‘Walking the Walk’: a Snapshot of Germany's Energiewende

The world’s fourth-largest economy is currently undergoing a profound transformation. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) even calls this an outright revolution. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident on 11 March 2011, the German government further accelerated the so-called Energiewende, which can be defined as the strategic move to alternative energy sources such as wind, photovoltaic, biomass and hydropower. Its goals are highly ambitious: a gradual phasing out of nuclear power by 2022 and at the same time an increase of renewables’ share in national electricity production, targeting 35 per cent in 2020 and 80 per cent in 2050 (renewables energy roadmap). While doing so, Germany also aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent (2020) and 80–95 per cent (2050) compared with 1990. As if this was not enough, overall energy efficiency is also to be raised inter alia through building modernisation (often referred to as the ‘sleeping giant’) and new mobility concepts such as electric vehicles. To this end, primary energy consumption is to be reduced by 50 per cent by 2050. Even though, at first glance, the Energiewende appears to be primarily a domestic issue, clearly it has the potential to change forever the way industrialised countries think about energy. If Germany is successful, and I am optimistic that it will be, the country will become a new role model for 21st-century low-carbon growth and global competitiveness. So where does Germany stand today on its path towards a renewables era?