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RES-E Policy in Germany

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Germany has been a federal country since the end of Second World War, with a division of competences between the federal government and the Länder. This encompasses three special features (Pehle, 1997): a distribution of the legislative competences that distinguish between exclusive and concurrent legislations (e.g. energy policy), the involvement of the Länder in the legislative process at the federal level through the Bundesrat (the Länder's chamber in the federal parliament), and the enforcement of the federal law through the Länder. Traditionally, the Länder have been very active in the field of RES-E, both through regional policies and through active policy co-operation or opposition in the Bundesrat (e.g. revision of the Renewable Energy Sources Act in 2004).

In the federal government, the RES-E competence was in the hands of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (BMWi) until 2002, when the Red-Green coalition decided to transfer it to the Ministry of the Environment (BMU). Since the Ministry of Economic Affairs is traditionally very close to the German electricity companies (as opposed to RES-E) and the Ministry of the Environment is more linked with the RES-E sector, the change of ministry represented an important factor in favour of RESE. In addition, the Ministry of Research was also an important actor in the energy policy until 1998 since it managed the energy R&D programmes, and it often stood along with the Ministry of Environment in favour of RES-E. The municipalities also played an important role in the development of RES-E in Germany, especially in favour of solar cells during the second half of the 1990s (the Aachen model).

Germany is the world leader in the use of wind energy (16,629 MW of installed capacity by the end of 20041) and it accounts for about half of all wind turbines built worldwide thanks to a strong wind turbine industry. In addition, Germany has installed the highest solar cell capacity in Europe (708 MW of installed capacity by the end of 2004) and it accounted for about one fifth of the worldwide stock of solar cells at the end of 2003. This position of leadership in the wind and solar sectors results from the successful RES-E policies that have been implemented for decades (R&D subsidies, market introduction programmes and feedin tariffs) and also from the industrial policy in favour of the German wind and solar manufacturers since the 1990s. It also relies on a strong and growing coalition of actors (both public and private) which have managed to advocate and defend the RES-E policies against the powerful electricity sector utilities during the last decade (Jacobsson and Lauber, 2005). Finally, the development of RES-E in Germany cannot be explained without considering the strong commitment of the German government in favour of the climate change policy (the energy sector plays an important role in the CO2 emissions reduction strategy) and the commitment – and eventually decision – to phase-out nuclear power (with RES-E expected to contribute significantly to its replacement).

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2008

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