Renewable energies: How ambitious is the coalition agreement?

So, now it stands, the coalition agreement. It was to be expected that some would find it too ambitious and the others not ambitious enough. So let’s stick to the numbers.

The central goal is: 80 percent of the electricity supply from renewables by 2030. By way of comparison: in 2020 the share was just over 50 percent, and in the current year it has fallen again, mainly due to the weather. So this means: 30 percentage points more can be achieved in the next eight years. Sounds ambitious, but somehow still feasible.

In absolute numbers, however, this hides a much larger increase, because electricity consumption is also increasing at the same time – for example by e-cars and heat pumps. This is not a bad thing per se, because if an efficient electrification displaces fossil fuels, the bottom line is that it saves primary energy. Nevertheless, one should not neglect the increasing power consumption.

The traffic light coalition does not do that either. She sets the Gross electricity consumption for 2030 to 680 to 750 terawatt hours. (In 2020 it was around 545 TWh.) From this it follows: In order to achieve the goals, around 544 to 600 gigawatts of RE capacity must be installed in 2030 – that is more than four times the current capacity of a good 134 GW. That sounds a lot sportier.

Gregor Honsel has been the TR editor since 2006. He believes that many complex problems have simple, easy-to-understand, but wrong solutions.

This becomes even clearer when you look at the previous extension look: In the last few years it has been bobbing around well below 10 GW per year (see graphic). In addition: We had more than 20 years to reach the previous level – and were able to pick a lot of low-hanging fruit, for example at the most favorable locations for wind turbines. It is questionable whether advances in efficiency will compensate for this.

None of the goals are impossible. But to achieve it, politics, business and the population really have to pull together. In any case, one cannot blame the coalition agreement for a lack of ambition on this point.

How can Germany become climate neutral? How can AI make climate models better? And: what is behind negative emissions? The current climate special from MIT Technology Review revolves around these and other questions (now available in well-stocked newsagents).

Another question remains: what influence would a share of 80 percent renewables have on the power grid? To gauge that, the Science Media Center has a great one Tool put on the net. Here everyone can enter their own data on the conversion of the energy system, and at the end the tool uses historical weather data to reveal whether there would have been a blackout.

If I enter the goals from the coalition agreement, I come to a “supply gap” of almost 26 gigawatts (despite the already assumed 35 GW of gas-fired power plants, 10 GW of electrolysers and 22 GW of imports).

“On the one hand, it can make sense to further increase the share of renewables. Even if all the holes do not disappear, you increase the possibility of obtaining hydrogen from the excess for the dark hours,” says the evaluation text. “On the other hand, it may be necessary to plan even more back-up power plants.”

In other words: more natural gas power plants should be built. In itself, this is not a show stopper for the energy transition, because if the power plants really only run for a few days, the damage to the climate is limited. It’s just that it’s quite expensive to keep power plants available for so few full-load hours. On the other hand, this can still be cheaper than over-installing renewables with associated battery or hydrogen storage systems. We will still have to tweak a lot of the screws to find the right balance here.

More from MIT Technology Review

More from MIT Technology Review

More from MIT Technology Review

More from MIT Technology Review


To home page

Leave a Comment