Peter Altmaier: Global environmental protection is the objective – Renewable energies are the key

Environmental and climate protection technologies are the growth drivers of the 21st century. That is the conclusion that has been reached by various institutions such as McKinsey, Roland Berger, Deutsche Bank and heads of companies like Peter Löscher of Siemens and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric. Today, the global market volume of environmental technologies has already reached about 1.5 trillion euros. The number is estimat­ed to be double that in as little as ten years. The following global megatrends are the reason: an unchecked global energy thirst, the related consumption of coal, oil and gas, the continually rising consumption of resources, the looming climate crisis, and a growing world population. The only way that we can face those trends is by expanding renewable energies and utilising efficiency technologies.

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Meanwhile, numerous governments have recognised the significance of climate protection. There is agreement as to the necessity to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius with respect to pre-industrial times. All that is still being discussed is by how much and by whom greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced. Behind that lies the race for dominance in the low-carbon economy. The economic packages issued in the past two years demonstrate that very tellingly: USA have provided 115 billion US dollars for investments in the green-tech field, China almost double that with over 220 billion US dollars. South Korea has devoted over 80 per cent of the economic package to green measures and announced the goal to be among the seven leading “green” economic powers by 2020.

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Germany holds an excellent starting position in that regard: as export world champion in the field of environmental technologies, it accounts for 16 per cent of the world market, the largest proportion of all industrial countries; the volume translates as 224 billion euros. This is where the future jobs are. Now­adays, 1.8 million people already work in the field of environmental technologies in Germany, thereof 340,000 alone in the renewable energy sector. Esti­mates fore­­­see about 800,000 new jobs in green services and 500,000 in energy efficiency by 2020. Moreover, since investments in green energy technologies are made not only here but also in the rest of the world, new sales markets are opening up. In 2010 alone, about 150 billion US dollars were invested worldwide in the new capacities of renewable energies.
The location of Germany profits from that as well: as early as 2009, foreign business earned the sector overall revenues of about twelve billion euros, and the trend is upward. Wind and hydro power industries are lead­­ing: their export ratios are at 80 per cent. While companies from USA, China, India and Japan are increasingly penetrating the market, renewable tech­­nologies made in Germany continue to enjoy an excellent worldwide reputation. The challenge now is to maintain that edge.

That is why the energy concept of the federal government stipulates that, by 2030, 30 per cent, and by 2050, 60 per cent of the gross end-user energy re­­quire­­ment in Germany shall be covered by renewable energies. The power gener­ation objectives are even more ambitious: double the RE proportion to 35 per cent by 2020, and further increase it to 50 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. Those targets compel companies and poli­­ticians to boost investments in research and development and incentivise further innovations. Our Renew­able Energy Sources Act (EEG) already provides us with an efficient instrument, which ensures good investment conditions. With the special fund provisions enacted within the framework of the ener­­gy concept in the autumn of 2010, the federal government has provided addi­­tional means. All players are requested to bring environmental protection, climate protection, conservation of resources as well as energy and supply security down to a common denominator.

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The transformation of our energy system towards renewable energies and the pro­­tec­­tion of the global climate are two key pillars of a policy for sustainable develop­­ment. However, nature conservancy, bio­­diversity protection, and the improve pro­­tection ment of resource efficiency are also central concerns when it comes to prepar­­ing Germany for the future. In that regard, international cooperation increasingly mat­­ters. The promotion of solar power projects in North Africa is a particularly important example. On the one hand, the growing energy requirement in North Africa is to be covered efficiently and with considera­tion for the climate in doing so, and on the other hand, solar power is to be imported to Europe in order to support the expansion of renewables in the member states.

The federal government supports business­es in getting established in the markets of the future and improving local living conditions with environmental technolo­gies while contributing to environmental and climate protection. Germany’s strong competitive position on the growing mar­­ket of climate and environmental techno­­logies is also due to our pioneering role in environmental policy.

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By means of var­­ious instruments such as emission trading, a market incentive programme as well as regulatory law, such as the energy conservation regula­tion, and combined instruments like the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), the government can achieve a great deal. The EEG, in particular, has proven itself and serves as a model for comparable regu­lations in over 50 countries and in 20 EU member states.

However, even in the field of renewable energies, we are faced with further chal­­len­­ges. The quick expansion and conver­sion of power grids is a central condition for the transformation of the energy sup­­ply. In parallel, the development of stor­­age tech­­nologies must be pursued so that the needs can be met in the face of the partially fluctuating power gener­a­tion from renewable sources in addition to consider­­ably lower proportions of con­­ventional power. Efficiency technologies must contribute to lowering the overall power and heat re­­­­quirements. By means of the special climate protection fund, the federal government will further support those activities in order to quickly pave the way for the regenerative era.
Finally, it will matter that people go along on this path towards the regenerative era. That relates to private consumption as well as the expansion of grids and the installation of energy generation and storage facilities. Our starting position is good, for the acceptance of renewable energies is very high in Germany: about 90 per cent of the population welcomes the expansion of the infrastructure. How­­ever, it does not suffice to rely on that. Instead, planners as well as industry and politicians are encouraged to involve the population in the decision-making at an early stage, pay genuine attention, and find optimal compromises for all. An important characteristic of the location of Germany is the investment security. All players must make sure that investment decisions are made on a sound basis, which means reliably and with great transparency. That democratic process is one of Germany’s strengths, which will pre­­vail in the long term when it comes to accomplishing the transformation towards renewable energies on a global scale.

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Participating in the markets of the fu­­ture involves investing in resource con­serva­tion as well as environmental and climate protection and, thus, in renewable ener­­gies and energy efficiency. Em­­barking on the path towards the regenerative era requires a continuous commitment from all players. The point is to overcome the present-day relevance of our actions and to give serious consideration to the consequences of present actions on the future. The vision of nearly fully basing our energy supply on regenerative energies by 2050 is not only realis

 

Altmaier_2010The author is the federal minister for the environment, nature conservancy and re­­­­­actor safety. He studied law at the university of Saarbrücken. From 2005 to 2009, he was the permanent par­­­­­­­­lia­­­men­tary secretary to the Federal Minis­­­try of the Interior and has been President of the Europa-Union Deutschland since 2006. In 2009, he was appointed the chief parlia­­­mentary secretary of the CDU/CSU group in the Bundestag.