On Saturday, July 25, 2015, Germany got 78% of its electricity from renewables. That performance eclipsed the old record of 74% set in May 2014. How did the country do that?
First, July 25 was a Saturday, a day when most of Germany’s industrial operations are idle for the weekend, so electricity demand is lower. Second, weather in the north of the country, where most of its wind turbines are located, was stormy. Weather over the southern half of the country, where most of its solar panels are found, was sunny. That means production from both wind and solar sources was maximized that day.
Overall, Germany gets about 28% of its electricity from renewable sources, including biomass and hydro. In 2000, that number was only 6%.
44% comes from burning coal. After the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Germany opted to shutter its nuclear power plants as soon as possible. Many thought that meant that it would turn more to coal, but it focused on renewable sources instead. Last year, Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped 4.3%. Those emission are now equal to what they were in 1990, according to analysts at Agora Energiewende.
Osha Gray Davidson, author of Clean Break, a book about Germany’s transition to clean energy, says that for such a large industrialized country to get 28% of its power from renewable sources is “pretty amazing,” and that Germany is a good model for the United States.
“Manufacturing accounts for much more of the German economy than the American economy, and they have 80 million people — much larger than a country like Denmark, which gets more of its power from renewables but has a much smaller industrial base, and has a population of five and a half million people,” he said.
Currently, the United States gets about 15% of its electricity from renewable sources, according to CleanTechnica.
As more and more wind turbines and solar panels come online, there is a major technology push to create better forecasting software and to increase the efficiency and enhance the location of these forms of power, according to Think Progress. IBM and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently announced that they are working on a producing solar and wind forecasting that’s at least 30% more accurate than conventional methods.
“There is good reason to believe that with better forecasts, it might be possible to push solar’s energy contribution [in the US] up to 50 percent [by 2050],” IBM Research Manager Hendrick Hamann says. “As we continue to refine our system in collaboration with the DOE, we hope to double the accuracy of the system in the next year. That could have a huge impact on the energy industry — and on local businesses, the economy and the natural environment.”