Green Visions Merkel's Masterplan for a German Energy Revolution

Giant windparks, insulated buildings, electric cars and a European supergrid: the German government on Monday unveiled an ambitious but vague blueprint to launch a new era of green energy for Europe's largest economy. SPIEGEL ONLINE has analyzed the plans.


A German wind farm in the North Sea.

A German wind farm in the North Sea.

The debate about the German government's energy policy has centered on the extension of nuclear reactor lifespans. Opposition parties, analysts and environmentalists have heaped criticism on the decision of the center-right coalition on Sunday to postpone the phase-out of the country's 17 nuclear power stations by 12 years on average beyond 2021, the date by which the last of the reactors had originally been due to close under legislation brought in by a previous center-left government in 2002.

It is true that the big power companies will profit from the lifespan extension. But the draft energy plan presented by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday isn't just about nuclear power. It also provides a blueprint of how Germany is to manage the transition to a new age of green energy. The nuclear reactors are only significant for one of three sectors of the energy economy -- power generation. They are irrelevant for the heating industry and transport. Besides, nuclear energy accounts for just a fifth of household energy needs -- coal-fired power generation still makes up half. Nuclear power correspondingly fills just one of the 39 pages of the energy plan.

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Photo Gallery: German Government Energy Reports

On the remaining pages the government presents ideas and concepts for gigantic wind farms in the North Sea and Baltic and for the role of biofuels in future power and heat generation. It unveils proposals for motivating people to improve the insulation of their homes and encouraging industry to become more energy efficient. It also outlines planned incentives for buying and developing electric cars and a vision of a European super grid.

Many aspects are very vaguely formulated. There are 23 instances where the government pledges to consider changing old regulations or drafting new ones. In other areas such as electric cars or smart grids the coalition has already launched development projects and the plans are therefore more concrete.

SPIEGEL ONLINE presents the main points of the coalition's draft energy plan, which lays the groundwork for a new German energy policy to be revealed later this month.


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