The nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011 has fuelled the discussion in Europe and especially in Germany about the pros and cons of using nuclear energy for generating electricity. In mid-March the federal government of Germany has decided to temporarily shut down Germany's seven oldest nuclear power plants for three months. During this time the government is contemplating how much longer to allow all of Germany's nuclear power plants to operate.
The likely effects of an accelerated nuclear phase-out on electricity prices have dominated public discourse about nuclear power in Germany. Against this backdrop the Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia has commissioned the Wuppertal Institute to summarise and assess the current status of the discussion on possible future electricity price effects.
The study starts by providing an overview of important general aspects that should be considered by anyone who wants to evaluate the future price effects of an accelerated nuclear phase-out. Following this overview, the publicly available research and expert statements dealing with the price effects are discussed and assessed in detail.
The available research shows that household electricity prices will likely not raise by more than 0.5 to 1 cent per kWh until 2020 as a result of a complete phase-out until 2020 at the latest. Such a price increase would correspond to about 2 to 4 % of the current average household price. There are some indications that in the long run, that is after 2020, electricity prices might even be lower in the case of an accelerated nuclear phaseout compared to the case of a slow phase-out.