How Germany transformed its power generation sector – and how innovation in the United States is poised to help it scale
Germany has made a major bet on renewable energy by setting aggressive goals to replace its nuclear plants with alternative sources. Its decision to close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 is one of the biggest energy gambles ever made by an industrialized nation.
No matter where a country stands in terms of its energy transformation, other nations can benefit from a greater understanding of Germany’s investment and commitment to grid stability and sector collaboration. UL Chief Economist Erin Grossi recently conducted on-the-ground research to understand why Germany took such a significant economic risk on renewable energy, and the ways in which new technologies developed in the United States can help renewable energy adoption scale worldwide.
In addition to national concerns about the environment and climate change, Grossi found that Germans typically believe that achieving higher degrees of energy independence is beneficial to the country’s national security, providing relief from imported natural gas and contributing to the containment of nuclear proliferation. This political and consumer environment has prompted German energy companies to reinvent themselves through the pursuit of new products and services.
As Clemens Cremer, group expert on energy economics and markets at EnBW, an energy supply company based in Karlsruhe, Germany, said, “We need to learn how to work with customers in different ways. For a long time, we were known for providing reliable power. Today, people have much more demanding expectations for utilities, including providing energy innovation.”
Over the last five years, Germany’s renewable energy efforts have largely been focused on balancing the power grid and keeping it stable. The emergence of large-scale virtual power plants (VPPs) have played a key role — providing alerts to distributed suppliers to ramp-up production for delivery of peak load electric generation or to scale down production to avoid overloading systems.
While Germany is taking a systems-based approach to its energy transformation, the United States is embarking on more of a decentralized effort, fueled by innovative entrepreneurs. From buildings and cities, to grids and technologies, several companies in the United States are focused on all things “smart” to conserve energy. Moreover, entrepreneurs have developed a variety of technologies – including battery storage, intelligent transformers and sensors, data management and analytics – that will help drive energy sector transformations.
Ultimately, Grossi believes grid stability, sector collaboration and new innovative technologies will drive the future of renewable energy. By harnessing Germany’s proven engineering experience in grid stability, and combining it with the United States’ technological advances, both nations will be better positioned to scale their renewable energy endeavors.
UL encourages those who work in the energy ecosystem to address the engineering and technology questions involved with securing the smart, resilient, environmentally-conscious and economically-viable energy systems of the future. Read the whitepaper, “Putting the Pieces Together: Transition and Transformation in Global Energy Markets,” to learn more.
To talk with UL experts about energy-related topics during HANNOVER MESSE 2016 please visit us in Hall 9/Stand H79 at the Industrial Automation booth, or in Hall 6/Stand K01 at the Digital Factory booth.