Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Wind Blows in Germany

Recent posts here may have been premature in calling for an eventual resumption in nuclear power growth following the Fukushima disaster  -  at least as far as Germany is concerned.  Yesterday, while Americans were opening the summer season with the Memorial Day holiday, Germany’s coalition government was finalizing plans to shut down the country’s nuclear power industry by 2022.  The decision followed an investigation by a special panel appointed by Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this year and represents a reversal in the view of her government. 

Seven of the oldest reactors were taken off-line immediately after the Fukushima disaster.  With the new no-nuclear policy, those reactions will never be turned back on.  An eighth plant was already off-line due to technical problems.  It will never be turned back on.  Of the remaining nine plants, six will be shuttered by 2021 and the last three in 2022.

The back and forth that Germany has gone through over the year on nuclear power is not surprising.  Nuclear plants have approximately 20,500 MW capacity and account for about 22% of Germany’s power production.  In 2010, Germany’s nuclear power plants generated 140 million MWh of electricity.

The question is then, where is Germany going to get the power to keep the lights on.  The government says half of the 22% of Germany’s total power supply previously supplied by nuclear plants has to come from energy savings.  New efficiencies in electrical equipment as well as heating and cooling plants will be needed.  The other half will come from alternative power sources such as wind or coal.

Already its neighbors are salivating over the prospects for exports to Germany. Poland’s coal industry would like to sell the Germans some good Polish coal, a commodity that is the foundation for its own domestic power supply.  Poland’s coal industry has been in a decline in recent years as subsidies are being phased out.  Paradoxically, Poland recent reaffirmed plans to build its first nuclear power plant and the country is also exploring shale gas resources.  Russia’s Nord Stream is also at the ready with a gas pipeline stretching the length of the Baltic Sea and linking Siberian gas fields with the German coast.

Germany’s policy makers are reportedly thinking more in terms of wind power to make up replace at least half of the nuclear production.   A total of 21,607 wind turbines with an overall capacity of 27,214 MW were in service in Germany at the end of 2010.  To replace half of the nuclear power capacity going off-line by 2022, wind installation need to increase by as much as 40% by 2022.

German Wind Energy Institute (DEWI) reports that 1,551 MW of new wind power capacity was installed in 2010, well below goals for 1,900 MW installations.  The industry not be able to rest over the next ten years to achieve the Merkel coalition’s goals for a new wind power. 

Next post will include a look at which companies could benefit from a continued strong demand for wind turbines for Germany.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.

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