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Is the German energy transition sustainable ? (Policy Brief 281 - September 2012)

Is the German energy transition sustainable ? (Policy Brief 281 - September 2012)


In 2011, Germany began a radical energy policy, or “Energiewende”, with the aim of completely abandoning nuclear power by 2022 and then achieving an 80-95% reduction in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. By this date, the country will therefore have to be producing its electricity almost completely without the use of gas, oil and coal, having replaced 80% of these sources with renewable energies.

  • Is the German energy transition sustainable ?

Germany is a rich country with one of the most competitive industries in the world. Its environmental commitments have been clear ly stated and Energiewende, which is widely discussed throughout the country, has so far seen strong support from the population, despite the expected increases in the price of electricity which, however, is already almost twice as expensive as in France. Germany therefore seems to hold the winning cards required to successfully implement its energy transition.

However, many difficulties need to be overcome if this energy policy is to succeed, such as the development of the national power grid, the cost and financing of the necessary investments, improved electricity storage techniques, the acceptability of the planned increases in the price of electricity or the financial difficulties experienced by solar panel manufacturers as a result of the sharp reduction in subsidies and competition from Asia. In addition, recent political dissent within the government regarding the measures implemented to achieve its stated goal has slowed down the federal decisionmaking process on this matter.

Finally, Germany’s decision is not without consequences for its European neighbours. It is upsetting and weakening the supply and demand balance of the European energy system and putting some operators in a difficult position. The eyes of all energy world observers are therefore riveted on the changes taking place in Germany, because they will have significant consequences for the entire European Union, and even beyond.


  • The ambitious goal of Energiewende: stop using nuclear power and also, ultimately, fossil fuels
  • The use of fossil fuels is unavoidable for ensuring the switch to alternative energies
  • The developement of renewables, spearhead Energiewende, faces many challenges
  • The costs of Energiewende as yt undetermines, but they will generally be very high and ultimately borne by the German consumer
  • Energiewende is the result of a sovereign decision not without risk to the equilibrium of the European energy policy
  • Authors: Étienne Beeker with the contribution of Clelia Godot, Centre for Strategic Analysis, Sustainable Development Department .

Keywords: energy transition, Germany, Energiewende, nuclear power, renewable energies, climate change, Européen energy policy.


Centre d’analyse stratégique