Analysis

Full Steam Ahead for German Energy Transition, Expert Tells Vancouver

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Yes, Germany is on track to largely decarbonize its energy system by the middle of this century.

No, it isn’t killing the economy.

That was the message Berlin-based energy expert Dr. David Jacobs brought to Vancouver on Thursday via a pair of “mythbusting” presentations on his country’s much-lauded energy transition, or Energiewende.

Jacobs shared his thoughts in a presentation Understanding the German Energiewende – Objectives, Realities and Misconceptions at a breakfast gathering of provincial and federal policy makers, clean-energy sector leaders, and academics. He also shared his insider perspective with the province’s private power-sector developers at Clean Energy BC’s Generate 2014 conference.

Jacobs outlined how Germany is largely on track to reduce its carbon pollution 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. By that year, assuming all goes according to plan, renewable sources will provide the nation with 80 percent of its electricity needs. Demand will be sharply reduced below today’s levels, as well.

But a variety of media reports over recent years have attempted to paint a picture of a troubled, stalled revolution. Jacobs disproved this, with a few facts:

  • Germany has the lowest unemployment level since reunification in 1990.
  • There are 1.8 million green jobs in Germany, 370,000 of which are in renewables.
  • Germany has a very competitive export industry, and its second biggest exporter world-wide, increasing export surplus.
  • National wind and PV industries have a very high export share.

Jacobs acknowledged that Germany’s electricity prices are among the highest in the European Union. But he also said that due to the tremendous efficiency of German homes and businesses—combined with a nation-wide “culture of conservation”—that home energy costs are comparable to North American rates. Energy costs constitute only about two percent of an average German household budget, he said.

Dr Jacobs visited Vancouver at the invitation of Clean Energy Canada—the latest of our Low Carbon Leadership Speaker Series.