A Country Full of Energy: Innovative Solutions for Sustainable Power Supply in Germany

April 10, 2012

In his presentation at the American-German Institute (AGI), Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Reinhard Hüttl discussed the results of the German federal government-appointed Ethics Commission for a Safe Energy Supply before engaging in a lively discussion with participants on the chances and challenges that today’s energy transition presents.

The Commission for a Safe Energy Supply was appointed in March 2011 and tasked with investigating the feasibility of expediting the phasing out of nuclear energy, expediting the introduction of renewable energy sources, and improving energy efficiencies. In assessing these goals the Commission focused on climate protection, economic efficiency, social aspects of the cost distribution, competitiveness, and the prevention of one-sided import dependency. At its conclusion the Commission made a number of suggestions and recommendations. It found that energy efficiency will be key to Germany’s energy transition. The Commission also suggested continuing to develop renewable energy, continued research and development of storage technologies, and that geothermal energy holds significant potential for Germany. It also emphasized that the phase-out from nuclear energy should not be at the expense of climate protection and that there will need to be a greater focus on infrastructure and a development of smart grids for this transition to progress. Finally, the Commission found that the energy transition brings with it enormous technical, economic, and societal chances for Germany. Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hüttl stressed that the energy transition in Germany is a community endeavor that will require broad societal acceptance in order to be successful. As a result, the Commission has recommended a transparent process and public participation as Germany pursues its energy transition.

In the discussion that followed, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hüttl conversed with participants about the challenges of gaining public acceptance and the future of the energy transition in Europe as a whole. Participants noted that Germany’s energy transition is sure to be challenging but that observers in the United States are very interested to see how Germany moves forward. The discussion also touched on ways in which the United States and Germany can collaborate on energy issues, with participants noting that there are many opportunities at the local and city level within the United States for cooperation on these issues. The enormous role of corporations in driving these changes was also discussed.  Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hüttl ended on the idea that this energy transition is a long-term project that cannot be realized overnight and that it will ultimately take time and a change in societal attitudes.