Germany is an export-based economy and is positioning itself as an innovator in green technologies. The German Solar Energy Association (BSW) estimates that exports made up 65 percent of German PV production in 2013, up from 55 percent in 2011 and 14 percent in 2004 – and the target is 80 percent for 2020. While Germany lost its last major solar panel producer in 2017, the country still supplies more than half of all production equipment for the global PV sector. This means that the world is making solar panels on production lines made in Germany. The German Wind Energy Association (BWE) puts the wind industry's current export ratio at 65 to 70 percent. China is by far the largest market for solar and wind, but Chinese companies mainly serve the domestic market; they export relatively little.
The market for products that increase energy efficiency is already significant, which is especially important, because this market will only continue to grow, similar to the market for renewables. Germany is a major player on both of these markets.
A study conducted by corporate consulting firm Roland Berger found that the market for energy efficiency products will continue to grow rapidly, doubling in volume from 2005 (450 billion euros) to 2020. Not surprisingly, a lot is being invested in development in this sector, where Germany makes up the second largest share of the pie at 20 percent, behind the US at 24 percent.
In particular, midsize firms are benefiting from the growing demand for energy efficiency products and applications, with more than half of the sales revenue from environmental protection goods (of which energy efficiency is a subcategory) being posted by firms with fewer than 250 employees.
In Germany, roughly 334,000 people already worked in the renewables sector in 2016, down from a peak of 380,000 in 2011 mainly due to layoffs in the solar sector. In 2015, the German Ministry for Energy and Economic Affairs estimated that the net number of additional jobs brought about by renewables would reach 100,000 by the year 2030 and 230,000 by 2050.