Renewable energy in Germany
Germany's renewable energy sector is among the most innovative and successful worldwide. Net-generation from renewable energy sources in the German electricity sector has increased from 6.3% in 2000 to almost 30% in 2014. For the first time ever, wind, biogas, and solar combined accounted for a larger portion of net electricity production than brown coal, and for the first time, peak-generation from combined wind and solar reached 74% in April 2014,  and on December 12, wind power had its best day ever so far, generating 562 GWh on this day.
In 2011, 20.5%, or 123.5 TWh of the country's total electricity supply of 603 TWh was produced from renewable energy sources, more than gas-fired power plants contributed in 2010. In 2010, investments totaling 26 billion euros were made in the national renewable energies sector. Germany has been called "the world's first major renewable energy economy".
Siemens chief executive Peter Löscher believes that Germany’s target of generating 35% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 is achievable – and, most probably, profitable for Europe’s largest engineering company. Nordex, Repower, Fuhrländer, and Enercon are wind power companies based in Germany. More than 21,607 wind turbines are located in the German federal area, and the country has plans to build more wind turbines. As of 2011, Germany's federal government is working on a new plan for increasing renewable energy commercialization, with a particular focus on offshore wind farms. A major challenge is the development of sufficient network capacities for transmitting the power generated in the North Sea to the large industrial consumers in southern parts of the country.
According to official figures, some 370,000 people were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2010, especially in small and medium-sized companies. This is an increase of around 8% compared to 2009 (around 339,500 jobs), and well over twice the number of jobs in 2004 (160,500). About two-thirds of these jobs are attributed to the Renewable Energy Sources Act
Germany's Energiewende, or energy transition, designates a significant change in energy policy from 2011. The term encompasses a reorientation of policy from demand to supply and a shift from centralized to distributed generation (for example, producing heat and power in very small cogeneration units), which should replace overproduction and avoidable energy consumption with energy-saving measures and increased efficiency.
- Nuclear: 45 TWh (17.1%)
- Brown coal: 69.7 TWh (26.5%)
- Hard coal: 50.9 TWh (19.3%)
- Natural gas: 16.6 TWh (6.3%)
- Wind: 26.7 TWh (10.1%)
- Solar: 18.3 TWh (7.0%)
- Biogas: 25.6 TWh (9.7%)
- Hydro: 10.5 TWh (4.0%)
Since the passage of the Directive on Electricity Production from Renewable Energy Sources in 1997, Germany and the other states of the European Union have been working towards a target of 12% renewable electricity by 2010. Germany passed this target early in 2007, when the renewable energy share in electricity consumption in Germany reached 14%. In September 2010, the German government announced the following new ambitious energy targets: After the 2013 elections, the new CDU/CSU and SPD coalition government continued the energy transition, with only minor modifications of its targets in the coalition agreement.
- Renewable national electricity—40 to 45% by 2025, 55 to 60% by 2035, and 80% by 2050
- Renewable national energy—18% by 2020, 30% by 2030, and 60% by 2050
- Energy efficiency:
- Energy consumption—reduction of 20% from 2008 level by 2020, and 50% less by 2050
- Electricity consumption—reduction of 10% from 2008 level by 2020, and 25% less by 2050
The German Government reported, in 2011, renewable energy (mainly wind turbines and biomass plants) generated more than 123 TWh (billion kilowatt-hours) of electricity, providing nearly 20% of the 603 TWh of electricity supplied.
In 2012, all renewable energy accounted for 21.9% of electricity, with wind turbines and photovoltaic providing 11.9% of the total.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with a vast majority of her compatriots, believes, "As the first big industrialized nation, we can achieve such a transformation toward efficient and renewable energies, with all the opportunities that brings for exports, developing new technologies and jobs".
As of 2014, renewable sources account for 30.8% of the net electricity production (first half-year). Compared to the same period of 2013, energy production from wind, solar and biomass increased by 9.9 TWh, while it decreased from fossil fuels by 14.8 TWh, and remained almost unchanged for nuclear and hydro power.
- See main article: Wind power in Germany
In 2013, wind power generated a total of 53.4 TWh of electricity and more than 3.2 GW of new capacity was added to the grid. In 2011, the country's installed capacity of wind power reached 29,075 megawatts (MW), about 8% of the overall capacity. According to EWEA, in a normal wind year, installed wind capacity in Germany will meet 10.6% at end 2011 and 9.3% at end 2010 of the German electricity needs.
More than 21,607 wind turbines are located in the German federal area and the country has plans to build more. As of 2011, Germany's federal government is working on a new plan for increasing renewable energy commercialization, with a particular focus on offshore wind farms. A major challenge is the development of sufficient network capacities for transmitting the power generated in the North Sea to the large industrial consumers in southern Germany.
Photovoltaic solar power
In July 2012, a cumulative installed total solar PV power of 29.7 GW was in place. Solar PV provided 18 TW·h in 2011, 3% of the total electricity demand. As solar power installations rise quickly, in first half of 2012, about 5.3% of the total electricity demand was covered by solar power. On Saturday May 25, 2012, solar power broke a new record high, feeding 22 GW into the power grid, or as much as 20 nuclear power stations. This jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity and excellent weather conditions countrywide, and made up for half of the nation's electricity demand at midday. Germany was also the biggest expanding market for solar PV 2012, with 7.6 GW of newly connected systems. Some market analysts expect the solar electricity share could reach 25% by 2050. Price of PV systems has decreased more than 50% in 5 years since 2006.
- See main article: Geothermal power in Germany
Geothermal power in Germany is expected to grow, mainly because of a law that benefits the production of geothermal electricity and guarantees a feed-in tariff. But after a renewable energy law that introduced a tariff scheme of €0.15 [US$0.23] per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for electricity produced from geothermal sources came into effect that year, a construction boom was sparked and the new power plants are now starting to come online.
The total installed capacity in Germany at the end of 2006 was 4.7 GW. Hydropower meets 3.5% of the electricity demand. Latest estimates show, in Germany in 2007, about 9,400 people were employed in the hydropower sector which generated a total turnover of €1.23 billion.
Biofuel and biomass are some of Germany's most important sources of renewable energy. In 2010, biomass accounted for 30% of renewable electricity generation and for 70% of all renewable energy (mostly wood).
Germany's renewable energy sector is among the most innovative and successful worldwide. Nordex, REpower Systems, Fuhrländer, and Enercon are wind-power companies based in Germany. SolarWorld, Q-Cells, and Conergy are solar-power companies based in Germany. These companies dominate the world market. Every third solar panel and every second wind rotor is made in Germany, and German turbines and generators used in hydro energy generation are among the most popular worldwide.
Nearly 800,000 people work in the German environment technology sector; an estimated 214,000 people work with renewables in Germany, up from 157,000 in 2004, an increase of 36%.
Siemens chief executive Peter Löscher believes Germany’s target of generating 35% of its energy from renewables by 2020 is achievable – and, most probably, profitable for Europe’s largest engineering company. Its “environmental solutions” portfolio, which is firmly focused on renewables, is “already generating more than €27 billion a year, 35 per cent of Siemens’ total revenue, and the plan is to grow this to €40 billion by 2015”. Ending its involvement in nuclear industry will boost the credibility of Siemens as a purveyor of “green technology”.
Germany's main competitors in solar electricity are Japan, the US, and China. In the wind industry, it is Denmark, Spain, and the US.
The renewable energy sector benefited when the Alliance '90/The Greens party joined the federal government between 1998 and 2005. Support for renewable energy continued under all following governments, regardless of composition, including the current CDU/CSU and SPD coalition government starting in 2013. The renewable energy sector was aided especially by the Renewable Energy Sources Act that promotes renewable energy mainly by stipulating feed-in tariffs and recently also market premiums that grid operators must pay for renewable energy fed into the power grid. People who produce renewable energy can sell their 'product' at fixed prices for a period of 20 or 15 years. This has created a surge in the production of renewable energy. In 2012, Siemens estimated the total cost of renewable energy would come to at least €1.4 trillion (US$1.8 trillion) by 2030.
For the 2011–2014 period, the federal government set aside 3.5 billion euros for scientific research in the country. Additionally, in 2001 a law was passed requiring the closing of all nuclear power plants within a period of 32 years. The shutdown time was extended to 2040 by a new government in 2010. After the Fukushima incident, the law was abrogated and the end of nuclear energy was set to 2022. After the 2013 federal elections, the new CDU/CSU and SPD coalition in important areas continued the Energiewende of the previous government, but also agreed on a major revision of the EEG.
The German energy policy is framed within the European Union, and the March 2007 European Council in Brussels approved a mandatory energy plan that requires a 20% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions before the year 2020 and the consumption of renewable energies to be 20% of total EU consumption (compared to 7% in 2006). The accord indirectly acknowledged the role of nuclear energy — which is not commonly regarded as renewable, but emissions-free — in the reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases, allowing each member state to decide whether or not to use nuclear-generated electricity.
Energiewende ("energy transition") designates a significant change in energy policy: The term encompasses a reorientation of policy from demand to supply and a shift from centralized to distributed generation (for example, producing heat and power in very small cogeneration units), which should replace overproduction and avoidable energy consumption with energy-saving measures and increased efficiency.
The key policy document outlining the Energiewende was published by the German government in September 2010, some six months before the Fukushima nuclear accident. Legislative support was passed in 2011. Important aspects include:
- greenhouse gas reductions: 80–95% reduction by 2050
- renewable energy targets: 60% share by 2050 (renewables broadly defined as hydro, solar and wind power)
- energy efficiency: electricity efficiency up by 50% by 2050
- an associated research and development drive
The policy has been embraced by the German federal government and has resulted in a huge expansion of renewables, particularly wind power. Germany's share of renewables has increased from around 5% in 1999 to 22.9% in 2012, reaching close to the OECD average of 18% usage of renewables. Producers have been guaranteed a fixed feed-in tariff for 20 years, guaranteeing a fixed income. Energy co-operatives have been created, and efforts were made to decentralize control and profits. The large energy companies have a disproportionately small share of the renewables market. Nuclear power plants were closed, and the existing nine plants will close earlier than planned, in 2022.
In May 2013, the International Energy Agency commended Germany for its commitment to developing a comprehensive energy transition strategy, ambitious renewable energy goals, and plans to increase efficient energy use and supported this approach. Nevertheless, the scale of Germany’s energy policy ambitions, coupled with the large size and energy intensity of its economy, and its central location in Europe’s energy system, mean further policy measures must be developed if the country’s ambitious energy transition is to maintain a workable balance between sustainability, affordability, and competitiveness.
Subsidies aimed at stimulating the growth of renewables have driven up consumer energy prices by 12.5% in 2013. To date, German consumers have absorbed the costs of the Energiewende, but the IEA says the debate over the social and economic impacts of the new approach has become more prominent as the share of renewable energy has continued to grow alongside rising electricity prices. The transition to a low-carbon energy sector requires public acceptance, and, therefore, retail electricity prices must remain at an affordable level. Presently, German electricity prices are among the highest in Europe, despite relatively low wholesale prices. At the same time, the IEA said the new energy policy is based on long-term investment decisions, and a strong policy consensus in Germany in favour of large-scale renewable energy commercialisation exists.
In Germany, almost half of renewable power capacity was citizen-owned as of 2013, and about 20 million Germans lived in so-called 100% renewable energy regions.
Estimated German jobs in renewable energy in 2012-2013 were about 370,000.
Increases in installed renewable electric power capacity and generation in recent years is shown in the table below:
|Share of gross
- Energy in Germany
- Energy policy of the European Union
- Renewable energy in the European Union
- Renewable energy commercialization
- List of countries by renewable electricity production
- Germany National Renewable Energy Action Plan
- Berlin Declaration (2007)
- German Solar Industry Association
- Amory Lovins
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