Advancing in the Greenpeace brochure, the one-sided arguments just keep on coming. This post will be about the 5th myth: (translated from Dutch):
The Energiewende is detrimental to the German economy
and the summary how they try to debunk it (translated from Dutch):
Meanwhile the Energiewende has created more than 340,000 jobs, both in production and in installing and maintenance of the installations. Especially the latter are local jobs, which therefore can not be delocalized. Germany much better withstood the financial and economic crisis than other countries thanks to these jobs.
Reading the rest of the text, they base themselves on these arguments:
- More jobs are created by the renewable energy industry than the coal industry
- They repeated the claim that wind and solar makes the price go down
- The demand for alternative energy products (solar cells, wind mills, hydro power, batteries and storage, products for the smart grid, efficient technologies,…) will rise and Germany is a potential producer of these
- Local ownership strengthen the local economy and keeps the money in the country or even the community.
To start with the jobs. The argument is that the renewable energy industry created jobs, more than the coal industry:
No definitions were given what consists of that renewable industry (wind and solar, or also biomass or hydro), nor what they mean by coal sector (hard coal and/or lignite). The source was BMU, but no specific link was given. One thing is for sure: this is only one side of the issue.
First, it might of course be entirely possible that there are more jobs in the renewable energy sector, but they didn’t say anything about the jobs that are lost in the process. Of course, if you only count the blessings, then the end result will be positive. Always. Never fails. But it is the balance that count. From memory I recall that in Spain the ratio was one job in the alternative energy sector versus two lost in the other sectors. If that is the same in Germany, this would mean less employment, not more.
Second, the Achilles’ heel is that these are jobs that depend on a subsidized product. What if these subsidies lower or are taken away? We have been before. In Belgium we also had companies that build on governmental support. When the subsidies for solar panels discontinued, the demand for solar panels plummeted and many installers had to declare bankruptcy.
Over to Germany being a potential producer of alternative energy products. If many countries are increasingly converting to alternative energy sources, then it makes sense that it will be good for the German economy if they are the ones that can deliver those goods. But those products are also produced in Asia and at a much lower price.
Several companies that produced solar cells had to declare bankruptcy around 2011 – 2012. So, yes, those alternative energy products are an opportunity for the economy, if they can compete with the cheaper products from Asia.
The local ownership was not really clear in the brochure, so I went to the link “Energy Transition – The German Energiewende”. Apparently, citizens increasingly form energy cooperatives and they invest in the projects themselves. I can understand that it gives benefits locally if the community makes for example use of local contractors in stead of when the investment is being done by an (international) organization.
They gave the example of the installation of solar hot water collectors to cover part of people’s demand for heat. This means less import of heating oil, therefor more money will stay in the country or even in the community.
Again, this is only one side of the story. Sure, that community will have less oil to import and if energy production was done locally, that money will stay in the community. But that doesn’t take into account that the heating oil seller will lose income (as other people in the chain from production to distribution). If one want to calculate the impact on the community, then the loss of those in the community also needs to be taken into account.
In the end, is the energiewende good or bad for the economy? One thing is for sure: the arguments given are not going to settle that question. the author(s) only looked at the things that supported their case and ignoring what is not. Okay, not unusual in alternative energy reporting. It is even the norm. But in that way it will not be possible to show whether alternative energy is good for the economy or not. If they really want to answer that question, then they will not only have to quantify the things that are good for the economy, but also the things that are bad for the economy.