Solar panel in GermanySolar photovoltaics drove Germany’s recent renewables surge.Photo: Cornelia KoppGermany set another record with renewable energy. A new report by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) highlights, in the first half of 2011, renewables accounted for fully 20.8 percent of power production, as Der Spiegel reports.

Throughout the past decade, Germany has fundamentally transformed the way it produces electricity. The country increased its share of renewable electricity from 5 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2010. Over time, Germany has consistently met its legislated targets ahead of schedule, and appears poised to outdo itself again in the next years. The goal by the current center-right government of Chancellor Angela Merkel is to draw at least 35 percent of production from renewables by 2020. The opposition parties claim that 40 percent or even more is realistic.

Today, wind and biomass are the pillars of Germany’s renewable sector. The main driver of the 2011 development, however, has been photovoltaic — in a country that is as sunny as the state of Alaska. Reports Der Spiegel:

The real change came in the photovoltaic sector, where output almost doubled — up more than 76 percent since 2010. “Because of the volume of new photovoltaic installations and the amount of sun during the spring, solar energy knocked hydroelectric from third place for the first time,” the BDEW said in a statement. The BDEW saw two reasons for the boost in new installations: Equipment prices have plummeted by 50 percent since 2006, reflecting more competition, and the federal government decided against a planned cut in subsidies for private solar-power generation.

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The reason for all of this? Germany’s Renewable Energy Act provides certainty that manufacturers and investors are looking for. As feed-in tariff guru Paul Gipe explains here, the center-right government just increased incentives for the deployment of wind, biomass, and geothermal yet again. Just recently, Deutsche Bank, a largely German bank, gave German renewable energy and climate policy high marks [PDF], and rates Germany’s feed-in tariffs as “best in class.”

As discussed before, Germany accelerated the transition towards a renewable energy economy in the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima. The rapid growth of the renewable sector demonstrates that Germany will likely succeed in phasing out nuclear power completely by 2022.

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