College Park, MD, July 28, 2022—Released today by the Center for Global Sustainability (CGS) at the University of Maryland, a new analysis affirms Germany’s ability to sustainably phase out Russian gas before 2025, complete a total coal power phaseout by 2030, and remain on track to net-zero.
Though a challenge, Germany can do this by reducing gas demand, increasing supply from other regions, and rapidly investing in renewable energy. Despite a short-term spike in coal generation, the strategies outlined in this paper reduce overall emissions and, in some cases, accelerate reductions. Specifically, the analysis finds that Germany can achieve 43% emissions reductions—or 177 MtCO2—from 2021 to 2027 within the power sector.
“By taking these critical next steps, Germany can remove its dependence on Russian gas within just a few short years,” says Ryna Cui, lead author of the report and assistant research professor at the Center for Global Sustainability. “Not only will these actions prove that countries can achieve energy independence from Russia, but they can also reduce energy costs for German households. In fact, as gas prices continue to climb globally, reductions in gas consumption through 2027 can save nearly €30 billion.”
The key to Germany’s phase-out of Russian gas requires rapid and parallel policy and investment approaches. The top five strategies with the largest emissions impact include:
- Invest heavily in renewable electricity generation, adding 97 GW of solar and 46 GW of onshore wind through 2027, following the plan announced in the Easter Package by the German government;
- Electrify 50% of the gas-based low-temperature heat industrial processes by 2027, including food and beverages, paper and pulp, machinery, and other sectors;
- Double the deployment of heat pumps in residential and commercial buildings for space heating and hot water;
- Retrofit 5% of existing building stock every year to achieve an average of 30% reduction in total energy consumption for the retrofitted buildings;
- Switch 20% of gas consumption in high-temperature heat industrial processes to low-carbon fuels (biomass and hydrogen) by 2027, including chemical and petrochemical, non-metallic minerals, and iron and steel sectors.
“Germany is a global leader on climate action but is currently one of the largest importers of Russian gas within Europe, with about 65% of Germany’s gas imports from Russia in 2020. This presents a major challenge yet also a pressing opportunity to secure the transition to clean energy and a climate-friendly trajectory for Germany, the EU, and the world,” says Nathan Hultman, director of the Center for Global Sustainability and a co-author on the report.
“I am encouraged by this report’s results, which offer a path forward for Russian oil and gas-dependent countries to transition away from risky imports without losing sight of their climate goals,” says Dr. Jonathan Pershing, director of the Environment program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. “This is especially important for countries like Germany that are often looked to for financial and technical commitments from the rest of the world. If Germany can move away from fossil fuels, they’ll not only make their country safer, healthier, and more prosperous, but they’ll show what’s possible for other nations."
The future of energy security remains uncertain as gas and oil prices continue to fluctuate and supply chain bottlenecks threaten our ability to manufacture and deploy energy-efficient technology. This further emphasizes the need for regional distribution of renewable technologies even beyond the European Union and into the Middle East and North Africa.
“Europe’s reliance on Russian gas threatens many major economies, both from an energy security perspective but equally important for their mitigation pathways. The strategies presented in today’s analysis outline how Europe can devise and rapidly implement an oil and gas phaseout in a way that meets the international security demands of the moment without weakening climate ambition,” says Jeff Rathke, President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Funding for this project was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Download the paper.