Renewables are now mainstream in Germany: Merkel

Now that they account for 25% of Germany’s electricity generation, renewable energy technologies are part of the mainstream, according to Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the first major speech of her 3rd term, she remained positive about the growing role of clean energy as the country pushes on with its ambitious Energiewende or ‘energy change’ program, saying that renewables are no longer relegated to a ‘niche existence’ in the country’s electricity infrastructure

Germany has long been recognised as the industrialised world’s leader in renewable energy uptake, with a target of 35% of its electricity sourced from renewables by 2020. In pursuing its goals, the country is also sometimes credited with having made renewable energy more affordable and accessible for the rest of the world by effectively creating a market where there was none. But the legislation driving the Energiewende, the ‘EEG’, is also seen by some as a political gamble, taking Germany as a nation into uncharted territory.

“The world looks with a mixture of a lack of understanding and curiosity on whether and how the Energiewende will succeed,” she said in her speech. “If we succeed, [the Energiewende] – and I’m convinced of it – will become another German export hit. And I’m also convinced that if any country can succeed with this Energiewende, then it’s Germany.”

Her speech comes just after her cabinet approved the basic structure for a significant restructuring of the EEG, and her comments about it seem to acknowledge both the practical challenges that the country has faced in as well as the underlying will to see it through to the end and adjust as needed. The country will now focus on cost-efficiency as it rounds the next bend in the transition, cutting back feed-in tariffs for wind and putting caps on renewable energy output.

Until 2013, Germany routinely topped the charts in terms of new solar PV capacity installed, part of the renewable energy build-up planned through the EEG. Although the country remains the world leader when it comes to cumulative solar capacity (with over 35 gigawatts (GW) installed at the end of 2013), its 2013 market for new solar (at just over 3GW) fell far behind the 7+GW it saw in 2012.

Meanwhile, China looks ready to take up the mantel of global solar leader in 2014, with 14GW expected to be installed in 2014.

Top image via Wikipedia.

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