Feeling the effects of the nuclear phaseout

Just as 60 years ago people would’ve called you crazy if you’d said America would soon be a net importer of cars, the prospect of Germany needing to import energy probably seemed pretty far-fetched just a few years ago. The country, by some measures the world’s leading producer of renewable energy, sold power from its wind and solar and coal and nuclear plants to its neighbors every day. But with the decision to pull the plug on half the country’s nuclear energy overnight, the equation changed. As I warned in this story in The New Republic, Germany was now facing not only higher short-term emissions, but also an energy reliance on its neighbors who have always been energy customers.

We’re starting to see it happen. Last month, on two days when the country was producing more energy than it needed, it still needed to import electricity from Austria. Why? Because the electric grid isn’t properly equipped to transmit power from the windy north to the industry-heavy south — not without a major overhaul. That’s why some people who support a nuclear phaseout to clear the way for renewables are still worried that the Merkel administration made the change too quickly, without giving Germany’s grid operators and renewable power companies enough time to prepare for the new energy patterns.

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