What South Africa can learn from Germany’s quick energy plan

What South Africa can learn from Germany’s quick energy plan

The country wants 80% of its electricity to come from renewables by 2020

SA can take a lesson from Germany’s Energiewende, or energy turnaround, in planning better for the eventual closure of its coal-fired power stations. This was said on Monday by Markus Steigenberger, deputy executive director of Agora Energiewende, an independent German think-tank funded mostly by philanthropists.

In March Eskom announced it would be closing five of its old coal-fired power stations over the next 10 years because its obligation to buy renewable energy would give it surplus power. The announcement has infuriated trade unions.

The Energiewende is a plan presented in 2010 to make the German economy carbon neutral by increasing the contribution from renewables such as wind, solar and biomass and decreasing the contribution from coal and nuclear power. It is a speedier and more ambitious programme than any other country has attempted. Critics argue it has resulted in extremely high energy costs and that the intermittency of renewable energy would have rendered Germany’s power grid highly unstable if it had not been able to buy the less carbon-friendly power generated by its European neighbours.

Steigenberger told a presentation hosted by the Centre for Environmental Rights and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung that Germany is aiming for more than 80% of energy from renewables by 2050, from 3% in 1990. On average, the contribution is now about 33%. Because of seasonal differences, the contribution from solar, wind and biomass ranges between 11% and 86% of the country’s electricity generation.

Coal-fired power accounts for about 40% of Germany’s electricity, and coal mines employ about 20,000 people in the eastern regions.

Germany has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 27% compared with 1990 levels, but the rate of decline has flattened in the past few years because the country has been too slow to phase out its coal-fired power stations, Steigenberger says. The issue of replacing these jobs in the short term is one that many countries are trying to solve. Various studies have shown that renewable energy generates more jobs in the long term, both directly and indirectly — but the industry is not necessarily going to re-employ coal miners.

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Source: 19 JULY 2017 – 13:27 by CHARLOTTE MATHEWS (Financial Mail)