The German government took a landmark decision this morning by deciding to phase out the use of nuclear power by 2022. The move stands to put Germany – a country where about a quarter of electricity needs were met by nuclear before March this year – on a path to massively increasing renewable energies and overhauling its grid infrastructure to meet its future electricity needs.
Eight of the 17 nuclear plants will be permanently switched off by the end of this year – seven of these are already disconnected from the grid for safety inspections following the Fukushima melt-down. The Financial Times Deutschland reported that Germany remains self-sufficient in electricity even without these reactors.
“We want the electricity of the future to be safe, reliable and economically viable…we have to follow a new path,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this morning, according to AP.
Shortly after the Japanese disaster, thousands took to the streets in Berlin demanding a nuclear switch-off and last weekend there were 21 anti-nuclear demonstrations across Germany attracting a total of 160,000 people. Just last year Merkel took a more pro-nuclear stance in deciding to extend the lifetime of existing plants by 12 years.
The news – which follows a similar announcement last week in Switzerland – spread like wildfire on Twitter, with many tweeters calling for their country to follow suit and abandon nuclear power. Switzerland will abandon nuclear by 2034 and another European country – Italy – stopped producing nuclear following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
Germany is already a world leader when it comes to alternatives to nuclear power: Last year wind energy met 5.3% of Germany’s electricity consumption needs, it is considered one of the wind-energy pioneers alongside Denmark and Spain, and the country has the largest amount of installed wind energy capacity in Europe.