Renewable energy: made in Germany

By Benedict De Meulemeester

By Benedict De Meulemeester on 22/07/2009


A windmill near Trier


Visiting clients, I travelled through a big chunk of Germany in the past few days (1.500 kilometers so far and 500 more to go!). I must have driven past a thousand windmills at least. Wherever you go in this country, happily spinning blades are greeting you. In many villages, solar panels have been attached to almost every roof facing south. And I’ve also past at least five plants where waste of bio-fuel was used to produce electricity. If you travel around Germany, you cannot but get convinced that this country is leading by far when it comes to the production of renewable energy.

For the opponents of wind energy, travelling in Germany must be a nightmare. But if you believe that the future of energy supply and the world depends on renewable, this is a clear view into the future. If for example the 20/20 commitment of the European Union, to have 20% of all power in Europe produced by renewable by 2020, is to be realized, all countries will have to start looking like Germany. I know that there is something paradoxical in German energy policy. They invest massively in renewable but at the same time they lobby to keep coal- and even lignite-fired power plants open. And I know that building all these windmills and PV-cells is a huge cost to the German power consumer (taxes on power in Germany are higher than in many other European countries, bar Scandinavia). But there is one criticism that you cannot aim at German renewable energy policy: namely that it wouldn’t be effective.

Almost every recovery plan drawn up by Western governments to curb the economic downturn, has a chapter on developing the green economy. Almost every country in Europe and even the US, wants to become the leading nation in green energy technology. Well I can tell all of them: you will have to beat the Germans to do that. And if the analogy with soccer holds, that could prove a very difficult task! Two trucks passed me this afternoon carrying parts of windmills. In Leipzig I passed a place called Solar valley. An industrial area for companies building solar technology. ‘Made in Germany’ is already a quality label for solar panels all over the world. Germany has succeeded in applying its massive engineering powers to this new economy. Renewable energy is made in Germany !

Keep up to date with E&C