Berlin warned on phasing out nuclear energy

Germany will miss its CO2 emission targets, face rising electricity prices and become “dramatically” more reliant on Russian gas if it keeps to its policy of phasing out nuclear energy, a new study warns.

The 60-page paper by Deutsche Bank will add to the pressure on Angela Merkel, chancellor, to renegotiate the phase-out deal agreed by the previous government in 2000, despite her pledge not to reopen the controversial debate.

Rising concern about global warming and energy security have sparked a lively dispute in Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led grand coalition government about the wisdom of renouncing nuclear energy. Michael Glos, the conservative economics minister, has campaigned vigorously against the phase-out, triggering equally vigorous opposition from Sigmar Gabriel, the Social Democratic environment minister.

Without nuclear energy, the bank says, the chancellor faces a painful choice between the three goals she has set herself – to reduce emissions, cut reliance on Russian fossil fuel and keep energy prices in check.

“Shutting down nuclear is inconceivable as a serious policy,” Mark Lewis, energy analyst and author of the report, said. “It will mean missing your carbon emission targets and lead to gas-powered plants replacing today’s nuclear plants.”

A spokesman for the environment ministry said Germany’s goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 40 per cent of their 1990 level by 2020 “can be achieved without nuclear energy. But of course, nobody ever said it would be easy.”

The SPD has yet to show any willingness to renegotiate the nuclear exit deal. Rainer Wend, a Social Democratic MP and member of parliament’s economics committee, said: “If we must import more Russian gas, then so be it. Russia is a reliable supplier.”

Backers of nuclear energy point out that the phase-out has left Berlin isolated as holder of the European Union’s rotating presidency, which complicates Ms Merkel’s task of drafting a European energy policy at the next European Council summit in March.

With nuclear covering 25 per cent of Germany’s electricity needs – and taking into account rising electricity demand and the need to replace old fossil-fuel plants – DB calculates 42,000MW of new plants will be needed by 2022.

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