Finding the Path to a Low-Carbon Future: Learning from Germany’s Energiewende

A look at Germany’s structured approach to energy transformation and decarbonizing buildings

Image for post
Image for post
photo by author

A national strategy for energy transformation

2010 marked the first legislative commitment to Energiewende (though the term had been used for many years before), thereby creating a national strategy for changing how energy is generated and used. This in turn spurred the enactment of laws and funding to support renewable energy generation, increase building performance, and boost energy efficiency. All of these measures are closely connected with the development of the national climate plans, Climate Protection Plan 2030 and 2050.

First and foremost, Efficiency First

Efficiency First is the first pillar of Energiewende: cut wasteful energy use before needing to supply it all with renewables. Concretely, this means a target of cutting 30% of primary energy use by 2030 (from a 2008 baseline) and 50% by 2050.

Image for post
Image for post
Building renovation in Berlin (photo by author)

The forward charge of renewable energy

The second pillar of Energiewende is the direct use of renewable energy: using renewable energy to cover the energy use after it’s been made efficient, and using it in a way that ties to end-use as closely as possible.

Image for post
Image for post
photo credit stevepb

Sektorkopplung: connecting it all together

The third pillar, and perhaps the most important for building decarbonization, is the focus on Sektorkopplung, or the strategic coupling of energy across sectors. The idea is that, after boosting energy efficiency and utilizing direct renewable energy use, the targeted coupling of sectors can provide renewable energy where it’s needed and when it’s needed. In other words, it is the optimized allocation of scarce renewable energy (Energieeffizienzstrategie 2050).

Image for post
Image for post
Wind turbines on a foggy morning in northern Germany (photo by author).

A framework for experimentation and transformation

Looking at Energiewende offers insight into how the energy transformation can happen in concrete steps. While energy policy and climate strategies are continuously debated, the framework offers a way to structure the conversation and the iteration of ideas. Indeed, Energiewende could perhaps be thought of as a framework for experimentation in the energy transition. After all, the openness to new ideas and reworking of existing systems is going to be an essential part of the road to a low-carbon future.

Written by

Cities + climate + energy transformation

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store