Inside the Energiewende: Policy and Innovation in the German Utility Industry

Friday, February 12, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Coolidge (Marriott Wardman Park)
Christine Sturm, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Germany's energy system is changing at an incredible pace. Its renewable energy share increased exponentially over the past two decades accounting in 2015 almost a third of Germany's gross electricity consumption (32.5%). This unprecedented achievement is the result a broad range of innovation policies, tools, institutional arrangements articulated, applied, implemented to mitigate adverse climate effects, also known as the German "Energiewende." However, the efforts to steer Germany's transition towards low carbon technologies, and to design a better and more sustainable German society put an unprecedented strain on Germany's industry. Inside the "Energiewende" there is no other economic branch harder hit by the successive waves of induced changes than the utility sector. From its past position as the backbone of the entire German economy, it now totters on the brink of dissolution, trying to redefine itself as a provider of "smart" services, and making desperate efforts to be acknowledged as a player in the "big data" market. Moreover, Germany's decision to sacrifice an industrial branch for a greater good is by far not enough to reach its ambitious decarbonization goal. If the reduction rate for GHG emissions that has been in place for the past 25 years continues unabated, the goal set for 2050 will be missed by at least 100%.