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The Road to 2020 (Part III): Real Ambition

The State Roll-Call

In order to compete in this new race for renewable energy domination, all 16 states have formulated their own set of goals to help their regional and local economies to attract investments. These plans differ a lot from state to state. Some saw the potential a few years earlier, others stumbled into it, like Hesse or Bavaria. Others experienced changes in government during the last few years that have seriously turned things around for renewable energy. Two prominent examples of this are the two industrial and economic powerhouses of North-Rhine Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg.

Whatever the motivations and reasoning for the new energy strategies of the states are, all plans have seen a sharp increase in ambition since 2011. Some have minimum targets for primary energy consumption, others for meeting a certain percentage for heating energy or final energy demand. Some even set specific targets for the different renewable energy sources (biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower). To give a short overview of the kind of range, here’s a look at the states.0

16 state goals for renewables by 2020 (or other years where stated):

  1. Baden-Württemberg: 38% of electricity, 16% of heat supply & 13% of primary energy demand
  2. Bavaria: 50% of electricity, 50% of heat supply & 18% of final energy demand
  3. Berlin (city state): 15% of electricity & 11% of heat supply
  4. Brandenburg: 90% of electricity & 20% of primary energy demand
  5. Bremen (city state): 20% of electricity & heat supply, (4-6x increase of wind power)
  6. Hamburg (city state): 35% of electricity
  7. Hesse: 20% of final energy demand
  8. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: 25-30% of electricity (100% CO2 neutral by 2050) & 14% of heat supply
  9. Lower-Saxony: 90% of electricity (150% including offshore wind power) & 25% of final energy demand
  10. North-Rhine Westphalia: 15% of electricity from wind power (up from 3% in 2009)
  11. Rhineland-Palatinate: 100% of electricity by 2030 (5x increase of wind power & 2 TWh of solar PV by 2020), 16% of heat supply by 2020
  12. Saarland (tiny): 20% of final energy demand
  13. Saxony: 33% of electricity consumption
  14. Saxony-Anhalt: 20% of primary energy demand & 35% of electricity consumption (already accomplished in 2010 with 36.2% of wind power)
  15. Schleswig-Holstein (border with Denmark): 90% of final energy demand (up from 15% in 2009) & 300-400% of electricity demand (up from 49% in 2009) to produce 10% of Germany’s electricity — Real Ambition!
  16. Thuringia: 45% of electricity & 30% of final energy demand

In this context, the fact that the federal government sticks to the old 2008 goals of only 35% renewable electricity generation by 2020 should sound a little dubious at best for everyone. While it’s, of course, not certain that all states can accomplish their goals, domestic analysts and studies put the 2020 share of electricity production somewhere between 42% (recent study by the federal government) and more than 50% (analysis of state goals done by the German Energy Agency — DENA).

The biggest discrepancy between the federal government’s “energy strategy” (still in place despite being from 2010) and the goals of the states is in the field of onshore wind. While the federal government wants a limited increase to about 38 GW of onshore wind (up from 29 GW in 2011), the result of the combined plans of the states point in the direction of more than 70 GW.

This re-enforces the observation I made in the second part of “The Road to 2020” — Germany is now in a new phase of renewable energy introduction. The frontlines are split between those who want to slow the energy revolution down and those who want to accelerate it into a race to dominate the future of the energy system.

The Revolution is Here

The reasons for this conflict are obvious. The big four energy corporations that dominate the market for conventional electricity generation (82% market share), have neglected the domestic renewable market for over a decade and, as a result, they control only 6% of renewable energy capacity. Today, the corporations have changed their strategy and plan to invest more into decentralized renewables. But at the end of the day, they simply don’t have the funds, skills, or experience to capture a similar dominant portion of the future energy system in a dynamic shift to renewables. So, they are trying to protect their investments in huge centralized fossil power plants for as long as possible and slow other market participants down. At the end, this is a battle for market share that is being fought with lobbying, media campaigns, and all sorts of dirty tricks.

Their competitors in this battle for market share are plenty, but those competitors are not as well connected to federal politics. All over the country, private individuals form so-called “Energiegenossenschaften” (energy co-ops). These organizations build renewable energy projects worth several million Euros for the mutual benefit of their members.

New local utilities are being founded across Germany. They cooperate with local governments and credit unions. So far, they have been able to raise millions of cheap loans from small local investors who love the idea of investing in local clean energy projects.

The few relatively big regional utilities that were not absorbed by E.On, RWE, or Vattenfall have formed an alliance and plan to invest billions in decentralized gas power plants and renewable energy projects.

The stage is set for an interessting decade that might surprise us all.

In the words of the late Hermann Scheer:
“We are facing the biggest structural change in the economy since the beginning of the industrial age.”

In my next post I will address the argument that “no nuclear” would lead to “more coal & CO2 emisions.” A popular myth that has been repeated throughout the domestic and international press since the announcement of the nuclear phaseout.

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Written By

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.


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