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The Big Switch

Part 2: Inside Germany’s Race for Renewables

This is the second episode of a five-part series exploring the European energy crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If you haven’t listened to the first episode, we recommend you start there.

Germany is known as a green energy powerhouse. So why is it still so dependent on fossil fuels?

Germany has grown its wind and solar sectors dramatically over the past 20 years. And yet, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked an energy crisis, Germany fired up idle coal plants and began importing natural gas from around the world.

So why couldn’t renewables in Germany—and in Europe more broadly—meet the energy gap in this time of need? 

In this episode, we cover the origin story of Germany’s renewables boom—including a nuclear disaster and an anti-nuclear political movement. Then, we examine the implications of the shutdown of nuclear power and the rise of renewables for the power sector.

We look at the long-ignored part of German energy—gas heating—and how electrification could help Germany make better use of its strong wind and solar industries. 

And finally, we discuss the role of hydrogen, batteries, and other low-carbon technologies in balancing renewables on the grid.


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