Germany announces transition to renewable energy

June 1, 2011 | 14:14
Germany announces transition to renewable energy
Germany announces transition to renewable energy
The German government announced on monday that it will phase out the production of nuclear energy. Ending in a complete shutdown of all nuclear power plants by 2022.

At the same time the country will maintain its goal to supply 35% of its energy consumption by renewable energy sources by 2020 as well as reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to the 1990 Kyoto benchmark. Currently 23% of all of Germany’s power is generated by nuclear power plants. Shutting them down while at the same time meeting the clean energy goals will be a demanding task for the fourth-largest economy of the world.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the country is ready to meet the challenge: “We believe we as a country can be a trailblazer for a new age of renewable energy sources”. She added that Germany can actually benefit from the shift: "We can be the first major industrialized country that achieves the transition to renewable energy with all the opportunities -for exports, development, technology, jobs - it carries with it."

That is a lot of confidence for an economy that depends largely on energy-intensive markets such as manufacturing. But its confidence is earned. Germany is the world leader in solar energy. It generates 40% of all global solar power. This accomplishment is the result of the Renewable Energy Sources Act implemented in 2000 which compelled utility companies to buy solar energy from independent start-ups at fixed rates. The Act not only boosted the solar industry but was also an incentive for citizens to fix solar panels to their homes as they too were entitled to these feed-in tariffs.

The country has also invested substantially in wind energy. May 27th the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES) announced a collaboration with the ForWind wind energy research center to form the National Wind Energy Research Association.

The association will consist of a network of research institutes, universities and commercial development centers. Together they cover nearly all sectors of wind energy technology research. From rotor blade innovation to wind flow simulation and off-shore wind farm developments. By combining efforts the association hopes to compete with leading international wind energy research associations from Denmark and the United States.

The anti-nuclear movement has always been strong in Germany and the decision to phase-out nuclear energy will please much of the voters. But there are also critical reactions. Shutting down 7 nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster has already forced Germany to import electricity from nuclear power plant giant France and coal burning Poland. Manufacturers fear the shift to renewable energy will raise the price of electricity and will cause an increased risk of blackouts, posing a threat to the recovering economy.

However, in 2010 the European Climate Foundation concluded in the Roadmap 2050 rapport that the cost to the economy for shifting to renewable energy is ultimately lower than the cost of sticking to fossil fuels.
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