Economics of Green Germany

Course Description and Goals

This course provides a comprehensive view of the Energiewende – Germany’s effort to reshape its energy system, industry, transport system and building stock into a nuclear-free, low-carbon economy. The course applies a range of analytical methods – including economic assessment tools, legal analyses and political science – to shed light on various facets of the process and to help understand the public, political and scientific debates around it, complemented by meetings with stakeholders and decision makers.

Germany has embarked on a radical transformation of its economy –  the Energiewende. Over the course of the next decades, Germany will completely transform its energy infrastructure, including much of its industry, transport system, and building stock. By 2020, it will phase out its fleet of nuclear reactors, and at the same time push forward the transformation to a low-carbon economy. Germany is not the first country to announce such objectives – but it is the first highly industrialized country to do so.

While public support for the Energiewende remains high, controversies have erupted around several aspects of the Energiewende: how to manage the process, how to distribute the costs, risks and rewards, how to share other burdens like the impact on the landscape and vulnerable natural areas and how to align Germany’s Energiewende with efforts in other European countries and internationally.

The course will address different facets of the Energiewende, as an issue that has been a central element of the public discourse in Germany in recent years, and has received much attention not only by policy makers, stakeholder groups and by the media, but also by academic scholars. The Energiewende touches upon fundamental choices for public policies: how to strike an adequate balance between harnessing market powers, mobilizing private investment, and government regulation; how to achieve an allocation of costs among different groups and sectors, now and in the future, that is both efficient and fair; and how to organize a societal and economic transformation process with an uncertain outcome. Pointers to these questions can be found in different academic disciplines – in applied environmental and energy economics, in the political and the legal sciences. To address these issues, the course will therefore discuss different facets of the Energiewende from different perspectives, allowing students to combine different analytical approaches into an interdisciplinary assessment of one of the most fascinating study cases in current German policy.