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I wondered as I traveled in Germany last spring. Why is the energy future happening here, in a country that was a bombed-out wasteland 70 years ago?

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And could it happen everywhere? The Germans have an origin myth: It says they came from the dark and impenetrable heart of the forest. It dates back to the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about the Teutonic hordes who massacred Roman legions, and it was embellished by German Romantics in the 19th century. Through the upheavals of the 20th century, according to ethnographer Albrecht Lehmann, the myth remained a stable source of German identity. The forest became the place where Germans go to restore their souls—a habit that predisposed them to care about the environment.

So in the late s, when fossil fuel emissions were blamed for killing German forests with acid rain, the outrage was nationwide. The oil embargo of had already made Germans, who have very little oil and gas of their own, think about energy. The threat of waldsterben, or forest death, made them think harder.

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Government and utilities were pushing nuclear power—but many Germans were pushing back. This was new for them. In the decades after World War II, with a ruined country to rebuild, there had been little appetite for questioning authority or the past. But by the s, the rebuilding was complete, and a new generation was beginning to question the one that had started and lost the war. Pesch was sitting in a mountaintop restaurant in the Black Forest outside Freiburg.

With an engineer named Dieter Seifried, we were talking about the nuclear reactor that never got built, near the village of Wyhl, 20 miles away on the Rhine River. The state government had insisted that the reactor had to be built or the lights would go out in Freiburg.


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But beginning in , local farmers and students occupied the site. In protests that lasted nearly a decade, they forced the government to abandon its plans. It was the first time a nuclear reactor had been stopped in Germany. Its branch of the Fraunhofer Institute is a world leader in solar research. But opposition to nuclear power, at a time when few people were talking about climate change, was clearly a decisive factor. I had come to Germany thinking the Germans were foolish to abandon a carbon-free energy source that, until Fukushima, produced a quarter of their electricity.

I came away thinking there would have been no energiewende at all without antinuclear sentiment—the fear of meltdown is a much more powerful and immediate motive than the fear of slowly rising temperatures and seas. All over Germany I heard the same story. From Disch, sitting in his own cylindrical house, which rotates to follow the sun like a sunflower. From Rosenkranz in Berlin, who back in left physics graduate school for months to occupy the site of a proposed nuclear waste repository.

And from Wendelin Einsiedler, a Bavarian dairy farmer who has helped transform his village into a green dynamo. All of them said Germany had to get off nuclear power and fossil fuels at the same time. Climate change affects my kids. If you ask why antinuclear sentiment has been so much more consequential in Germany than, say, across the Rhine in France, which still gets 75 percent of its electricity from nukes, you end up back at the war.

It left Germany a divided country, the front along which two nuclear superpowers faced off. When the German Green Party was founded in , pacifism and opposition to nuclear power were both central tenets. In the first Green representatives made it into the Bundestag, the national parliament, and started injecting green ideas into the political mainstream. Even though Chernobyl was hundreds of miles away, its radioactive cloud passed over Germany, and parents were urged to keep their children inside.

Chernobyl was a watershed. But it took Fukushima, 25 years later, to convince Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union CDU that all nuclear reactors should be switched off by By then the boom of renewable energy was in full swing. And a law that Hans-Josef Fell had helped create back in was the main reason. On the south side, facing the backyard, the grass is partially covered by photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. On the March morning when I visited, the wood interior of the house was bathed in sunlight and warmth from the conservatory.


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  • In a few weeks, Fell said, wildflowers would be blooming on the roof. A shed in his backyard, next to the swimming pond, houses a sauna, powered by the same green electricity that powers his house and his car. Tighten your belts. His father, the conservative mayor of Hammelburg, supported nuclear power and the local military base. Young Fell demonstrated at Grafenrheinfeld and went to court to refuse military service.

    Years later, after his father had retired, Fell was elected to the Hammelburg city council.

    It was , the year Germany was officially reunified—and while the country was preoccupied with that monumental task, a bill boosting the energiewende made its way through the Bundestag without much public notice. But Fell, who was installing PV panels on his roof in Hammelburg, realized that the new law would never lead to a countrywide boom: It paid people to produce energy, but not enough. In he got the city council to pass an ordinance obliging the municipal utility to guarantee any renewable energy producer a price that more than covered costs.

    Now there are hundreds in Germany. In Fell rode a Green wave and his success in Hammelburg into the Bundestag. The Greens formed a governing coalition with the SPD. Fell teamed up with Hermann Scheer, a prominent SPD advocate of solar energy, to craft a law that in took the Hammelburg experiment nationwide and has since been imitated around the world.

    Its feed-in tariffs were guaranteed for 20 years, and they paid well. We live in a market economy, after all. Fell was about the only German I met who claimed not to have been surprised at the boom his logic unleashed. Outside his sunroom, which overlooks the Alps, nine wind turbines turned lazily on the ridge behind the cow pen. The smell of manure drifted in.

    Einsiedler had started his personal energiewende in the s with a single turbine and a methane-producing manure fermenter. He and his brother Ignaz, also a dairy farmer, burned the methane in a kilowatt cogenerator, generating heat and electricity for their farms. But after the renewable energy law took effect in , the Einsiedlers expanded. Today they have five fermenters, which process corn silage as well as manure from eight dairy farms, and they pipe the resulting biogas three miles to the village of Wildpoldsried.

    The biogas, the solar panels that cover many roofs, and especially the wind turbines allow Wildpoldsried to produce nearly five times as much electricity as it consumes. Thirty people invested in the first one; 94 jumped on the next. At the peak of the boom, in , 7. A German solar-panel industry blossomed, until it was undercut by lower-cost manufacturers in China—which took the boom worldwide. Germans paid for this success not through taxes but through a renewable-energy surcharge on their electricity bills.

    This year the surcharge is 6. The German economy as a whole devotes about as much of its gross national product to electricity as it did in In the elections Fell lost his seat in the Bundestag, a victim of internal Green Party politics. No one, not even the industry, thinks nuclear is coming back in Germany. Coal is another story.

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    Strategies Of Expertise In Technical Controversies: A Study Of Wood Energy Development

    Germany got 44 percent of its electricity from coal last year—18 percent from hard coal, which is mostly imported, and about 26 percent from lignite, or brown coal. The use of hard coal has declined substantially over the past two decades, but not the use of lignite. Ideally, to reduce emissions, Germany should replace lignite with gas. But as renewables have flooded the grid, something else has happened: On the wholesale market where contracts to deliver electricity are bought and sold, the price of electricity has plummeted, such that gas-fired power plants and sometimes even plants burning hard coal are priced out of the market.

    We are not a very resource-rich country, and the one resource we have is lignite.


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    • ON, the largest utility, which owns Grafenrheinfeld and many other plants, declared a loss of more than three billion euros last year. ON is splitting into two companies, one devoted to coal, gas, and nuclear, the other to renewables. The CEO, once a critic of the energiewende, is going with the renewables. In a trench that covers 11 square miles and is more than feet deep, 13 gargantuan digging machines work in synchrony—moving the trench through the landscape, exposing and removing the lignite seam, and dumping the overburden behind them so the land can be replanted.

      On the same rebuilt hill stands a memorial to Wolkenberg, a village consumed by the mine in the s. Boulders mark the spots where the church and other buildings once stood. It was a gorgeous spring day; from Wolkenberg, the only cloud we could see was the lazily billowing steam plume from the 1. Even with the looming shutdown of more nuclear reactors, Germany has too much generating capacity.

      Problem of Wood Pellets

      Vattenfall, however, plans to sell its lignite business, if it can find a buyer, so it can focus on renewables. Last year the amount of new solar fell to around 1. At the end of April, Vattenfall formally inaugurated its first German North Sea wind park, an turbine project called DanTysk that lies some 50 miles offshore. The ceremony in a Hamburg ballroom was a happy occasion for the city of Munich too. As a result Munich now produces enough renewable electricity to supply its households, subway, and tram lines.

      BIOMASS UNDER FIRE

      By it plans to meet all of its demand with renewables. Up to date, no grid-connected biomass power plants exist. Several sugar factories have however been using sugar cane bagasse for station supply since the s. A total of 30 MW of capacity surplus could be fed in the grid by sugar factories [20]. Municipal waste and bio fuels on the other hand are barely used as energy resources. No estimation of municipal waste power production potential is available at the time, power production potential of landfill gas is estimated to be 24 MW [19].

      The current GTP plans to disseminate 25, domestic biogas plants, 10, vegetable oil stoves and 9. Various energy sector studies conducted in the mid s identified the rising cost of domestic energy supplies on household consumers, unsustainable consumption of fuel wood, increasing deforestation and soil erosion as major environmental and economic problems facing Ethiopia.

      Demand side management was one among various strategies adopted by the Government of Ethiopia to address the issue and was aimed at reducing households demand for biomass and hence relieving the pressure on the remaining woody biomass resources.