Germany is a leader in the global effort to combat environmental destruction and global warming while reconciling resource scarcity with the need for continued economic growth. In these efforts, Germany has emerged as a powerhouse in renewable energy and clean technologies.
Germany has vowed to transition to a low or no-carbon economy, aiming to cut 80% of its emissions by 2050. The energiewende plan, which shapes this national policy, has proven successful thus far - and considered a model approach for other countries.
A rarity in this day and age, Germany has given the cynics pause: even decades before their energiewende deadline, they've already proven that solar as a default energy production model is capable of running a strong economy. In one instance, solar energy producers actually had too much energy and gave a credit to customers to compensate.
Less known are the regulations nudging the country’s businesses to “do their part” for the energiewende and the German innovations that have nurtured the green economy in recent years. There is a tremendous amount of focus in the media around the energiewende: if it’s possible, how it will fare in the face of changing world leadership, what it will reveal and how it will change along the way.
In this article, I want to dig a little deeper, exploring the government entities and regulations pushing the energiewende and what sort of German-backed technologies may help the country achieve its goals.
The Role of BAFA In Germany
Germany’s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA) leads the German government’s charge to enforce energy policy. A combined office which also monitors German exports and promotes economic development, BAFA spearheads a division concerned with the country’s energy production.
In line with the energiewende, BAFA promotes efficient energy use, establishes a sustainable energy supply and offers incentives for renewable energy technologies. BAFA also issues professional certification to those companies whose main business is energy conservation or energy efficiency. (Panoramic Power, for example, is a BAFA-certified company.)
One of BAFA’s major responsibilities is subsidizing the cost for businesses to implement energy-efficient technologies throughout their operations. BAFA encourages the consistent tracking and monitoring of energy use by offering grants to pay for the energy management technologies involved.
More specifically, BAFA funds can be used toward the initial certification of energy management and energy control systems, their purchase or the purchase of any related management software.
BAFA is also responsible for implementing the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE), a national body whose focus is to implement a broad range of measures all aimed at reducing energy use.
Programming instituted by NAPE includes funding for companies and individuals who invest in alternative energy, programs to avoid heat waste and assigning efficiency ratings for HVAC systems that have not been upgraded to new standards.
At NAPE’s core is the requirement for large companies to conduct annual energy audits, providing the information needed to help Germany realize its ambitious, country-wide emissions goals.
BAFA’s efforts are far-reaching and have a major impact on the way German companies approach energy usage. BAFA is also an important “seal of approval” for companies pursuing CleanTech and other energy-efficient technologies.
Still, as we’ve explained before, the push for energy efficiency isn’t solely a government venture. German enterprises are jumping on board not because BAFA said so, but because these innovations are part of a shifting business landscape.
German Innovations Transforming CleanTech
German innovation in CleanTech isn’t a passing fad – it’s a booming industry which makes Germany one of the top contributors to the green economy. Nearly one in five new jobs in Germany is associated with the green economy; two million people and counting are employed in this burgeoning industry. In fact, green technologies are predicted to make up 14% of Germany’s GDP by 2020.
German CleanTech innovations touch a wide range of interests and needs. More than 2,000 companies alone are affiliated with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety; these companies are leading the charge for the development of CleanTech innovations, distributing renewable energy, promoting sustainability and effective energy management in Germany and around the globe.
Germany is also host to some of today’s most innovative CleanTech developments. Part of what makes German innovation particularly potent is how it spans the gamit and tackles underlying problems from every conceivable angle.
Consider Sunfire GmbH, based in Dresden, which developed a methodology to derive synthetic fuel from water. Seriously. Fuel from water. At the same time, some, like Coolar, are working on carbon-neutral products that could facilitate Germany’s ambitious reduced-carbon goals. Others work to repurpose industrial byproducts and waste into useful materials. ZaaK Technologies, for one, recycles industrial waste and ash into a sand that can be used in construction applications.
German companies, like the Berlin-based Younicos, tackle energy efficiency through proprietary technologies that circumvent problems in the aging energy grid structure. Younicos uses battery power to store energy and its hardware-software hybrid solution has 150 megawatts of commissioned energy storage across the globe.
Still others are transforming the way that renewable energy is purchased. The Global Renewable Independent Power Supplier (GRIPS) supplies the commercial sector with renewable energy sources independent of the energy grid. The company offers flexible power purchase agreements, addressing the challenge of handling the up-front costs to utilize renewable energy sources faced by many companies.
Through government legislation and a booming private sector, Germany has demonstrated its commitment to achieving a carbon-neutral economy. The two forces have played off each other in recent years, with companies planting their roots in Germany’s GreenTech-friendly economy and taking advantage of the BAFA-backed grants to advance their products and services.
As a result, Germany is well on its way to achieving its ambitious energy goals – the question is no longer how it will do so, but when.