As the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan works to reduce emissions across the United States, Germany provides a helpful case study in the benefits of clean energy: reduced pollution, increased energy independence and technical expertise in managing a reliable renewable power grid.
Germany’s ambitious energy transition, or Energiewende, initiated major changes in its domestic energy production and helped fuel the recent global energy transformation. With a dual focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency, Germany is currently on track to meet its goal of a 40% emissions reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050, despite its shift away from nuclear power and increase in coal use.
Renewables already produce a quarter of Germany’s electricity needs and provide employment for over 1.5 million people. The commercial viability of clean technologies like photovoltaic cells has fostered investment in domestic low-carbon energy sources. According to the Minister of the Environment “the boom in environmental technologies is one of the reasons Germany made it through the economic crisis relatively unscathed.” These successes offer important, positive lessons for the United States–and the world–ahead of the Paris climate talks in December.
- Around 25% of Germany’s electricity already comes from renewables.
- Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen to their second lowest level since the 1990s, even as GDP has grown.
- Energy efficiency measures have decoupled economic growth and power consumption, as the demand for electricity has decreased while economic growth continues.
- Renewables have driven down wholesale electricity prices by 32% since 2010, and retail prices are expected to begin falling as subsidies are reduced.
- Renewables make up a greater share of Germany’s electicity mix than hard coal (18%), about as much as lignite coal (25%), and as much as nuclear (15%) and gas (10%) combined.