Germany reached a new renewable energy record in the first half of this year, generating 35.1% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, according to the country’s trade body, the German Renewable Energy Federation.
In news published only days into the second half of 2017, the Germany Renewable Energy Federation (BEE) announced that the country had sourced 35.1% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, meeting its 2020 target for “share of gross electricity consumption” well ahead of schedule. Germany’s share of renewable electricity generation in its overall mix has been increasing steadily over the past few years, as shown below, from 30.8% in the first half of 2015, to 32.7% in the first half of 2016.
Unfortunately, even though this record is good news in and of itself, it is offset by slow progress in other sectors. The BEE explained in their press release that the increase in electricity generation is a positive step, but is minimised somewhat by a decline of renewable energy in the transport sector, and minimal growth in the heating sector. “The power generation in Germany is progressing far too slowly,” according to Harald Uphoff, the acting director of BEE.
Onshore wind energy in the first half of 2017 took a major jump over previous years, growing from 34.08 TWh in the first half of 2015, to 34.71 TWh a year later, but jumping to 39.75 TWh in the first half of this year. Offshore wind also jumped, from only 2.15 TWh in the first half of 2015 to 8.48 TWh this year. Solar PV has seen smaller incremental increases, growing from 19.50 TWh in 2015, down to 19.30 TWh in 2016, and 21.74 in the first half of this year.
The gross electricity consumption targets represent simply the amount of renewable energy sources participating in the country’s electricity sector. Germany’s target for gross final energy consumption is 18% for 2020, 30% for 2030, 45% for 2040, and 60% for 2050. According to BEE, Germany may still miss its 2020 target, with the current trajectory seeing the country only reach 16.7% if the issue is not “politically counter-steered and the expansion accelerated.”
This is where the political talk begins to diverge from on-the-ground realities. Germany has been a leader in committing to the Paris Climate Agreement, especially recently in the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the accords. European Union leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment late last month to the Agreement, and recent reports suggest that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to confront Donald Trump at this week’s G20 summit, specifically on his country’s isolationist policies concerning climate change.
Germany also made news earlier last month by signing a joint statement on climate cooperation with California — a reaffirmation of joint ties between the two to continue working together on climate action.
However, more needs to be done on the ground, separate from political moves that don’t always result in real action. Costs need to come down through political support and technological innovation. Germany’s big offshore wind auction held earlier this year yielded record-breaking results — including the first subsidy-free offshore wind projects, thanks to DONG Energy and EnBW. This shows the potential for big renewable energy development, and more needs to be done to open up further auctions and locations.