German energy transition
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German has made progress on its impressive plans for transforming its energy system, but greater action is needed beyond the electricity sector, a new IEA report says.

The Energiewende, German for “energy transition,” has been the defining feature of the country’s energy landscape, says the IEA, aiming to phase out electricity generation from nuclear power by the end of 2022. More recently, the government announced plans for a phase-out of coal by the end of 2038.

Using 1990 as a base year, the key goals are to achieve at least a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050. Germany has made notable progress in cutting its emissions. In 2019, it had the largest decline in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions of any EU country.

Despite the extraordinary progress in renewable electricity, the report notes that the nuclear phase-out, as well as higher electricity exports, have offset some of the emissions benefits. Still, the government’s planned coal phase-out could help the country remain on track to achieving its longer-term emissions targets in the electricity sector.

However, given the requirement for additional renewable capacity, the IEA has highlighted the need for German to ensure a continued strong investment environment for wind generation, including to address recent social acceptance and permitting issues impacting the onshore wind sector, as well as repowering ageing wind facilities.

In addition, the review urges the government to facilitate the smooth system integration of renewables, in particular through a buildout of much-needed additional transmission capacity to carry wind resources from the north to the south.

To date, the electricity sector has been shouldering a sizeable share of the Energiewende’s costs and progress; other sectors need to follow suit.

“The Energiewende has been successful in electricity generation, where it has been effective at substantially increasing the share of renewable electricity supply. To further support the role of renewables, the government will need to ensure a transmission grid expansion and promote the development of hydrogen technology,” said the IEA’s Executive Director, Dr Fatih Birol, who launched the report in Berlin with Peter Altmaier, German’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy.

“Building on success in the electricity sector, now the government must focus its efforts on achieving stronger emissions reductions in the transport and heating sectors. The IEA welcomes the recently adopted Climate Action Programme 2030, which includes a carbon price in the transport and heating sectors, as an important step in the right direction,” Dr Birol noted.

Beyond that, the programme includes a focus on technology development to support the energy transition, such as the use of more electric vehicles and hydrogen-based energy systems. It is also mindful of the distributional impacts of climate policies and aims to ensure a level playing field across sectors and stakeholders.

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“I would like to thank Minister Altmaier for his collaborative spirit and commitment to building a secure and sustainable energy future. It is my hope that this report will help German as it undertakes this very important energy transition,” said Dr Birol.

Explore and download IEA’s Germany 2020 Energy Policy Review