Throughout German history, reality has been a nuisance to be dealt with, not a fact to be faced. As the philosopher Hegel once quipped, “if facts contradict to my theory, the worse for the facts”.
This tradition continues to this day. At the time of writing, members of the Green Party are protesting the expansion of coal mining around the village of Lützerath, demanding an end to the use of coal for energy production. The expansion of mining, however, was approved by the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck — who is of course himself a member of the Greens. Confronted with this contradiction, and the argument that the expansion of coal was necessary to compensate the decline of nuclear energy, a Green member of the German Bundestag clarified that the party base wants neither coal nor nuclear.
Unfortunately her interlocutor did not ask where the future energy is supposed to come from, so let’s dig into the topic: in 2021 coal (both bituminous and lignite) contributed 28.1% to Germany’s electricity production, while nuclear contributed 11.8%. This means that over the next 10 to 15 years 39.9% of electricity production needs to be replaced just to keep supply stable (some Green politicians are pushing for an even shorter period until 2030). Renewables contribute 39.7% to electricity production, meaning that their actual output (not the installed capacity, which needs to grow even faster due to lower capacity factors for wind and solar compared to coal and nuclear) has to double.
But that is only half the story: Germany wants to shift quickly to EVs and replace heating via fossil fuels with heat pumps — proposals that will massively increase the demand for electricity. According to the Federal Association of Energie- and Hydroeconomics, Germany will need 700TWh of electricity by 2030, which is an increase by 20% compared to 2021.
To sum up, Germany is faced with the prospect of reducing electricity supply by almost 40% while demand is estimated to increase by 20%. So how does the government plan to solve this problem? According to recent reports, by doubling gas firing capacity (from currently 15% to 30%), which of course begs the question of where that gas will be coming from. Supposedly LNG will be the answer, but it is questionable whether Qatar, the US, and other LNG exporters will be capable of satisfying this increasing demand, given the ambitious timetable put forward by the German government. As analysts like Tracy Shuchart of Hightower Resource Advisory have pointed out, at current export capacity the US cannot even fulfill the LNG export contracts that Europe has already signed.
There is, however, an alternative that currently nobody dares to speak of. This alternative, of course, is Russia. How long would it take for Berlin to restart Russian gas imports if a Russian-Ukrainian ceasefire was agreed? The energy question at least partly explains Germany’s lacklustre support for Ukraine. But the true irony is that the party most supportive of Ukraine’s struggle against Russia’s aggression could be responsible for forcing Germany back into the Russian embrace. In a sense, the Green Party and their policy of contradictions have made them the quintessential German party: Hegel would be proud.