Germany’s Energy Transition–A Review

By Paul Gipe

Germany’s Energy Transition is a compilation of articles on the progress of Germany’s revolutionary transition to renewable energy from fossil fuels and nuclear power. It joins a growing list of books in English explaining how the Germans were able to make such rapid progress and, importantly, what went wrong politically that has curbed further rapid growth.

Germany’s energy transition is a cautionary tale. The move to renewables in any reasonable time frame is not inevitable as much as we would like to think that it is. The astounding success of German renewables sowed the seeds of its own demise as the incumbents finally awoke to the reality that they faced an existential crisis: renewables were on track to replace them. They then marshaled their still remaining substantial political and economic power to throttle the renewable revolution before it was too late. In cooperation with willing politicians on both the left and the right they were able to strangle growth to a trickle. And what little renewable growth remained politicians assured that the incumbents would own it, not the rabble who had built Germany’s renewable revolution from the ground up.

As the effects of climate change become ever more apparent and with a new administration taking office in the USA and Angela Merkel’s long reign coming to an end there may be a slim opportunity for Germany to once again become a leading light in renewable energy by returning to the principles that made it such a success. Books, such as Germany’s Energy Transition, document what policy features made the Energiewende work so well and how it’s success can be recaptured again.

Note: This is another book in a series that’s been sent my way to review or otherwise comment on. I no longer have the time or the inclination to read every book that’s sent over my figurative transom. These are all by highly valued colleagues or friends, the topics important, or the point of view well worth getting out to a broader audience. I am remiss in not getting to them in a timely manner. In lieu of just letting them gather dust, I am posting their bibliographic details and a comment or two.

Hager, Carol and Stefes, Christoph, Editors. Germany’s Energy Transition: A Comparitive Perspective. Palgrave, 2016. ISBN 978-1-137-44287-1. $129, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-44288-8. $99.00, epub. 235 pages. 6.1 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches. Country of origin: Not declared.

See also

  • Energy Democracy, by Craig Morris & Arne Jungjohann: A Review
  • My Indecent Offer to the Chancellor–Because We Cannot Let the Energy Transition Fail!—A Review


1. The Grassroots Origins of the German Energy Transition

2. Why Subnational Actors Matter: The Role of Länder and Municipalities in the German Energy Transition

3. Critical Junctures and the German Energiewende

4. The German Energiewende in a European Context

5. Avoiding Transitions, Layering Change: The Evolution of American Energy Policy

6. Exercising Power: China’s Transition to Efficient, Renewable Energy

7. Renegotiating Japan’s Energy Compact

8. Conclusion: Lessons from the German Energiewende