Germany’s Energy Model For India? – Analysis


In Germany in June 2015, G7 countries made major commitments towards decarbonisation and reduction in greenhouse gases, which will lead to binding decisions at the COP-21 conference in Paris in December. Germany pushed for these outcomes, and as one of the most energy efficient countries in the world its technology and expertise can help India’s targets of alternative energy and sustainable industry.

By Jivanta Schöttli*

At the G7 summit hosted by Germany in June 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel was widely credited for having persuaded industrial nations like the U.S., Japan, and Canada to agree to a joint communiqué on combating climate change. In it, the G7 countries committed to achieving a decarbonised global economy by the end of the 21st century. They also endorsed, for the first time, a global reduction target of 40 to 70% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared to 2010 levels.

The G7 meeting was seen as a milestone, paving the way to binding decisions expected at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-21), to be held in Paris this December.

Climate change has also become an important foreign policy item for Germany, one where it does not shy away from taking a leadership position within Europe and in the international realm. Some have criticised Merkel for riding popular sentiment, especially in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, which led her to reverse her party’s previous stance on nuclear energy and declare a complete phase-out of the country’s nuclear power plants by 2022. However, as a scientist by training and a former environment minister, she has taken a personal interest in the subject.

But Germany’s focus on this issue dates further back—the term “Energiewende” or “energy turnaround” has been a part of the political discourse since the 1980s, advocated then by the Green Party. Governing in a national coalition from 1998 to 2005, the Green Party pushed for the initial nuclear phase-out, a comprehensive ecological tax reform, and Germany’s pioneering renewable energy act in 2000.

Two principles have been at the centre of the government’s efforts: enhancing efficiency in production and usage, and decentralising energy systems. Investments costing billions of euros were made to encourage German households to install solar panels and to sell the energy generated at a fixed and high price, paid through a surcharge on general electricity bills. Over time the investment has paid off, with zero-carbon energy available at rates that are competitive with energy produced from fossil fuels. According to estimates, more than 1.4 million German households and cooperatives generate their own solar or wind electricity.

As a result, Germany’s energy policy can be credited with having created the mass demand and mass market in particular for solar energy. In 2012 Germany was the eighth-largest energy consumer in the world and heavily dependent on imports to meet its energy needs. Today, Germany ranks as one of the most energy efficient countries in the world, drawing almost 30% of electricity needs from renewable energy.

A further by-product of the Energiewende has been that today, the know-how of German companies is highly in demand, worldwide. To take advantage of emerging international business opportunities, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has backed two export initiatives.

One is the Renewable Energy Export Initiative, which helps German firms—especially small and medium-sized enterprises—to tap foreign markets and advertise “Made in Germany”; the other is the Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, which assists German providers of energy-efficient products, systems and services in taking their business abroad—from testing products to penetrating and cultivating their target markets.

Over time, Germany has emerged as a frontrunner in a campaign that has been pushed by citizens, politicians and industrialists, to combat and mitigate climate change. In December 2014 the cabinet adopted the Action Programme on Climate Protection 2020, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by the end of 2020, compared to 1990 levels.

At the COP-21, where 196 nations are expected, countries will make nationally determined proposals on targets and climate action plans. Amongst the world’s major climate change players, India has yet to announce its emission target actions and is expected to do so by September 30. In an interview (as reported in the Washington Post in April 2015) Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment minister, has said that India will announce the expected voluntary measures but will also put forward a plan that would draw upon international financial support, technology exchanges, and incentives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a vocal proponent of wind and solar energy for India and his government has announced ambitious targets for enhancing efficiency in meeting the country’s growing energy demand through alternative sources. In this quest, German companies and the German government are attractive partners for India.

Existing programmes attest to the new convergence in interests. For example, the KfW (a government-owned development bank) has been financing energy efficient residential buildings in Germany. With the construction boom in India it extended a credit line of up to $56 million to the National Housing Bank of India as well as providing technical assistance. The GIZ, a government agency operating on behalf of the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, has been cooperating with India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on climate change adaptation in industrial areas.

Climate change can thus become the area of Indian-German collaboration where ‘Made in Germany’ technology, expertise and know-how meets the ‘Make in India’ goal of promoting an efficient and sustainable industrial base.

About the author:
*Jivanta Schöttli
is a lecturer in the department of political science, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University, Germany.

This feature was written for Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations.

Gateway House

Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations is a foreign policy think-tank established in 2009, to engage India’s leading corporations and individuals in debate and scholarship on India’s foreign policy and its role in global affairs. Gateway House’s studies programme will be at the heart of the institute’s scholarship, with original research by global and local scholars in Geo-economics, Geopolitics, Foreign Policy analysis, Bilateral relations, Democracy and nation-building, National security, ethnic conflict and terrorism, Science, technology and innovation, and Energy and Environment.

One thought on “Germany’s Energy Model For India? – Analysis

  • September 7, 2015 at 7:15 am

    Dear Ms. Schöttli,

    Quite honestly, your article reads more like a PR-release, in which you are trying to convince (actually, to confuse) the Indian reader to the “advantages” of German technology and the Indian government to buy heavily subsidised and overpriced German products.

    Your article is full of half-truths, which you are selling as established facts.

    I have been living in Germany for over 20 years and can only conclude that the West in general and Germany in particular is only paying lip-service to environmental protection – in the case of your article, to renewable energy.

    1. Why has 2010 been decided to be the cut-off year, and not the year, which had the highest energy consumption?
    2. On what cut-off date do you base your claim that Germany today uses 30% of its energy from renewable sources?
    3. German households did not jump onto the PV bandwagon out of conviction, but because of subsidies (whether or not these subsidies constitute unfair business practices, is another matter) provided by the German government. That is the reason why the German PV industry collapsed after these subsidies were removed/reduced.
    4. Has a detailed calculation been made as to the “energy balance” of the PV industry? After all, manufacturing the PV cells demands a high level of energy, which to date cannot be provided only by renewable sources.
    3. If the Energiewende is so successful, why are the coal-producing states (NRW, etc.) still maintaining their dependence on coal? I hardly need remind you that these states are economically dependent on coal, since hundreds of thousands of jobs are directly linked to this industry. The governments of these states are certainly not going to shut down the (heavily subsidised) mines, regardless of what Mrs. Merkel says.
    4. If the German government was really serious about the “Energiewende”, it would ensure that public transport was made more efficient, so that fewer cars would be on the road. This would reduce the air-pollution, the energy requirements in car-production, the dependence on oil, etc. However, the automobile lobby would certainly not be in favour of such actions.
    5. Emission of greenhouse gases has, despite “creative accounting” in determining the emission, effectively increased, not decreased.
    6. On what facts/qualified analysis do you base your claim that Germany is one of the most energy-efficient countries in the world? Even if this were true, of what use is this efficiency, if the overall consumption of energy simultaneously increases? A good example of this would be the “famous” German automobiles. On the one hand, the effeciency of the engines has increased; on the other hand, the cars have become bigger and heavier, thus negating the positive effects of this effeciency. The same applies to households – heating has become more effecient, but the homes have become larger, and further, people are now heating their homes to higher temperatures.

    Last but not least, Mrs. Merkel had, until the Fukushima disaster, continuously maintained that nuclear energy was safe and environmentally friendly. Let us also not forget that she also maintained that it was fine to burn wood, since it was “climate-neutral” – meaning that only that amount of CO2 would be released into the atmosphere as the tree had absorbed. In that case, it would pose no problem if one were to burn all the trees on the planet.

    To summarise, I wish your article had been a little more scientific (in keeping with your title) and self-critical.


    M. Gandhi


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