Errors: SPIEGEL Title Story

Alexander Neubacher just tweeted this:

High Costs and Errors: our cover story about Germany’s transition to renewable energy now on SPIEGEL international.

I agree with that. “Errors” is exactly the right word to summarize this anti-renewable propaganda effort.

Of course, anything with a byline “Alexander Neubacher” can be expected to be a fringe minority loser position. Please see my blog post of last October titled “Alexander Neubacher’s Fringe Minority Loser Position” for a link to a television discussion where Neubacher himself complains about the fact that none of the German political parties agree with his views.

Please also see my blog post “Who Is Alexander Neubacher” from last July for some background.

Unfortunately, he has a big platform as a SPIEGEL journalist, which instantly makes him the most damaging anti-renewable propaganda mouthpiece around.

That said, let’s refute some of the “Errors” in this particular SPIEGEL propaganda piece.

The headline of the piece asks how “electricity became a luxury good”.

That’s the first time I heard someone use this word while discussing electricity prices. A “luxury good” is something only rich people can afford. So Neubacher is asserting right in the headline that only a small rich elite can afford electricity in Germany. That’s rather detached from reality, even more so than his previous assertion that the FDP of all parties is pro-solar.

As far as I’m concerned, it would actually be a good thing if electricity became a “luxury good”, as it was in its first stages. Obviously, people will put more effort in saving electricity if prices go up. That’s why Germany has enacted an ecotax, artificially raising electricity prices by 2.05 cents a kWh fifteen years ago.

The generation living now in Germany profits from ridiculously low energy prices because we burn all the fossil fuel, leaving future generations only with the extra CO2 in the atmosphere. Don’t whine about slightly higher electricity prices, especially not if they help dealing with climate change.

Neubacher writes:

After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan two and a half years ago, Merkel quickly decided to begin phasing out nuclear power and lead the country into the age of wind and solar.

Actually, the Law on Priority for Renewable Energy has been enacted much earlier than 2011. It was enacted in 2000, in a SPD/Green coalition government under Chancellor Schröder, against the votes of the FDP. Is it too much to expect for someone writing at SPIEGEL to know that basic fact?

SPIEGEL then goes on to advocate for a quota model. They expect the report from the Monopolkommission (scheduled for release today) to propose this.

Of course, current law already has a quota model, in Article 39 Paragraph 1 of the Law on Priority for Renewable Energy. There’s nothing wrong with quota models, as long as they are built on top of a feed-in tariff, as is the case right now.

In contrast, abolishing the feed-in tariff and adopting a pure quota model would of course lead to all money flowing into onshore wind, since that is still slightly cheaper right now than large-scale solar. And it would of course lead to higher financing costs, since risks would go up for investors.

I think the most glaring error in this SPIEGEL propaganda piece is this gem (not by one of the journalists, but by a Swedish minister):

 “As a result, the energy market doesn’t depend on new political decisions every year,” says Hatt. “Investors in renewable energy greatly value this predictability.”

Of course it’s exactly the other way round. If you are an investor (or a bank financing some project or other), you are better off by far under a feed-in tariff, where you can calculate your income exactly for the next twenty years. That’s just basic common sense.

The Monopolkommission report is scheduled to be released today. I can’t wait to read how they expect to raise hydro production in Germany to 45%.

Published by kflenz

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

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