For a country phasing out its nuclear plants, you might expect a downturn in energy production. But Germany has actually seen its power output quadruple between 2011 and 2012. Europe’s leading economy has been pushing for a green revolution, becoming one of the largest markets for solar voltaics and where support for renewables is subsidized by taxpayers. The country’s Federal Statistics Office reported a surplus of 22.8 billion kilowatt hours over the last two years. The government has set a goal to source 80 percent of its electricity from green technology by 2050, leaving the old fossil fuel-based utilities behind. Holland, Austria and Switzerland were the country’s main customers for the extra energy.
While 46 percent of Germany’s power still comes from coal, renewable sources have steadily been chipping away at the dominance of fossil fuels. In 2012, nearly 22 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewables, many of which were privately-owned. According to Reuters, individuals claimed 40 percent of the renewable market, a trend that is beginning to affect the share of the country’s main utility companies. Of the 71 gigawatts of renewables installed last year, the four largest utilities owned only 7 percent.
Despite the erosion of the traditional utilities model in Germany, the country’s energy surplus is evidence that a push towards clean energy can still produce enough electricity to not only power the nation but to export to other countries. Government subsidies have continued to make renewable technologies cheaper, allowing them to work their way towards achieving critical mass and driving down retail prices for individuals hoping to install their own systems. Although Germany still imported electricity from France, Denmark and the Czech Republic last year, the country still continues to break records in solar installation on the continent and set an example for those looking to green their infrastructure.