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Germany's Aggressive Switch to Renewables Will Save €149 Billion

The country’s goal of lowering its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 is yielding dividends in addition to cleaner air.

2 min read
A German flag with the coat of arms flies in front of a home with solar panels
A German flag with the coat of arms flies in front of a home with solar panels
Photo: Alamy

The switch to renewables in Germany is saving money and creating jobs, according to a new economic analysis by the international consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The report finds that the German government’s 2015-2020 climate action plan and energy efficiency measures will save about 149 billion euros.

Research that appeared last month in Earth Systems Science Data suggested that global carbon dioxide emissions will be growing slowly, thanks in part to reduction moves by China and the United States. Several research projects have that a downturn in the use of fossil fuels in the United States that would come from switches to renewable energy could save U.S. consumers money, but coal’s not dead yet. President-Elect Donald Trump insisted during the campaign season that supporting the U.S. coal industry will help the economy and create jobs. Meanwhile, India plans to double coal production by 2020.

Germany’s goal is to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020. Both the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)  and even Germany’s environment ministry have raised doubts about whether the government can actually reach the target in time, but its proposed measures include using more renewables, improving energy efficiency in buildings, and reducing agriculture or vehicle emissions.

Overall, PwC estimates that 79 specific measures from Germany’s plan will create investments of 125 billion euros in new technology infrastructure, leading to €274 billion in savings—a net savings of €149 billion, Deutsche Welle reports.

The PwC report finds that the energy sector would lose about €10 billion, but other business sectors would save about €84 billion and the state would save about €26 billion; an extra €73 billion would come to the government from related tax revenues. Consumers would end up saving about €25 billion.

PwC estimates that the program will also create 430,000 additional jobs.

All in all, that would be good news for Germany. The federal environment minister said in a press release that the climate action program is kind of like an economic stimulus package.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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