Renewable energy: over 20% in Germany, while 4.5% is Russia’s limit?

Olga Podosenova

In Germany the share of energy from wind and solar power stations for the first time went beyond 20% of the country’s energy balance. While Germany’s plan to go nuclear free is frowned upon by some, many experts are sure that dropping the nuke is the way to go. Environmental NGOs say that Germany may serve as a good example for Russia, since the goal of 4.5% by 2020 is close to nothing.

According to the preliminary prognoses by the Federal Union of energy and water suppliers (BDEW, www.bdew.de), in the first 6 months of 2011 wind and photovoltaic power installations produced 57.3 bln kWt/hour which is approximately 20.8% of the total energy consumption. Only a year ago the share of renewables was only 18.3%.Wind contributes to the largest share of Germany’s power production among renewables, 7.5%. Biomass is the runner-up with 5.6% and then goes solar (3.5%) and wind power (3.3%). It is remarkable that this year solar energy managed to move hydro power from the third place.

The onset of the cold season has boosted the discussion on energy safety in Germany. So is there an alternative to the half of German nuclear power stations on pause? Ministers of Environment of Hessen and Baden-Wurtemberg, despite the protests of pro-nuclear skeptics, took a stand against the proposal to keep several energy blocs of German NPPs as reserve capacities to maintain the balance in the energy grid. Franz Untersteller, Baden-Wurtemberg’s Minister of Environment, said he was convinced that nuclear power plants are not a proper option as a reserve capacity, since due to the requirements of the very technology the energy blocks cannot be paused and then reactivated randomly at any time. Stephan Kohler of DENA, the German energy agency, said that in this coming winter there may be an almost shortage of electrical energy in the country, but the supply will be stable. A recent research conducted by Kohler’s agency showed that the actual transition to renewable energy goes faster than planned.

In Schleswig-Holstein, for instance, the area for wind installations has tripled in size and according to Kohler’s estimations, the growth of electrical energy production by local wind parks will be about 13.000 mWt against 3.700 as planned.

The Green Party’s energy expert Oliver Krischer says that there is no talk about any shortage of energy supply at all. Some other analysts that are close to the Government are not so straight-forward, but do agree with the Greens. 20% of renewable is not the limit. Recent changes in german regulations suggest a 35% share of green electricity by 2020.

Most Germans support the shift from nuclear to renewable energy. According to a recent poll, 94% of people think that it is important or very important to develop green energy.

If all plans will be implemented, then according to a prognosis of the Energy Agency, by 2020, when all the remaining NPPs are out of use, the share of renewable will reach 58%.

Germany is moving towards its ambitious goal of 35% by 2020. Russia’s goal of 4.5% by 2020 looks pale next to such examples. The fact that Germany has no hydrocarbons and we have lots is a bad excuse. Russia with its climate diversity may become a world leader in renewable energy and is able to aim higher, at least at reaching a 20% -mark by 2020. It looks quite possible, if only Russia stops spending countless money on building nuclear power plants.