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Energy transition? Yes, but please make it sustainable!

Appeal for an environmentally friendly, secure and affordable energy supply in Germany

15 April 2024 marks the anniversary of the shutdown of the last three nuclear power plants in Germany. An opportunity to take stock of Germany's energy transition. Our short policy paper suggests guidelines for making the energy transition sustainable.

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While the German government boasts that the share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption exceeded half for the first time in 2023 and that Germany is on track to achieve the 2030 climate protection target, these developments are also due to the weakening economic performance and the associated decline in emissions and electricity consumption.

The German Federal Audit Office recently asserted that the energy transition is not on track: the goal of a secure, affordable and environmentally friendly energy supply is jeopardised; high electricity prices in particular pose a risk to the competitiveness and acceptance of the energy transition. However, a failure of the energy transition would be fatal for the German economy and society. It would amount to forfeiting the opportunity to modernise our economy and our competitiveness, which we cannot afford in the face of advancing climate change. Worse still, if the imbalance continues, the polarised debate threatens to tip the balance in favour of extreme positions.

In fact, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the resulting geopolitical tensions and upheavals on the energy markets have exacerbated the trilemma between an environmentally friendly, secure and affordable energy supply. For the energy transition to succeed in the long term, we believe that the following guidelines must be followed:


Reduce bureaucracy, speed up licensing procedures: Bureaucratic hurdles and long approval are slowing down the expansion of renewable energies and grids. To reverse the trend, we need to get serious about cutting red tape and speeding up licensing procedures. Environmental and social compatibility should be considered pragmatically.


Shape the energy transition in a technology-neutral way: Instead of focussing solely on wind and solar, the potential of all renewable energies must be exploited - including biomass and geothermal energy. The principle of technological openness should also apply to the hydrogen ramp-up, where blue or turquoise hydrogen could initially be used as important bridging technologies.


Leveraging flexibility potential, minimising grid expansion costs: Making generation and consumption more flexible as part of smart grids and the storage of renewable energies are key to ensuring security of supply. It is also important to minimise the costs of grid expansion, which are passed on to customers in the form of network charges. For example, when expanding the transmission grid, the priority of underground cabling over overhead lines should be re-examined with a view to possible cost savings.

Keeping an eye on the international dimension - integration and sovereignty instead of self-sufficiency: Greater integration of the European electricity market also promises cost savings and greater resilience. With regard to energy supply, it is important to move away from the idea of self-sufficiency and focus more on sovereignty. This is because Germany and Europe will continue to be dependent on imports, for example for hydrogen. Partnerships with countries from which hydrogen can be imported cheaply are crucial.

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Sabina Wölkner

Sabina Wölkner

Head of Department 2030 Agenda +32 2 66931-77 +32 2 66931-62

Martin Schebesta

Martin Schebesta bild

Policy Advisor Energy and Resources +49 30 26996 3595 +49 30 26996 3551


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About this series

Concise, reduced to the essentials, but always highly topical. In our series "kurzum", our experts summarise an issue or problem on a maximum of two pages.