By Katja Schroeder, Expedition PR
Germany’s “Energiewende”, a government initiative to cut emissions by increasing the use of renewable energies, is in full swing. The adoption of renewable energies is evident when driving around Germany. In the country side, even in the smallest towns, you can spot houses that have covered their roofs with shimmering blue solar panels and cows graze on pastures next to giant wind turbines. More than 20% of electricity is now generated from renewable energies. This progress is largely attributable to the Renewable Energies Act (EEG), which provides for fixed rates for producers of green energy, such as solar, biogas and wind. A minimum of 80% of the electricity supply is to be generated from renewables at the latest by 2050.
This summer I got to spend some time at the North Sea and its string of tiny, and often car-free, islands off the coast. The region plays a key role in meeting Germany’s wind energy targets and its overall goal to phase out nuclear energy.
The North Sea Offshore Initiative, in which Germany and eight other EU Member States have joined forces, sees new potential for wind energy use. With almost 14 percent of global wind energy output, Germany currently places third behind China and the USA.
On Monday Germany’s Federal Minister of Economics and Technology Dr. Philipp Rösler officially inaugurated Germany’s first offshore wind park, Bard Offshore 1, located 100 kilometers north of the North Sea island of Borkum. The park’s 80 wind turbines generate a capacity of 400 megawatts, enough to provide 400,000 households with electricity.
Around seven offshore wind parks are already in the works at the North Sea, according to the European Wind Energy Agency (EWEA). The German government plans to build offshore wind parks with a combined capacity of 25.000 megawatt by 2030. Those parks are creating jobs and provide access to clean energy. However, adding more wind energy capacity is not without hurdles. Offshore wind parks are not that easy to build and to finance. Projects take years to complete and thereby require a huge amount of upfront investment.
Another challenge is to balance power generation and consumption. In Germany, traditionally power was generated relatively close to where it is used. Now more power is being generated at the sea and along the coast through wind farms or at decentralised solar power plants and biomass plants.
Those farms and plants need to be connected to the grid to feed the generated electricity to where it is needed. For example, the already completed wind park Riffgat at the North Sea is still struggling to get connected to the grid.
The government is now overhauling and expanding its grid to better connect energy suppliers with consumers across the country to raise the percentage of the electricity supply generated from renewables.
The shift to alternative power sources can only be successful if the society supports it, with all its requirements – from financial and infrastructure investments to the rising household bills for electricity that pay for renewable energy subsidies.
And this is indeed the case. A survey published by the German news magazine Stern in November 2012 found that 64% of Germans believe the energy transition is still a good idea even if it gets more expensive than planned.
By installing solar panels at home and wind turbines on farms, citizens and businesses take initiative to increase the amount of renewables in Germany’s energy mix.