Going Greener? German Energy Roadmap Steers Towards Renewables

By 2020 almost a third of Germany's energy will come from 'green' sources, the Environment Ministry pledged on Thursday. By European standards it is an ambitious project -- but environmentalists argue more could be done.

Germany on Thursday underlined its commitment to green energy sources, presenting an "energy roadmap" which emphasizes energy efficiency and reliance on renewable sources. As part of the plan, it pledges to lift the efficiency of fossil fuel power stations by 2020 as well as renewing its goal to phase out nuclear energy.

A German offshore wind power plant -- the face of things to come.

A German offshore wind power plant -- the face of things to come.

Matthias Machnig, a senior official in Germany's Environment Ministry, dubbed the roadmap, "a seriously calculated set of guidelines which will help us to overcome the challenges which lie ahead." Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Thursday, he said that Germany, which already leads the European pack in alternative energies, will generate 30 per cent of energy with renewables by 2020.

A further 40 percent will be provided by coal power stations, with the remainder coming from gas. "With this we bring together climate protection, security of energy provision and affordable energy prices," he said.

The new framework puts Germany firmly on track to meet its current target of creating half of its energy needs with sun, wind and other natural sources of power by the middle of this century.

Energy efficiency was also given a leading role in the new guidelines, which strive for a reduction of 11 percent in electricity demand within the set timeframe. But Germany, Europe's biggest economy, remains a leading consumer of energy, and Machnig stressed that energy-management departments should be brought in to improve the track record of energy-intensive industries.

Germany has long been a front runner in renewables, although it has recently lost its title of global leader in wind power generation after being superceded by the United States. At the end of 2007, some 14 percent of Germany's electricity came from renewable sources, with a big contribution from wind power plants.

But, responding to the new roadmap, environmentalists urged that there is still room for improvement. "There should be no overall cap to renewable energy production," Ralf Bischof, who heads the German Association for alternative energy, told Friday's Die Tageszeitung. Renewable producers have argued they could even triple their share of power generation to 47 percent by 2020.

Another long shadow over Germany's green reputation is cast by its "dirty" opencast lignite, or brown coal, plants which are a major emitter of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. According to Greenpeace, the C02 produced by just two brown coal power stations in Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin, make up around 10 percent of the emissions from Germany's total energy production.

Germany's reliance on lignite-fired power plants have led many to call for a return to nuclear power. A decade ago, the German government led by then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder passed a law requiring the progressive closure of all atomic reactors in the country by the beginning of the 2020s. There have been a number of recent calls, particularly within Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to reverse that decision. With general elections looming in September, the issue promises to be a major one on the campaign trail.

jas -- with wire reports


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