Wind and solar power, together with other renewable sources, have overtaken coal as Germany’s most important power source, figures released by the industry group BDEW show. But this milestone in the history of the country’s energy transition must be taken with a pinch of salt, experts warn. The goal to further boost the share of renewables during the next decade is threatened by lagging grid expansion, political indecision, and fears over wavering supply security. All these make it difficult for renewable power companies to plan their next steps in the Energiewende process.
Renewable energy generation in Germany passed an important milestone in the first half of 2018, becoming the single largest power source ahead of coal in the country’s gross power production mix. Figures released by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), the energy industry’s biggest lobby group, show that wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources together generated 118 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity between January and the end of June, compared to 114 kilowatt hours generated from lignite and hard coal over the same period.
“Renewables are on the march,” BDEW head Stefan Kapferer said, adding that the figures demonstrate that a market-driven coal exit in Germany “is already fully on its way.” Kapferer said the growing share of renewables makes an accelerated power grid expansion in Germany more necessary than ever before. The aim here is to integrate more intermittent renewable power sources into the energy system, he explained. The lobby group leader warned that Germany still lacks a reliable backup system for periods of low renewable energy output, and added that this problem is set to intensify as more coal plants are shut down. In addition, the country’s last nuclear power plant is scheduled for decommissioning in 2022.