When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


Germany: The High Price Of Phasing Out Nuclear Power

Wind turbines near Berlin
Wind turbines near Berlin
Thibaut Madelin

BERLIN - After the initial euphoria, it’s back to earth for Germans. The decision to exit nuclear power was initially quite popular, but today many are having second thoughts. Their main issue with the decision is its resulting cost, which is paid for by households and small businesses but has spared big industrial consumers.

When she decided to quit the atom, just after the Fukushima disaster, Chancellor Angela Merkel had promised that electricity prices would stay affordable. A year later, there is a risk electricity bills will surge to the point where Peter Altmaier, the new environment and energy minister, is working on a project to reform energy financing and subsidies. He intends to present a first draft in the fall for a reform that will take place after the September 2013 elections.

"The implementation of this energy transition has to be reasonable from an economic perspective and acceptable from a financial one," said the minister last week. "In this context, energy prices in Germany cannot differ too strongly and durably from those applied in the countries of our main competitors."

The contrast is manifest between the two banks of the Rhine. A French household pays an average of 140 euros per megawatt-hour for its electricity, whereas a German family has to pay approximately 260 euros.

The problem is that even though electricity prices are set to increase in France, the curve is going to be much steeper in Germany, where there are many more solar or wind projects. By 2050, the country wants to depend on renewable energy by 80 percent for its electricity production. The administrators of the German network have to present the bill for 2013 in mid-October.

The industry is ready for a fight

This year, the bill adds up to 14 billion euros, financed by the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) contribution paid by consumers. This tax, which is the equivalent of the CSPE in France, is already at 3.6 euro cents per kilowatt-hour in 2012, nearly the double of 2010. According to estimations, it could jump by 40% to reach five cents by 2013.

"Today, a family of four people pays 150 euros per year for the energy transition," says Juri Horst, from the Institute for Energy Systems of the Future, adding that the Chancellor had promised prices wouldn't exceed 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. "At five cents, this amount would reach 210 euros." According to the researcher, the EEG surcharge still benefits from a large social consensus, even if it is currently being criticized by some companies and political parties.

The industry is already preparing for a fight. The federation of textile industry has just announced that it was thinking of referring the matter to the German Constitutional Court. From the industry's point of view, it isn't the job of small businesses or households to finance the energy transition, but the State's.

The textile industry is a big loser in the energy transition, because it does not benefit from exemptions like steel and aluminum producers do - at least not yet, as the number of beneficiaries is supposed to increase soon.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest