German Energy Policy - A Transition to a Low Carbon Society
Enlarge image (© dpa/Juergen Loesel) Germany is highly dependent on energy imports. Energy supply security is, along with climate protection, a major driving force in our energy transition. The transition to a low carbon society is a win-win-win situation: not only do we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and increase our energy and national security, but we also reduce the levels of damaging greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere and create jobs.
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions does not harm the economy. From 1990 to 2010 Germany cut emissions of carbon dioxide by about 25 percent, while the economy grew at a constant rate. Renewable energies are a driving force in the German industry, generating 37.5 billion Euros in turnover in 2010. The number of people employed in the renewable energy sector will go up to 500,000 by 2020 from today’s 367,000 people.
Germany strives to do even better: lower carbon emissions without the help of nuclear power.
In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, the German government reconsidered its stance on nuclear energy as a bridging technology and took the decision to end nuclear power generation in Germany by 2022 instead of 2036 as planned earlier. This decision is founded on a broad consensus in German society, based on a decades-long debate and proven feasibility.
Our climate targets will remain unaffected by the accelerated nuclear phasing-out. Germany stays committed to its target of a 40 percent reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020.
In addition, our energy supply is secure during the transition to a carbon-free energy supply: even with eight reactors offline now, Germany is still a net exporter of electricity.
A major contribution to Germany’s successful energy policy is the "Feed-in Tariff" - an incentive structure to encourage the adoption of renewable energy. Utilities are obliged to buy electricity from renewable sources at a fixed price which is higher than the market price. Consumers pay the difference as part of their electricity bill (presently 3.5 ct per KWh). 80 percent of Germans consider it (although adding to the electricity price) appropriate or even too low.
The long-term vision and price guarantee are key for investment decisions in the renewables sector.
Germany's renewable energy generation has already reached 20% of its electricity production. Phasing out nuclear power will be achieved by significantly increasing the country's energy efficiency as well as through all renewable energies, especially wind energy.
This means Germany may be the first large industrialized country to have a highly efficient energy supply system based on renewable energies. As Chancellor Merkel pointed out: if anyone can demonstrate that this is possible, it is Germany.