Global Green Energy Leader Falling Behind Set Goals

Germany’s Shift to Green Power Stalls, Despite Huge Investments.

Stanley Reed, October 7, 2017, The New York Times- Energy & The Environment

In recent years, Germany has been a world leader in implementing renewable energy systems and setting aggressive goals to cut carbon emissions. As a nation, Germany plans to cut carbon emissions 40 percent by just the year 2020 and 95 percent by the year 2050. These cuts are based on Germany’s 1990 carbon emissions which they have been working to improve upon since. In his New York Times piece, Germany’s Shift to Green Power Stalls, Despite Huge Investments, author Stanley Reed writes about how Germany is falling short on these ambitious carbon cutting goals.

While Germany has transitioned to a variety of renewable energy sources, they have lead the globe in solar energy power over the past few years. Though not a particularly sunny part of the world, Germany implemented mandates, rebates, and subsidies to both commercial and residential sectors, incentivizing solar panel installation as part of their federally sponsored “Energiewende” (energy revolution) program. This program has been incredibly successful and at one point in time Germany was reported operating on 85 percent renewable energy sources. Despite these high numbers, Germany cannot rely solely on these systems and still requires an electrical grid run by coal burning power plants. Reed mentions in his piece that this is made worse by another German initiative; to shut down all nuclear power plants. While nuclear has its own set of environmental and public health issues, it as an energy source emits less carbon than its coal-burning substitute.

The piece goes on to talk about one of the main issues Germany faces with cutting carbon emissions, which is an unstable political platform. While many Germans are all for renewable energy and see it not only as a responsible choice, but also as economic driver of the future, there are others who believe the federal programs are a waste of money and should be rolled back. Germany has already taken many steps towards a sustainable future and at great expense, but it is not yet seeing the results it had hoped for. The piece ends on a somewhat grim note, quoting a Senior Researcher at Columbia University’s Global Energy Center who says “some of the low-hanging fruit might be gone now” and “its becoming clear how challenging making this overall transition is.” Meaning that for Germany to see the sort of carbon reductions they hope to see, they will have to invest heavily in additional renewable energy systems.

While this story pertains specifically to Germany, it really is a global issue as mankind will need to do more than drive Prius’s and install photovoltaics to reduce carbon emissions to a sustainable level. Germany has been an energy model to the world as of late and must work to achieve the ambitious goals it set to help lead the world towards a sustainable future.

Dave VanLandingham- Team 10

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