Publications 2017

Germany's energy transition: making it deliver

9 October 2017
Annika Hedberg (Head of Sustainable Prosperity for Europe programme and Senior Policy Analyst)

As Germany is engaged in coalition negotiations following the elections, one issue that should be put on the table is the future of the Energiewende, the German energy transition. The formation of a new government is an opportunity for the country to step up its efforts on the energy transition, and adopt a comprehensive vision, complemented with an all-inclusive strategy for its achievement. 

In this Discussion Paper, Annika Hedberg assesses the successes and failures of Germany’s energy transition, and evaluates the national developments in a wider European context. She argues that the German experiences provide valuable lessons not only for Germany but also for others that are looking to transform their energy systems.

Germany’s Energiewende has received international attention because of the ambitious effort to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix. Some have even gone as far as portraying it as a model for building a renewable future. But this is not the complete story: while Germany’s vision and objectives are commendable, implementation has been mixed. While progress has been made in the electricity sector, little has been done to bring about an energy transition in the heating and transport sectors. Fossil fuels continue to dominate as the principal sources of energy for the country, and Germany is expected to miss its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020. So a truly green and renewable future is still far from a reality.

While it is often forgotten, the German energy transition does not happen in isolation. Germany’s domestic measures have implications across borders. The EU again provides a bigger context, the framework and drivers that influence the success of the energy transition. While the commitments and measures taken at the EU level are shaped by Germany, they also have implications for it. 

Based on her analysis she puts forward a set of policy recommendations for both Germany and the EU, and argues that Germany could be a key player in leading EU and even global climate action. However, Germany can only provide a credible and attractive model for others if it can prove that the transition can be cost-effective and bring significant economic, societal and environmental benefits. To make the energy transition a real success, she recommends that Germany collaborates more with its European partners and aligns its actions with the agreed EU objectives. 

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