissioner for Energy should be advocating against deployment of solar energy in the first place.


Published by kflenz

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

5 thoughts on “Oettinger: Stop Solar, There May be Better Technology Later

  1. Mr. Oettinger sounds like those people asking us to just wait for 30 years or more for newer “safer” nuclear plants. The same types have been saying this about “safe” nuclear for decades in the US and other countries. Idiotic propaganda, IMHO.


  2. So I went to read that article …
    I didn’t expect that the main subject actually is Stephan Kohler the chief of the German energy agency urging to slow down the deployment of renewable energy, because the network is developing too slowly to integrate it.

    In that context, the remark of Oettinger can make more sense. If people are speeding to install solar panels (and wind turbines) *but* they can not be efficiently integrated into the grid anyway, it makes sense to slow down deployment since indeed the panels that will be available just next year will be more efficient that those for sale today.

    Also your comment at the end makes it look a bit like if the EU was trying to slow down renewable in Germany when the full articles shows also some reservation inside Germany. Despite Oettinger being now a EU official, he appears here to be talking foremost from his position of former major German politician.
    (when he says something like Germany ought to deeply modify it’s renewable law, I believe he’s talking from his position as major CDU member and former Baden-Württemberg governor, not as a Eu official, where this kind of interference with a member state policy would cause quite an uproar).


    1. Oettinger now is responsible for EU energy policy, but I understand that a paper will be released today where he will make some proposals “interfering with member state policy”, and I am looking forward to reading and discussing it.

      The excuse “our grid isn’t there yet” is the oldest trick in the book to try delaying deployment of renewable. Since the old players would like to use this, it is vital that the German feed-in tariff doesn’t only guarantee fixed prices for 20 years, but access to the grid as well as priority for the electricity generated.


  3. I forgot one thing : I *completely* agree with the need for early action on decarbonising, and the need to deploy, deploy as quick as possible.

    That actually explain why I’m quite cagey about deployments that in effect do not result in fast and quick decarbonising. Right now Germany’s electricity is still very dirty, and the 85% less carbon in 2050 aim means that you’ll reach by then the level France already has already today with 90% of the mix that is carbon free.


    1. Well, if you want to say by that that Germany should reverse the nuclear phase-out, you will need to get over it at some time. That’s just not going to happen. That leaves renewable as the only show in town, and an even more urgent need to get that rocket flying faster.


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