Renewable Energy Policy Conundrum: Candlemakers' Petition or Broken Windows Fallacy?


Is this really our energy policy?

From the industry newsletter Nucleonics Week (subscription required):

Eight German municipal utilities have filed a complaint with the European Commission against lifetime extension for the country's nuclear reactors, charging that it is anti-competitive and makes their investment in renewable energy unprofitable.

On October 28 the lower house of Germnay's parliament, the Bundestag, approved a bill with amendments to the nuclear law that allow the country's 17 operating nuclear reactors to continue operating after 2022. All of the units were scheduled to be shut by that date.

The amendments allow reactors that went online before 1980 to operate for eight more years and those that went into operation after 1980 to run for 14 more years.

In a statement on November 11, Albert Filbert, chief executive of the HSE power company [and spokesman for the 8 utilities], said the utilities believe they are "victims" of that decision and that they will lose about Eur4.5 billion (USS6.1 billion) if the reactors continue to operate. Nuclear power will make electricity from renewable energy too expensive to be competitive, he said.

First, how in hell is keeping perfectly OK nuclear power plants in operation "anti-competitive?" This petition by German renewable energy companies reminded me of French economist Frederic Bastiat's famous Candlemakers' Petition in which producers of artificial light urged the French government to outlaw the sun because of its ruinous competition. I think you'll see the similarity:

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds — in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

And as Bastiat's petitioners argued, shutting down cheaper energy, "Produces more jobs." 

First, if you shut off as much as possible all access to natural light, and thereby create a need for artificial light, what industry in France will not ultimately be encouraged?

If France consumes more tallow, there will have to be more cattle and sheep, and, consequently, we shall see an increase in cleared fields, meat, wool, leather, and especially manure, the basis of all agricultural wealth.

If France consumes more oil, we shall see an expansion in the cultivation of the poppy, the olive, and rapeseed. These rich yet soil-exhausting plants will come at just the right time to enable us to put to profitable use the increased fertility that the breeding of cattle will impart to the land.

Our moors will be covered with resinous trees. Numerous swarms of bees will gather from our mountains the perfumed treasures that today waste their fragrance, like the flowers from which they emanate. Thus, there is not one branch of agriculture that would not undergo a great expansion.

The same holds true of shipping. Thousands of vessels will engage in whaling, and in a short time we shall have a fleet capable of upholding the honour of France and of gratifying the patriotic aspirations of the undersigned petitioners, chandlers, etc.

Or is the petition of the German renewable energy industry more of an example of a broken windows fallacy energy policy?

Hat tip to Steve Frantz.