This article is adapted from the business magazine Capital and is available here for ten days. Afterwards it will only be available to read at Like stern, Capital belongs to RTL Deutschland.

On April 15, 2023, the last three German nuclear power plants (nuclear power plants) went offline: “Neckarwestheim 2” from EnBW, “Isar 2” from E.On and “Emsland” from RWE. With the end, the federal government created facts in the debate about Germany’s nuclear phase-out. Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, politicians and society have been arguing bitterly about it. The shutdown of the power plants was highly controversial: opponents of the phase-out warned that it would endanger Germany’s energy security. There was talk of blackouts and electricity price explosions.

But how good or bad is the energy supply in Germany one year after the nuclear phase-out? Have the fears come true? Do we have too little energy? Has electricity become more expensive since the end of nuclear energy?

Bottom line: The nuclear phase-out had fewer negative effects than expected. The price for a megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity on the energy exchanges has actually almost halved: While it still cost 99.01 euros in April 2023, it fell to 55.01 euros in April 2024. The price has now reached the level of April 2021.

Consumer prices for electricity have also fallen: According to the comparison portal Verivox, a kilowatt hour (KWh) cost 33.83 cents in April 2023, and a year later the price is only 26.05 cents. Despite this positive development for households, many citizens consider the exit to be a bad decision: According to a survey by Verivox, 51 percent of respondents are against the shutdown, only 28 percent are in favor.

The person who is watching the consequences of the nuclear phase-out particularly closely is Bruno Burger, professor and senior scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE). According to him, “nuclear power has been energetically replaced by increased renewable energy generation.” Production from fossil fuels has also declined. This in turn was compensated for by electricity savings, self-generated electricity from photovoltaics, a reduced load and imports.

“In fact, nuclear power generation has been replaced energetically by renewable energies. In the first year without nuclear power, approximately 270 TWh of renewable electricity was generated, 33 TWh more than in the same period last year. Our electricity mix is ​​cleaner than ever before,” said Burger. The abbreviation TWh stands for terawatt hour. Renewable energies accounted for 58.8 percent of the electrical load between April 2023 and April 2024. This is the sum of public electricity consumption and network losses.

While electricity generation from renewables has increased, production from fossil fuels has decreased. In the first year without nuclear power, coal, natural gas, oil and waste produced about 154.4 TWh of electricity – a significant decrease compared to previous years and 26 percent less than the same period last year. Today, fossil fuel sources account for only 33.7 percent of net public electricity generation. High costs for natural gas and coal as well as CO2 certificates are some of the reasons for this decline.

In addition, total electricity demand (load) fell by 2.1 percent to 459 TWh. This decline is due to a combination of factors, including industrial and residential electricity savings, a general decrease in production and increased self-use of photovoltaic electricity.

However, Burger notes: Imports of electricity have increased, even though Germany had enough power plant capacity to be self-sufficient at all times. From April 2023 to April 2024, Germany imported 23 terawatt hours of electricity, compared to 21.3 terawatt hours exported the previous year. “The reason is the significantly lower electricity prices on the exchange,” explains Burger.

“In the summer, the renewable power plants in the Alps and in Denmark, Norway and Sweden generated cheap electricity, so that the German coal-fired power plants were not competitive. A lot of electricity with low greenhouse gas emissions came to Germany through imports.” In addition, many nuclear power plants in France were back online in the summer after the failures in 2022 and exported excess electricity.

The evaluation of the period from mid-April 2023 to mid-April 2024 shows that the loss of nuclear power in Germany could be well compensated for, according to the Fraunhofer Institute’s conclusion. Contrary to claims, the increase in imports is not due to a lack of generation capacity in Germany, but rather to the low generation prices of renewable power plants in the Alps and Scandinavia.