Global challenges demand global solutions rather than go-it-alone efforts: energy security, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty can only be effectively tackled through concerted efforts at international level.
External energy policy
Energy security is becoming increasingly significant in formulating and shaping foreign policy, in view of the growing international fuel demand, new regional economic cooperation fora and potentially unstable regions. Here, Germany and Europe face the following challenges:
- securing and diversifying sources of supply,
- expanding dialogue with producer, transit and major consumer countries, especially the newly-industrializied countries,
- promoting compliance with international environment and climate-protection agreements,
- encouraging energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy,
- promoting transfers of economic and scientific expertise from German companies and research institutes to partner countries.
The search for permanent, reliable sources of energy is becoming increasingly important in foreign and security-policy terms for a major industrial and technological nation such as Germany which at the same time has relatively few raw materials. It has two main tasks:
- First, Germany must in future cooperate more closely at regional and global level to guarantee a sustainable energy policy.
- Second, it must play an active role in changing from fossil fuels to renewable energy. These will – following coal and oil – kick-start a third Industrial Revolution.
Renewable energy sources – in national and international terms
Germany has long years of experience as a pioneer in the field of renewable energy. A secure, sustainable energy supply can only be achieved for the long term by continuing to develop renewables and making greater use of them. This was made all the more relevant by the German Government’s June 2011 decision to phase out nuclear power as an energy source by the end of 2022. The Government is therefore working to see committed expansion of renewables, both in Germany and worldwide. The energy mix of the future will encompass wind power, biofuel, solar power, hydropower and geothermal energy. These can meet our energy needs in the long term, and, what is more, they are vastly more environmentally friendly than conventional forms of energy production.
In Germany, major progress has been achieved through intensive promotion, above all through the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) adopted in 2000. The principles underpinning the EEG are that grid system operators are obliged to connect renewable energy sources to the grid and to expand it as necessary to make such connection possible. They are also obliged to give electricity from renewable sources priority when it comes to purchase and distribution (feed in priority) as well as to pay a set tariff for it that covers costs. In 2010, the proportion of renewables was 11% of energy end consumption. By 2020, the German Government plans to raise this figure to 18%. The long-term plan is to have renewable energy sources supply most of Germany’s energy. In the Energy Strategy it published on 28 September 2010, the Government sets the target for renewables at 60% of energy end consumption by 2050.
Promoting renewables increases Germany’s energy security and reduces its CO2 emissions. It has also helped establish a new sector of industry in Germany. In 2010, there were 367,400 people employed in the renewable-energy sector, and the numbers continue to rise. They are predicted to reach 700,000 by 2030, which would see renewables replace the automobile industry as the biggest sector of the economy. Investment in Germany’s renewables in 2010 hit 26.6 billion euro.
German expertise and technology are top exports, and are used around the world to produce electricity, heat and fuel from renewable sources. One contribution is the Renewable Energy Export Initiative, which helps German renewable-energy companies position themselves in the international arena.
The success of renewables promotion in Germany has been such that over 40 countries across the world have now adopted the EEG principles and introduced feed in tariffs. The Federal Government is lobbying its international partners to quickly increase their use of renewables.
The natural preconditions for such an increase are present in almost every country the world over – there is sufficient sunlight, wind, water, geothermal energy and biomass almost everywhere. In many cases, there is merely a lack of knowledge about how a country’s energy system can be converted to renewables and what options for efficient promotion exist. One major step towards solving that problem was the establishment of IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, in January 2009. Today, IRENA already has more than 80 members.
Last updated 22.07.2011