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Germany hits new green-power milestone

Green energy sources now account for 20 percent of Germany's electricity production – a new high. Germany aims to be 35 percent green by 2020, and to have phased out nuclear power by 2022.

By Correspondent / September 2, 2011

A worker installed a solar panel on a booth at a trade fair in Munich, Germany, in June. Germany aims to tap green power for 35 percent of its needs by 2020.

Christof Stache/AFP/Newscom

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Berlin

It doesn't have Norway's waterfalls or Spain's sun-drenched plains. Nonetheless, Germany is inching its way up the list of renewable-energy producers: In the first six months of 2011, green energy for the first time accounted for more than 20 percent of the country's electricity production.

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Given that hydroelectricity contributes only a small part, 3.3 percent, of Germany's power grid, the share of the "new" renewable energy sources – solar, wind, and biomass – has grown significantly.

"The renewables are showing their true potential," says Anike Peters, energy expert with Greenpeace Germany. "And that is in spite of numerous attempts to obstruct their progress."

The new figures, published in late August by the German Association of Energy Providers, show the share of renewable electricity sources rising by more than 2 percent in a year – a year in which the German government made not one but two U-turns on nuclear energy policy.

The government's double reversal "was a nightmare for anyone involved in planning the future of Germany's power supply," Ms. Peters says.

In October 2010, Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government decided to extend the life of the country's nuclear power stations by up to 14 years, thus reversing the so-called atomic consensus drawn up under her predecessor Gerhard Schröder that planned to phase out the use of nuclear reactors by 2022. Tens of thousands of antinuclear protesters took to the streets of Berlin, but failed to change Ms. Merkel's mind. Fukushima Daiichi did. The political fallout of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan had the German government return to the original target of ending the use of nuclear power within 12 years. The decision was complemented by legislation on renewable energy, aiming to extend the share of green power sources to 35 percent by 2020.

"The nuclear episode wasn't really a turning point. It was more a bump in the long road towards a sustainable energy policy," says Charlotte Loreck from the Institute for Applied Ecology in Berlin.

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