Looking back on 2019, the impression of the development of energy markets and policy is definitely very mixed. As we are approaching 2020, it is also time to analyze how the international and German climate protection targets as well as energy policy related targets for 2020. Many European states have difficulties reaching their 2020 targets and are working on last-minute initiatives. Germany is neither reaching its 2020 CO2 reduction targets and is now focusing on realigning climate policy with a focus on 2030.
For a very long period we have seen a significant mismatch between German 2020 targets and the actual available policy and instruments. The one notable exemption is the electricity sector with 43% in 2019 being produced by renewable power – in this sector Germany performed better than expected. The new climate protection legislation that has been passed by the German government will have to be a lot more ambitious.
The wind energy sector in Germany shows how difficult a system transition can be, switching from almost three decades feed-in tariff to a tendering based system. In 2019, the first year after that transition, less than 1 Gigawatt of onshore wind energy was installed: less than in any year since 1998. The new tendering system caused a lot of problems, e.g. the preference of so-called “cooperative” wind farms (in German: “Bürgerwindparks”). A lot of these wind farms will never be built since they did not hold a construction permit.
The most decisive problem concerning the German tender system lies in the extremely high number of court cases based on issues of public acceptance and rare habitats. Onshore projects involved in these court cases cannot participate in tender rounds. This situation is of course very dissatisfying first of all as onshore wind is the backbone of renewable energy production in Germany. Even more frustrating is the fact that thousands of jobs were cut in the last three years.
Other developments in Germany however show a positive direction. Especially the automotive, chemical and transportation industries have taken the lead since they have presented ambitious plans to realise production technologies without any CO2 emissions. Industries have proven to be a lot more ambitious than the government by providing a vision and a long-term commitment.
Therefore, we are still confident that the impulse of large industrial energy consumers and the youth movement “FridaysForFuture” will inspire a new German energy and climate policy. Hopefully, we will remember 2019 as a difficult year for the German “Energiewende” but also as a time when a new German energy transition started due to ambitious German companies and to the movement of “Fridays for Future”.