German Chancellor Angela Merkel's energy policy has undergone a dramatic about-face. Last fall, her center-right coalition reversed a previous government plan to ditch nuclear power. But Germany's visceral aversion to nuclear power, which has been an intricate part of German identity since the 1970s, gaining steam after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, grew in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident. And Ms. Merkel was swayed to wean one of the world's biggest economies off its nuclear supply. The government cemented the move in a late June vote.
"We have the historic chance to set an example that this transition is possible, and how it can be done. If we don't succeed, why should anybody else embark on this path?" says energy expert Marcel Viëtor at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "The harm would be great on a global level. But if Germany proves it can manage this energy turnaround technically, quickly, and in a way that strengthens its economic competitiveness – and we are optimistic about that – this might send a strong motivating signal to other societies."
This spring, Merkel inaugurated Germany's first offshore windmill farm, in the Baltic Sea. The 21-turbine park, set to provide electricity to 50,000 homes, will be a cornerstone of her plan, which aims to double the portion of energy generated by renewables to 35 percent by 2020. Currently, nuclear power generates 25 percent of Germany's energy supply.