‘They seem to do it well in Germany’ is a familiar phrase that enters into conversation whenever there is a complaint to be made about another country’s industrial shortcomings. Whether it is the automotive sector, the transport system, the manufacture of electrical goods or simply the high standard of living, the Germans always seem to do it better than most. And now, as the world faces an acute energy crisis, it’s the Germans again who seem to have the best handle – in Europe, at least – on the challenges facing us and the response we must make in terms of renewable energy.
A study by the German Federal Environment Ministry, carried out last year, showed that renewable electricity generation in the country grew by a fifth in 2007 and accounts for more than 14.2 per cent of gross electricity consumption. Renewables’ share of energy consumption also rose to 8.5 per cent last year, saving approximately 110m tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The rapid expansion in the German renewables sector has also had huge economic benefits with the government report confirming employment in the sector has almost doubled since 2004 to 249,000 jobs. It also found that turnover from the installation and operation of renewable energy plants in Germany rose by nearly 10 per cent in 2007 to approximately €24.6 billion.
The figures prompted the ministry to upgrade its projections for the sector, estimating that it will provide up to 400,000 jobs by 2020.