The Energy Transition in Germany – Partners around the world

How the Energy Transition is set to become a success story worldwide: this was at the focus of the first "Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue – towards a global Energiewende", held in Berlin on 26 and 27 March 2015 and organised by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Video: The opening of the first "Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue – towards a global Energiewende" © AA/BMWi

The Energiewende in English? Energiewende! Even in the USA many editors do not translate the term any more: because the "Energiewende" has by now become a trade mark that attracts interest world-wide – and spotlights Germany as the pioneer of energy system transformation. In the quest for the energy for tomorrow, the challenges are the same everywhere in the world: the future energy supply system needs to be secure and affordable, while minimizing the impact on resources and the environment. The surest way to achieve this is by improving energy efficiency and making greater use of renewable energy sources, which are indeed gaining in importance around the globe. More and more countries are increasing their use of solar and wind energy, hydropower, biomass and geothermal energy. In 2013, nearly one fifth of all energy consumed world-wide came from renewable energy sources.

Ambitious targets, significant progress: Germany leads the way

But still more is possible: with the Energiewende, a multi-generational project, Germany has set itself ambitious targets for expanding the use of renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases. This is both an economic and a technological challenge – and the progress made to date is quite impressive. For instance, solar, wind and co. already command a share of 27.8 per cent of all electricity consumed in Germany, in the next ten years this figure is to rise to 40 to 45 per cent. Last year, energy consumption dropped to its lowest level since 1990 – while the national economy continued to grow. Emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases are also declining - more sharply than in any other EU Member State. Germany is also a pioneer in the development of energy technologies for the future: German companies are playing an outstanding role on the new emerging world markets for sustainable energy generation and energy efficiency. Other countries follow the progress made in Germany closely.

Why joining up with partners around the world pays off

Just as CO2 emissions and climate change do not stop at national borders, a successful energy and climate policy must not be conceived only at the national level. Germany sees its "Energiewende" as part of an ambitious European climate and energy policy and seeks to join forces with its European neighbours and international partners: together we can master many of the challenges we face much more efficiently and cost-effectively than on a national scale. With this in mind, the Federal Government has initiated numerous energy dialogues and partnerships. As recently as on 26 March 2015, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel and the Algerian Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi launched a new energy partnership. Furthermore, the Federal Government takes advantage of its membership of multilateral energy organisations such as IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) and the IEA (International Energy Agency) and of important networks such as REN 21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century) to actively advocate competitively structured, open and transparent markets, expansion of the renewables worldwide, and a global improvement in energy efficiency.

How the Energy Transition is set to become a success story worldwide was also at the focus of the first "Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue – towards a global Energiewende," held in Berlin on 26 and 27 March 2015 and organised by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Ministers and delegation heads from 60 countries, prominent business representatives, and leaders from all major organisations concerned with national and international energy transition debated - inspired by the experience gained in Germany - with their international partners on how a sustainable energy policy can be driven ahead. Which political terms of reference need to be established to further increase the share of renewable energy sources and use energy even more efficiently? Which requirements need to be made of the infrastructure of tomorrow? How can the renewables be integrated into the market and the supply system despite high but fluctuating inputs of electric power from renewable energy sources? How can existing funding instruments be further optimized? Which are the next steps – and where are the challenges? The event attracted much interest: instead of the 350 participants originally planned, more than 900 experts attended the conference in the German capital. Due to the very positive response the Federal Government has decided to continue the Dialogue in 2016.

The Energy Transition as an economic factor

The Energy Transition is by no means concerned only with ecological challenges, as Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel pointed out in his opening address: the environmental issue of how to transform energy generation to protect the climate had by now turned into an economic debate. "I believe that is the proper debate," he stressed. "We have to show that a country like Germany and a continent like Europe can succeed in combining high levels of industrialisation, high-tech development and innovation with ecological sustainability and climate protection. Only if we in Germany and Europe are able to demonstrate that the Energy Transition and a sustainable energy supply system do not hamper but – on the contrary — can even boost economic success, only then will we get other countries to follow us. Only if we in Europe show that we are not producing fewer jobs in industry, but more, will we be able to convince people who are just embarking on the path to industrialisation." Objectives such as a clean environment, safeguarding resources and an intact climate do not run counter to industrialisation, affluence and economic development. On the contrary, says Gabriel: the Energy Transition was also driving economic development, new jobs were being created. As an example the Minister cited more than 300,000 new jobs created in the field of renewable energy sources in Germany (on the "Economic factor" topic, see also "Direct view").

Steinmeier: Germany's "Man to the moon"-project

On the way to an energy supply system based on renewables, the Federal Government sees itself as a mediator and an idea donor: creating networks for a sustainable energy supply system is an important element of German foreign policy, too. At the "Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue," Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier highlighted international interest in the German Energiewende, calling it Germany's "Man to the moon" project. He stressed: "Germany is a global pioneer of energy systems for the future. We are proving that climate protection, a dependable energy supply system and economic growth go well with each other and are not mutually exclusive. The Federal Government is assisting German companies in the energy sector in their efforts to tap into international markets for innovative, efficient and climate-friendly products. Together with our partners around the world, we are looking for ways to develop a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply system."

After the conference, the delegations took advantage of the occasion to find out more about the opportunities opened up and the challenges posed by the German Energy Transition on the spot. For instance the Kuwaiti Oil Minister, the Energy Minister of the United Arab Emirates, the Director-General of IRENA and a high-ranking Chinese delegation visited the 50Hertz Transmission Control Centre, one of the biggest German onshore wind farms, operated by WIND-projekt GmbH in Altentreptow, the Baltic 1 offshore wind farm and the transformer station in Bentwisch near Rostock, where offshore wind power is fed into the German grid. While visiting Berlin, IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin also has informed the Economic Affairs and Energy Committee of the German Parliament about the work being done at the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Internationale partners The Energy TransitionAfter visiting the offshore wind farm, the international delegation's itinerary took them to the Bentwisch transformer station: the guests included Adnan Amin, Director-General of IRENA (4th from left), H.E. Suhail Al Mazrouei, Energy Minister of the United Arab EMirates (5th from left), Dr. Ali Saleh, Oil Minister of Kuwait (6th from left), Boris Schucht, CEO of 50Hertz (5th from right), and Shi Lishan and Wang Zhongying, "architects" of the Chinese renewable energy policy (3rd and 4th from right). © 50Hertz

Newsletter: New international edition for anybody interested around the world

To facilitate dialogue with partners around the world and to provide interested parties abroad with regular updates on facts, background and developments in the context of the Energy Transition, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy will in future be regularly publishing an English-language international edition of its "Energiewende direkt" newsletter.