Saturday, March 25, 2006

Renewable energy a job generator in Germany

Berlin expects employment figures in Germany's renewable energy sector to nearly double by 2020, banking on the country's technology edge and a large pool of qualified personnel.

"The renewable energy market is a German success story," Sigmar Gabriel, the country's environment minister, said Wednesday in Berlin. "We expect up to 300,000 people working in this sector by 2020." That would be nearly double the present amount.

In 2005, renewables employed some 170,000 people, up 13,000 from the previous year. Gabriel said bringing down Germany's high unemployment (12.2 percent or over 5 million jobless) is the job of all ministries, not only the economy and work portfolios.

The extra jobs will also be closely linked to rising exports of renewable energy technologies, said Frithjof Staiss, of the Stuttgart-based Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research. Solar, hydrogen and bio-mass energy are an ever-growing market, he said. As fossil fuel reserves are gradually diminishing, experts expect the renewable energy sector to gain in importance -- and Germany should have an edge when it comes to selling its know-how and qualified workers to other nations, Staiss said.

"No country in the world spends more money on technological progress in this sector than Germany," he said, adding Germany was the world leader in exporting wind and solar energy technologies. Rising energy demand from all parts of the world, especially China and India, should be seen as chances to boost German exports, he said. And don't forget the current oil powers, who will one day lose their position when oil runs out. "These countries have enormous potential in other fields, such as solar energy," Gabriel said, referencing countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Growth in the renewable energy sector also benefits other German industries, Staiss said. "The wind sector strengthens engineering, plastics and metal industries, growth in the solar energy sector benefits glass manufacturers," he said. Relying on a study commissioned by the German environment ministry and several independent economic and environmental organizations, Gabriel said expected additional investments in renewable energy plants in Germany will amount to more than $90 billion.

The statements come just a few weeks ahead of a German energy summit initiated by new Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 3. The summit marks the start of a yearlong discussion over the future of Germany's energy mix.

It remains to be seen whether the summit will tackle the most controversial issue: An agreement put forth by the former Social Democrat/Green Part government has Berlin shut down all nuclear energy plants by 2020. Merkel and several conservative ministers, among them Economy Minister Michael Glos, are calling for an extension of the plants' running times.

Gabriel, a Social Democrat, said he was against hampering with the agreement and "happy that my fellow minister's remarks are made geographically further and further from Berlin," in a reference to a call issued by Glos in Asia to keep the safest atomic plants up and running.

Gabriel defended the study's numbers against criticism that growth in the renewable sector would bring unemployment to the traditional sector, especially in the nuclear power generation industry. Taking into account job loss there, the net growth would still amount to 30,000 to 40,000 jobs, he said. "We have created a real market for the future," he said.

Renewable energy sources account for 11 percent of the German net electricity generation; the ministry expects that figure to more than double. The industry allows for additional sources of employment also in structurally weak economic regions, such as in eastern Germany, Gabriel said. Separately, Germany with the help of renewable energy sources in 2005 spared the world's atmosphere from more than 83 million tons of carbon dioxides, according to the environment ministry.

However, several renewable energy sources are not yet economical: They are funded with taxpayer money by a renewable energy law introduced in 2001. And electricity from renewables costs Germans $1.81 more per month than from fossil energy sources.


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Apartmento said...

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Anonymous said...

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