The Rise of Renewable Energy in Germany
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The world’s energy consumption has increased significantly in the last 100 years, leading to a problematic level of carbon emissions. Climate scientists have warned that people must find more sustainable ways to produce power without fossil fuels. The United States has fallen behind in alternative energy sources, so Americans have looked to their allies for help. One source of inspiration could be the rise of renewable energy in Germany.
How Is Renewable Energy in Germany?
For the past few decades, Germany has been one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy and applying technology to help the environment. Germany’s primary renewable energy sources are solar, hydro, wind and biomass. Solar has been a priority for the Germans for a few decades.
In 2000, the German government created the Renewable Energy Act. The Germans passed the Electricity Feed-in Act nine years earlier, creating the world’s first feed-in tariff system. This mechanism aimed to increase investments in renewable energy technology by giving long-term contracts to companies developing technology for renewable energy.
These laws led to a 2000s boom in renewable energy technologies. Germany became a world leader in solar energy until April 2012. Last decade, the solar industry in Germany nearly collapsed as the price of solar panels plummeted. The government cut subsidies as solar competition increased, resulting in companies leaving the country.
Despite the 2012 crisis, Germany has rebounded with solar energy. A decade later, Germany is back to being a solar leader not only in Europe but worldwide. Germany ranks fourth in total solar power with 53.9 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity. The nation added 4.9 GW in 2020 alone. The only countries Germany trails are China, the United States and Japan.
How Does Germany Use Wind Power?
Germany is the largest national economy in Europe. The nation has over 83 million people, and its economy is diversified and highly industrialized. In fact, the German economy is responsible for around a quarter of Europe’s gross domestic product. The nation requires a high amount of energy to function, so there need to be several forms of renewable energy. One resource the Germans have tried to tap into is wind energy.
Wind power is a growing industry in Germany and across Europe. However, there are struggles with this energy source. The German government has approved less than 1% of its land for onshore wind energy. However, only a fraction of the land is usable.
Other factors have arisen as problems for wind power. Some experts warn that onshore wind towers could harm endangered species, especially birds. Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NBCU) says wind turbines kill 100,000 birds annually.
Despite the detractors, Germany has moved forward with plans to implement more renewable energy. Last June, the German economy and climate ministry announced that each of the 16 states has to increase the 0.8% land for wind farms to a 2% minimum. The move came soon after the Germans decided to decrease their dependence on fossil fuels from Russia.
What Has Hindered Renewable Energy in Germany?
Renewable energy is one of the best ways for the world to improve its future. However, reducing dependence on fossil fuels is a tall task for many, including Germany. One criticism of Germany in the past decade has been its reliance on oil, from Russia in particular. Russia is one of the world leaders in greenhouse gas emissions, with about 1.5 billion tons of annual emissions.
Germany and Russia (then the Soviet Union) signed an agreement in 1970 to build a pipeline between the two countries. In the terms, Germany would provide the machinery, and Russia would supply the raw materials, such as oil and gas. The two enjoyed a fruitful relationship for over 50 years. Germany relied on Russia for half its natural gas and a third of its oil demand.
The energy shifted once the calendar turned to 2022. The Russians invaded Ukraine in February 2022, putting Germany in a precarious spot. Would Germany continue its economic relationship with Russia despite the invasion? Then in September 2022, Russia announced the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would stop supplying fuel to the rest of Europe. The uncertainty in energy has forced Germany and other countries to review their timeline for renewable energy.
Another limiting factor for Germany has been its reliance on coal. 2022 led Germany to increase its coal consumption by 17% compared to 2021. The Germans had less gas and nuclear energy access because of Russia’s invasion. Coal represented nearly a third of Germany’s total electricity generation in 2022, an increase from 27% in the previous year. So, how will renewable energy change as the decade goes on?
What Are Germany’s Future Plans for Renewable Energy?
Germany is one of the most ambitious countries regarding its renewable energy goals. The country has set a mark for 2030 to increase its renewable energy consumption to 80%. Currently, renewable energy composes about 46% of its annual usage. Other critical goals for Germany include being free of greenhouse gases by 2035 and lowering climate warming to 1.5 degrees celsius annually.
The European Union has set strict standards for its member nations, including Germany. By 2030 the EU expects member nations by 2030 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55%. The EU bases this number on statistics from 1990. And by 2050, EU nations need to be climate neutral.
Another ambitious plan for Germany has been its target for electric vehicles (EVs). In October 2022, the German government announced plans to spend over 6 billion Euros in the next three years to increase the number of charging stations and push EV production. Germany has about 70,000 charging stations, but the government wants to see a million by the decade’s end.
Renewable Energy in Germany: A Curious Tale
Most countries, especially those in the United Nations, recognize the need for cleaner energy. Climate change has already made life more challenging for humans, and it’ll only worsen as the years go by. More nations have sought ways to become more sustainable because they see the writing on the wall. Renewable energy in Germany is on the rise. But the country, like others, has struggled to rid itself entirely of fossil fuels.
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About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.