California is Following Germany’s Failed Climate Goals

Published August 22, 2018 in Fox & Hounds

Germany was the first major economy to make a big shift in its energy mix toward low carbon sources, but Germany is failing to meet its climate goals of reducing harmful carbon-dioxide emissions even after spending over $580 billion by 2025 to overhaul its energy systems. Germany’s emissions miss should be a “wake-up” call for governments everywhere.

Germany stepped us as a leader on climate change, by phasing out nuclear, and pioneered a system of subsidies for wind and solar that sparked a global boom in manufacturing those technologies.

Like Germany, California’s renewables are becoming an increasing share in electricity generation, but at a HIGH COST. The emission reduction goals have increased the costs of electricity and transportation fuels and increased the already high cost of living in California and may be very contributory to California having the highest percentage of homelessness and poverty in the nation.

California households are paying about 40 percent more than the national average for electricity according to 2016 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Californians continue to pay almost $1.00 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country due to a) the state sales tax per gallon which are some of the highest in the country; b) refinery reformatting costs per gallon; c) cap and trade program compliance costs per gallon; d) low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs per gallon; and e) renewable fuels standard program compliance costs per gallon.

California is an “energy island” to its almost 40 million citizens, bordered between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The state’s daily need to support its 145 airports (inclusive of 33 military, 10 major, and more than 100 general aviation) is 13 million gallons a day of aviation fuels. In addition, for the 35 million registered vehicles of which 90 percent are NOT EV’s are consuming DAILY: 10 million gallons a day of diesel and 42 million gallons a day of gasoline.  All that “expensive” fuel is a heavy cost to consumers.


Despite higher energy bills, public opinion has remained supportive of the energy transition and the strategy to cut emissions. That support is apt to shift when politicians resolve the debate about how their targets match reality. Either they will have to abandon the goals and live with more pollution than they’ve promised, or they will have to force through painful and expensive measures that further limit emissions.

Germany, like California, is also trying to phase out nuclear reactors. California has already shutdown the 24/7 nuclear generating facility of SCE’s San Onofre (SONGS) which generated 2,200 megawatts of power that closed in 2013, and will be closing PG&E’s Diablo Canyon’s 2,160 megawatts of power in 2024

Shutting down nuclear plants is leaving California, like Germany, short of 24/7 generation plants that can work on the breezeless and dark days when wind farms and solar plants won’t provide much to the grid—and demand is at its peak. . Yet to be determined is the impact on rate payers? Will there be more reliance in California placed on fossil fuels for 24/7 power?

Germany’s economy, like California’s, is dominated by services that require less energy and produce less carbon than places tilted toward industry and manufacturing. Thus, less emissions to micromanage cost effectively reduce. California is a miniscule contributor to the world’s greenhouse gases. Statistically, the World is generating about 46,000 million metric tons of GHG’s, while California has been generating about 429 million metric tons, which is less than one percent of the world’s contributions. Germany’s contributions are about 905 million metric tons, which is about two percent of the world’s contributions.

Germany’s failed climate goals is an ominous wake-up call for California and governments everywhere struggling to reach their own targets. The result is a puzzle for politicians. Enacted legislation to make sure climate targets are hit, including stringent rules governing energy use, and new building codes to make buildings carbon neutral, and utility bill charges that subsidize investment in green energy, are all resulting in higher energy costs to consumers.

Ronald Stein, P.E.
Founder and Ambassador of Energy & Infrastructure




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