The energy turnaround challenge

Jühnde is a place with a lot of energy: the village with 800 inhabitants in Lower Saxony became Germany’s first bioenergy village in 2005. It is completely self-sufficient with its own supply of power and heating from biomass. The pioneering project awakened a great deal of worldwide interest. Delegations travelled from the USA and Japan to learn how energy is produced from liquid manure, maize and grain in a biogas plant. There have been many imitators in Germany as well. Meanwhile, there are around 100 self-sufficient energy generating villages and communities in Germany providing examples of how to make last year’s energy turnaround decision succeed. Wind turbines Enlarge image (© picture alliance/dpa)

A brief look back: at the end of May 2011, just a few weeks after the Japanese nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima, the Federal Government passed a far-reaching decision. Germany was the first industrialized country to phase out nuclear power entirely. From a total of 17, all of Germany’s nuclear reactors that were built before 1980 have already been shut down. The remaining nine German reactors will then also be phased out completely by the end of 2022. In the future, electricity in Germany is to be supplied mainly by renewable energy sources with a target of 35 per cent by 2022 and 80 per cent by the year 2050. At the moment, renewable energy generated by wind, sun, water and biomass contributes around 20 per cent to Germany’s electricity mix.

The Federal Government’s decision to phase out nuclear energy has made the energy turnaround into one of its central projects. Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier called the energy turnaround “one of the biggest challenges for Germany as a business location”. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel is counting on close cooperation between the Federal Government and the Länder when carrying out the huge project. The Federal Chancellor is especially interested in accelerating the expansion of efficient electricity grids. She says that many projects in Germany are lagging behind. But, as Ms. Merkel pointed out in her latest video broadcast, high capacity lines will be needed to supply the industrial areas in the south with wind energy from northern Germany.

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