Report: Germany will miss 2030 RE targets unless current policies change

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A new report, REmap Germany, commissioned by The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), and compiled by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), looks at Germany’s Energiewende (energy transition), which aims to grow the share of renewable energy in the country’s gross final energy to 30% (2014: 13.5%).

IRENA presents two scenarios it foresees for the Energiewende: (i) either renewables will comprise 27% of gross final energy (the Reference Case); or (ii) they could reach 37% (Remap 2030). The question of whether or not the target will be achieved comes down to policy, i.e. if current policies do not change, the targets will not be met, or exceeded.

Exceeding targets

Under the Remap 2030 scenario, IRENA says there is potential for additional renewable deployment utilizing technologies available today. Specifically, renewables in end use applications (e.g. heat pumps or electric vehicles) need to be more fully considered. Overall, write the report’s authors, the largest potential for additional renewables deployment under its Reference Case is in the heating and transport sectors.

"These sectors," however, "also will face the biggest challenges to deployment, especially because the policy focus in these areas is still somewhat limited, and progress is needed to realize further growth in renewables deployment," states the report.

Biomass will play an integral role, says IRENA, although resource availability will be a challenge. Another challenge lies in the power sector which, under the REmap 2030, envisages half of all electricity generation as coming from wind and solar PV, both of which are variable.

Storage

As such, flexibility in renewable grid integration is key, as are demand-side management and energy storage. On the point of storage, IRENA states large, utility-scale storage may not be necessary by 2030 – many studies have reportedly shown that storage at this level is important only once renewables have reached a penetration of 65% – but that rather growth in smaller residential storage applications will be a focus.

Under its REmap 2030 scenario, IRENA forecasts that as much as 11 GW of residential solar+storage will have been deployed in Germany by 2030 (latest figures suggest 12% of PV systems in Germany are coupled with storage, says IRENA), while total cumulative solar PV capacity will reach 75 GW. Under its Reference Case scenario, it fails to mention storage, but says that installed capacity will be around 62 GW.

"Electricity storage currently is one of the most expensive flexibility options. Its deployment should follow that of other flexibility options, such as grid expansion, interconnections and demand-side management," states the report, which adds, "Yet the importance of storage will likely become clear when Germany begins to reach very high levels of renewable energy after 2030. The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, when estimating the storage required to achieve 100% renewable energy in Germany by 2050, concluded that this storage would amount to 24 GWh of stationary battery applications, 60 GWh of pumped hydro, 33 GW of electrolysers and 670 GWh of heat storage (Henning and Palzer, 2013)."

Costs

Looking at costs, IRENA presents two very different scenarios, although it says the Energiewende will require an average annual investment in renewables of US$15.7 billion to 2030 under both. From a business perspective, it states Germany would save $2.4 billion a year by 2030. "This makes for a compelling case for higher renewable deployment," says the report.

Looked at from a government perspective, renewables would actually cost $4 billion annually. However, if all the REmap options are deployed, says IRENA, total fossil fuel import costs in Germany would reduce by almost $30 billion a year by 2030.

Thus, "The total of all benefits is USD 33-40 billion per year in 2030, much higher than the total system costs of USD 4 billion when viewed from the government perspective." Not only that, but a move away from fossils can help reduce negative health impacts and boosts economic growth.

Exceeding the 30% target will be "cost-optimal depending on how the environmental benefits of individual technologies are valued and if costs are viewed from a business or a government perspective." While many technologies will be seen as more expensive than their fossil fuel counterparts, IRENA writes that they are enablers, which will prove most cost-effective in the long run.

"Germany will need to forge new ways of valuing the costs of these energy services by taking a holistic view that includes the economy-wide and energy system benefits of these services," state the report’s authors further.

Via its Energiewende, Germany is recognized globally as a leader in the integration of renewable energies into its power system. Both its EEG (renewable energy act) and FITs set industry benchmarks for renewable deployment for many other markets, particularly for the solar and wind industries. The report says that in order for the EU to meet its 2020 renewable energy targets and beyond, "Germany needs to continue to play a leading role in renewables expansion."

Read the full REmap Germany report.