Power Switch: First in a continuing series about the German energy transition. BERLIN—Twenty years ago, before climate change was as widely seen as the existential threat it is today, Germany embarked on an ambitious program to transform the way it produced electric power. Over the next two decades, it became a model for countries around the world, showing how renewable energy could replace fossil fuels in a way that drew wide public buy-in by passing on the benefits—and much of the control—to local communities. The steps Germany took on this journey, and the missteps it made along the way, provide critical lessons for other countries seeking to fight climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks past wind turbines while visiting a wind farm in 2010 in Krempin, Germany. Merkel’s government presided over a major expansion of renewable energy, while also changing financial incentives in a way that made it more difficult for small, local projects to be viable. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images Last summer, I went to Germany to figure out where the energy transition, or "Energiewende," stands today, with climate change blaring like a siren across a nation already alarmed. Record-breaking heat in successive summers had left the […]

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