Germany’s renewable share for the first half of 2012 has recently been released, and guess what, they’re thrashing the majority of EU nations comfortably, reaching 26% overall, a staggering increase from 20.5% during the same period last year. That means that over a quarter of the energy filling the German grid was produced purely by renewable means, and that is something they should be seriously proud of, and rubbing in our faces, as I’ll explain below.
What is even more interesting about this event, is the specific mix of renewables used in accomplishing this task. Wind sits in gold medal position with 9.2%, with biomass (surprisingly) taking second with 5.7%, whilst solar PV follows closely behind with 5.3%, expanding by over 40% in comparison to last year. That alone is an impressive stat to contend with, and was no doubt bolstered by Germany’s generous FiT, which although was recently slashed to save on funding, has been highly successful in generating consumer interest in solar as a viable energy alternative.
Hydropower boosted 25%, up to 4% in the overall mix, with all other renewables completing the lineup.
It’s no surprise that wind energy takes pole on the list given how perfectly flat, large and windy Germany as a landscape is, and their heavy involvement with the cheapest of all renewable technologies. Many have attributed the extra-impressive results to the weather this region of Europe has been experiencing over the past 6 months, with abnormally high winds spinning up the turbines country-wide, torrential rains over-powering the hydroelectric dams, and in the later parts of the year, intense solar radiations and clear skies bathing the abundant solar panels in beaming energy.
Then again, attempting to diminish the feats achieved by the German renewable grid by stating it ‘was the weather which made it so damn good’ is a tad cheeky, considering the very point of many clean energy sources is that the sun and weather itself drives the production. If we have optimal weather, then they’re working exactly as planned.
What was surprising is the biomass share, which was much more than I thought had been invested in, with this form of energy generally not so high on a country’s energy list. I’m assuming that good recycling programs and clever biomass burning policies mean that Germany’s energy production is relatively high here, although actual year-on-year growth has been the smallest in this sector, just 7.5%.
It would also seem that Germany is well on its way to reaching the 2020 goals set out long ago between all EU members, a statement many other nations can’t even consider repeating. Considering Germany’s highly developed economy and government, in many ways branding it the leader of the EU, to have quite a high target of 18% could easily have been unobtainable and wrought with penalty fines. However, with 11% in 2010 alone, a figure which has undoubtedly increased since, it is not hard to imagine Germany flying past 20%, up to 30% or more come that 2020 mark.
Compare this to the UK, arguably another of the high ranking EU members, which had just 3.2% in 2010 towards a target of 15% (one of the lowest), and you begin to wonder why a nation with the best wind resources in the Union still cannot compete with Germany, or even France and Spain. The Scandinavian countries of course continue to dominate amongst Europe on renewable grounds, due to their ace hydro capacity, geothermal and small, energy-efficient populations, with many well in excess of 30%-40% mixes in 2010.
Admittedly the UK is a large nation population-wise, whilst rather small in area, and doesn’t have much in the way of consistent solar resources or hydroelectric, but considering we strive to be the country setting the standard in green investment, it would be nice to see some serious action in policy and government towards doing something, rather than sitting around arguing about it. The restructuring of the UK energy policy and subsequent long debate/argument between Ed Daveys and the government is a fine example of how jumbled and convoluted our policy has ended up; we need some clear direction and the pride to actually look at how other countries are bettering us, and take a leaf out of their book, rather than battling on on our own in vein attempts to be the winner.
This brings me to why I feel Germany should shout about their skill in this sector much more than they do. A recent scientific study regarding the morals and psychology of climate change, stated that one key solution to the problem was to effectively showoff your positive advances, in an attempt to badger and tempt others into following suit. As positive emotions are something us humans are far more receptive to (apparently), this is what we should all be doing. Therefore as Germany, rubbing it in the EU’s various faces could potentially encourage us lot to act upon it, kickstarting some clean technology competition, akin to how businesses fight amongst one another for dominance by improving themselves, which could ultimately blow the entire renewable industry through the roof.
Then again, Germany has been kicking our collective butts for a long time now, especially in green technology and investment, and to be honest, that hasn’t catalysed anything short of more talk and filibustering. Come on Germany, really bring out your trumpets and blow hard; we might hate you for it, but jealousy could be one of our most potent weapons in the fight to bring our global society together. After all, as a society, we sure are good at utilising jealousy to drive us harder and better.