National Geographic delves into the changing energy landscape of the world’s fourth largest economy:
Germany is pioneering an epochal transformation it calls the energiewende—an energy revolution that scientists say all nations must one day complete if a climate disaster is to be averted. Among large industrial nations, Germany is a leader. Last year about 27 percent of its electricity came from renewable sources such as wind and solar power, three times what it got a decade ago and more than twice what the United States gets today. The change accelerated after the 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, which led Chancellor Angela Merkel to declare that Germany would shut all 17 of its own reactors by 2022. Nine have been switched off so far, and renewables have more than picked up the slack.
German politicians sometimes compare the energiewende to the Apollo moon landing. But that feat took less than a decade, and most Americans just watched it on TV. The energiewende will take much longer and will involve every single German—more than 1.5 million of them, nearly 2 percent of the population, are selling electricity to the grid right now.
As is usually the case with National Geographic, the piece features some stunning photos which are worth the click alone.
The article closes by putting the German case in the context articulated by William Nordhaus in his piece for the American Economic Review earlier this year.
Because it’s a global problem, and doing something is costly, every country has an incentive to do nothing and hope that others will act. While most countries have been free riders, Germany has behaved differently: It has ridden out ahead. And in so doing, it has made the journey easier for the rest of us.
I’ve mentioned the Nordhaus piece before.