At almost exactly the same time as George Osborne was doing another U turn over his deeply flawed ‘pasty’ and ‘caravan’ taxes, Germany was generating almost 50 per cent of its entire electricity needs from solar power. The juxtaposition of these two events is illuminating.
Germany was widely accused of a very un-Germanic kneejerk reaction to the Japanese tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactor last year by announcing it would close all of its 17 nuclear power stations. It closed eight immediately and will close the remaining nine by 2022.
It seemed a hugely risky and out of proportion move – what would they do about the looming ‘energy gap’ if they had no nuclear? As it has now transpired, it was clear that
Angela Merkel’s government already knew the answer; they were making a dramatic political gesture – as politicians like to do – but they were making it from a position of strength.
Germany has almost as much installed solar capacity as the rest of the world put together.
It produced 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour at midday on Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26 – enough for half its needs at a weekend and a third of demand required on working days. This power output is equivalent to 20 nuclear power stations working flat out.
Germany, at this rate of development, is well on track to plug its energy gap and can comfortably afford to shut down its nuclear capacity.
What has all this got to do with pasties?
It is a question of political will and priorities. If you can’t trust them over the price of a pasty what can you really trust them to deliver a controversial integrated energy policy?
Establishing energy infrastructure is a very long-term task – Germany has been building up its renewable generating capacity for decades. - although not without flaws – a dependence on gas imports for example. It also backs low carbon solutions like combined heat and power, for example, and was moved to pass a CHP Act that led to a huge increase in local, microgeneration capacity alongside large scale renewables.
Here we are told that “political risk” is the biggest problem.
So let’s have a bit of stability and certainty and look over the political horizon.