Making Germany’s energy transition socially sustainable


The chief instrument for expanding and increasing renewable electricity generation in Germany is the Renewable Energy Act (EEG). The EEG guarantees the purchase of renewable power at fixed rates of remuneration that exceed the average electricity price. With the EEG levy, the rising overall costs of these remuneration payments will be carried by all electricity users. As of 2015, however, the EEG levy already accounts for 20 percent of the electricity price for private end users. This, in turn, has led to an unequal social burden: Since rising prices work regressively, they have a stronger effect on households with low income as opposed to higher earning households. Furthermore, certain advantages such as acquiring energy efficient appliances or making use of subsidies or tax breaks with building renovations cannot be utilised by low-income earners.

In the public opinion, these factors have led to an increasingly critical approach to the current framework for the renewable energy transition. Where previously the main issues were those of technology, economy and energy law, issues regarding the social sustainability of the conversion to renewable energy are coming into focus. As such, the public emphasis on rising energy prices has led to a dwindling recognition of the benefits promised by the energy transition. The goal of a socially sustainable conversion to renewable energy should therefore be to make the benefits of energy policies available to those households that until now have been most adversely affected by rising costs.

As part of the UFOPLAN research project entitled "Socially sustainable design of climate mitigation and energy transition in low-income households", adelphi, together with three project partners, was studying the interplay between climate mitigation and social justice and analysed the distribution effects of climate and energy policy.

To this end, the project started with a comprehensive analysis of the current social, judicial and political framework. Subsequently, adelphi developed a set of criteria for a detailed assessment of the existing measures and current regulations in place. In addition, adelphi identifyed the contributing and inhibiting factors of a socially sustainable energy transition. Finally, practical recommendations for improving the conditions and measures mentioned above were developed. These should be designed in such a way so as to minimise the existing conflicts of objectives and of distribution between the various regulations (particularly between energy and social law).

This research project was accompanied by an advisory committee of experts from relevant fields. Additional specialists were consulted during the project through workshops, as well as through a technical discussion at the project’s completion. 

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