‘Energiewende’, meaning ‘energy transition’, became a known term to the rest of the non-German speaking world in the early 1980’s when the nation’s movement to phase-out nuclear energy first took off.
While the effort was at first slow-moving, Germany’s newly formed Green Party gained momentous speed after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster; an event that initially solidified the people’s desire to abandon nuclear energy and move toward renewable sources of energy.
In the following two decades, the party achieved some of its largest goals. Some included establishing the country’s first national emissions reductions target in 1990, and the passage of the Renewable Energy Act which created “feed-in tariffs” and mandated “grid priority” for renewable sources. After yet another nuclear tragedy in 2011 at Fukushima, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel announced that the nation would work full-force to phase out their nuclear power presence by 2022.
As they have rapidly shifted their energy investments and reliance toward “clean” sources, Germany has become an example for the rest of the developed world to see if they truly can make the switch towards renewable and decentralized energy.
Looking at Germany today, renewable energy now accounts for 33 percent of their total energy consumption. To put this statistic into perspective, Germany was ranked 15th in a study conducted by the international research organization Eurostat titled, “Share of electricity from renewable sources in gross electricity consumption in European countries in 2016.”
The United States did not make the list which consisted of the top 34 countries in the world having a renewable energy presence.
On January 1st of this year, Germany’s investment in clean energy proved to be particularly profitable. On New Year’s Day, the nation powered itself entirely off their renewable energy sources. It took in so much additional energy that their “power prices turned negative”, according to Clean Wire Energy, a news source that covers Germany’s energy sector exclusively.
There was even enough power generated to distribute the surplus amongst some of their neighboring nations.
Energiewende is benefiting not only individual consumers but the overall German economy as well. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic and Energy released a report claiming that in 2013, the renewable energy industry accounted for about 371,400 jobs, whether it be in the production, sales, hardware manufacturing, academic research or maintenance sectors. The same report predicted that by 2020, the industry will reach within the range of 500,000- 600,000 employees.
As globalization and world trade proliferate, we will see how Germany's energy transition may affect competition among renewable markets in other countries around the globe. As in Germany, solar as become affordable and a great value for energy customers across the U.S. including in the DC-MD-VA area.