energy transition

On February 24 Russia started an unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It has resulted in colossal damage and sufferings. How the war will end nobody knows, but it seems clear that Ukraine will remain a free, independent, and democratic nation, while Russia will achieve truly little, if anything of its goals.

The war in Ukraine will also have unintended and significant energy and environmental consequences in all Europe. For some countries there will be changes in the direction of their respective energy structures and plans. In other cases, the direction will remain unchanged, but the speed of change will accelerate.


Energiewende, The German Energy Transition. In a 1954 the Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss in a speech predicted that “It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electric energy too cheap to meter.” While later disputed whether the optimism was based on high expectations of fusion energy or on nuclear power in general, the phrase has stuck with critics of over-promises of not only nuclear energy but also of other “new technologies”.

If not “too cheap to meter” in 2004 the German Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Jürgen Trittin, came close, when he (in)famously stated that the surcharge (“Umlage”) for the German Energy Transition (“Energiewende”) to renewable energy, primarily wind and solar, for a household would amount to “only around one euro per month, the price of a scoop of ice cream”.

The reality turned out differently. A German household has now (2018) some of the highest prices for electricity in Europe, 33.9 cents/kWh, including the surcharge for the energy transition. As a comparison the average retail electricity price (2018) in Europe is about 24 cents/kWh and in the United States is 13.9 cents/KWh.


Germany is the 4th largest economy in the world. Consequently, when Germany launched its Energiewende to transform its electric industry from fossil fuels to 80 % renewable by 2050, it got worldwide attention. If such a large economy could make this transformation and stay competitive as a nation, other large economies should also be able to follow.

Germany started out with trademark German determination. To make transformation even more aggressive, after the Fukushima nuclear incident, they decided in 2011 to exit all nuclear by 2022. Progress has been impressive. By 2015 renewable energy represented 31 % of all electric energy consumption.

If California was a nation, it would be the world’s 6th largest economy. In an executive order, B-30-15, the statewide goal was set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 % below 1990 levels by 2030. As part of this goal California has set the ambitious goal to transform their electric consumption to reach 50% of renewables by 2030.  At the end of 2015 renewable energy has reached 26 %. However, contrary to Germany this target does not include large hydro! Trying to compare apples and apples with Germany by including large hydro, California was well over 30 % of all electric consumption from renewables.