Europe's Largest Engineering Company Quits Nuclear, Will Focus on Renewables


Photo: Topato, Flickr/CC BY

Siemens, Europe's largest engineering conglomerate, is severing its ties to nuclear power. CEO Peter Löscher has announced that effective immediately, the company will no longer make any investments in nuclear power. A planned project with Russia's state-owned power company will be canceled. Siemens will instead focus its efforts in the energy sector on renewable projects -- its clean energy division is currently its fastest growing arm. The New York Times has the story:

Siemens, the largest engineering conglomerate in Europe, announced Sunday that following the German government's decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022, it would stop building nuclear power plants anywhere in the world.

"The chapter for us is closed," Peter Löscher, the chief executive of the Munich-based conglomerate, said in an interview with Der Spiegel, the weekly news magazine. He emphasized the company's commitment to the rapidly growing renewable energy sector.

He said the decision was also "an answer" to political and social opposition to nuclear power in Germany.

Not to oversimplify, but the sequence of events that yielded this development really is a beautiful thing regardless of whether you support nuclear power or not:

  1. The Fukushima tragedy reveals some of the dangers of nuclear power.
  2. Germans vocally protest the standing nuclear policy in Germany.
  3. The power structure responds rather swiftly, with previously pro-nuclear chancellor Angela Merkel announcing the shutdown of all nuke plants in ten years.
  4. The private sector follows suit, and companies like Siemens change course accordingly.

What I see here is a healthy democracy in action: A government (and corporate sector to boot) responding relatively nimbly to the clear demands of the public. I'm sure there are many issues in Germany that are not resolved so (seemingly) smoothly, but it's nonetheless inspiring. The example should serve both as an endorsement for wide public protest and civil engagement, and as an illustration of the obstacles we have here that other democracies do not. (Namely, a more powerful corporate sector with more direct influence in the political arena) There are lessons to be learned from modern Germany indeed ...

And then there's this, which really tops the whole story off, especially in the face of the Solyndra non-scandal: "Siemens said last year that its renewable energy unit -- which is part of its environmental technologies division -- had the strongest growth of any of its lines of business."

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