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The transformation of the German energy system is feasible - and it pays off

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The transformation of the German energy system is feasible - and it pays off. This is the key finding of a comprehensive scientific study commissioned by the Federal Environment Ministry and carried out by renowned research institutes. The final report is now available and shows that the medium and long-term targets which the German government defined for the transformation of the energy system can be reached on schedule. These targets relate to the expansion of renewable energies, energy efficiency and climate protection. Moreover, the institutes found that renewable energies will be significantly cheaper in the long term than an energy supply based on coal, oil and gas.

New study shows: targets can be achieved on schedule

Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen commented: "This study confirms that the German government has taken the right path by launching the transformation of our energy system, the most important modernisation and infrastructure project of the decades to come. Entering the age of renewables is an appropriate and logical step. Coal, oil and gas supplies are limited and must be replaced by renewable energies step by step, also for reasons of climate protection. Renewable energies, energy efficiency and resource-saving technologies create supply security, jobs and value added in Germany. We want to remain an industrialised country and will do so. Whether other countries copy our model will depend on the successful implementation of our goals. The latest figures prove that the transformation of the energy system is feasible."

The guiding question of the study "Long-term scenarios and strategies for the expansion of renewable energies in Germany" was under which conditions the measures adopted last year to transform the energy system can be implemented by 2050.

The key result is that the political expansion targets for renewable energies will be securely reached under any scenario. The basis for this is the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). According to the findings of the study, the share of renewable energies in electricity production will be about 40% in 2020 under all scenarios, and thus considerably above the 35% target defined by the German government. Their share already reached 20% last year. For 2050 the three main scenarios of the study forecast a renewables’ share of about 85% to 87%. The targets for renewable energies in the mobility and heat sectors will be reached or even exceeded.

The study also addresses the economic effects of the transformation of the energy system. At present, renewables are still more expensive than coal, oil and gas. However, while the prices for coal, oil and gas are likely to continue to rise further, renewable energies are becoming more and more cost effective.

If the energy targets are pursued consistently, experts expect electricity from renewable sources to cost an average of 7.6 cents/kWh in 2030, while the costs for electricity from hard coal and natural gas will then have risen to more than 9 cents/kWh.

By the end of 2010 about 150 billion euros had been invested in installations for renewable electricity and heat production in Germany. In the course of the transformation of Germany’s energy system this investment volume could increase to around 200 billion euros each for the decades to come. At the same time, spending on imported fossil energy sources, which totalled almost 70 billion euros in 2010, will go down dramatically. According to the study, Germany’s import spending is expected to decrease by 30 to 35 billion euros per year by 2030 due to the increased use of renewable energies.

The DLR (Stuttgart), Fraunhofer IWES (Kassel) and IfnE (Teltow) developed various scenarios for the study. These differ in particular with regard to the assumptions made for the development of long-term storage of excess electricity from renewables, the transport sector, electricity saving targets and climate targets. Strict ecological standards were applied in all cases.