German Energy and Climate Policies: A Historical Overview

  • Christian von HirschhausenEmail author


The energiewende marked a major turn in German energy and climate policy in two main respects. First, with respect to the energy mix, the energiewende aims at replacing coal and nuclear power with renewable energies. Second, with respect to governance structures, the energiewende aims at restructuring the traditional energy oligopolists and actively involving other stakeholders that were previously not involved in the policy process, such as citizen cooperatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and others. This chapter provides a survey of German energy and climate policies leading up to the important decisions on the energy mix, climate objectives, efficiency, etc. The energiewende constitutes a break between two systems, in which the incumbent electricity system—dominated by oligopolists based on fossil fuels and nuclear power—was abandoned, giving rise to a renewables-based electricity system with a significantly higher share of distributed generation. The chapter describes the main trends and characteristics of German energy and climate policies from their inception in the late nineteenth century up to the present energiewende. Section 2.2 looks broadly at over a century of German energy policy, examining the governance structures and energy mix dominant in three key periods: (1) 1880s–1945, (2) 1950s–1980s, and (3) 1980s–2010s. The second main part of this chapter, Sect. 2.3 looks in more detail at the period between the fall of 2010 and the spring and summer of 2011. A focus is on the year 2010 and the Energy Concept 2050, which was voted into law by parliament in September 2010. The concept represents a curious combination of lifetime extensions for nuclear power plants and coal-based generation technologies on the one hand, and ambitious decarbonization objectives and a strong role for renewables (over 80% by 2050) on the other. The section then focuses on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision on the nuclear moratorium, and the subsequent passage of legislation by parliament to rapidly close down nuclear power plants following the Fukushima-Daichi accident. Another subsection provides a summary of the key objectives of the energiewende in both the electricity sector and the energy sector as a whole, including a list of policy objectives and concrete quantitative targets of the German energiewende to 2050. Section 2.4 concludes.


Energy policy Climate policy Germany Energiewende Coal Nuclear power Renewables Efficiency Trusts Distributed generation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TU BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.DIW BerlinBerlinGermany

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