Germany’s 'Energiewende': “the German equivalent of the project to get the first man on the moon”

27.03.2015 - Article

Foreign Minister Steinmeier opened an international energy conference on 26 March.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the Energy Transition Dialogue
Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the Energy Transition Dialogue© Photothek/Koehler

Together with Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Foreign Minister Steinmeier opened the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue at the Federal Foreign Office on 26 March. The international energy conference is intended as an opportunity to exchange views with international partners on Germany’s ‘Energiewende’, the transformation of its energy system.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier started his speech at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue with a question: “Do you know what ‘Energiewende’ is in Spanish? Or in Arabic? Or in Indonesian?” The answer, he said, was quite simple. According to Steinmeier, everyone just says “Energiewende”. The word, he explained, had become a standard term in many parts of the world. “‘Energiewende’ stands for a positive Germany and a forward-looking and ambitious project. It is, if you will, the German equivalent of the project to get the first man on the moon,” said the Foreign Minister.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the energy conference
Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the energy conference© Photothek/Koehler

A key theme of German foreign policy

Representatives from more than 60 countries had gathered at the Federal Foreign Office to talk about their experiences of Germany’s new direction on energy and discuss the next stage. Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Economic Affairs Minister Gabriel opened the conference on 26 March. The 700-plus participants came from the spheres of politics, business, academia and civil society. Their number included 15 government ministers.

Steinmeier reported seeing in his everyday work the evidence of international interest in Germany’s transformation of its energy system. “No matter which continent I have travelled to in recent months,” he said, “German energy policy was always one of the key topics of my conversations.”

Participants at the energy conference
Participants at the energy conference© Photothek/Koehler

Diversifying the energy supply

Energy supply, Steinmeier went on, was also an important subject for foreign policy. The numerous crises adding up around the world pose fresh challenges for energy policy, he explained: “Many of the world’s countries are dependent on imports of raw materials for their energy supply. In crises, however, supply routes are more unstable and unpredictable; the energy supply is often among the first areas to be threatened.” One response to these developments, he said, was to diversify the energy supply.

Climate change would only increase the relevance of energy issues, according to the Foreign Minister, so slowing down climate change was a clear foreign policy aim for him. Here, too, he said, “the silver bullet for lowering emissions is a more sustainable energy system”.

Steinmeier went on to identify the energy supply as a fundamental part of sustainable economic development. That, he said, was why the Federal Government was supporting the United Nations’ goal to allow all people on this planet access to a sustainable energy supply by 2030.

Economic Affairs Minister Gabriel
Economic Affairs Minister Gabriel© Photothek/Koehler

The global ‘Energiewende’ has already begun

Economic Affairs Minister Gabriel also emphasised the economic potential of renewable energy and a sustainable energy supply. Having started as a green initiative, he said, the transformation of Germany’s energy system had turned into an economic project. Gabriel averred that switching to renewables could help safeguard not only better livelihoods but also safer lives for future generations.

One example of international cooperation in the field of renewable energy is the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), whose Director-General, Adnan Amin, was also present at the conference. He underlined Germany’s international role as a renewables pioneer. He also made it clear that “the global ‘Energiewende’ has already begun”.

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