The German Energy Revolution

There’s a revolution happening in Germany; it’s both social and technological, and massive in scale. Revolutions bring upheaval, change in our ways of living and experiencing the world; they can birth democracy, or be the death of it. Germany’s revolution is unlike any other, because it doesn’t concern itself with immediate, gratifying change; it is concerned with long-term change, over the course of about 60 years, so that it can protect its forests, its children, and the planet. The Germans are undergoing an energy revolution.

This energy revolution is known the energiewende, which translates to “energy transition”. The goal is a drastic reduction in carbon emissions and nuclear energy use in Germany; the country is slated to close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 and cut carbon emissions by 80-95% by 2050 (as compared to the 1990 levels). They’ve already succeeded in closing down 9 of their 17 nuclear power plants, and since 1990 they’ve cut carbon emissions by 27%, a remarkable feat. There are a lot of factors that have played into this achievement, not the least of which is their ever-increasing reliance on renewable energies, including solar power. You can read all about Germany’s remarkable energy transition, including what policies and initiatives the government has taken. What’s truly impressive about the energiewende, though is the popular buy in; German citizens are largely in favour of the project.

Largely, here, means 80-90% of the entire population. It’s almost impossible to get that broad level of support for any project on a national level, and green projects seem especially susceptible to skepticism. One theory says that Germans are culturally prone to be moved by green initiatives; part of the Germanic origin story is that their people came from the heart of an impassable forest that protected them from invaders. In the 1970s, when acid rain caused by coal fired power plants began to destroy the forests of Germany, people were outraged, and began to demand change. Pressure from the population could have influenced German politicians to promote environmental change.

There is, however, a more economic reason for popular buy-in; German renewable technologies are largely owned by citizens and the private sector. Citizen owned renewables are at a remarkable 42.5%, largely in the domains of solar, wind and biogas. Energy cooperatives, groups of citizens which pool money to purchase large-scale renewable energy projects, are a vital part of German energy infrastructure; Germans generate so much solar power at peak hours that utilities are buying more electricity than they are selling, and have had to reconstruct their entire business model.

As Canadians, we too are proud of our forests and wilderness; our origin story is a bit different though. It is not fable, myth, or legend shrouded in mystery; we are a multicultural nation, embracing each other’s differences to create a better world. We are a place that is deeply concerned with the success of every other country, because we come from all over; global disaster would affect each of us deeply. We should petition our politicians to shut down non-renewable projects. We should form energy collectives and purchase wind and solar panel to save our environment. We have access to high-quality solar panels and installation services; we should pool our funds, and create our own energiewende.