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Fri, Oct 03, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Renewable energy sources in Germany

By Andreas Gursch

The International Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts global temperatures to rise 1.4?C-6?C by the end of this century. Experts warn of a severe impact to the environment if the rise in the average global temperature can't be kept to under 2?C. This would require a reduction by 30 percent in the emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. For developed countries this translates into a reduction of 80 percent. The main focus must lie in future energy policies and the development of renewable energy sources.

Since the late 1990s, to fulfill these ambitious goals, the German government has started to promote the use of renewable energy sources. The legal framework has been formulated in the Renewable Energy Act, implemented in April 2000, regulating take-off obligations and fixed-price agreements. Since 1998 Germany's renewable energy production has grown steadily from 5.2 percent of the total to 8 percent in 2002. The projected goal is 14 percent by 2010.

Visitors to Germany will notice that the use of wind energy is booming; everywhere wind energy turbines can be seen. In total 14,283 wind energy plants with a total energy output of 12,828MW have been installed. The next technological step is already underway as can be seen in the development of offshore wind parks. By 2010 an additional 2000MW-3000MW will be generated. Long term plans to 2030 forecast the potential for 25 percent of Germany's energy needs to come from power generated in land and sea wind parks.

The development of Photovoltaic Systems (PV) achieved 180 million kWh, or 0.03 percent of total power generation, in 2002. For 2003 an increase of 50 percent is expected. More research and development is being conducted to increase the efficiency of photocells and lower production costs. An important step can be seen in the combination of construction materials and photocells for roofing and facades. PV systems are an important factor in the development of "climate conscious buildings," together with new insulation materials, solar cooling technologies and solarthermic equipment. In terms of the number of PV systems installed, Germany is leading the way in Europe, and worldwide it is second only to Japan.

The Bio-Mass Directive of June 2001 promoted the use of biomass -- wood, bio-waste, animal waste and other organic waste -- to produce heat and electricity. In 2002, some 100 biomass power plants generated 400MW of electric power, while more than 1,900 biogas facilities provided an additional 250MW. The introduction of bio-diesel at more than 1,300 gas stations stimulated an increased demand for this new fuel. The production of bio-diesel increased further from 550,000 tonnes in 2002. Forecasts for 2003 predict an increase to 650,000 tonnes. In May 2003 the European Parliament set a target of 5.75 percent of European fuel consumption coming from bio-gasoline.

Hydropower is well developed and accounts for 4 percent of the power generated in Germany annually. No major increase in this source of renewable energy is foreseen due to the topographic situation.

Geothermal energy is exploited in 34 large facilities. More research and pilot projects are needed to fully develop this natural source of energy. Recent research shows a substantial potential for this source of heat and power generation. In the future, up to 60 percent of Germany's power supply may well be generated from this source of energy.

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