Germany Will Use 80 to 100 Percent Renewable Energy by 2050

By John Addison

John Addison is the author of two books - Save Gas, Save the Planet that details the future of transportation and Revenue Rocket about technology partner strategy. CNET, Clean Fleet Report, and Meeting of the Minds have published over 300 of his articles. Prior to being a writer and speaker, he was in partner and sales management for technology companies such as Sun Microsystems. Follow John on Twitter @soaringcities.

Germany’s Leadership in Wind and Solar Power

By 2050, Germany will use over 80 percent renewables to meet all energy needs, including transportation. Buildings and cities will be smart and energy efficient.

For decades, Germany has led in energy efficiency with green buildings and passive haus designs. It led the world in both installed wind and solar power until much larger China commanded the lead in installed renewables.

The world’s fourth largest economy, Germany may become the first major nation to be 100 percent powered by renewables because the shift to RE is estimated to save Germany $371 billion in health and pollution mitigation costs. It’s payback for 100 percent renewables would only be 2 years, estimates the team lead by Dr. Mark Jacobson. Details at The Solutions Project.

Energiewende (“energy transition”) is a major force in Germany. The German shift to renewables and efficiency accelerated after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster that resulted in over 3,000 deaths and an estimated $100 billion in costs including lost business to the area. Japan will need 40 years to decommission damaged reactors and thousands of years to manage nuclear waste.

On December 26, 2015, German renewable energy met 81 percent of the nation’s energy demand for that cold day. Annually, Germany generates about 30 percent of its electricity with renewables. Solar covers 1.5 million German roofs, which is impressive because Germany receives less sunlight than most U.S. states. Germany has 45 GW of installed wind power and leads the world in offshore wind power, putting the nation on a path to 100 percent power from renewables; zero percent from fossil fuels and nuclear.

By 2022, all 17 of Germany’s nuclear plants will be closed. The loss of this power generation makes challenging the elimination of coal power. In addition, Germany needs to eliminate its dependency on Russian natural gas, which Putin currently uses as a shutdown threat when the EU complains of his aggression. Germany is over 60 percent dependent on imported energy.

At this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, I attended future scenarios presented by Dr. Georg Maue, German Counselor Climate and Energy Policy. Germany has set an emissions reduction target of 55 percent on 1990 levels by 2030, 70 percent by 2040, and 85 to 90 percent by 2050. These are more ambitious than the European Union Paris Agreement INDC of 40 percent GHG reduction by 2030.

Renewable Energy + Storage

At the recent Germany California Energy Storage Symposium, I learned how Germany leads in integrating electricity storage with solar.

Storage grows in importance as Germany ramps up wind and solar, replacing the 24/7 baseload of coal, nuclear, and methane (natural gas) power plants. Germany leads other countries with 30,000 homes using storage. The German Energy Storage Association expects 170,000 storage systems to be installed by 2020.

German based Sonnen, backed by investors like GE, is Europe’s largest manufacturer of residential lithium storage. More than 10,000 homes globally use Sonnen lithium batteries. Licensed as a utility, Sonnen also operates Europe’s first online energy sharing platform sonnenCommunity, allowing customers with batteries to share energy, bypassing traditional utilities.

Most grid storage in Germany goes beyond batteries with heavy use of pumped hydro and thermal storage.

Storage is critical to German plans to produce and consume most electricity with renewables, instead of the current situation where much energy is from coal and nuclear generation from neighboring countries, and fossil fuels from global sources. Storage solves some Germany’s challenge of importing and exporting energy to neighboring countries with incompatible grids and voltages. Germany will increasingly generate with German wind and solar, then use the energy when needed.

Some German States are Already 100 Percent RE

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (which borders the Baltic and Poland) reached 120 percent renewable electricity by 2013. In 2015, the state increased its net share of renewables in power supply to 130 percent (report in German). Onshore wind made up roughly 2.6 TWh of the total of 4.9 TWh, followed by power from biomass at 2.3 GWh, PV at 1.2 TWh, and 0.6 TWh of offshore wind.

Now the state is able to export excess renewable energy to neighboring states.

Schleswig-Holstein is another German state to watch. Located along the North Sea and bordering Denmark, this state had 78 percent renewable power in 2014. Now it meets its electricity needs with renewables. Heat and transportation are the next targets for renewable energy. Biomass made up 46 percent of this energy, followed by 44 percent wind power and 10 percent other. The state has a target of 300 percent renewables.

Germany can be 100% Renewable by 2050

Based on extensive data analysis and modeling at Stanford and other leading universities, you can see a cost-effective 100 percent scenario for any state or nation at The Solutions Project. The RE solutions only use wind, water, and solar. This is the scenario for a 100 percent renewably powered Germany in 2050:

  • 35%   Onshore wind
  • 17%   Offshore wind
  • 35.5% Utility-scale PV solar
  • 5.5% Commercial rooftop solar
  • 5.7% Residential solar
  • 1.2% Hydroelectric and other RE

By 2050, 31 percent less energy would be needed due to improved energy efficiency in buildings and power production. The transition to 100 percent is estimated to create over 1.5 million permanent jobs in Germany.

Germany’s transition to renewable energy is most impressive. It is possible that the United States will reach 80 percent and even 100 percent renewables before Germany. My article about 100% RE USA. From the Dakotas to Texas, we capture massive amounts of wind energy. The Pacific Northwest is largely hydro powered. The Southwest is leading in solar coupled with intelligent energy storage. The Northeast is reinventing energy, with New York taking the lead. The U.S. is making coal power obsolete faster than Germany.

It is a healthy race to 100 percent. The nations are learning from each other and have deep corporate, government, and technology partnerships. Germany led the world in solar, wind, and now leads in using energy storage. Over 30 percent of their electricity is already from renewables and on some days 80 percent. Their future is bright.

 

Discussion

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1 Comment

  1. Michael Totten

    Hi John, Terrific piece on Germany’s leadership in aggressively pursuing renewable energy future. Many thanks! Michael

    Reply

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