Book Review: German Energy Transition by Craig Morris and Martin Pehnt

This book is somewhat unique: it is actually mainly a website, found here. However, for the purpose of the review I prefer reading it in a book format. Fortunately, the authors also provide all the content in one PDF-file. My remarks here are based on that.

For starters, two comments about the format. The PDF file specifies at the beginning that it is licensed “under a Creative Commons license” (in the “About the project” section before page one). That is slightly lacking, since it does not specify which of the different Creative Commons licenses the authors want to use. Readers don’t know if they are allowed to sell the book or make derivative works from it. A clarification might be useful.

I also don’t ¬†understand why such an excellent resource is not on Amazon as a Kindle and a Createspace printed edition. At least I could find nothing at Amazon searching with the title right now.

On pages two and three the text says that Germany reduced carbon emissions by 27% from 1990 to the end of 2011, while the associated graph gives the number as 24%. One of these must be wrong, and they don’t give a source for their number in the text, and only several not very specific sources for the diagram.

For the record, right now there is only a “early estimate” for Germany’s 2011 record from the European Environment Agency, which is 26.2% reduction from 1990. The official submission for 2011 data will occur in 2013.

I agree mostly with the first part spelling out the reasons for the German energy transition. However, they leave out the most important aspect (in my view). That is the fact that Germany’s early investment in the sector has brought down prices massively, which in turn increases the potential for renewable energy everywhere on the planet.

It is clear to anyone paying attention that in the long run (a couple of decades should be enough) renewable energy will absolutely dominate the system. Gasoline cars will be illegal sooner or later.

The trick is getting there fast enough to make a difference for climate change. And that’s where falling prices come in, courtesy of the German policy.

I also would have liked a reference to Article 1 of the Law on Priority for Renewable Energy somewhere, which spells out the reasons for the feed-in tariff.

At pages 14 and 15 the authors explain that short term increases in coal electricity production do not mean that Germany is increasing coal capacity in the long run. As I learned, plans for new coal power plants have been radically reduced from 30 to about 10, most of which are only replacing existing capacity.

On page 25, “peaks at over 70 megawatts on certain days” in paragraph three needs to be “gigawatts”.

Also, “one German researcher” on that page needs to be “Volker Quaschning”, with a link to his work.

At page 36, it should be “reductions” instead of “exemption” for industry.

The section on eco-tax at page 38 should mention that it is still raised on electricity.

I enjoyed reading the section on “history of the energy transition” from pages 50 on. It shows that in countries that still have no national feed-in tariff, the next best thing is to get a local utility power purchase agreement modeled after a feed-in tariff. Basically, a feed-in tariff obliges the utility to buy the renewable electricity; there were some utilities in Germany before the law was enacted who did the right thing in the first place.

On page 67 at the bottom one paragraph is repeted.

The section on reduced surcharges for industry on page 71 is wrong. For a correct discussion of these matters see my post here.

To wrap up this review, I have found some minor errors and places where there is some room for improvement. But I think this is an excellent resource, especially for those who are interested in a short introduction to the topic.

There really should be a Kindle version.


Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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