Germany Tackles Renewable Energy
"The energy transition in Germany is just beginning, and the world is watching," Professor Miranda Schreurs, director of environmental policy research at Berlin's Freie Universität, said at a German Center for Research and Innovation event in May.
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Since Japan's March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Germany has shut down eight nuclear power plants with the remaining plants to follow by 2022. So what happens next?
Professor Schreurs was appointed to the Ethics Commission on a Safe Energy Supply by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a group that advises the German government on energy issues. Europe-wide, a goal of 20-20-20 has been set - a 20 percent reduction of CO2 emissions, a 20 percent energy efficiency improvement, and 20 percent of energy coming from renewable sources. The German government, however, has announced its own goal of a 40 percent CO2 emission reduction.
At present, nuclear power still contributes to 17 percent of Germany's energy. According to Professor Schreurs, it would be possible to meet all of the country's needs with energy from renewable sources. However, this will require increased development of offshore wind parks, efficient storage and transport of energy from northern to southern Germany, and further development of grid infrastructure.
Several small communities are pioneering 100 percent renewable energy living. Feldheim - a village near Berlin - already supplies all its electricity through a mix of wind, solar, and biomass. And in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the town of Bottrop is setting up a new infrastructure based entirely around renewable energy.
Germany's plans have also influenced other European countries: Switzerland is planning a nuclear phaseout for 2034, and Italy has vetoed plans to restart nuclear power operations.