The Energiewende (German for energy transition) is the transition by Germany to a low carbon, environmentally sound, reliable, and affordable energy supply.[2] The new system will rely heavily on renewable energy (particularly wind, photovoltaics, and biomass), energy efficiency, and energy demand management. Most if not all existing coal-fired generation will need to be retired.[3] The phase-out of Germany’s fleet of nuclear reactors, to be complete by 2022, is a key part of the program.[4]

Legislative support for the Energiewende was passed in late 2010 and includes greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions of 80–95% by 2050 (relative to 1990) and a renewable energy target of 60% by 2050.[5] These targets are ambitious.[6] One Berlin policy institute noted that “while the German approach is not unique worldwide, the speed and scope of the Energiewende are exceptional”.[7] The Energiewende also seeks a greater transparency in relation to national energy policy formation.[8]

Germany has made significant progress on its GHG emissions reduction target, achieving a 27% decrease between 1990 and 2014. However Germany will need to maintain an average GHG emissions abatement rate of 3.5% per annum to reach its Energiewende goal, equal to the maximum historical value thus far.[9]

Germany spends €1.5 billion per annum on energy research (2013 figure) in an effort to solve the technical and social issues raised by the transition.[10] This includes a number of computer studies that have confirmed the feasibility and a similar cost (relative to business-as-usual and given that carbon is adequately priced) of the Energiewende.