Is Germany’s Energiewende really a failure?

There are so many claims that Germany’s Energiewende is a true failure. For example, Larry Hamlin wrote that “EU climate alarmist champion Germany has its Energiewende program exposed as a catastrophic failure with enormous costs“. Or, a post on Politico.eu notes that ” Germany is expected to fall short on pretty much all its national and EU emission reduction and clean energy targets for 2020. ” These opinions are strangely all over the internet. I just want them to get the facts straight. And what is better than letting the data talk.

In Figure 1 we see Germany’s renewable energy share in gross final energy consumption and gross electricity consumption from the year 2000 to 2018. The dotted lines show the national targets. As one can see, Germany is in line for achieving both 2020 targets. In fact, the 2020 target for its renewable energy share in gross electricity consumption is already overshot and Germany is well in line to achieve its 2025 target during 2019 or 2020 already.

Figure 1

While it is true that there are costs associated with the Energiewende, it is clearly wrong to speak of Germany falling short of its energy targets. I think that is a point well worth emphasizing and it does show that, whatever Germany is doing, works.

Figure 2

However, as is nearly always true, there is a catch. Renewables in energy consumption is only one of the vital targets helping our planet to become more sustainable. It is not only important that we rely on renewable inputs to meet our consumption needs, but that also our production does not produce unwanted outputs.

The major additional output is, of course, the production of greenhouse gases. As Figure 2 shows, it is true that Germany will fall short of its 2020 targets by maybe 50-70 million tons if current trends continue. Most of this is due to the energy industry, then industry in general and then transport. Under Merkel’s rule the dirty part of the energy industry, especially the coal industry, as well as the dirty part of the transport industry, has seen substantial support. This is the reason for the shortfall in emission reductions. It has nothing to do with the Energiewende per se. It is simply the result of protective policies, based on an old legacy. There is a term for this in academic, it is history dependence.

Let’s see whether the new leaders in Germany will follow Merkel’s path of protecting the coal industry and the old school car industry, or whether there will be a further shift away from dirty energy inputs and from transport relying on combustion. As long as one is not tight to a specific history, then one is also more likely to change the path one treads on.

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