Thursday, June 18, 2015

Germany is Both an Environmental and an Economic Leader

Germany not only leads by its green example it works to encourage other nations to follow. With its emphasis on renewable energy and emissions reductions Germany has proven itself to be the world's leading champion of the green economy. Germany is the first major renewable energy economy in the world and the strongest promoter of zero emissions. What makes their efforts so remarkable is that their green leadership has reinforced their position as an economic Juggernaut.

It is no coincidence that Germany also has one of the greenest leaders in the world. Under Chancellor Angela Merkel Germany has become the world's leading green advocate. Her crowning achievement to date has been pushing the G7 to abandon fossil fuels. This was no easy feat particularly with climate laggards like Canada who would rather cash out petro-dollars than enjoin the struggle against climate change.

Merkel's international climate accomplishments date back 20 years. When she was the German environment minister in 1995, she succeeded in brokering the precursor to the Kyoto protocol. At that time she earned the appellation of “climate chancellor” from the German media.

More recently she has also been encouraging the G7 to endorse a pledge to reach zero carbon emissions which has earned her recognition as a "climate hero." With a plan to cut emissions by as much as 95 percent by 2050, Germany is not only talking the talk they are walking the walk.

Germany has been seriously engaged in growing renewable energy for some time now and part of their success comes from their decentralized model. Germany underlined its massive rollout of solar energy, installing more rooftop solar in 2010 than the rest of the world did in 2009. In 2012, 47 percent of electricity generated from renewables was community-owned. Now more than half of German renewable energy is owned by individual citizens or farms.

German efforts to increase renewable energy and energy efficiency is called the Energiewende (energy transition). Some of the goals of Energiewende are:
  • 35% of electricity consumed to be generated by renewables by 2020, 60 percent by 2050
  • 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050
  • 20% reduction in primary energy consumption from 2008 levels by 2020 and 50% by 2050
  • 10% reduction in electricity use below 2008 levels by 2020 and to 25% below 2008 levels by 2050
  • Phase out nuclear power plants by 2020
Germany has passed a number of key pieces of legislation to drive the increase in renewable energy generation. This includes the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) of 2000 that introduced new feed-in tariffs, the Power Grid Expansion Act (known as EnLAG) of 2009 that identified 24 priority grid expansion projects and the Act on Accelerating Grid Expansion (known as NABEG) of 2011.

In 2011 Germany invested $41 billion in new renewable energy projects and they were producing more than 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. At that time there was already 17 GW of solar PV installed in Germany, to put that number in context, the US had less than one quarter of that amount.

In 2013 Germany generated 23.4 percent of its electricity from renewables. Today the nation has more than 23,000 wind turbines and 1.4 million solar PV systems. Net-generation from renewable energy sources in the German electricity sector has increased from 6.3 percent in 2000 to about 30 percent in 2014.

Peak-generation from combined wind and solar reached a new all-time high of 74 percent in April 2014 wind power saw its best day ever on December 12, 2014, generating 562 GWh.

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