For the last 20 years, Germany has been working towards cleaner, renewable energy sources for their country. The New York Times reports that the nation has spent $200 billion in that time. That obviously sounds like an enormous amount of money, but it has created huge dips in the cost of energy for consumers. The investments are also paying off in terms of crossing of their list of energy goals.
Climate Action Programme reports that data from the Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), which show that Germany has grown its renewable electricity generation a record 33 percent in 2017, from 29 percent share in 2016.
Stefan Kapferer, Chairman of the BDEW, believes the numbers show there's been a sea-change in the use of renewable power.
"The figures show impressively that there is already an accelerated shift in power generation from CO2-intensive to low-carbon and almost CO2-free energy sources," said Kapferer. “The energy industry is clearly on course with regard to energy and climate targets: our industry is able to reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990."
Germany committed to "Energiewende" or the switch to renewable energy in 2010, setting a target of 60 percent renewable energy use by 2050. They have another 27 percent to go.
One of the biggest challenges is separating the country from its use of lignite, which is sometimes called "brown coal," which still accounts for almost 23 percent of the country's power supply. However, Kapferer seems optimistic, telling journalists that reduction is “in full swing," adding that “nobody is investing in hard coal plants any longer”.
The other challenge to a wind energy plan is developing battery technology that can balance the erratic power generation of wind turbines.
As the NYT reports, folks were actually paid to consume energy around the holidays as offices and other buildings were shut down this year. How windy it gets cannot be controlled, so there are times when these renewable sources create an enormous amount of energy, but battery packs are not able to store that power. Working out a way to encourage consumers to do things like run their washing on a windy day with price cuts is one suggestion for how to balance the stress on the electric grid. But the confusion around how to deal with this excess and drought proves Kapferer is right about one thing—the possibilities in renewable energy sources are coming at us fast, and we've got to catch up.