Can renewable energy sources power the world?
Can renewable energy sources power the world?

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Can renewable energy sources power the world?

5.1 Germany as a role model?

Is the UK in danger of being left behind? Should it follow the lead of countries like Germany and give greater commitment to deploying renewable energy?

Watch the following video, which describes the feed-in tariffs and other measures that have led Germany to accelerate the deployment of renewables, accompanied by a phase-out of nuclear power.

It also points out that as part of Germany’s energy transition, the railway operator Deutsche Bahn is proposing to run the country’s rail system entirely on renewables. The concept of a transition to renewables providing much-needed meaningful work among young people concerned about future climate change is also discussed.

The video interviewees agree that the UK should be doing much more to develop its enormous renewable resources. It should look at what other countries have done, and not just at EU countries like Germany but other major nations. China is heavily committed to developing renewables and wants to take the lead in developing and marketing the technologies world-wide. If China can see the opportunities, then maybe UK should do so too?

Download this video clip.Video player: track_05_renewable_energy_and_the_uk_role_models.mp4
Skip transcript


Germany might provide an interesting case study for Europe, because it started in the late '90s towards legislation to support renewable energy. The first step was the ecological tax reform, which increased the price of energy and decreased the price of labour. The Feed-in tariff law has been introduced in the late '90s, and has proved to be a tremendous success. The principle of this thing is fairly easy to understand. You decrease the risk for investors in renewable energy by guaranteeing them for 20 years a fixed rate for the electricity. So whatever electricity they generate, they may feed it into the grid, and they get a fixed rate of money for this.
Germany historically, even in the '80s and also coming was this Green Party movement, had a strong point against nuclear power mainly because it was worried about nuclear waste management. In 2001 the red and green government came up with an energy consensus with the four big electric utilities to phase out of nuclear by 2023. In the aftermath of the Fukushima earthquake and the nuclear power plant problems they had in Japan, the first seven power plants have been switched off immediately. And the schedule has been sped up by two years, and now is really setting along.
There's definitely a risk of a country like Britain being left behind by people who smell the coffee, and the Germans are the classic example. For all these years, one of the arguments that was used to shut me up on being overenthusiastic about renewables was, oh Jeremy, you know renewable energy will never run the railways. Well, now you look at Germany and Deutsche Bahn, who run the German railways, have targets and timetables- if you'll forgive the pun- for running the entire railway system on renewable energy. And they're Germans- they're engineers. You know, there's a fighting chance they're going to do this.
It's not just about solving climate change. It's about keeping up with more farsighted neighbours, and getting our disaffected, disenfranchised youth back to work in meaningful jobs in a society where they're being given hope of a future. Because we're dealing with climate change as well, because if they know the first thing about climate change, they will know that that problem is likely to dominate the later years of their existence on this earth in a really horrible way.
I think we need to look at what other countries have done in this space. Not just in Europe, but further afield. Because people often say to me, well, why is Britain doing this on our own? Well, we're not. We're still one of the lowest performing countries in the EU in terms of our use of renewables. And we do have the best tidal reach in Europe, we do have some of the strongest winds, particularly offshore, in Europe. So we must be doing better.
And people will say, well, if it's so right, why isn't China doing it? Well, last year China built a third of the world's wind turbines. China is heavily going down the renewables route. And this is an area where China has seen an incredible market opportunity. It doesn't just want to be a follower. Doesn't just want to take other people's technologies and cheapen them and mass produce them and sell it back. It wants to lead in developing the technology. And so if China can see those opportunities, then we really must as well.
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371