Energiewende– the term translates literally to “Energy Transition”. It symbolizes Germany’s transition to an energy portfolio dominated by renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable development. This concept is hardly new and dates back to the 1980s, where the term was coined by the ‘Applied institute of Ecology’. The idea was to proliferate and emphasize the message that economic growth can be achieved by renewable energy and energy efficiency. Its holistic perspective was captured in the publication titled “Growth & Prosperity without Oil & Uranium”.
The German effort towards a clean energy future resonates in stories of Wolf von Fabeck, a German solar activist who helped institute the very first feed in tariffs in the German town of Aachen. He turned towards environmentalism when he saw the disastrous effects of acid rain caused by coal plants. We had the fortune of meeting Miss Rebecca Bertram, the program director of the Heinrich Boll foundation (US) ) for Environment & Global dialogue, when she visited India to discuss the adoption of the Energiewende in India and the challenges thereof.
The deep rooted aversion of the German people for nuclear energy is something that all the attendees of that conference could appreciate when she cited the story of her childhood, where children were asked to remain inside their homes for days together owing to nuclear rain from the Chernobyl incident in Russia. It is from here that the German energy transition story started.
Today, Germany is at the forefront of sustainable energy. There is massive investment in renewable energy research directed towards efficient energy materials, renewable energy systems, solar cell & wind turbine designs at Fraunhofer Institute, Technical University of Berlin and so on. There is large focus on capacity building with many educational & training institutes offering energy research, engineering & management related programs. Germany was the pioneer in implementing policies like ‘feed in tariff” & ‘net metering’ and has set challenging climate change targets for the future which show their true commitment towards a low carbon economy.
|Decoupling of GDP & GHG in Germany (1991-2012)|
The renewable energy industry in Germany is now estimated at $30B with addition of nearly 370,000 jobs each year since 2011. As of today nearly 31% of the German economy is already powered by renewable energy and they have managed to decouple their de-carbonization efforts & economic progress as can be clearly seen in the graph above.