2016 The Year in Review

Utilities Regroup Amid Renewables Push

Sonnenaufgang Kraftwerk Mehrum
Winds of change rearranged Germany's utility landscape. Source: DPA

Germany slowed its mandatory push into solar and wind power this year, amid signs its generous subsidy campaign was getting ahead of the nation’s ability to restructure around alternative energy.
The government pulled the brakes after being unable to deliver alternative electricity from its shiny new solar farms and wind turbines in the north to consumers in Bavaria, who oppose the construction of unsightly above-ground transmission lines. Even so, the subsidies enacted after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011 are still costing taxpayers €25 billion, or $26.1 billion, a year in higher energy levies. Meanwhile the nation’s large conventional power makers continue to go through an ugly transition, slashing jobs and writing down billions in brand-new nuclear and coal-power plants. The two largest utilities, E.ON and RWE, broke up their operations in separate companies, drawing a corporate line between fossil-fuels and renewable sources. Their respective alternative energy spin-offs, Uniper and Innogy, went public to mixed reviews.

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