Image credit: Ingy The Wingy, used under Creative Commons license.
During our live chat with Solarcentury's Jeremy Leggett yesterday, we started out by discussing the high profile solar railway bridge his company is helping install in central London as we speak. This was, Jeremy argued, an example of how sustainable transportation and clean energy can work together for dramatic results. To illustrate his point, he mentioned a story that has somehow slipped under the TreeHugger editorial radar so far. Deutsche Bahn—Germany's railway operator—has set a target of raising its renewable energy consumption from 20% right now, through 28% as soon as 2014, to a full 100% by 2050.
This is pretty ambitious stuff. With 20% of its energy coming from renewables, Germany is already a world leader in this sector and recently passed even more aggressive laws to support the renewable energy industries.
But while its own Federal Environment Agency has argued that the country could go 100% renewable by 2050, the official national target remains at 80%. That makes news, reported in the New York Times a little while back, that Deutsche Bahn (DB) wants to be 100% renewable by 2050 a hugely important step in the march toward advancing the clean energy revolution that is underway. Interestingly, Hans-Jürgen Witschke, chief executive of Deutsche Bahn Energie, which supplies electricity for DB trains, told the NYT that it was market demand that was driving this decision:
"Environmental protection has become an important issue in the marketplace and especially in the transport sector," he said. "Even though more renewables will cost a bit more, that can be contained with an intelligent energy mix and reasonable time frame. We're confident that cutting CO2 emissions will give us a competitive advantage."
Of course given the very real possibility that fossil fuels may have to start paying for the ruinous externalities currently shouldered by the world in general, and that peak oil may push oil prices through the roof, it remains to be seen whether Herr Witschke's suggestion that clean energy will cost more will actually pan out in the long run.
But one thing is certain. When a company that uses 2% of Germany's electricity sets ambitious, long term goals for purchasing renewables, it sends an important message to governments, consumers and markets alike that clean energy is becoming an increasingly serious player.
More on Germany and Renewable Energy
Germany's Environment Agency Says 100% Renewables Target is Feasible
Germany Produces 20% of its Energy from Renewables
Germany Passes Even More Agressive Law for Renewables