There is usually nothing too distinct about a sunny, breezy day in late April. However, on one of these nondescript days, Germany did something that was almost unheard of. This year, on April 30, the country had 85% of its electricity come from renewable sources – a mix of solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric power. What is more, the energy supply was greater than the demand. On that given day, Germany not only broke its own record for usage of renewable energy, but also demonstrated the promise that renewables have long held but often failed to deliver upon.
Though days like this provide good publicity, they really underline the greater energy transition that has been occurring in Germany over the last decade or so, thanks to the Energiewende energy transition plan aiming to see a clean energy revolution by 2050. Passed in 2010, the plan includes an 80% to 95% reduction in greenhouse gases (based on 1990 levels), as well as a 60% renewable energy target by 2050.
The goals might sound extremely ambitious, yet it is hard to argue with the great leaps that have already taken place: in the decade from 2004 to 2014, production of renewable energy has increased by 150%. Moreover, the share of renewables in total energy consumption increased from 6.7% in 2005 to 14.6% in 2015 to a targeted 18% in 2020. Further supporting this transition, Germany is spending an extra €1.5 billion in order to help tackle the technical, distributive, and social issues.
Alone, this can be seen as a boon for environmentalists as well as a way of enhancing and increasing Germany’s energy independence. After all, considering Germany’s role as an economic driver of the European Union as well as consuming approximately one fifth of all energy in the EU, the country’s need for securing energy to drive the economy is essential and the positive figures further show that renewables can provide ample power for large economies as well (as it is rather easier to power a small country or economy, like Norway, for example, with renewable energy).
Compared to the rest of Europe, though the EU has a self-imposed goal of renewables reaching 20% of consumption by 2020, Germany is outperforming on expectations. For many other EU countries, their stated 2020 goal was either deliberately low, thus requiring little additional effort, or unachievably high due to the lack of willingness to meet targets. Let us look at the next largest economic drivers (and energy consumers) – France, the UK (currently), and Italy. France, in 2015, used 15.2% renewables with a target of 23% by 2020; the UK, 8.2% with a 15% target and though Italy has achieved its target of 17%, it had already achieved 13% by 2010.
Considering that the EU has some of the strictest environmental regulations for implementing renewable energy, it is reasonable to assume that, once the Paris Accords fully take effect and more countries look to meet their goals through the use of renewable energy, the EU stands to benefit as a leader in the production, distribution, and integration or renewable capacities and technologies. And there is no doubt that Germany will be at the forefront of this global opportunity.
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