Today’s Financial Times has a rather confused and hypothetical piece by Nick Butler arguing that Germany could decided to extend the lives of its nuclear power plants.
There are real issues at stake. German business is starting to realise just how expensive the shift to renewables will be, particularly if the mix of low carbon sources excludes nuclear. As things stand the amount of gas used will fall sharply – just when global gas prices are declining. That creates a competitiveness gap.
This appears to be opening up the possibility of another nuclear U-turn from Angela Merkel, her third.
One provocative answer to the problem is now being floated. The most likely partnership after the election in September is a Grand Coalition of the CDU and the SPD. With a sufficient majority such a coalition could decide to extend the life of some or all of the nuclear plants which at the moment are set to close by 2022.
The timetable could revert to the schedule originally set, after painful negotiations, by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder a decade ago. Ms Merkel controls her own party, and the SPD would probably endorse what was their own policy. Business and the unions would also be on side. That would give the stations at least another decade.
On the face of it Butler seems to have mixed up the policy decision made in 2001 to shut all plants down by 2022 with Merkel’s decision in 2010 to extend the lives of many plants, with the final plant closing in 2032. And a revision to the schedule set by Schroder would not result in giving stations “at least another decade.” Instead it would actually involve shutting plants down earlier than is now planned. (You can see the original 2001 shut down schedule here, and compare it with what is now planned.)
So no, Butler’s argument that this may happen looks rather weak.