Thursday, 28 October 2010

German (energy) efficiency

Germans of today have always struck me more as pragmatic rather than visionary by nature. One needs to dig several centuries deep in the intellectual landscape until the shovel eventually hits the crusty remains of Goethe, Kloppstock or Kant; thinkers that were once led by the belief that our world will change to a better place if only our minds are enlightened, and not by striving obsessive compulsively for efficiency improvement.  Yes, I did miss the courage for having visions in my country. That is, until I read about our new energy and climate roadmap to 2050, which gave reasons for hope again.

The new energy concept was made public in September by the Federal Government, lead by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and offers a compass for cutting emissions by 80% compared to 1990 base level by 2050. An eighty per cent emissions cut looks like a great vision.

Reading in more detail about the plan allows some interesting insight into the works of a German mind. So, how does Germany plan to achieve the 80% emissions cut? There are eight pillars holding the energy and climate construct:  1) renewables will make up 80% of Germany’s electricity generation by 2050, 2) energy efficiency will be drastically improved, 3)  existing nuclear power stations will stay on the grid for up to 25 more years, 4) smart grids will be introduced to allow for more efficiency between demand and supply, 5) the housing sector will be restructured towards more efficiency, 6) electric vehicles will be substantially subsidised, 7) more funding will be allocated to research and development and 8) Germany will spend effort and money to harmonize the European electricity grid to allow a better transfer between countries.  In summary, Merkel has managed to put German efficiency into a vision of decarbonising a country. 

Of course the strategic paper contains information on how the eight pillars are planned to be implemented. For a complete understanding it is necessary to take a step back and look at how Germany’s energy and electricity production mix is structured right now.