Over the last decade, journalists have held up Germany’s renewables energy transition, the Energiewende, as an environmental model for the world.
“Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset,” thanks to the Energiewende, wrote a New York Times reporter in 2014.
With Germany as inspiration, the United Nations and World Bank poured billions into renewables like wind, solar, and hydro in developing nations like Kenya.
But then, last year, Germany was forced to acknowledge that it had to delay its phase-out of coal, and would not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction commitments. It announced plans to bulldoze an ancient church and forest in order to get at the coal underneath it.