Germany’s North-South Renewable Energy Gap is Intensifying
Wind energy is popular, with most of the installations happening in the Northern sector of Germany. The South has more solar panel installations and leads in PV power generation.
In 2021, Germany set a goal to get 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. As a consequence of Germany’s notoriously slow grid expansion, the boom of solar in the South and wind in the North is concerning Berlin policymakers.
People often think that wind power and solar PV are comparable sources of green energy. However, the two actually work well together as the wind tends to blow when the sun doesn’t shine, and vice versa.
In 2023, a new grid expansion act will come into effect. As of now, the country is very far behind its goal of grid targets. There’s one specific area where it has fallen behind: North-South electricity connectivity.
The findings of the annual report from the federal government and state cooperation group could be concerning given this context.
The ministry for economy and climate action has informed that in previous years, the expansion of wind and PV followed a respective north-south gradient.
The onshore wind energy industry, one that is relevant for German generation, experienced significant additions in recent months. There was a 75%, or 1.25 GW, uptick in the territorial states of Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Schleswig-Holstein (SH).
North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony are governed by conservative coalitions, with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in charge in North Rhine-Westphalia and the Social Democrats having a coalition with the CDU in Saxony. Brandenburg is governed by social democrats with a coalition of the SPD and the Greens while Lower Saxony has a SPD-Green coalition.
2.8 GW of new solar PV was built in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and NRW. A total of 2,784 MW were added in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and North Rhine-Westphalia. While Bavaria is governed by the conservative CSU, Baden-Württemberg is also led by two parties: the Greens and CDU.
Behind the curve
Germany is determined to meet its 2030 renewable targets, which equate to about 600 Terawatt hours (TWh) of renewable electricity. In order for them to attain this goal, large-scale capacity will need to increase.
Germany has 63 GW of solar PV, 57 GW of onshore wind and 8 GW of offshore wind. Their 2030 targets are 215 GW of solar PV, 115 GW of onshore and 30 GW of offshore capacity.
Across Germany, the installation of renewable energy sources has continued to grow in popularity. Out of 7.5 GW of additional capacity in 2021, 5.6 GW came from solar power and only 1.7 GW came from wind power sources.
After a recent expansion of its renewable energy laws, the government is hoping that things like fossil fuel scarcity will help to increase its use of renewables.
The 2023 data are expected to serve as a litmus test for whether Germany can revive its “Energiewende” (or “green transition”).
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