Chancellor Angela Merkel has sacked her Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen after having been routed in state elections in North Rhine Westphalia. Röttgen was a leading minister in Merkel’s cabinet and was responsible for overseeing the country’s shift to renewable energy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
Röttgen had been a favorite of Merkel, and soon became the face of German renewable energy and a leading proponent of global CO2 reductions through binding UN treaties.
Röttgen even called opponents of renewable energies, and power utility managers, “fear-mongers”. Critics had often warned that Germany’s rush to renewables had been reckless, hasty, blind and not even thought out, and now risks wreaking havoc on the German economy.
Under Röttgen, since Fukushima, electricity prices nationwide have skyrocketed and most solar manufacturing plants in Germany have become insolvent, shedding thousands of jobs. Earlier this year Röttgen was forced to knee-jerk react by implementing reductions in the nation’s solar feed-in tariffs (FIT), which fuelled anger and loud protest from the solar industry and powerful interest groups.
Moreover, since Fukushima, Röttgen led Germany’s ambitious offshore wind energy program, but has failed to provide the necessary power grid expansion and transmission lines needed to take the energy to markets on shore and deep into southern Germany. Today this necessary infrastructure is nowhere in sight.
In summary, Röttgen managed to march Germany into an energy debacle in just a year’s time. Its power grid is faced with the risk of collapse.
Why Röttgen failed: Lawyers who cannot differentiate between a light bulb and a smelting plant
Merkel says in a statement:
The transformation to renewable energy is central project of this legislative period. The basis has been laid down for it, but we still have a lot of work to do […] It is obvious that implementing the transformation to renewable energy still requires great effort.”
Peter Heller at Science Skeptical translates Merkel’s political cyphertext into plain language:
We haven’t accomplished anything and it is unclear how we are going to accomplish anything at all.”
Heller also offers good insights on why Röttgen failed, and failed so quickly (emphasis added).
Norbert Röttgen is a lawyer. That has its advantages, especially when one is very much involved as a politician in lawmaking. However, having no technical understanding is a disadvantage when political intentions get poured into legislation without taking physical science and laws into consideration. […] Him getting sacked was thus inevitable. Thus he becomes the first political victim of the energy transformation to renewables. And he certainly will not be the last.”
And let that be a warning to those who wish to continue blindly down the path of rescuing the climate.
Norbert Röttgen’s replacement, Peter Altmaier, is also a lawyer. And Heller does not expect him to be much of an improvement, writing.
Also someone who knows nothing about grid frequency and voltage stability, and also someone who probably thinks that because a flashlkight can operate with a battery, then so can an aluminum smelting plant.”
On the political approach to renewable energy, Altmaier is quoted saying:
The energy transformation to renewables is a challenge for all of society.”
Heller deciphers, elaborates:
Challenge, not necessity. One can also interpret that as, ‘Not me, but all of us will be to blame if it doesn”t work out’. […]
We’ll see whether Altmaier stays with it. If he succumbs to showmanship like Röttgen did, then he will not survive very long. The laws of physics will see to that. No lawyer can regulate them away.”
Unfortunately it’s a lesson that German lawyers and lawmakers have a hard time learning.