This article explores some of the initiatives being undertaken by Germany to decrease its reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy and the complications that are arising from these efforts.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, economics, world issues

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What renewable energy initiatives are the Germans pursuing?
  • What are the results?
  • What are the challenges?
  • How supportive are the German people of these initiatives?
  • What implications do these developments have for countries such as Canada?

New Terminology:

Stromautobaun, energiewende

Materials Needed:

Access to the Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The Alberta tar sands and various pipeline proposals continue to monopolize public discussion of energy/environmental issues in Canada. Even with the recent drop in oil prices and the resultant impact on both the Canadian economy and people’s pocketbooks this focus has been maintained to the exclusion of the issue of the development of renewable energy resources. Canada, however, needs to pursue these developments before it falls behind other nations in terms of this emerging technology and fails to capitalize on the benefits, both environmental and economic, that it offers. Countries such as Germany and Denmark are making great efforts in this area and are achieving interesting results, and now China, which is rapidly developing renewable energy resources, is emerging as a leader in this field. (

This lesson will help to focus the attention of the students on renewable energy and its benefits and have them consider what future direction they believe Canada should take.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students why there continues to be so much controversy surrounding oil prices, the tar sands and pipelines.
  • Once they have provided their responses, narrow the focus to the issue of reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Having established this focus, have the students suggest ways in which Canada could address the issue of fossil fuel reliance.
  • Ask them if they are aware of developments in other countries and, of all the European Union countries, which ones do they think lead in the development of renewable energy resources. (Germany and Denmark should be high on this list.)
  • With this as background, divide the class into groups of five or sixstudents, give them a copy of the article and tell them that the article examines developments in Germany and some of the problems that country is facing.
  • Allow them time to read the article and then assign them the following tasks:
    1. Should Canada focus on energy demand reduction or the development of renewable energy supply? Give reasons and supporting evidence for your choice.
    2. How could Canada go about making progress on the choice that you have made in question 1?
    3. What must our priorities be as a nation?
    4. How willing do you believe Canadians are to accept some of the implications of these renewable energy initiatives?
  • Allow the groups the remainder of class time to research and prepare their responses.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Begin the second period of the lesson by having the groups present their reports. Following the reports allow time for the other members of the class to ask questions or offer comments.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Explain some of the efforts being made to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Identify some of the challenges facing these efforts.
  • Offer suggestions as to the direction Canada should take in renewable energy development.

Confirming Activity:

  • Once all of the groups have reported, hold a plenary session to see if there is any consensus on what Canada should do to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and the degree of acceptance they believe Canadians have for these developments.