Monday, November 10, 2014

Germany's Renewable Energy Leadership

It has been 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and during that time Germany has emerged as the economic engine of Europe and a global leader in renewable energy. On November 9th, Germans celebrated their peaceful revolution and reunification. Germany has reason to be proud of their global leadership in solar and wind power.

Germany began its renewable energy ascendancy long before it was fashionable. As of January 2015, Germany can boast 15 years of clean energy leadership.

De-Fossilization

One of the greatest accomplishments of the German state is what is known as "de-fossilization." Thanks to the governments ambitious support for renewable energy, the country has managed to radically reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The growth of renewable energy in Germany is directly responsible for the decommissioning of fossil fuel power plants. Utility companies are being forced to shut down fossil fuel power plants because they are no longer competitive.

According to a SEIA assessment of Germany's solar power support, the country’s approach has been “remarkably successful, given the goal—shared by a great majority of the population—of ‘de-fossilizing’ [the] electricity sector.” The overriding message in this report is that feed-in-tariffs work.

In 2013 solar and wind energy production alone were responsible for 17 percent of power generation in Germany. That is an increase of 5 percent in the last few years.

The effort to "de-fossilize" continues and this is forcing Germany to get even greener. According to Fraunhofer ISE, during the first half of 2014, the nation generated 31 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Excluding hydro, renewables accounted for 27 percent of electricity production, up from 24 percent in 2013.

The tremendous growth in wind and solar continues. In the last year, Germany’s solar power plants have increased production by 28 percent compared with the first half of 2013, while wind power grew about 19 percent.

Breaking Records

Germany broke three records this year. 1) Solar met more than 50 percent of Germany's total electricity demand for the first time; 2) A new solar peak power production record was set; and 3) Weekly total solar power output hit new highs.

Renewable energy is now providing more power than coal and in June, Germany set a record for using solar power to generate 50 percent of overall electricity demand for part of a day. Germany’s solar energy generated a record 24.24 GW of electricity between 1 and 2 p.m. on June 6th. Three days later, solar production peaked at 23.1 GW—50.6 percent of total electricity demand.

On one Sunday in May of this year Germany produced almost three quarters of its energy demand from renewables. According to think tank Agora Energiewende, the combination of wind, solar, biomass, and hydro energy supplied 74 percent of the countries energy demand. The combined contribution of renewables reached 43.54 gigawatts between noon and 1 p.m.

Exportation of Clean Energy

In addition to meeting its own energy needs, Germany will be a world leading exporter of renewable power. The town of Feldheim produces three time the renewable energy they need and they sell the remainder back to the grid earning the town over $5 million annually. The German State of Schleswig-Holstein is planning to do the same on a far larger scale. Once their wind energy generation surpasses domestic requirement (which is expected this year) they will begin selling back to the grid. In fact like the town of Feldheim, this state wants to produce three times what it needs and export what it does not use.

Green Tourism

Germany is a showcase for the world. People are coming from all over to get a glimpse of towns like Feldheim. In addition to the money they receive from selling clean energy Feldheim benefits from being a green tourist destination. Thousands of tourists come to the town each year to see their green technology. Green tourism has become so popular across Germany that there is a green destinations guide with over 190 clean energy sites for tourists to visit.

As other nations like the US, Canada, and Australia double down on fossil fuels, Germany's renewable energy leadership serves as a much needed model.

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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