Key Findings

The German Energiewende is broader than often discussed. It not only includes renewable electricity, but also changes to energy use in the transportation and housing sectors.

Germany’s Energiewende is not only about switching from nuclear and coal to renewables in the electricity sector. Electricity only makes up roughly 20 percent of German energy demand, with roughly 40 percent devoted to heat and 40 percent to transportation. Most public attention has focused on the power sector, with the nuclear phase-out and the switch to wind power and solar power making headlines. But in fact, Germany is a leader in highly efficient building technologies, such as "passive houses," which make heating systems in homes largely redundant, as well as efficient electrical household appliances or industrial equipment. Unfortunately, however, renovation rates are too low for the tremendous efficiency gains from energetic renovation to be fully effective. In addition, Germany has not expanded its district heating networks, which allow waste heat from power generators or from large solar thermal collector fields to be used productively, as fast as its neighbors in Austria and Denmark. But perhaps the greatest challenges lie in the transportation sector, where a number of options are being looked into worldwide – from electric mobility to hybrid vehicles. Germany is not a leader in such technologies. But the greatest efficiency gains will come about when we switch from individual mobility to public transport – and from large cars to small vehicles, such as electric bicycles, when we have to resort to individual transportation.