German Renewable Power Production Hits Record High: 20.8%, Quadruple the Level in 2000, on Track to 35% in 2020

by Arne Jungjohann via Grist

Germany set another record with renewable energy. A new report by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) highlights, in the first half of 2011, renewables accounted for fully 20.8 percent of power production, as Der Spiegel reports.

atomkraft_nein_danke_2-750599Throughout the past decade, Germany has fundamentally transformed the way it produces electricity. The country increased its share of renewable electricity from 5 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2010. Over time, Germany has consistently met its legislated targets ahead of schedule, and appears poised to outdo itself again in the next years. The goal by the current center-right government of Chancellor Angela Merkel is to draw at least 35 percent of production from renewables by 2020. The opposition parties claim that 40 percent or even more is realistic.

Today, wind and biomass are the pillars of Germany’s renewable sector. The main driver of the 2011 development, however, has been photovoltaic — in a country that is as sunny as the state of Alaska. Reports Der Spiegel:

The real change came in the photovoltaic sector, where output almost doubled — up more than 76 percent since 2010. “Because of the volume of new photovoltaic installations and the amount of sun during the spring, solar energy knocked hydroelectric from third place for the first time,” the BDEW said in a statement. The BDEW saw two reasons for the boost in new installations: Equipment prices have plummeted by 50 percent since 2006, reflecting more competition, and the federal government decided against a planned cut in subsidies for private solar-power generation.

The reason for all of this? Germany’s Renewable Energy Act provides certainty that manufacturers and investors are looking for. As feed-in tariff guru Paul Gipe explains here, the center-right government just increased incentives for the deployment of wind, biomass, and geothermal yet again. Just recently, Deutsche Bank, a largely German bank, gave German renewable energy and climate policy high marks [PDF], and rates Germany’s feed-in tariffs as “best in class.”

As discussed before, Germany accelerated the transition towards a renewable energy economy in the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima. The rapid growth of the renewable sector demonstrates that Germany will likely succeed in phasing out nuclear power completely by 2022.

— Arne Jungjohann is the program director for Environment and Global Dialogue with the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Washington, D.C.

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24 Responses to German Renewable Power Production Hits Record High: 20.8%, Quadruple the Level in 2000, on Track to 35% in 2020

  1. MarkB says:

    The title has an error I think. 2035 should be 2020. I thought an extra 14% over 25 years was a pretty weak goal.

    [JR: Fixed, ty.]

  2. Fred says:

    Ah – but look at the horrible impact all that eco-[snip] has had on the German economy:

    Germany economy to grow 3.3% in 2011; Employment to expand by 490,000 people; Budget deficit may dip to 0.2% of GDP in 2012

  3. Dill Weed says:

    NY Times did this piece sevral days ago with a negative slant on the prospects of Germany ‘keeping the lights on’ …

    Comments are closed. Many took expection to the negative bias.

    Too bad. I would have loved to link this article. Go Germany!

  4. lasmog says:

    Obviously we need to trade some of our sunshine for some German politicians.

  5. Sasparilla says:

    Great to see the progress Germany has made over the last 10 years….inspiring.

  6. bratisla says:

    And it won’t stop – when you take German interstates for long trips (seismological instruments to carry, veeery sensitive toys), everytime you cross convoys carrying new wind turbines.

    on another news Joe, a french electricity company (EDF) is launching its first marine turbine for extensive in situ tests
    and a video
    (if you wish a translation, I can provide you that, but NOT this week. I am overflown by work until Monday evening … )

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    The funny thing is, when you in germany you do not have the impression that 20% is that much (it is not) everything below 20% is laughable, and actually a real pity

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Well, this cannot be happening. In Australia (it rhymes, ironically enough, with failure) the uber-dominant Right, in the media and politics (we have a one-Rightwing party with two wings system, the capitalist norm)absolutely insist that solar is ‘unreliable and expensive’, and will remain so ‘for the foreseeable future’ and wind is simply catastrophic. The Rightwing state regime in Victoria, having followed the now familiar pattern of pretending to have ‘moderated’ its hard Right ideology before being elected, has now revealed its real spots. They look a lot like Tea Partiers, with the most viciously and contemptuously anti-environmental policies seen for some time. They have just banned wind power in much of the state, apparently because Victorians suffer mysterious ‘illnesses’ that Germans are somehow immune to. Curiously enough a survey in this country found that those paid for the use of their land by wind power also enjoy this mysterious immunity to wind power ‘disease’. whereas those who just miss out are stricken by every malady ‘imaginable’. And the Victoria Baillieu regime has also reneged on the previous regime’s commitment to 20% renewables by 2020, and are determined to keep the mega-polluting brown coal power stations burning on for ‘the foreseeable future’. One awaits the ascent of Tony Abbott to the Federal PMship with trepidation. We just have to face facts-these people cannot all be Dunning-Krugerites, so must know what the consequences of their actions will be, yet they do not care. This is a Rightwing ‘death-cult’ that makes Jim Jones look like an absolute beginner.

  9. John Tucker says:

    Here we go again. Three concerns than I have not seen addressed here:

    1. For the path taken the German commitment to renewables was not large enough and financial methods to install them not sustainable.

    2. Many of the “cutbacks” in German emissions are due to the economic slowdown

    3. German renewables are poorly deployed and are still inadequate replacements for large base-load facilities.

    It will take 10 years until Germany has the same amount of power plants that don’t emit carbon dioxide as it had before the phase-out, Lambertz said, according to the German newspaper. ( )

    Certainly thats from a inside industry group – but the report released above is also (,1518,783314,00.html ) so I am taking issue with these numbers already.

  10. John Tucker says:

    This situation has political disaster written all over it. The story above is related to electric production in the spring so Im taking it with a grain of salt. But just the fact that its posted without criticism is a red flag.

    German consumers pay double what most do for electricity and they are stuck with the promise of more rises, also there are credible arguments that large scale blackouts will occur this winter:

    German renewables sector needs faster cost cuts-execs

    So if any good is to come out of Germany’s “green boom”, which is largely supported by the public, the industry knows it needs to address the fact that renewable power still costs up to eight times as much as conventional forms of energy and gas.

    In the first half of 2011, less than 9 percent of E.ON’s (EONGn.DE: Quote) generated electricity came from renewable power. At peer RWE it was less than one percent. ( )

    “It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just go for renewables,’ and I’m quite sure we can someday do without nuclear, but this is too abrupt,” said Joachim Knebel, chief scientist at Germany’s prestigious Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. He characterized the government’s shutdown decision as “emotional” and pointed out that on most days, Germany has survived this experiment only by importing electricity from neighboring France and the Czech Republic, which generate much of their power with nuclear reactors.

    Even if Germany succeeds in producing the electricity it needs, “the nuclear moratorium is very bad news in terms of climate policy,” Mr. Varro said. “We are not far from losing that battle, and losing nuclear makes that unnecessarily difficult.” ( )

  11. Dill Weed says:

    1. German commitment to renewables are subject to regular review and have been extended.They have exceeded their goals…

    2. Cut backs due to recession…So?
    Every megawatt produced by alt energy is a megawatt not produced by coal/nuclear. A strong movement in the sustainable direction. Germany has placed a challenge on itself and will experience technical, economic and political challenges and overcome them. Japan will, too. I’m thankfull they have the willingness to do this despite naysayers and doubters.

    3. Germany is 20 percent less dependent on coal and nuclear. And that number is going to increase.

    Hats off to Germany for leading they way and the rest of Europe, too.

  12. Dill Weed says:

    Read the comments section of the NYT article you referenced…. (and to which I referred to in my first post.) Which is where you found comments about this being an emotional decision.

    The comments from German readers were positive. Germans overwhelmingly support renewables – even when they have to pay more. The negative comments came from Americans.

    The Germans aren’t saying let’s go for renewables. They have a plan and are going for renewables.

    The fact that Germans support expanding renewables speaks volumes in itself.

    An excellent article on Germany’s Race for a Renewable Future.

    and… The previous target of 30% renewable electricity by 2020 has recently been updated by Germany’s official National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP). The NREAP reveals that the country expects to actually generate 38% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

    The Plan

    Germany leads as do some corporations like GE and Google. Good on them.

  13. John Tucker says:

    Good intentions, yes, commendable, as is their progress in building green capacity. But I recall a few other sayings on good intentions. Failure cant be an option and we are out of time. Here are the big problems:

    The green position on nuclear power is not supported in scientific literature. The green account of the reactor disaster in Japan is not either. Nuclear makes up a HUGE and essentially unreplaceable share of clean energy production now.

    As much as I want to believe in cap and trade, It doesn’t seem like it is going to work. A flat tax on polluters backed by international treaty and trade focused compliance seems more doable.

    Subsidies alone, in the free energy markets we have are not a economically sustainable path and do not discourage fossil fuel use.

    They will always be able to make coal, oil and gas cheaper and a less complex solution than renewables. Our governments give these resources away essentially for free. Its like a conservative force in energy. It will also always pollute more than the best alternative technology.

    Solar power is not always the best answer for everyone everywhere, neither is wind, hydro, geothermal or nuclear for that matter. Gas may not always be the worse – but I dont like to think about that.

    There is one chance to get this right.

  14. Dill Weed says:

    Test. My two other attempts did not show up.
    Basically, I read websites that show progress. Problems were made to be over come.

  15. sarah says:

    Germany’s southern border runs at about 47.3 degrees N, placing the whole country north of the entire US, except Alaska. And Germany does not have a notably sunny climate. If they can do solar, the US could do vastly better, just based on geography (not of course, based on political will).

  16. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. The advances of Renewables in Germany are spectacular. It is hoped other European Countries emulate Germany.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert

  17. Pangolin says:

    I’m sure that Germany still has extensive capacity available in conservation. It is very unlikely that all of their buildings have been insulated to best practices, have CFL or LED lighting, low-energy appliances and geo-exchange thermal systems.

    Each of these options, used where appropriate, saves significant energy over common practice while providing equivalent or better service.

    Simply converting all the lighting in the U.S. to CFL or LED’s would enable the closure of several coal or nuclear power plants. There is simply a lack of will to initiate the changes.

  18. John Tucker says:

    What does closing nuclear plants have with climate progress? Germany is now years from where they could be in clean energy production.

    German CO2 output up 4.8 percent in 2010: researcher ( )

    There are no credible, unchallenged studies linking nuclear power to illness – but there are credible studies linking all other fossil fuels to widespread, significant illness and death.

    Why would I want to celebrate a county that is causing bankruptcy in the US renewables market now as well as setting back emissions years if not decades.

  19. John Tucker says:

    The carbon cost of Germany’s nuclear ‘Nein danke!’

    its decision to ditch nuclear by 2022 will set back efforts to decarbonise the electricity supply by 10 crucial years, and could prove expensive for every household in Europe.

    it looks as though by the end of the decade Germany will at best have about the same amount of zero-carbon generation as today – 40 per cent – and probably less. Had Germany retained its nuclear capacity and achieved its renewables target, the zero-carbon share would have been 58 per cent. We are told this decade is crucial for our emissions reduction trajectory. For Germany it will be a lost decade during which emissions from its electricity generation are likely to rise. ( )

  20. Dill Weed says:

    Interestingly, Germany has a goal to add 3500 MW of solar per year and they adjust their FIT based upon the amount they achieve.

    I have to salute their comprehensive approach. I think will be amazed and ashamed when we see their accomplishments in 10 and 20 years.

  21. Gordon says:

    Germans understand engineering much better than Americans, and quality. You see it in every aspect of their culture. Their decision to end nuclear was due to a rational calculation that the negatives, after Japan, now not only outweighed the positives, but also outweighed the entrenched nuclear interests that had prevented any change earlier. One nuclear accident and Germany loses billions, perhaps trillions in GDP.
    Yes, they would be greener if they kept nuclear. Now. But a $ spent on nuclear, a dead-end technology, is a $ not spent on solar – which promises revenue streams to German companies for decades to come, in addition to saving the planet.
    And let’s not forget German dependence on Russian gas – where Russia has shown itself to be a very nefarious supplier. Germany is treating energy as it should – a national strategic priority – and they have decided to promote wind and solar because it’s safe, free from foreign interference, profitable, and builds on Germany’s engineering/quality strengths.
    And here in America? Chaos. We’d rather spend the money on some air force toys.

  22. Dill Weed says:

    Well said. Germany is willing to pay the price upfront even if it seems high. Their eye is on the future – a future of energy independence or as close as possible to it. I admnire their willingness to take on the challenge now – not to wait for others. Good on them. I wish them all the success in the world.

    Germany, the rest of the EU and Japan are moving use toward a sea change when everyone begibs to realize renewables are the way to go.

  23. John Tucker says:

    What environmental negatives have occurred from Fukushima? Have there been any extinctions? Threats to endangered species? Any casualties form radiation?

    Also for years the centerpiece of the anti nuclear movement has been the argument that power plants cause childhood leukemia, although the argument never worked with respect to proximity data and disease occurrence.

    In 2010 it was essentially thoroughly debunked.

    Even in here not ONE valid argument for ending nuclear energy has been made. Yet it remains to date the most successful effort against climate change.


    Childhood leukaemia, nuclear sites, and population mixing

    The excess of childhood leukaemia (CL) in Seascale, near the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in rural NW England, suggested that an epidemic of an underlying infection, to which CL is a rare response, is promoted by marked population mixing (PM) in rural areas, in which the prevalence of susceptibles is higher than average. This hypothesis has been confirmed by 12 studies in non-radiation situations. Of the five established CL excesses near nuclear sites, four are associated with significant PM; in the fifth, the Krummel power station in Germany, the subject has not been thoroughly investigated. ( )

  24. Dill Weed says:

    Sea change. See change.