Clean Power

Published on April 16th, 2014 | by Dr. Karl-Friedrich Lenz


Germany Not So Important Anymore

April 16th, 2014 by  


Originally published on Lenz Blog.

The recent news about reforming the Law on Priority for Renewable Energy in Germany is not great for people like me. As Hans-Josef Fell (one of the original authors of the law) explains in much detail, the reform that will likely become law is restraining growth just about everywhere.

That is bad news for the climate. It is also bad news for Germany’s economy. In the long term, renewable energy is much cheaper than importing fossil fuel. And it doesn’t make much sense to reduce the speed of deployment now, with costs for solar and wind already way down compared to when the Law was first enacted.

But the good news is that Germany doesn’t matter much anymore.

As this article by Bobby Magill at Climate Central just explained, Germany’s investment in renewable energy was a measly $10 billion last year, down from $22.4 billion in 2012. That’s around $125 per capita, which is close to $10 a month.

And it gives Germany a rather mediocre rank of five. China ($54 billion), United States ($36.7 billion), Japan ($28.6 billion) and the United Kingdom ($12.4 billion) all beat Germany’s record. If there was a World Cup for renewable energy, Germany would not even make it to the semi finals. On top of that, we may even fail yet again to win the FIFA World Cup this year.

And that’s before the further reductions in deployment speed from the 2014 reform are even enacted.

It’s all very depressing.

But the good news is of course that with Germany now out of the race, these further reductions don’t matter so much anymore for the global picture.

And that global picture still shows solar deployment up by 29 percent, even with total investment in renewable energy down. The explanation for that is of course less cost per kW of deployment.

So once the politicians in Germany have succeeded in their goal of reducing deployment speeds, we will see Germany fall back even more in the global race. Other countries with China at the top will reap most of the benefits from the cost reductions Germany has paid for with high feed-in tariffs while solar and wind were still expensive.

Image Credit: Pew Charitable Trusts

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About the Author

is a professor of German and European Law at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, blogging since 2003 at Lenz Blog. A free PDF file of his global warming science fiction novel "Great News" is available here.

  • Zzzz

    Screw Germany. Lets move on. China is #1!

  • Wayne Williamson

    Sorry Dr Lenz. Maybe Germany is not putting as much money into renewables as it used to, but I bet a chart that includes past years would look much more accurate. Let me see a chart for total money spent in the last 30 years on renewables for the world by country.

  • Will E

    next week I go to Spain and wanted to install Solar Panel System.
    Its forbidden what I am told. there is a war on Solar in sunny Spain.
    the Policia come and get you.
    In Germany they lost their way.
    they say they pay too much for the energiewende.
    but the bill is payed in Germany.
    there are Germans and Companies making lots of profit, is about 20 billion a year made in Germany, payed in Germany.
    the Energiewende is a too big succes, now they do not know what to do.

  • JamesWimberley

    What]s most depressing about the German slowdown is the politics. Once renewables started creating real financial problems for the conventional utilities, they were able to astroturf a phoney crisis and get the policy, not exactly reversed, but drastically slowed down. The SPD as coalition partner has opted to defend the jobs of miners and steelworkers rather than those of solar installers. Germany is still ahead of the pack, but other countries are heading rapidly to the same situation and conflict. Will they avoid a rerun of the results?

  • Thomas

    Germany uses 50% less energy per unit of GDP output compared to the states why is this not mentioned? Also Germany is not really slacking they are ramping up storage solutions, offshore wind, hydrogen cars/fueling stations, etc. They are at a different phase of their renewable/sustainable rollout compared to the states in all reality including the different energy use per unit of gdp output plus the huge lead in renewable/sustainable developments over the USA.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Germany saves the world and now they slack off and let people forget that when really they should be rubbing our noses in it. But then, as an Australian, I am no stranger to bizarre backward steps by politicians. But it doesn’t change the fact Germany has done the world a great service by slashing the price of solar, and I will always remember that, even if they let others forget.

    • driveby

      Not even the Germans per se, but a little political party.. the Greens, when they’d been a junior partner to the socialist party.. that’s what I will not forget. Even if they got a little too mainstream thereafter.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Give Spain a bit of love as well. Their rapid installation helped drive the market growth that brought down prices.

      Talk about a backward stepping government…

      • Ronald Brakels

        Spain deserves our thanks too. That said, it’s easier to dash for solar gold when you are the sunniest country in Europe than when you are cloudy old Germany. It takes a powerful pair of leather shorts to dream that big and make it reality. And Italy has also done great, but they don’t get a lot of press.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Italy has. And reports are that they have been installing for $1.30/watt which is a great price. Second only to China’s $1/watt as far as I know.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Looking for information on $1 a watt solar in China. Interested in seeing if it is an exception or becoming standard for them.

          • Ronald Brakels

            A year ago we had Chinese solar panels on offer for 48 cents a watt in Adelaide. But that was a special introductory offer to build market presence. (And maybe get rid of some inventory.) But Jinko solar now has modules at 48 US cents a watt.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Our cheapest prices are running in the low $0.70 range. We’re higher, I suppose, because we took action against Chinese dumping.

            That might have made panels a bit cheaper for you.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Yeah, gotta thank the US for cheap corn chips, Europe for cheap planes, and now both of ya for cheaper solar panels. Thanks guys!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here you go. And since you’re the first requester of the day, a bonus gift…

            “Yingli chief strategy officer Yiyu Wang said that project costs for its current pipeline of 130MW in utility-scale solar projects in China are about $1.03-$1.05 a watt.”

            “Wang suggested that Yingli would generate a return in the “higher mid teens” for these projects. “

            Deutsche Bank said that although the market in Europe had contracted, at least one third of new, small to mid size projects were being developed without subsidies. Multi-megawatt projects were being built south of Rome for €90c/W. This was delivering electricity costs (LCOE – with 80 per cent self consumption) of around €80/MWh (€8c/kWh)

          • Ronald Brakels

            Thank you! Great news! I guess the fact that it’s just a couple of hairs above $1 in China is why I hadn’t heard of it. And 0.9 of a euro in Italy is excellent!

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