Significant challenges and barriers remain, but Germany’s renewable energy transition (aka Energiewende) is advancing faster and performing better than many anticipated. The pioneering society-wide initiative proves that new, innovative technological, market and regulatory mechanisms can reliably and cost-effectively meet the energy needs of Western Europe’s largest economy and most populous nation. Not only that, it does it in a way that boosts the economy and job growth while dramatically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental pollution.
If all goes well, an ambitious new initiative dubbed NEW 4.0 (NEW for Norddeutsche Energie Wende and 4.0 for the fourth major phase of the Industrial Revolution) will see the introduction of an open, distributed and integrated all-renewable energy infrastructure and market emerge across two northwest German states: Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy kick-started the planned four-year project this month with 44 million euros of funding. Sixty organizations, including the two state governments, are NEW 4.0 project partners.
An open, distributed energy infrastructure for the 21st century
The overarching aim of NEW 4.0 is to demonstrate that a new, open and distributed renewable energy infrastructure that is socially equitable and environmentally friendly can also be more efficient, reliable, resilient and cost-effective -- even for Western Europe's most populous nation and one of the world's largest industrial economies.
Towards that end, NEW 4.0 project partners intend to develop the infrastructure and smart energy market required to raise the percentage of renewable energy produced and used in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein to 70 percent of demand by 2025 and 100 percent by 2035.
Furthermore, NEW 4.0 is viewed as the seed from which a new, all-renewable energy infrastructure for Germany will grow, one that will not only serve the entire nation but export emissions-free electricity and serve as a template across the EU.
Northwestern Germany's NEW 4.0
Schleswig-Holstein has emerged as a center of onshore and offshore wind power. With a population of less than 3 million, the state’s power generation capacity far exceeds demand. Hamburg, on the other hand, is a huge consumer of energy. That makes the two states natural counterparties in NEW 4.0’s open, distributed energy market, according to project partners.
NEW 4.0 will also address a big problem that has plagued Germany’s renewable energy transition. Wind and solar power capacity have grown so fast that producers actually offer to pay consumers to take on more load. Grid regulators with increasing frequency have to instruct wind farm operators and other producers to curtail production as a result.
In addition to opening up and extending smart grid connectivity via new interconnection points and NEW 4.0’s smart energy market, NEW 4.0 project participants aim to make extensive use of the latest energy storage technology and develop “regenerative” energy sources. These will store and then convert electrical energy to other forms, such as heat, that can then be distributed and used on-demand.
*Image credits: 1) Bard 1 North Sea Offshore Wind; 2) Strom Report; German Association of Energy & Water; 3) Bloomberg New Energy Finance