Introduction

Germany’s Clean Energy Transition - What is the Energiewende?

The Energiewende, or clean energy transition, is the term used for the fundamental shift in Germany’s energy supply. The current energy system, which relies on nuclear power, coal, oil, and gas, is being replaced by a new energy supply based on renewable energies, namely wind power, solar energy, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal. The main reasons for this shift in energy supply are:

  • Risk Management: The risks of nuclear energy cannot be safely managed. The disasters at Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011) illustrated this clearly. In addition, there is no safe means for storing the highly toxic radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, which remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
  • Climate: The use of coal, oil, and gas produces climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main drivers of climate change.
  • Scarce Resources: Coal, oil, and gas are finite. The scarcer they become, the more expensive a system based on a fossil-fuel energy system will be.
  • Local Content: While much of our conventional energy (specifically oil, gas, uranium, and coal), must be imported, a large part of renewable energies are locally produced, thus increasing added value locally and reducing Germany’s dependence on imports.

In Germany, the issue of energy supply has long been a controversial political issue. In particular, the use of nuclear energy has been the subject of intense controversy for decades. But since the Bundestag’s June 2011 decisions, there exists in Germany a cross-party consensus to embark on the Energiewende. Thus, both the phase-out of nuclear energy by 2022 and specific targets for renewable energy development in the electricity sector are fixed by law. The energy strategy of the federal government also stipulates other goals, especially in the area of energy efficiency.

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