Worldwide Energy Consumption Shifts Toward Renewable Energy

This month Germany made leaps and bounds in becoming a nation predominantly powered by renewable energy sources. In the past year 33%, on average, of Germany’s total energy came from renewable resources; this portion skyrocketed on May 8 for on this day Germany had high wind speeds nationwide, causing roughly 87% of the country’s electricity to be produced by renewables, including wind, solar, hydropower, and biomass plants. During this time, the country found that the net prices for electricity became negative, meaning that some customers were being paid to use electricity. As importantly, much of the advancement in the German renewable energy industry is being driven by investments German citizens are making themselves [1].


Photo by Tim Clark


Those critiquing renewable energy believed that a future energy industry completely supported by renewable sources was impractical because of variations in availability (such as changes in wind speeds). While this is true for almost every renewable resource, Germany, the international leader in the switch to renewable energy, is implementing a diverse infrastructure for renewable energy, including on and offshore wind, solar power, hydropower, and biomass plants [1].

Germany’s drastic switch to the renewable energy sector can be explained by the country’s expected 40 percent decrease from 1990 carbon emission levels by 2020 with a projected 80 percent decrease by 2050. Chancellor Angela Merkel states that the country will make this happen primarily by expanding their solar, wind, and hydropower energy sectors while simultaneously shutting down their nuclear reactors due to safety concerns [2]. Although the country still relies heavily on fossil-fuels, the decline of nuclear power, combined with the country’s desire to increase the number of wind and solar farms, has greatly accelerated the growth of the renewable energy sector; consequently, electricity prices for renewable energy is being driven downward and high penetration renewable energy scenarios are now more real than ever [3].

Portugal is also setting a worldwide example for the potential of the renewable energy industry. Within the past five years Portugal strode to increase the portion of energy produced from renewable sources following the announcement of the European Union’s renewable targets for 2020; between 2013 and 2015, the portion of the nation’s energy generated by renewables rose from 23% to 48% with almost half of the total renewable energy sourcing from wind power. Recently Portugal made landmark records by running for 107 hours on energy produced solely from renewable sources, including wind, solar and hydropower [4]. This is a major milestone for the renewable industry as it points to a reality that many felt was unlikely; renewable energy sources can be a major part of our energy future. As a result of its achievement, Portugal has received endless positive feedback following the event, and now sees great potential in becoming a nation powered solely from renewables.

Industry groups are also suggesting, that projects like those in Portugal will lead to green energy exports throughout the EU, permitting wind to produce 25% of Europe’s power needs within the next fifteen years [4]. In the past year Denmark became a leader in the renewable energy industry after results illustrated wind power’s potential to produce 140% of their national electricity needs; as a result, Denmark began exporting electricity to Sweden, Norway and Germany [5]. Europe continues to make advancements in the renewable energy sector in hope of reaching the EU’s goals.

Germany, Portugal, Denmark, and many other European countries project drastic changes in their electricity supply as they shift toward renewables. This move toward renewables results in a larger domestic energy supply with the accompanied greater potential to become an electricity exporter. Recent events in Germany and Portugal prove clean electricity sources to be feasible, environmentally beneficial options for large-scale electricity production; as a result, renewable energy can soon expect increased growth in European economies and hopefully in the near future for the United States.