U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm gave her first international address as part of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2021 conference, held on March 16 and 17. Granholm started her speech by stating that “America is back,” putting climate change policies front and center as part of the Biden administration’s agenda. She said that President Biden has set ambitious goals for climate policies that will set the United States on “an irreversible path toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
Granholm’s message: Granholm focused her talk on renewable energy investment and she discussed how the United States is dedicated to working with the rest of the world to cut emissions to get to net-zero. She touched on assorted topics, including investing in renewables, creating a resilient grid, installing hundreds of miles of new transmission lines to reach new renewable energy sources, improving carbon removal from current fossil fuels, promoting hydrogen production, researching next-generation battery storage, and realizing the potential massive economic boom that could come with all this investment by the U.S. Department of Energy.
There was one glaring omission from that list: Nuclear.
Praise for Germany’s renewable energy policy: Granholm’s message was extremely positive about the future of clean energy in the United States. She referenced Germany’s work to increase the amount of renewable energy sources–the country generated 50 percent of its electricity from renewables in 2020.
Perhaps Granholm omitted nuclear because of the audience–Germany has worked to phase out nuclear power since the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011, increasing its use of renewables, but also relying on coal and natural gas. The last German nuclear power plant is scheduled to be shut down in 2022.
Differing opinion: There are differing opinions in Germany that the country has been short-sighted about nuclear power and the tradeoff in increased coal production since the nuclear phaseout began a decade ago. In an opinion article in Bloomberg, columnist Andreas Kluth believes that “no country can afford to rule out fission reactors in the struggle against global warming.”
Kluth added, “Germany has invested oodles in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. But those fluctuate and haven’t been enough to power the economy. With the nuclear reactors being phased out, much of the slack has therefore been taken up by coal-fired power plants.”
Kluth then quoted from an International Energy Agency report, which said that a large increase in nuclear power is needed to meet the emissions targets of the Paris Agreement. Kluth concluded that the simple truth is, “We can’t succeed in saving our planet without recourse to the fuels that plug the holes left by the transition to solar and wind. Those include hydrogen, but also nuclear.”