In this article, we are going to take a closer look at the energy transition in Germany (and a brief look at some other countries as well), including: what has already been done, what plans for the future look like, and how the IT industry can support these changes.
- Energy transition: How much electricity does Germany need?
- Will we need more electricity in 2030?
- Beginning of the solar age
- A bright future for offshore wind plants
- What has already been done in technology in terms of renewable energy?
- What has to be done by the IT industry to act sustainable regarding energy consumption?
- Energy storage – a problem for governments and a huge opportunity for tech companies
- A few more interesting things to think about…
The definition of renewable energy as a concern of German national security makes it a more secure option than petroleum supply lines that may be harmed accidentally or on purpose. The fact that no energy source is ever likely to endanger public safety or human health is another advantage. These concepts must be combined with cutting-edge technology in order to be effectively utilised.
Even though the dominant political party in the German parliament has shifted from Christian Democrats (CDU) to the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the latter group has chosen to maintain the same policy as its predecessors, with the primary objective of becoming climate-neutral by 2045. SPD want to have Green energy will be used to generate all power by 2040.
They have spoken about getting rid of coal as a source of energy generation and shutting down all 63 of the existing coal-fired power plants alongside Bündnis 90 (Die Grüne – the Greens) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Additionally, SPD continues to be adamant about phasing out nuclear power in accordance with the plans launched by the previous administration. Germany only has three nuclear power stations remaining as of 2022 after shutting down three of them in 2021.
Germany’s requirement for power throughout the energy transition.
Germany’s long-term goal is to achieve carbon neutrality. The only remaining issue is how significant must be the growth of renewable energies? How much power will be required in the future will determine that.
More climate action is desired from Germany. Following the Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling in March, the federal government said that instead of the previously anticipated 55 percent reduction, CO2 emissions must instead decrease by 65 percent by 2030 when compared to 1990 levels. This calls for using more renewable energy sources to provide power than originally anticipated.
The goal looks to be fine at first glance, but the devil is in the details. Because there are relatively varied dimensions in which wind and solar power facilities must be constructed in order to accomplish the 65 percent objective, depending on how high the energy demand is anticipated to be in 2030.
Around 3 640 TWh of total energy were consumed in Germany in 2018, compared to just 590 TWh of electricity.
The Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) made the assumption that energy consumption will be between 645 and 665 TWh in 2021. Power usage has been rather consistent over the past ten to twenty years, according to Johannes Wagner of the Energy Economics Institute at the University of Cologne (EWI). “We Has a long-term gross power usage of about 600 terawatt-hours. Only in 2020 did it fall rather dramatically as a result of Corona’s unique effects.
In 2030, will we require more electricity?
However, what was true in the past is not true today. Many analysts believe that the prior preparation by the federal government was overly cautious. Peter Altmaier (CDU), a colleague minister, was recently implicitly criticised by SPD chancellor Olaf Scholz: “Anyone who claims that electricity consumption will remain the same until 2030 is lying to themselves and the country.”
What if the power usage does not remain constant but rather goes up? perhaps even rising quickly? Numerous energy analysts are supposing this situation.
The Agora Energiewende think tank likewise predicts that 650 TWh of electricity would be consumed in 2030. The EWI estimates that 685 TWh will be used in nine years. The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) estimates 2030 energy consumption at 780 TWh, compared to 745 TWh assumed by the Federal Association of Renewable Energies (BEE). That exceeds the Ministry of Economics’ projections by 70 to 200 TWh.
Electric vehicles, heat pumps, and electrolyzers all require electricity.
The demand for more energy, according to experts, is mostly due to the conversion of traffic to e-mobility and Different methods are required to heat buildings, such as heat pumps, which themselves require power. Additionally, the sector will have to move away from fossil fuels and towards synthetic fuels like hydrogen. Electrolysis, the process by which green hydrogen is created, also consumes a lot of power.
The federal government’s objective to build five gigawatts of electrolysis capacity by 2030 alone will result in a very significant increase in the amount of electricity needed. For this, Grimm advises estimating an additional 20 terawatt-hours of electricity. This is more than one-sixth of all wind-generated power in 2020.
“You should be quite pragmatic in the transition, allow many colours of hydrogen, and then switch to green hydrogen when it is widely available,” argues Veronika Grimm, “if you want the hydrogen economy to ramp up quickly and the technology to develop quickly and competently.”
Increased energy efficiency is insufficient.
Therefore, more energy will be used. On the other hand, efficiency improvements that lower power usage are also present. The federal government had set a goal in this sector to increase energy efficiency and reduce power usage by 10% by 2020 and by 25% by 2050 compared to 2008. Energy experts claim that these improvements in efficiency, however, are insufficient to offset the rise in electricity consumption.
For instance, the BEE claims that the extremely aggressive efficiency standards would result in a 48 TWh reduction in traditional electricity usage.
Agora Energiewende also criticises the fact that despite their already being market-ready technology, significant, extremely valuable efficiency potentials have not yet been methodically utilised. “The power consumption reduction has so far far exceeded our expectations.”
How significant must the growth of renewable energy be?
The amount of new wind turbines and solar systems Germany requires will be determined by how much demand for power rises. According to Agora Energiewende’s relatively low electricity prediction, Germany will need to add roughly ten gigatonnes of photovoltaics, 1.7 gigatonnes of onshore wind, and four to five gigatonnes of offshore wind every year by 2030. “This according to Mara Kleiner of the Agora Energiewende, “is basically equivalent to what we had in the last few years during the record expansion years. It’s “so doable.”
Veronika Grimm, an expert, concurs that it would be difficult and that many levers need to be pulled in order to drive the development of renewable energies dramatically. Locals frequently resist wind energy projects, particularly those that are on property. Grimm explains, “That’s why we need to focus even more on offshore growth. There is opposition to the development of new electrical lines through Germany even though that presents certain difficulties.
Power lines that would link Germany’s windswept north and energy-starved south are facing a lot of opposition.
The energy transition must be coordinated.
And it’s unlikely to succeed on its own. According to Wagner from EWI, “Germany is currently exporting electricity abroad. In the medium run, it must be anticipated that Germany would initially turn into a net importer. The industry is a good illustration of how to do it. Grimm thinks that in this case, green hydrogen generation cannot be increased soon enough. Grimm thinks we must also prepare for the import of green hydrogen.
Advanced research is being done on hydrogen generated from natural gas, with plans to collect and store CO2 emissions.
the start of the solar era
In the majority of the globe, photovoltaics already produce power at the lowest cost. Large-scale generation in sunny areas, like this one in Mexico, is very affordable. As a result, more and more solar systems are being constructed. Globally, the electricity supply is undergoing fundamental change.
There is nearly always room.
Solar panels may be installed practically anyplace; deserts, arid regions, holes dug by excavators, rooftops, and water bodies are particularly ideal. The modules are situated on an alpine reservoir in Switzerland. Currently, photovoltaics provide 3% of the world’s electrical needs.
Agri-solar is another trend, which has agricultural area underneath and solar panels on top. This is a chicken farm in China. In areas with intense sunlight, the shade is especially useful since it allows for cultivation in deserts.
Cheap personal electricity
On practically every roof in the globe, modules make sense. Because the electricity is consumed immediately, fewer power wires are needed. In Germany, the cost of solar energy from the roof is currently less than a third of the cost of grid electricity.
Now, the energy-intensive sector also needs inexpensive solar energy. Bayer, a major chemical company, is one instance. The industries in Spain will now be powered entirely by renewable energy, principally solar energy. It improves the appearance and by 2025, plants. Then, new coal, oil, and gas power facilities will have to compete for space. The hybrid energy park in Haringvliet is another fascinating facility. It combines energy storage with wind and solar power facilities.
arrival in the solar era
parking under cover and power for the grocery store. The combination is well-liked and has been used for a long time here in southern Spain. Spain had the first solar boom ten years ago. The transition to electromobility now starts as the second follows. Electric vehicle use is getting more and more affordable, which is accelerating the transition away from internal combustion engines.
The tendency is being accelerated by batteries.
Large battery storage is housed in the shipping containers in the German solar farm. It is possible to regulate fluctuations in generation and demand such that there is electricity throughout the night. Batteries are also getting cheaper, and experts predict that solar battery power plants will become commercially viable starting in 2025. Then, new coal, oil, and gas power facilities will have to compete for space. The hybrid energy park in Haringvliet is another fascinating facility. It combines energy storage with wind and solar power facilities.
At last, power
Worldwide, 770 million people lack access to electricity, mostly in vast portions of Africa, as well as in several South Asian and South American nations. However, this is altering more and more. Thanks to photovoltaics, almost 250 million people have received access to power for the first time as of 2016. There is illumination available for the evening thanks to batteries and light bulbs. More than four million homes in Bangladesh have access to electricity.
The tendency is being accelerated by batteries.
Large battery storage is housed in the shipping containers in the German solar farm. It is possible to regulate fluctuations in generation and demand such that there is electricity throughout the night. Additionally, batteries are getting cheaper, and experts anticipate a global breakthrough in solar battery technology.
It just takes a quick glance at the 4coffshore.com map, which provides an overview of offshore wind farms, to get a sense of the scope of this energy market. The wind farms that have been proposed, are being built, or are already operational are all depicted on the map.
Vattenfall is building a new wind farm in the North Sea called Hollandse Kust Zuid, one of the largest and most recent investments in offshore wind generation. The fascinating thing about this farm is that it has not received any government funding, making it the first wind power facility in Europe to operate completely without subsidies.
This is only feasible because offshore wind energy costs have decreased significantly over the past several years. Additionally, despite having been given permission to erect 252 wind turbines with a minimum capacity of 6MW, they will only set only 140 potent 11MW wind turbines, demonstrating how quickly technology is advancing. When considering such lengthy development timescales, this merits special consideration.
Of course, there are some environmental concerns with offshore wind development, such as the underwater noise that is produced during construction (which can be mitigated by, for example, double or triple bubble curtains, Marine Mammal Observers, Passive Acoustic Monitoring, etc.), changing the behaviour of sea animals, or the risk of birds becoming entangled in the construction. even if the stats don’t appear to be as awful as some folks would have you believe:
Additionally, developers are making significant efforts to further reduce the impact. For instance, coating one blade with black paint appears to help decrease the amount of bird casualties.
Offshore wind farms also have very little impact on global warming, and some undersea installations even function as artificial reefs; as a result, they may significantly improve marine and ocean life by providing a new habitat for many species. Additionally, wind energy is carbon-neutral and may be used to produce climate-friendly fuels like kerosene, hydrogen, and diesel.
What technological advancements have been made in the field of renewable energy?
Although there are countless opportunities for tech firms in the renewable energy market, a lot has already been accomplished. Just consider the illustrations below.
Offshore wind farms are inspected by remotely operated unmanned surface boats (USVs). As a boat operates on batteries and has an almost nil environmental impact, remote data collecting greatly minimises the creation of CO2.
However, USV-based solutions also generate new job prospects even if fewer people are involved in on-site research and more robots and automation are used. For instance, the recently completed Autonomous Remote Offshore Wind Inspection, Navigation, and Deployment (AROWIND) Project received a $3 million boost from Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and is projected to result in the creation of 330 new employment (55 directly and 275 indirectly).
Renewable energy is more dependable, practical, and predictable thanks to machine learning. In order to forecast things like energy usage, weather, possible difficulties, and market trends, it is common practise to utilise algorithms designed to find patterns in data. All of this enables firms to adapt their modes of operation to external influences, reducing resource waste, minimising costly downtime, and raising customer happiness.
There are at least five different software categories that are noteworthy in terms of renewable energy.
operational hubs Key systems created to centralise data, streamline operations, and simplify management of each specific renewable energy power station.
Virtual twins Advanced data-driven analytical models that act as digital representations of wind farms, solar power plants, etc., frequently created to improve security, boost performance, or identify future concerns – everything for lifespan extension.
preventive observation Software-based models can track, assess, and look at things like wind turbines (taking into consideration both design and wind conditions) in order to determine how much longer they have to live and provide detailed instructions on how to do so.
Calculations in software –Simulations are essential to optimise energy systems and improve management.
Ground modelling entails combining several data sets to capture fluctuations in ground conditions and giving geotechnical information needed for building, deploying, and sustaining both onshore and offshore projects.
What changes must the IT sector make to operate in a way that is energy-efficient?
Since 2010, IT energy usage has increased by 1,000%. “The demand for computing power in data centres has increased tenfold since 2010,” claims researcher Ralph Hintemann of Berlin’s Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability. Despite the fact that IT technology has grown substantially more efficient, the increased need for computer power is resulting in significantly greater overall energy consumption. It is now 60 years old. % higher than it was in 2010.
What connection exists between sustainability and software?
According to University of Cambridge research, the Bitcoin network consumes more than 100 terawatt-hours of electricity each year (as of October 2021). This equates to around one-fifth of German power use. This is an extreme yet striking illustration of how poorly designed software adds to the problem of excessive global electricity use.
When it comes to AI and machine learning, there is also room for improvement: an exemplary training of a transformer model for natural language processing consumed over 650,000 kWh of energy and thus produced as much CO2 as 5 cars with combustion engines including fuel over their entire life cycle.
The difficulty is aggravated by the fact that compute durations for training models have expanded exponentially in recent years, increasing more than 300,000 times since 2012.
The Bitkom industry organisation estimates that German data centres will consume 16 TWh in 2020. That is much greater than Berlin’s power use in the same year. Finally, this would jeopardise climate goals. Hintemann is a researcher.
But let us be honest. This problem can only be solved on a global scale. Because cloud computing transcends national boundaries. As a result, worldwide norms for major cloud providers to use green power must be implemented. After instance, it would be disastrous if a logical operation initiated in Germany raised CO2 emissions in China or Brazil.
Energy storage is both a government challenge and a major opportunity for technology entrepreneurs.
Energy storage is critical to supply security and the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. While nuclear power facilities provide electricity continuously, solar and wind farms do not. This is a significant difficulty. Renewable energy must be created whenever possible, stored continuously, and used whenever possible. When necessary, it is readily transportable.
Scientists and engineers must devise new ways to store energy, while software businesses may shine by offering tools to control storage operations. One project for capturing and storing energy for later use is the utilisation of batteries from electric vehicles (for example, Volkswagen is considering using automobiles for energy storage). Tesla is likewise prepared to do so (and offers Powerwall, an integrated battery system for storing solar energy).
In 13 years, 40 million EVs (electric cars) with an average battery capacity of 50 kWh are expected in Germany. If smart grids had access to 100% of total EV battery storage, this would result in countrywide energy storage of 2 GWh= 2.000.000.000.000 Wh.
According to the Fraunhofer Institut für Solare Energiesysteme (ISE), Germany will need 800 TWh of electricity annually by 2035. This equates to about 2,2 TWh daily. Only German automobiles, then, would already have energy storage capabilities of 70% of the required energy.
Does this seem improbable? But as President John F. Kennedy famously said, we decided to fly to the moon in this decade and do the other things because they are tough, not because they are simple. This may have likewise seemed impossible to accomplish at the time, yet they succeeded in doing so.
Several other intriguing things to consider…
The renewable energy sector is so intriguing and intricate that one could write some There are large volumes about it, but I’ll stop here. However, there are a lot more worthwhile subjects to think about and read about, like:
How can wind farms be constructed without affecting animal habitats and migration routes?
How can underwater noise be minimised? Do bubble curtains suffice?
What transpires during negotiations with several governments? Which political concerns are more important right now?
Which areas of land ought to be utilised for solar and wind farms?
How can a renewable energy project be crowdfunded?
I can state the following in a nutshell:
In terms of national security, the renewable energy sector is growing increasingly important—and not only for Germany.
Developed nations may achieve net-zero emissions in 20 to 30 years.
Developed nations may achieve net-zero emissions in 20 to 30 years.
For the security of the energy supply, not even nuclear power facilities are required.
Due to the usage of heat pumps and e-cars, among other things, electricity consumption will rise.
In the next years, a lot more solar power plants and wind farms (particularly offshore) will be built.Additionally, there are additional Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that must be accomplished by 2030.
The possibility for tech businesses to develop software that addresses energy management, transport, and storage as well as infrastructure upkeep and precise forecasts is enormous. This is your final opportunity, if you’re one of these IT businesses, to start moving in the right direction and learning more about this subject and how you can help.
And if you’re in charge of creating a business in the renewable energy space that requires a quality software solution and is now seeking for an IT partner to manage this project with – then get in touch with us right away, so we can see how we can assist.
An offshore wind farm expert, Volker Tertel, contributed to the writing of the essay.