Ariel Goldberg
Ariel Goldberg

Germany’s green energy revolution

There has been a lot of noise lately regarding renewable energy and the lead up to the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed an executive order to increase California’s renewable energy mix to 30% by 2020. He has finally managed to prove there is something more bizarre than a bodybuilding governor … namely a US Republican who wants to do something about global warming. There are also wonderful initiatives such as the 10:10 (ten by ten) campaign being launched in England in which individual citizens are making their stand in the global crisis by committing to reduce their own energy emissions by 10% in 2010. The British Medical Journal and Lancet published the same editorial last month stating that “failure to agree radical reductions in emissions spells a global health catastrophe, which is why health professionals must put their case forcefully now and after Copenhagen”.

The world is buzzing and the frequency is “how to avoid impending global catastrophe on a scale never before imagined”. It’s all rather exciting really … the great cause of our age has undeniably dawned and the internet generation hitherto obsessed with computer games and who’s dating who in Hollywood is being asked to step up to the plate and make something meaningful of our lives. The heat is being turned up in the proverbial kitchen and over the coming decades we, as a common humanity, are going to see whether or not we can stick around.

But for the present moment, as laudable and audible as all the buzzing might be … it’s still just that … buzzing … noise … plans and aspirations. Which is why I am particularly pleased to be sharing spaceship Earth with the Germans.

I came across the German Energy Policy Road Map 2020 after reading an article on Germany as “the world’s first major renewable energy economy”. This is indeed what they are striving to become and even more importantly, what they seem to be succeeding at. In 2000, the year that saw Germany adopt their Renewable Energy Resources Act, the proportion of the electricity generated from renewable sources was 6.3%. By 2008 this figure was already about 15%. They are making similar progress in their CO2-emission reduction targets. The Kyoto Protocol required industrialised nations to reduce their CO2 emissions by 5% of the 1990 levels by the year 2012. According to Wikipedia, Germany has not only met that target but has managed to reduce emissions by 19% of 1990 levels. I’m not completely sure that the figures from Wikipedia are correct, but one thing is certain and that is that they are doing a lot better than the rest of the world which has collective CO2 emissions at levels 40% higher than they were in 1990.

Their energy policy road map published earlier this year outlines the German government’s strategy with regards to energy leading up to 2020. It is built around two essential strategies. The first is to expand the use of renewable energies. A goal to generate at least 30% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 is seen as an opportunity to create jobs and position Germany as the world leader in renewable energy technology, a position that will indubitably pay off as the necessity of sustainable technologies dawns around the globe. The second key strategy is “a massive boost to energy efficiency”, which will be achieved by overhauling their national grid and generating 40% of the electricity in “highly efficient coal-powered stations”.

All in all, the document paints a very enlightened picture of where we stand as humanity and what we need to be doing about the situation we are in. It is incredibly refreshing and encouraging compared to the host of excuses most other nations are putting forward. I sincerely hope that as we lead up to the climate summit in Copenhagen at the end of this year, the German government will be able to achieve the last goal outlined in their policy — “to bring international climate negotiations to a successful conclusion”.