Renewables ‘may not produce job boom’

Predictions that Germany's decision to phase out nuclear energy will lead to the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the renewable energy sector have met with scepticism.

Renewables 'may not produce job boom'
Photo: DPA

While renewable energy lobbyists – as well as the German government – argue one

of the upsides of Germany’s planned abandonment of nuclear energy by 2022 will

be a rosier employment picture, some experts are unconvinced.

The DIW economic research institute has spoken of up to a million new jobs in the sector, while the government puts the figure at 400,000 by 2020 compared to 300,000 in 2009.

But Manuel Frondel, a researcher at the RWI institute, thinks those numbers are off. He argues that the figures did not take into account jobs lost because of the shift to renewable energy.

“Renewable energies demand a lot of capital but less manpower” than conventional energy sources, he said. Hundreds of staff are needed for the operation of a nuclear or coal-powered plant, while very few are required for the running of a wind or solar park.

Frondel points the finger at “blatant (political) mistakes” in the solar energy sector. While the installation of solar panels in Germany has jumped over recent years, it is dependent on a subsidy system financed by a surcharge on consumers’ energy bills, he said.

At the same time, the system has proved particularly beneficial for Asian producers of solar panels who have lower prices than their German competitors, said Frondel.

Every job in Germany in the solar sector costs electricity consumers €250,000, meaning they are unsustainable, Frondel said.

A study last year by Stuttgart University’s Institute for Energy Industry and Efficient Energy Use suggested the end of nuclear energy by 2022 would have a limited negative impact on jobs in the short term.

“But by 2025 job losses of about 185,000 people will be recorded here too,” it said.

Some other research institutes believe the expected rise in the cost of electricity in Germany will hold back growth and neutralise in the short term any employment benefits reaped from the move to renewable energy.

One recent example underscores their fears: German company SGL Carbon said it would build a carbon fibre factory in the United States rather than in Germany since electricity there is cheaper.

The government’s surprise about-turn in its nuclear policy came in the wake of Japan’s massive March 11 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the worst since Chernobyl in 1986. Berlin decided in March to permanently switch off Germany’s eight oldest nuclear reactors and to close the nine others currently online by 2022.


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Why electric fan heaters in Germany could make the energy crisis worse

Hundreds of thousands of households in Germany have been stocking up on fan heaters to prepare for winter in the face of rising gas prices. But experts say over usage will worsen the situation.

Why electric fan heaters in Germany could make the energy crisis worse

Why are people buying fan heaters?

The cost of heating a home in Germany with oil or gas has doubled in the past two years, according to a heating index published on Tuesday by the non-profit consulting company Co2online.

Due to the rising costs, people are looking for alternatives to heat their homes. And in the first half of this year alone, 600,000 electricity-powered fan heaters were snapped up in Germany, according to market research firm GfK.

But this way of heating could end up being more expensive for consumers – and lead to higher gas consumption than with gas heating, an analysis by strategy consultancy Oliver Wyman shows.

READ ALSO: German households see record hikes in heating costs 

What happens when there’s overuse of electric heaters?

If fan heaters were to be used by people in large numbers, utilities would have to generate much of the additional electricity in gas-fired power plants, according to the firm. The fan heaters would then exacerbate rather than alleviate the energy supply shortages. At worst, there would even be a threat of local power outages due to grid overload.

READ ALSO: Should I invest in an electric fan heater in Germany this winter?

The main problem is that fan heaters provide heat less efficiently than standard gas heaters, said Jörg Stäglich, head of the European Energy & Natural Resources Practice and global head of utilities at Oliver Wyman.

“Their use is therefore more expensive for households than conventional heating.”

To generate the same heat, he said a fan heater requires twice as much gas via a detour to produce electricity in gas-fired power plants as boilers that burn it directly.

“There’s a vicious circle looming,” Stäglich said. “If we have to use more gas for electricity generation, the amount of gas available in Germany will become even scarcer and the price of gas will rise.”

In a scenario where 30 to 50 percent of the 20 million German households with gas heating relied on fan heaters to keep their homes warm in winter or at least compensate for a lowered room temperature, the demand for electricity would increase by up to 25 percent at peak times, experts calculate.

Experts say that even with rocketing gas prices, the use of electric heaters isn’t justified. 

Although the price of electricity has not risen as dramatically as gas, it has still climbed significantly this year.

“That’s why electric heating is not recommended at all,” said Norbert Endres, energy consultant at the Bavarian consumer centre. 

Stäglich added that using fan heaters was “not economical, climate friendly or sensible”. 


Fan heater – (der) Heizlüfter

Gas consumption – (der) Gasverbrauch

Power cut – (der) Stromausfall

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