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  • Wind turbines are pictured in RWE Offshore-Windpark Nordsee Ost in the North sea, 30 km from Helgoland, Germany.

    Wind turbines are pictured in RWE Offshore-Windpark Nordsee Ost in the North sea, 30 km from Helgoland, Germany. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 January 2019

Europe’s largest economy marks a historic transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, as “green” energy becomes a dominant source.

Renewable energy in Germany surpassed coal in 2018, becoming Germany’s biggest source of electricity for the first time.

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The shift is in part due to a surge in solar panel installations and coal-plant closures, research showed Thursday.

The predominance of renewable energy in 2018 brings Germany's goal for renewable sources to provide 65 percent of its energy by 2030 closer. It is part of an organized, long-term plan to transition from nuclear power by 2022 and to wean the country off coal.

Research from the Fraunhofer organization of applied science showed that the output of solar, wind, and hydroelectric generation units rose 4.3 percent last year. Coal burning accounted for 38 percent of the nation’s total power production.

Bruno Burger, the author of the Fraunhofer study, said the share of Germany’s power production from renewable sources was set to stay above 40 percent in 2019.

“We will not fall below the 40 percent in 2019 because more renewable installations are being built and weather patterns will not change that dramatically,” he said.

However, skeptics of renewable energy say that output merely reflects weather patterns and does not prove the sector’s contribution to secure and stable energy supplies.

Solar power increased 16 percent due to a prolonged hot summer, while installed capacity expanded by 3.2 gigawatts (GW) to 45.5 GW last year, according to the Fraunhofer data.

The wind power industry produced 20.4 percent of the total German power output.

Wind power was the biggest source of energy after domestically mined brown coal power, which accounted for 24.1 percent of production.

Coal plants run on imported hard coal contributed to 13.9 percent of the total.

Hydropower only accounted for 3.2 percent of power production as extreme summer heat dried out rivers and was accompanied by low rainfall.

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