2015: German renewables hit 30 percent
Germany is of particular interest because it is an advanced, industrialized economy which , despite its relatively small size, has the world's third largest share of merchandise exports (after China and the US). It also has a high population density: 230 people per square kilometre vs. 1.7 people for Saskatchewan.
In other words: can a densely populated country, with a sophisticated economy that is heavily dependent on high value-add exports, source a substantial portion of its electricity from non-hydro renewables?
Judge for yourself. The following chart shows how much of total electricity has been generated from renewables since 2007. Saskatchewan is shown for comparison (for more on Saskatchewan generation - try this).
What is particularly noteworthy about this data - aside from the high absolute value of German renewables - is that Germany is dealing with a significant amount of variable renewables (19 percent wind and solar - see below) despite the fact that it has very little flexible hydro electric capacity. In fact hydro generates only 3 percent of German electricity versus 23 percent in Saskatchewan. This additional flexible capacity means that wind and solar has much more value in Saskatchewan.
In 2014, and for the first time ever, renewables were the single largest source of electricity generation for the German economy. In 2015 Germany bested that record with another. Last year Germany generated an additional 32 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity - the biggest annual increase in German history. Renewable energy generated 30 percent of the country's total electricity - up from 25.8 percent in 2014 - and is now the single largest source of electricity for the country.
In 2015 wind and solar power provided 19.2 percent of the country's electricity. This is sharply up from 14.4 percent in 2014 and effectively all of this increase was due to rapid growth in wind: solar was largely unchanged.
Annual Change in Generation, by type, Compared with Saskatchewan
Strange comparison one might say - but actually of relevance because Germany is about half the land area of Saskatchewan, with 80 times the population and a far inferior wind resource. On this basis the comparison is much more interesting:
Generation by fuel type since 2003
The following demonstrates the rapid growth of renewables which has increased from 7.5 percent of total electricity in 2003 to 30 percent today.
This excellent article by Craig Morris contains more information on Germany's 2015 renewables performance. It also contains some very important policy points: specifically - investment in variable renewable capacity (i.e. wind and solar) cannot be undertaken in isolation from consideration of the optimal electrical transmission system needed to support that capacity.
Makes you think!