Energiewende (energy transition). That’s the name of the German government’s ambitious goal to transform their energy landscape over the next few decades. By 2025, they want 35-40% of their electricity to come from renewable energy sources. By 2035, they’re targeting 55-60%. And by 2050, they hope to hit at least 80% renewable energy, coupled with an overall reduction in energy consumption of 25% (compared to 2008).
To get anywhere near this goal requires a huge investment in wind and solar energy generation, as well as a step up in their use of biomass and hydropower, and improving the overall efficiency of natural gas power plants. So far, signs are good, at least in terms of their energy mix. In 2015, renewable energy made up 32.5% of Germany’s total electricity demand.
On one day in 2016, renewable technologies generated 55 GW of energy – that was 87% of Germany’s electricity demand on that day. As reported in Quartz at the time, there was so much electricity available, “Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity.”
Alongside the environmental argument for renewables, there are also economic reasons a region might want to move away from coal and oil. A 2015 report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed that in Germany, coal and gas were more expensive than onshore wind – $106 and $118 versus $80/MWh – and the same was true in the UK.
In China, coal was still cheap in 2015, coming in at just $44/MWh. But solar power there was cheaper than gas ($109 versus $113/MWh). With China now taking a leading role in the fight against climate change, the prices of renewables are likely to drop further.
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