Clean Power

Published on March 27th, 2012 | by Thomas Gerke


12 Years Later — Solar Energy in Germany (VIDEO)

March 27th, 2012 by  

Scroll to the bottom to watch the video (but you probably want to read the post for context first).

More than a Decade Ago…

12 years have passed since the German parliament adopted the “Renewable Energy Sources Act” — it was adopted on March 29, 2000. This law was primarily developed by Hermann Scheer, who developed the underlying concepts during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Up until his death in 2010, Dr. Scheer was one of the most significant and uncompromising proponents of renewable energy sources in Germany and around the world.

The law that gave priority to renewable energy sources guaranteed access to the grid for renewables and included a comprehensive feed-in-tariff system. It became known as “Scheers-Law” around the world. Today it has been introduced to some extent by over 60 countries and states around the globe.

Since this historic push for a 100% renewable energy supply began, there have been countless developments and success stories in the fields of clean energy and energy efficiency around the world.

Solar Energy — The Energy of the People

But the most important success of “Scheers-Law” is, without a doubt, the commercialization of photovoltaic technology. In the middle of the last decade, many companies around the world started to massively expand their production capacity for silicon and other materials required to make PV solar systems. This solar gold rush that led to investments around the globe was mainly driven by demand in Germany up until recently. The effects of this developement? Since 2009, the prices for PV solar systems have fallen by up to 70% and continue to decline.

At the Brink of a New Industrial Revolution

Today, industry experts claim that photovoltaic & multi-kWh energy storage will become the cheapest source of electricity even in OECD countries within the next 10 years.

When this happens, it will lead to a very fast structural change across the entire world economy. Huge parts of the fossil energy market, which makes up 10% of the world economy, will disappear. People around the world will become energy independent. The powerful energy corporations that dominate the fuel market will lose significant parts of their revenue… perhaps they will even get marginalized by this development as they are stuck with huge investments.

This development has just started, but with 24.5 GW of PV solar capacity installed on more than 1 million roofs in Germany, the first signs of this new industrial revolution can already be observed.

For example, even during the dark & windy winter month of January, PV solar produced up to 7 GW or 10% of peak-load demand in Germany.

When a deadly cold wave brought the fossil- and nuclear-dominated energy system of France close to collapse, German PV solar kept many gas- and oil-fired power plants offline, which significantly lowered the spot-prices at the European Energy Exchange.

Here’s a video I created for more on all this:

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

is a close observer of the scientific, political and economic energy debate in Germany and around the globe. Inspired by the life's work of the renewable energy advocate Hermann Scheer, Thomas focuses on spreading information that showcase the possibilities & opportunities of a 100% renewable energy system. Though technology is key for this energy shift, he also looks at the socio-economic benefits and the political, as well as structural barriers.

  • and the energy revolution is pretty much unstoppable, no matter what big energy companies try to do.

    they should be everywhere to stop it but they are not God to do this so progress is continuous

    • Ross

      Like Dr. Scheer pointed out, non-renewable energy investments are looking increasingly unwise. Legacy energy companies have a fiduciary duty to recognise they’re a declining industry and concentrate on as profitably as possible running itself down and returning value to investors. The investors can then decide to spend it on renewables πŸ˜‰

  • jburt56

    The next step is to build out the Eurasian East-West grid to extend the number of hours per day that solar is available.

    • This is exactly what I say to anyone who brings up the intermittency argument against wind and solar, but especially solar. I like to analogize it to the spread and stability of the internet. When the network was small it was also fragile, but as it grew, it became much more reliable. That’s the beauty of decentralized systems, they tend to become more resilient as they scale up, in contrast to centralized systems where the largest ones are also the most brittle. The global solar flux is so stable as to be practically constant. Spread out the global PV network far enough geographically and at no point will you be short of power.

      • Well put, and interesting. I’ve seen utility company CEOs focus on grid solutions rather than storage as well — think that is perhaps the better way to go (of course, doing both is also useful). πŸ˜€

    • ThomasGerke

      That’s one solution, but I think a system of inter-connected regions that share their surpluss, while trying to be as self sustainable as possible, would be great.

      It would reduce the need for huge new infrastructure projects and would favour indiviual => regional independence.

      As soon as a 3-4kW battery with 30-50 kWh storage becomes available that is affordable and has a long lifetime, most problems are solved. Most households use between 5-10kWh per day… And it’s really rare that there are serveral days without either sun or wind… Sunshine => your own roof generates power. Wind => abundant cheap energy. At least for households & commercial clients.

      Industry might have to keep a backup for those hours that got low wind & less sunshine. But really big companies own their own power plants even today…

  • Mattpeffly

    If only the U.S. had been as smart. But large energy still owns this country, or at least owns the elected officials.

    • ThomasGerke

      I think the US was that smart… more than a decade earlier πŸ˜‰
      And many parts of the US also adopted Feed in Tarrifs and try to make something similar work… so there is hope.

      The US and Germany are not that different on this issue.. the electricity/gas corporations actually have a much stronger grip of Germany. Being home to E.On & RWE, the worlds two largest Electricity & Gas distributers, it’s no wonder that they have incredible strong ties into politics…
      The Renewable Sources Act was actually passed by the parliament. It wasn’t a government initiative. It was passed in an bipartisan afford, with members of the government coalition trying to block it.
      The economics minister of that time actually was a former manger of an energy corporation and went straigth back to his former profession after his term ended. As dirty as it gets.

      How could it become a reality then?
      It really was the tireless work of a few good people & a growing awareness among the public… To get to this point today, it also required alot of luck and great timing.
      While Germans are often portrait as being super enviromental & pro-renewables, this is in no way true for all people & politicans, especially not for those from the conservative & free democratic party (current government).

      The Renewable Energy Sources Act would have definatly been killed, if the conservatives would have won the federal elections in 2002… It was a matter of a few percentages back then, a very tight race….
      It would also have been killed if they would have won a solid majority at the 2005 elections. But they didn’t, so the push for renewables had a chance to develope further.

      In 2009 they won and while history has already shown that the Renewable Energy Sources Act is a superb law, which made direct attacks against it rather suecidal, the conservative government still to works tirelessly to dismantle it slowly or slow the energy revolution.

      They also seriously move to shift the momentum to favour the big energy corporations once again…seeing the level of ignorace and ideologically driven arguments is very frustrating.

      Don’t really know what drives them… propably lobbyism, neo-liberal ideas & the collective ego that they are better at economic politics because they are conservatives, no matter how successful other parties politics are. It can not be what isn’t allowed to be true…

      • Very inspiring. πŸ˜€ Maybe there is hope in the U.S…. πŸ˜€

    • Jonah_Falcon

      We are smart. Germany is a little behind on cutting off the subsidies on an unsustainable energy source. The US is aware of this now.

Back to Top ↑