29 March 2011

Kohlekraft? Ja Danke

Over the weekend, Germany's state of Baden-Württemberg saw historic election results with the long-time ruling Christian Democratic Union party being dumped by voters after 58 years in power in favor of the newly ascendant Greens. 

Conventional wisdom holds that the election's dramatic results were a consequence of the Japanese nuclear crisis and Chancellor Angela Merkel's clumsy efforts in announcing a moratorium on the nuclear plant extension that she had previously championed. I find this line of argument convincing, as well as the role played by Stuttgart-21, the controversial train station.  However, not all agree.

One point is clear, with political leadership of Baden-Württemberg the Greens have inherited a difficult, so might say impossible, set of conflicting political realities.  They promise a focus on continued economic growth and jobs (image above) and an shutdown of the state's nuclear power reactors.
The state is 45 percent owner of Energie Baden-Württemberg, or EnBW, which generates about half of its electricity from nuclear power plants. In its election platform, the Green party promised to shut down one plant immediately and the other in 2012. Both have been shut down temporarily because of a moratorium declared by Mrs. Merkel after the disaster in Japan.

It is unclear where the replacement power will come from, said Georg Zachmann, an energy specialist at Bruegel, a research organization in Brussels.

“In Baden-Württemberg there will be some very tough choices to be made,” Mr. Zachmann said. “The Greens now own assets that they do not want. It’s kind of a poison pill.”
Financial markets and analysts have more certainty about where that replacement power will come from:
"Getting rid of old nuclear plants means plants will run more coal and gas. That means around 70 million tonnes of extra carbon dioxide will be emitted and carbon is up on this prospect for now. The question is how much is this worth in terms of additional carbon price?" said Emmanuel Fages, analyst at Societe Generale/orbeo.

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who before his position in Brussels was Prime Minister of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, also supported the view that coal will act as a substitute to nuclear in Germany.
The policies and politics of  Baden-Württemberg bear watching.