“Energiewende” means “energy transition,” and it is the guiding principle steering Germany toward a completely renewable energy grid by 2050. The reasons behind the transition are manifold – fighting climate change, reducing energy imports, stimulating tech innovation and strengthening local economies – and Germany has committed whole-heartedly to this transformation.
As Clean Technica points out, in solar power alone, Germans dominate their first-world competition:
“In terms of total solar power capacity per capita, Germany crushes every other country. At the end of 2012, it had approximately 400 MW of solar power capacity per million people, considerably more than #2 Italy at 267 MW per million people, #3 Belgium at 254 MW per million people, #4 Czech Republic at 204 MW per million, and #5 Greece at 143 MW per million people. The US came it at #20 with about 25 MW per million people…”
Inhabitat graciously concurs:
“The accomplishment proves once again that a lack of sunshine is no obstacle to scaling up solar energy — and if the Teutons can produce record amounts of solar power under grey skies, then the potential for countries with sunnier weather and more land mass (like the United States) is limitless.”
Germany’s wind power also set records in 2013. On a single day in December, wind supplied 39 percent of Germany’s electricity supply.
But Energiewende is not without its criticisms. In part this energy transition has been made to divest the country from nuclear power. In order to do that, Germany has had to increase its coal imports and raise its retail electricity rates. Yet rather than a return to coal power, as Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute points out, this is a transitional step while the country increases its renewable energy production. In the meantime, Germany is using less natural gas and setting ever more renewable records.
And Germany’s energy transition is indeed unprecedented. As Berlin journalist Paul Hockenos told Voice of America, “Don’t forget what Germany is doing right now. It’s changing its power supply. The last time when an energy supply was changed was the industrial revolution; this is something that has never been done before.”