Rather, what he says is the Energiewende began in the 70s as a protest against plans to build a new nuclear plant in southwest Germany by village folk who had no concern about radiation; in fact they mined uranium and were developing a "radioactive spa" for tourists. What they objected to was the intrusion of "ugly industrial complexes" upon their landscapes. On the other hand, these villagers didn't mind coal, which they associated with cheap energy and progress. Further, "in an age when tobacco was smoked everywhere, who would mind smoke from coal?"
When renewables were developed, it was thus natural that the first policy priority would be to follow through on this brooding dislike and distrust southern Germans harboured towards nuclear structures that were foreign to their culture and sensibilities.
To take Morris at his word, then, Germany's current energy policy is not to be understood as a primarily rational policy but a cultural-aesthetic one with fifty year old roots. Craig Morris told me in a tweet the policy decisions are in this regard reflective of Germany's vital democracy.
But I must ask what sense of democracy entails basing a policy on ignorant intuitions, such as villagers' unconcern with smoke, especially as conditions change and we come to understand that the smoke from coal affects more than just the villagers themselves, but the world's collectively shared atmosphere?
The essential German political theorist Jurgen Habermas described democracy as "a rationalization of power" where state decisions are made for good, transparent reasons that can stand up to ongoing, reasoned public deliberation. The Energiewende, which seems to be accountable in perpetuity to the aesthetic and cultural sensibilities of a poorly-informed populace of a past age, reflects in this regard a distinctly eccentric notion of democracy.
Indeed, this category struggle between aesthetics and rationality, which goes back to the 18th and 19th century division between Romanticism and Enlightenment reason, remains at the bottom of much policy paralysis--though the Germans foreground the struggle particularly distinctly, as they always have (see Schiller).
As societies, we remain confused about how to incorporate people's cultural feelings into policy decision making. We sense the rational procedures of technocrats can be used to mask an irrational will to domination.
But for Habermas the solution to this peril was not to incorporate unchallenged feeling and intuition into policy conversations. Rather, the democratic solution is to open the policy conversation to more voices. These voices must, however, still be accountable to fundamental standards of rationality (causality, math) and to incoming evidence, so new tyrannies and blockages don't set in.