Over the past years, the German Energiewende (energy transition) has gained a lot of attention internationally. In particular, policy-makers and experts were impressed, astounded and sometimes shocked by the rapid decision of the German government to phase out nuclear power after the March 2011 accident in the Japanese power plants of Fukushima Daiichi. However, the term Energiewende implies a much larger scope of policies. With the aim to provide clarifications, this paper intends to define the term Energiewende, explain its historical context and describe the related targets and policies. In addition, the paper sheds light on the unique features of the German Energiewende in comparison to energy transitions in other jurisdictions.
In Sweden and Finland, consideration of the German Energiewende is often reduced to the nuclear phase-out decision. It is precisely in the field of nuclear energy that the two Nordic countries and Germany have ended on different paths. This article charts the historical development of nuclear power in both Sweden and Finland in order to explain why they did not follow Germany in its post-Fukushima decision and whether changes in their respective positions are to be expected.
Over the last fifteen years, the German government has successfully encouraged the rapid adoption of renewable energy, especially wide-spread adoption of small-scale distributed generation, through the use of a feed-in tariff and associated policies and incentives. Germany’s Energiewende and the phase-out of nuclear power will entail the adoption of ever more renewable energy. While there has been clear success in the installation of renewable energy, the costs of Germany’s promotional policies are underexplored, particularly in terms of the distributional effects. This article explores these distributional effects, including the asymmetric distribution of earnings from small-scale installations accruing to private households.
The Fukushima catastrophe dramatically changed the political discourse about nuclear energy in Germany. The use of nuclear energy, long a hotly disputed topic inside and outside the German parliamentary system, is now opposed by an over-arching crossparty alliance. On 1 July 2011, the German parliament passed a multitude of decisions to regulate a nuclear phase-out and prepare Germany, one of the world’s biggest economies, for the period after nuclear power. According to the new law, the last German nuclear power plant will go offline and shut down in 2022. The announcement and decision to phase out the use of nuclear power in Germany caused mixed responses worldwide, ranging from harsh criticism to understanding and support. Now, Germany has become the global laboratory for other governments to see if the decision leads to economic stagnation or pays off and causes another economic boom.