Germany is in the process of totally remaking its electricity system, shifting from coal-based energy towards cleaner alternatives. Even though impressive advances are taking place within German borders, the so-called Energiewende is having an international impact. By showing the world that an energy transformation is possible, and by creating a demand that is driving down the prices for renewables, Germany is leading transformations in the global energy system. The potential payoff is enormous, but it is not unproblematic. On the one hand, a greener electricity system based on solar and wind energy shows that producing less greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants is possible and profitable. On the other hand, the German experience shows that a successful transformation requires new rules and careful consideration of wider consequences, especially for larger utility companies that risk experiencing a collapse in profits.
Germany is looked to as a model and cited by environmental activists as “proof that a transformation of the global energy system is possible.” At the same time, it opens up the potential for countries to leapfrog the fossil age by focusing on clean energy sources from the outset. What becomes clear from Gillis’s story, however, is that changes in political and economic rules and regulations have to go hand in hand with the practical and technical transitions, and that the attitudes of the consumers can make a difference. Germany is showing the world how to transform systems, not through talk but through action.
Read the full article “Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind” by Justin Gillis, The New York Times, 13 September, 2014.
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