Photo: AP Photo/Herlbert Proepper
PBS correspondent Rick Karr reports on Germany’s plan to generate nearly all of its electricity from renewable sources and virtually eliminate its use of fossil fuels by 2050.Support for this idea is widespread, and crosses party lines. Over two-thirds of Germans approve of the plan, which is also backed by the German Green Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Free Democratic Party, and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
This plan is known as the Energiewende; wende, which means turn, referring to the peaceful revolution that culminated with the end of the Cold War.
Germany’s green revolution was characterised by private development of renewables.
The government did not attempt to finance green energy, rather, it incentivized these alternative power sources by way of a feed-in-tariff. This means the government pays producers of renewable energy and allows them to purchase their electricity at a discount.
Rainer Baake, director of Agora Energiewende, believes Germany is unique in that “about 50 per cent of the installed capacity of renewables is in the hands of normal citizens and farmers.”
However, Germany’s development of green energy led to rising costs for consumers. The overall price of electricity has surged by over 66 per cent after the passage of the German Renewable Energy Act in 2000.
In addition, Germany faces the same problem that plagues California: how to provide energy during windless or sunless days. The unreliability is the reason why a study by Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH indicates that coal and gas power plants will still have to provide 60 per cent of the stable energy sources for days when the weather doesn’t cooperate with the production of renewables.
In order to integrate renewable energy sources onto the power grid, Germany’s best bet would be to invest in a $25+ billion smart grid. As Reuters reports, “The crucial solution that smart grids provide is the means to control the fluctuating voltage supplied due to daily and seasonal weather variability.”