The amount of electricity produced from renewable sources will grow three-fold in the next decade, according to a study predicting the industry's development presented by the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE) and the Renewable Energies Agency.
The industry says renewables can provide a secure power source even at times of peak demand, allowing Germany to avoid having to import additional natural gas and even to diminish its use for electricity generation by up to 12%. This could save the country 22.6 billion in 2020 alone, it says.
Moreover, developing green electricity will have a wider positive impact on the economy, the study argues. It estimates that the number of jobs in the renewables sectors in Germany will double to 500,000 by 2020, while society will simultaneously avoid having to spend millions recovering from climate-related damage. The overall savings resulting from greater renewables capacity will thus far exceed the investment needed to build the additional production capacity, the report concludes.
Nevertheless, further development is crucial for reaching Germany's 18% renewable energy target, which was set by the EU as part of a collective commitment to raise the share of renewables in the bloc's energy mix to 20% by 2020.
The renewables industry also promotes itself as an alternative to nuclear power, stating that the growth in production capacity will make extending the lifetimes of nuclear plants unnecessary. In fact, BEE President Dietmar Schütz warned that if Germany were to backtrack on its decision to abandon nuclear power, it would automatically violate legally-binding obligations regarding renewable energies and threaten investment security in the sector.
German energy companies have tried to persuade politicians to scrap the planned fifteen-year phase-out of existing nuclear power plants. Their call seems to be striking a chord among the public at large in the wake of the recent gas conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which forced Europe to face up to the threat of supply disruptions should it continue to rely on Russian gas for electricity.
The conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, are in favour of maintaining Germany's nuclear capacity. Should they win with a sufficient majority in the September general elections, the country could decide to halt the closure of some nuclear plants.