The German energy transition has an international signal effect and the transformation of the German electricity sector has attracted intense interest around the world. With its domestic support scheme for renewable energy sources, Germany has made a substantial contribution to the global development of wind energy and photovoltaic technologies and helped to drive down costs. Germany’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG) also serves as a role model for other countries. Over 70 countries worldwide now use feed-in payments to successfully foster the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. In addition to this, the German government has successfully lent its support to the global expansion of renewable energy. With its initiative to establish an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the German government put renewables on the international political agenda.
But the global energy transition is not driven by one pioneer alone. At times both international coverage and public debate in Germany give the impression that Germany’s national energy transition and ambitious plans for the expansion of the renewable sector represent a deviation from international energy policy trends. However developments in recent years – in Europe and around the world – paint a different picture. Germany is not going it alone with its energy transition. Renewable energy sources are on the rise around the world. Statistics released by IRENA show that new capacity additions in the renewable sector have outstripped fossil fuel and nuclear capacity additions worldwide since 2013. Moreover, renewables are not only making progress in industrialised countries, but also in many developing and emerging economies.
The recently published IASS study The Germany Energy Transition in International Perspective (also published in German) examines the German energy transition within the context of the worldwide expansion of renewable energy. The study underscores the global significance of the German energy transition, while making it clear that the advances of the renewable energy sector are rooted in the dynamic interplay of an ensemble of pioneering countries, including Japan, the USA, Denmark and China as well as Germany. The study focuses on the electricity sector as this is currently the site of the most significant expansion of renewable energy in Germany and worldwide.
As the study reveals, it is the multifaceted benefits of renewable energy sources which make them the key drivers of a global energy transition. Not only do renewable energy sources contribute to climate protection efforts and improve the quality of environments at a local level, they also provide important opportunities for economic development. But, given the sharp increase in global energy demand and the negative environmental impacts of the existing energy system, the pace of their expansion is not yet sufficient. Important opportunities for social and economic development associated with an increased deployment of renewable energy remain untapped. With its international energy transition policy, Germany is well positioned to make a key contribution to building a sustainable global energy supply system. The study concludes with a number of recommendations to further strengthen Germany’s international energy transition policy.