A German energy boss has warned the country could experience long blackouts this summer due to a lack of power stations. Some government officials and renewable energy experts say he's needlessly spreading panic.
Power outages are a common occurrence not just in developing countries. In the United States, for example, Florida residents are still dealing with the chaos resulting from a wide-ranging blackout that affected nearly a million households. In Germany, though, people expect that when they flip a switch or plug in an appliance, power will be in ready supply.
This notion was put in doubt on Thursday, Feb. 28, when Juergen Grossmann, the head of German power giant RWE, warned that Germany and the rest of Europe could experience power outages lasting several days this summer due to a lack of power stations.
"Power is growing short all over Europe because there are not enough power stations," Grossmann told the Bild newspaper. "Right now, all we need is the combination of a hot, dry summer and the shutdown of more power stations for maintenance for power security to be endangered."
No energy gap, government says
His comments were repudiated on Friday by government officials and representatives of some parts of the energy sector.
Environment Ministry spokesman Michael Schroeren said it would be mistaken for Germans to believe that the lights would go out and people would be unable to operate their washing machines due to a lack of power this summer.
"All the figures show that there is no reason to speak of an energy gap," he said.
Schroeren added that while it is true that energy production can be restricted during periods of very hot weather, German citizens generally do not feel the effects.
The Federal Association for Hydropower and Energy (BDEW) said that "potential shortages could be the result if many negative factors were to come together at once."
Germany's renewable energy branch reacted with scorn to Grossmann's comments. The head of the Federal Association for Renewable Energy (BEE), Milan Nitzschke, said there are no energy gaps in Germany.
"This is pure fear-mongering," he added.
Competing interests in German "energy mix"
There has been ongoing debate in Germany about the country's optimal "energy mix."
Germany has committed to a total phase-out of nuclear power by 2020 and to increasing the proportion of energy that comes from renewable sources. Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, has spoken out for an energy mix that includes nuclear power, as well as more energy generated by coal-fired power stations.
Merkel's government plans to build up to 25 new coal-fired plants in order to fill the gap left when nuclear plants are taken offline. The plans have met with enormous resistance from environmental groups and citizens' initiatives who see the plans as a backwards step for a country that is meant to be assuming a leading role worldwide in the promotion of clean energy.
Germany's largest power supplier, Eon, has reported a marked drop in full-year earnings. It said 2013 results reflected the ramifications of the country's policy decisions related to its shift to renewables.
As the German economy has maintained steady growth over the past few years the number of corporate failures and private insolvencies has fallen. In 2013, the resulting losses were down by a quarter.
Last year, German postal and logistics firm Deutsche Post DHL delivered more parcels than ever before as global online sales surged steeply. The boom caused company profit to jump by more than a quarter.