Implications of Germany’s Renewable Energy Success for other Nations

February 09, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) recently conducted a study to learn what Germany is doing to successfully add increasing amounts of renewable energy sources to its power grids. The study and its result is available in a free white paper titled "Putting the Pieces Together: Transition and Transformation in Global Energy Markets," written by UL Chief Economist Dr. Erin Grossi. The full white paper is available for download at UL's online library in a variety of languages.

The study for this white paper included on-the-ground research and interviews with the German energy ecosystem working on the country's energy transformation. Germany was of key interest to Grossi, as the country is making a large economic bet by setting aggressive goals to replace nuclear plants with renewable sources of energy. In terms of overall renewable energy usage, the country passed the 30 percent mark in 2014, and plans to reach 40-50 percent countrywide by 2025, and as much as 80 percent by 2050.

"We wanted to uncover why Germany would take such significant economic risks on renewable energy, why its government believes it will ultimately be successful with it, and what other markets around the world could contribute to and learn from it," says Grossi.

The white paper describes the overall differences between Germany's environmental and security views, its razor-sharp focus on maintaining grid sustainability, and the rise of its virtual power plants to solve some of the more sophisticated engineering challenges. However, the study also shows there are some energy blind spots Germany will have to address to meet its energy goals--which other nations can lend their innovations to help fill.

"What we ultimately uncovered is that there is a variety of technology that Germany will ultimately need to support their own transformation efforts that manufacturing powerhouses in Asia and other markets can help fill," says Grossi. "Specific innovations we looked at were battery storage, intelligent transformers and inverters, sensors and data analytics, and their associated standards."

The white paper concludes a much more distributed, resilient and smarter energy future globally will take hold over the next decade, with developing nations leap-frogging to these systems rather than building centralized ones, because it is now technically feasible and economically viable with today's mechanical, electrical engineering and information technology resources.