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Renewables top 20 percent of Germany’s energy mix for first time


September 5, 2011

Renewable sources accounted for more than 20 percent of the country's electricity generation in the first half of 2011 (Photo: Gizmag.com)

Renewable sources accounted for more than 20 percent of the country's electricity generation in the first half of 2011 (Photo: Gizmag.com)

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In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, tens of thousands of German citizens took to the streets calling for the phase out of atomic energy. In May, the German government bowed to public pressure and unveiled its plan to shut down the country's 17 nuclear power plants by 2021 - with the possibility that three will continue operating until 2022 if the transition to renewable energy doesn't go as quickly as hoped. Providing some hope that Germany will achieve its ambitious goals, Spiegel Online International has quoted a newly released German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) report that says, for the first time, renewable sources accounted for more than 20 percent of the country's electricity generation in the first half of 2011.

According to the report, renewable energy sources provided 18.3 percent of total demand in 2010, but the first six months of 2011 saw that figure rise to 20.8 percent, while Germany's total usage remained steady from 2010 at 275.5 billion kilowatt hours. Although the report says the rise isn't linked to the closure of seven nuclear power plants following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, it provides hope that Germany will be able to achieve the goal stated by Chancellor Angela Merkel for renewable sources to account for 35 percent of total electricity production by 2022.

Of the 57.3 billion kWh provided by renewable sources in the first six months of 2011, wind power was the dominant source supplying 20.7 billion kWh (7.5 percent of total production), followed by biomass with 15.4 billion kWh (5.6 percent), photovoltaic solar with 9.6 billion kWh (3.5 percent), hydroelectric with 9.1 billion kWh (3.3 percent, and waste and other sources providing 2.2 billion kWh (0.8 percent).

Solar power saw the biggest jump, increasing by 76 percent over 2010 with the BDEW citing the reduction in the price of photovoltaic installations as a result of increased competition and the decision of the federal government not to cut subsidies for private solar-power generation as initially planned as the main reasons for the increase.

"Because of the volume of new photovoltaic installations and the amount of sun during the spring, solar energy knocked hydroelectric from third place for the first time," said the BDEW.

Source: Spiegel Online International

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Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

But that\'s impossible! Todd Dunning and his ilk keep telling us that renewable energy doesn\'t work and will never work. This is obviously more \"greenwashing\" from the treehugger propagandists at Gizmag.


Way to Go Germany! Thanks for showing the rest of the world what is possible.

Carlos Grados

I\'m impressed with the German\'s lead in renewable energy adoption. I was there last month and there are Solar installations all over the place. The great irony is that most people I spoke to were pro-nuclear power (I made a point of asking this question). It seems the government had a knee jerk reaction to an irrational minority. The shortfall in their power consumption will likely mean Germany will end up being an importer of coal generated electricity from neighbouring countries. This is a regressive step that polutes the atmosphere with many by-products from coal combustion (including radioactive elements present in the coal which is distributed in the atmosphere) and massive quantities of carbon dioxide. One argument often quoted to abolish nuclear generation cites the disposal of spent fuel. The irony is there is already areas that are unsafe because of poor disposal decisions in the past. Those places will be unusable for thousands of years irrespective of whether you deposit 100KG of radioactive waste or 1000KG which makes the argument of disposal redundant.


I live in Germany, and can with confidence say that it is not \"an irrational minority\" that is opposed to nuclear power. There has been an ongoing movement against nuclear power since the disaster at Chernobyl. Many Germans were effected by the winds that blew toxic waste over the country. The nuclear lobby is strong and rich through subsidies which makes it very hard to change things from how they are. Merkel had, just before the Fukushima disaster, gone back on the plan to close those same Nuclear plants. After seeing that accidents can happen even in countries where safety standards are as high as in Germany, many people who had previously been on the fence realised that the large energy companies who earn millions with every year that those nuclear power plants stay active were lying about their safety. And Merkel was forced into upholding the plan to close those plants, which had been decided with the previous government. Yes there are whole areas, thousands of acres around the world that have been made uninhabitable through the dumping of waste. This is sad, we have only one planet to live on and every bit of it we destroy is an unimaginable loss. We should be focusing our efforts on reversing those damages as much as we can, not makeing the problem ever worse. If you shoot yourself in the foot, the reaction would be to bandage the wound and hope it heals. Not to empty the rest of the clip into it. One thing we can all do at the moment is to reduce the amount of energy we consume, and in the long run we may be able to produce energy for all the important things we need it for, without doing irreversible damage to ourselves.


People tend to forget that old nuclear technology is fairly unsafe, and that the disposal of their waste has already created areas that will need containment for thousands of years to come. NEW nuclear tech however are so efficient that the waste generated for the rest of eternity would not equal that which has already been stored. Also they have passive safety systems that mean white hot cores just don\'t have the means through which to be created. Japan\'s nuclear woes stem from a number of not very bright ideas including situating an old school reactor in a tsunami zone, and not having a \'Plan Z\' just in case. A modern reactor would have shut itself down long before this old thing. When done right nuclear energy ranks as one of the greenest of the green, and the Chancellor\'s knee-jerk reaction ranks as the most incomprehensible since the USA\'s paranoid, media driven frenzied \'China Syndrome\' nuclear blockade.

Super Rich

Replacing 24/7 power with part-time power does not sound like a good idea to me.

I would place nuclear power plants on ships making them immune to both earthquakes, and tsunamis.


Unfortunate, usual confusion of \"energy\" and \"electric energy\". Renewable energy (RE) provides 20% of Germany\'s total ELECTRIC energy, not of all energy.

Other persistent confusion: \"power\" and \"electricity\" or \"electric energy\". With such ambiguity, it\'s no wonder the public is not helpful, or worse, in helping guide humanity toward \"running the world on renewables\", as we eventually must.

\"Storing green energy as natural gas\" is probably inferior to storing RE electric energy as gaseous hydrogen fuel in large solution-mined salt caverns and / or as liquid anhydrous ammonia (NH3) in large, refrigerated tanks ubiquitous in USA Corn Belt.

Alaska Bill

Re Alaska Bill - September 6, 2011 @ 10:32 pm PDT

Admittedly i like pneumatic storage but converting excess electrical energy to natural gas means that no new storage device is needed and it can be used by whoever wherever.


20 % of intermittent power is like having a car that only starts 1 day in 5. What German engineer would put up with that? Not one coal plant has been shut down because of this. You do import hydo power from Norway so I guess that is how they get the numbers up..

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