Energiewende. Literally, it means energy turn. And since the turn of the millenium, Germany has decided to turn toward renewable sources for generating electricity in a big, big way. By shutting down its dirty power plants and weaning itself from fossil fuels now, the country aims to generate nearly all its electricity from renewables by 2050.
As recently as 2000, Germany produced less electricity from renewable sources than the U.S. A short 12 years later, Germany’s use of renewable energy had tripled, and by 2012 it was producing more than twice as much as the U.S. By 2040, Germany is projected to produce 65% of its electricity from renewables — 4 times the expected U.S. rate.
Contributing to Germany’s rapid progress is the fact that Germany has no oil or natural gas reserves of its own, but there’s far more than energy independence at play.
Unlike the U.S., Germany has no mainstream political movement that denies man’s influence on climate change, and nearly two-thirds of its citizens support a turn toward renewables.
Instead of mandating a top-down solution, the government has encouraged private sector investment, such that homeowners, farmers and small businesses can sell the renewable energy they generate and buy it back at a profit.
For all its successes, Germany’s approach is not without problems. The country is burning more dirty, soft coal than ever to generate electricity on windless and cloudy days. The surcharge required to support buy-back profits has increased energy costs by about two-thirds, and the nation is desperately in need of a smart grid.
Nevertheless, all major political parties and the citizenry remain convinced that generating power from renewable sources is the wave of the future, and together, they are determined to seize it.
In the video, courtesy of PBS, correspondent Rick Karr reports for Need To Know.