Photo Gallery The Costs of Green Energy

Germany's agressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power has come with a hefty price tag for consumers, and the costs often fall disproportionately on the poor. Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.
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German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energy policy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany, and one of the country's most important future-oriented projects is acutely at risk.

Foto: © Ina Fassbender / Reuters/ REUTERS
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Environment Minister Peter Altmaier's predecessor once claimed that switching Germany to renewable energy wasn't going to cost citizens more than one scoop of ice cream. Today Altmaier admits consumers are paying enough to "eat everything on the ice cream menu."

Foto: Marcus Brandt/ dpa
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The government has high hopes for the expansion of offshore wind farms. But the construction sites are in a state of chaos: Wind turbines off the North Sea island of Borkum are currently rotating without being connected to the grid. The connection cable will probably not be finished until next year. In the meantime, the turbines are being run with diesel fuel to prevent them from rusting.

Foto: Ingo Wagner/ dpa
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The Goldisthal pumped storage power station is the largest of its kind in Germany. Stations like Goldisthal are key to balancing demand with supply on the grid, yet many are in danger of closing.

Foto: Stefan Thomas/ picture alliance / dpa
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It is only gradually becoming apparent how the renewable energy subsidies redistribute money from the poor to the more affluent, like when someone living in small rental apartment subsidizes a homeowner's roof-mounted solar panels through his electricity bill. The SPD, which sees itself as the party of the working class, long ignored this regressive aspect of the system. The Greens, the party of higher earners, continue to do so.

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Germany's most heavily polluting plants are now also its most profitable: old and irrelevant brown coal power stations. Many of the plants are now running at full capacity. While the amount of electricity from renewable energy rose by 10.2 percent in 2012, the amount of electricity generated in hard coal and brown coal plants also increased by 5 percent each. As a result, German CO2 emissions actually increased by 2 percent in 2012.

Foto: A3730 Federico Gambarini/ picture alliance / dpa
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In Germany, a quota for renewable energy would likely lead to more wind turbines being built on land. The government's expansion targets for offshore wind power would no longer be feasible -- and with good reason. Due to the challenging environment, the technology is prone to failure, and the cost of construction far away from the coast is very high.

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Industrial centers in states like Bavaria and Baden-Württenmberg have the highest need for electricity, yet they also have some of the lowest capacity for their own production.

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