Since Germany closed down a number of their nuclear power plants, with the intention of phasing out nuclear power altogether, following the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis, there has been a lot of debate. One of the hot button topics is how to provide energy to Germany’s population without nuclear facilities. Can it even be done, especially in a way that doesn’t compromise Germany’s commitments to reducing green house gases? While the answer to this is not yet known, and their nuclear program will still be functioning into 2022, according to current plans, one solution with a decent amount of potential has been put forward. The German government is currently debating whether to invest in coal power plants.
Why is this a solution with potential you ask. Normally, this would be infeasible, it’s true, since coal is a limited resource that would counteract current efforts to reduce green house gas emissions by 40% by 2020. However, there’s two special factors at work here in Germany’s case. Firstly, the Ruhr District in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen is rich in coal. It has been an industrial center since the early 19th century when Germany first started their industrial revolution. This fact would mean that while not a renewable resource for the country, it is an extremely abundant and easily obtained one. Also, interestingly, this proposal comes at a time when Germany is planning on closing its coal mines by 2018. If the proposal gets approval, then Germany’s coal industry will flourish, which will further boost their economy. The second factor at play here is that Germany invests heavily into green technologies. According to studies done by Siemens, German cities are greener than their counterparts elsewhere on the European Continent. Just take a look at Frankfurt, it’s green in every sense of the word! In 2006 the Germans broke new ground by creating the first coal power plant that emits no pollution. This is why coal can be promoted without compromising Germany’s commitments to the environment. The Germans already have 32 coal power plants, which are doubtless going to be converted and upgraded accordingly. The Ministry of Economics and Technology and Oliver Krischer of the Green Party have all come out in favor of the idea. They’re determined to make this work. Given this determination and German technical expertise, I have little doubt they will succeed in the matter, if they win the ensuing debates.
So this is the real question, then. Is Germany leading the way for the rest of the world on this issue? Is it full-hearty to switch to coal and abandon nuclear power? More and more countries seem determined to go nuclear every year, and renewable energy is still a work in progress to be sure, even in the countries that make up its best proponents. Perhaps, it’s still a little too early to tell; but, this is a bold plan and fortune favors the bold. Odds are good that future generations will talk of Germany’s green revolution like they talk of its old Industrial Revolution.