By Lindsay Baxter, PEC Program Manager For Energy & Climate
I am pleased to have the opportunity to share “The German Energiewende: Informing Pennsylvania’s Clean Energy Policy,” the final paper culminating from my travel and research in Germany in the fall of 2015.
This work was funded by the American Council on Germany, through a McCloy Fellowship in Environmental Policy.
The report provides background on the German energiewende, or energy transition; records observations from interviews and site visits in Germany; and offers insight towards policy development in the United States and Pennsylvania, specifically.
Surprisingly, many of the Germans with whom I met expressed an opinion that the U.S. had many advantages in embarking on an energy transition, as compared to Germany, several of which apply directly to Pennsylvania. These include:
-- Domestic natural gas supply, which, paired with policies to encourage shifting to low- or zero-carbon energy sources, can be an affordable bridge fuel towards a renewable energy future. In contrast, Germany must import natural gas, increasing its dependence on other nations.
-- Nuclear power, of which Pennsylvania has five plants, producing over one-third of the state’s electricity, providing a zero-emissions baseload power source to rely on as it embarks on decarbonization efforts. In contrast, Germany is in the process of retiring its entire nuclear fleet, to be completed by 2022. Although this move is widely supported by the public, many experts recognize that it makes it more difficult for Germany to reach both its renewable energy and GHG reduction targets.
-- More space for energy development, production, and transportation. As well, the diversity of energy sources available across the country, and even within the PJM territory, is a benefit to energy transition efforts in Pennsylvania.
-- Smart grid technologies, in which the U.S. has seen greater investment than Germany. In fact, 43 percent of homes in the U.S. are equipped with smart meters, far more than in Germany. Having this technology already in place better lends itself to utilizing time-variant or even real-time pricing to send accurate market signals to users, facilitating more demand-side flexibility.
What emerged most clearly in interviews was the challenge of meeting multiple goals simultaneously. Specifically, progress towards renewable energy targets has not had the effect of significantly furthering progress towards greenhouse gas reduction targets.
These findings suggest the need for a central goal in Pennsylvania and/or the United States to steer energy work.
Today energy conversations shift from benefits in climate protection, to air quality, to jobs created. Interviews indicated that a clear, ambitious goal empowers actors in all areas of the electricity sector to make informed decisions on how to best reach that goal.
Although much of my work explores challenges encountered in Germany, I have the utmost respect for the country’s efforts to completely transition to a sustainable energy system.
As I write in the paper, “Any large scale transition takes time and encounters unexpected challenges. The hurdles encountered by Germany to date should not be taken as indicators that the energiewende will not be successful, but rather as bumps in the road on a very long journey.”
I look forward to keeping in touch with some of my new German colleagues into the future to continue to share information and learn from one another.
Click Here to read Lindsay’s report.For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Environmental Council website, visit the PEC Blog, follow PEC on Twitter or Like PEC on Facebook. Click Here to receive regular updates on PEC programs, activities and special events.)