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FACTBOX-How Fukushima helped to transform Germany's power sector

FRANKFURT, March 10 (Reuters) - The Fukushima nuclear disaster 10 years ago has had a profound impact on the global power sector, but no other country abroad saw bigger changes to its energy laws, infrastructure and utility landscape than Germany.

As a result of decisions taken in 2011 following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant explosions in Japan, Europe’s largest economy will soon switch off its remaining reactors.

As a separate consequence of a faster decarbonisation schedule, it has also begun phasing out coal generation and mining up to the year 2038.

‘GREAT HYSTERIA’

Days after the first explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant, Germany decided to immediately close the country’s oldest reactors.

The move, which has since been described by critics as an overreaction, eventually culminated in the accelerated shutdown of all remaining reactors by 2022, causing billions of euros of losses for the operators.

"There was great hysteria," here Juergen Grossmann, CEO of Germany's largest power producer RWE between 2008 and 2012, said subsequently.

RENEWABLES BOOM

A year before the disaster in 2010, nuclear energy accounted for over a fifth of Germany’s electricity generation, with renewables accounting for 17%.

Grossmann, who earned the moniker “nuclear Rambo” during his tenure, once said developing solar energy in Germany made as much sense as growing pineapples in Alaska.

But last year, renewables were Germany’s biggest power source at 45%, while nuclear’s contribution stood at a mere 11%, reflecting the vast expansion of solar and wind that has made Germany the world’s No.5 in installed renewables capacity.

The share of renewables is due to hit 65% by 2030.

BREAK UPS AND MERGERS

Fukushima and its aftermath threw Germany’s utilities into an unprecedented crisis due to the huge costs related to the phase-out, including lost production, premature decommissioning and waste handling.

It also forced utilities to change.

The crisis was a key factor in E.ON’s move to spin off power plant business Uniper and RWE’s carve out of renewables and grid division Innogy in 2016.

Innogy was later broken up and divided between E.ON and RWE, turning RWE into Europe’s third-largest renewables player and E.ON into Europe’s largest energy grid operator.

Uniper has since seen Finnish utility Fortum take a majority stake while EnBW, which is pursuing a green course backed by public sector ownership, has become a specialist in breaking up reactors.

No one has satisfactorily resolved the question what to do with nuclear waste. (Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff Editing by Keith Weir)

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