As policymakers in Ohio and elsewhere look to modernize their aging electric grid, concepts in Germany’s changing energy system suggest how today’s decisions can set the stage for a greater share of renewables and more energy security.
While utilities in Ohio, New York and elsewhere have sought “around market” charges after affiliated coal and nuclear plants became less competitive, Germany’s large utilities are charting new paths forward as that country curbs its reliance on fossil fuels.
Chicago energy experts who spent a week in Germany and Brussels in mid-November on a fact-finding expedition came back with a complicated take on Germany’s famous Energiewende.
As European countries aggressively ramp up renewable energy, they face a constraint that is familiar in the Midwest: The need to expand and overhaul the electric grid.
In the state of North-Rhine Westphalia in western Germany, the images of wind turbines in the distance and solar panels on farmhouse roofs are overwhelmed by another source of energy — brown lignite coal that is burned in nearby massive power plants, providing nearly a quarter of the country’s energy supply.