Article - European and International Energy Policy

International Energy Policy


Hand holding light bulb containing image of the Earth against the sky, representative of international energy policy


The aims of Germany's international energy policy

At present, energy imports account for approx. two thirds of Germany’s energy supply. One of the goals of the energy transition is to reduce this dependency on imports in the medium and long term. Combined with action to increase energy efficiency levels, renewables will make Germany less vulnerable to price fluctuations on the international markets for energy commodities. This will have a positive effect on energy security. But at the same time, it is also true that we will continue to rely on imports of oil, hard coal and gas for our energy supply for the foreseeable future. This is why one of the most important objectives of Germany’s external energy policy is to ensure that we will be able to depend on reliable and affordable energy imports in the long term.

The energy system must be incrementally adjusted to help us limit the global rise in temperatures to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius. For this to happen, we need the global economy to undergo a transformative shift, which means severing the link between economic growth and the consumption of resources. The world’s population is growing extremely fast, resulting in ever-greater pressure on finite natural resources. The energy transition is a transformative project that goes beyond technical and economic innovation. It is about profound transformation, not only with regard to the ways in which we generate energy, but also with regard to how we use it in our cities and our transport system, in industry and in our private homes.

These changes are not limited to Germany, but need to be addressed by every country and by decision-makers at national, European and international level. Germany is therefore seeking to forge new partnerships internationally and engage in dialogue. We are doing this under our foreign economic and energy policies.

The Paris targets call for a profound and global energy transition

The transformation of the energy system is the energy sector’s contribution to reaching the global climate targets that were agreed at the Paris conference. In their study entitled “Perspectives for the Energy Transition: Investment Needs for a Low Carbon Energy System”, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) presented the first-ever calculations of the amount of investments needed in the global energy sector to reach the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. The study, which was presented at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, a global conference, which was held on 20 March 2017, was conducted with the support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and sought to answer the questions of what investments will be needed and how it will be possible to avoid investments in energy technologies that are harmful to the climate. The study is available for download here.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has committed itself to the following three goals:

  1. Maintaining good relations with the countries exporting major energy resources and acting as transit countries for energy supplies to Germany and Europe: this is to ensure that German and European investors in energy projects can enjoy a favourable and stable economic climate and that we will be able to continue to rely on secure and reliable energy imports in the long term. The focus here is on projects designed to diversify our supplier base and transport routes. In the long term, Germany may also become able to draw on large sources of renewables abroad, i.e. PV from the North African desert or offshore wind from the Irish Sea.
  2. Cooperating with countries consuming or supplying large quantities of energy: We seek to work with major consumers of energy such as Brazil, China and India, and with large producers of energy such as Russia as we develop new technologies for clean energy, energy efficiency and renewables. Every bit of progress achieved in these countries when it comes to making energy systems more efficient and making greater use of renewables will help take the edge off the global competition for ever-scarcer energy resources and also mitigate climate change.
  3. Work in multilateral organisations, forums and initiatives: Rendering the global energy markets more transparent, more competitive, and more environmentally-friendly. This is to be achieved by way of active involvement in multilateral organisations, forums, and initiatives. Broadening and intensifying international dialogue on forward-looking energy policies around renewables, energy efficiency, markets and climate change. Germany is a member of many international institutions, including: the International Energy Agency, the International Energy Forum, the International Organisation for renewable energy, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Energy Charter Treaty, the Global Bioenergy Partnership, the Clean Energy Ministerial, the REN 21 network, Sustainable Energy For All, the G7/G8 and the G20.

In the pursuit of these goals, Germany is building new bilateral energy partnerships and intensifying its existing partnerships.

Apart from its work to support energy partnerships, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also uses its many instruments for promoting foreign trade and investment, including the Energy Export Initiative (in German) as part of its energy policy. The objective here is to open up attractive markets for German exports of modern energy technologies.

Further information

Climate, energy and hydrogen partnerships and energy dialogues

Interest in the German energy transition and in an intensive political, business, scientific, economic and civil society dialogue continues unabated. After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2022 stakeholders were finally able to meet in person again. Major international events have provided opportunities for exchange – for example, bilateral talks or delegation trips. Workshops or study visits stimulated the discourse and dialogue on a practical implementation level.

Different kinds of cooperation for a wide range of focal points

Climate and energy partnerships
Within the framework of an climate and energy partnership, Germany works with a partner country on a range of energy, climate and economic topics. Key areas include the expansion of renewable energy and its integration into the system, increasing energy efficiency, the integration of joint climate instruments such as carbon pricing, and navigating the ecological and social dimensions of this transition. The focus of cooperation is also increasingly on energy security. Partnerships are based on a signed declaration of intent.

Energy dialogues

An energy dialogue is the preliminary stage of a climate and energy partnership. It fundamentally pursues the same objectives as climate and energy partnerships, but is not based on a formal declaration of intent and features no formal structures. 

Hydrogen partnerships
Germany collaborates with a growing number of countries to accelerate the expansion of green hydrogen. While many hydrogen partnerships are being implemented within the framework of existing climate and energy partnerships, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action enters into specific hydrogen partnerships with strategic exporting and importing countries. Like the energy and climate partnerships, this joint work is based on a signed declaration of intent.

New partnerships and a growing network

The goal and guiding principle of all cooperation formats is to support global climate action in order to achieve the 1.5 degree target and realise the global energy transition.

A number of new collaborations were concluded in 2022: energy partnerships with Israel and Qatar and an energy dialogue with Vietnam. Hydrogen partnerships were developed with Egypt, Namibia, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. In addition, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action established its first energy and climate partnership with the USA and added a climate partnership to the energy partnership with the United Arab Emirates.

Bilateral cooperation will also be a focus in 2023: A new energy dialogue was agreed with Argentina earlier this year, in which both countries will exchange political and practical aspects of their respective energy transformations. At this year's Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD), Federal Minister Robert Habeck signed the new climate and energy partnership with Uruguay, which aims to strengthen cooperation and exchange in the areas of energy efficiency, grid expansion and recycling. The two countries also want to work together more closely on the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy and the training of experts in the field of renewable energies.

An increasingly forward-looking agenda

A successful energy transition combines security of supply and competitiveness with effective climate change mitigation. Carbon-free alternatives are thus becoming increasingly important, also with regard to gaseous and liquid forms of energy. The partnerships underline the importance of green hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels. Some international green hydrogen pilot projects have already been implemented, for example together with Chile or Saudi Arabia. Building sustainable supply chains for security of supply is one of the main goals of the more than 30 climate, energy and hydrogen partnerships and dialogues.

The increasing decentralisation worldwide which is resulting from the expansion of renewables, innovative storage solutions, electric mobility and further flexibility options, including demand-side solutions, is making energy supply systems more complex, necessitating greater flexibility. As a result, the focus of bilateral energy cooperation is increasingly being placed on the digitisation of the energy sector.

Regular working group meetings address topics such as grid and system rules, electricity market design, hydrogen strategies, coal phase-out, energy audits and building efficiency, grid expansion, cybersecurity and blockchain, as well as fundamental questions about socially acceptable structural change and local economic and employment developments.

Partnerships as a means for bilateral solutions

Climate, energy and hydrogen partnerships and energy dialogues play a prominent role in developing sustainable, country-specific approaches to the challenges posed by the energy transition, always in close cooperation with the partner countries and with local experts. Not only are they instrumental in promoting the worldwide expansion of renewables and the dissemination of efficient energy technologies, but also in ensuring a permanent international dialogue on political and economic issues related to the energy transition and in supporting energy companies in Germany and abroad. They also provide impetus for energy industry innovations and for economic cooperation on the path to a global energy transition.

Promoting women in the energy transition

The promotion of women has turned out to be an important issue for the successful implementation of the energy transition. This is because female energy experts continue to be underrepresented in the energy sector, especially in technical professions and in leadership positions. If the energy transition is to be inclusive and equitable, women must therefore become more involved. The energy partnerships contribute to this: they increase the visibility of committed female energy experts, offer them the opportunity to network internationally and strengthen their expertise and perception through mentoring programmes and events.

Change lets us grow together

Especially in these ongoing times of crisis, we are dependent on reliable partners at our side who pursue the same goal of global climate action. The climate, energy and hydrogen partnerships and energy dialogues are the best proof of the potential that lies in trusting cooperation and knowledge transfer.

Country-specific information can be found on the websites of the energy partnerships.

Brazil: www,
South Africa:
South Korea:
United Arab Emirates:

Further information

Work in multilateral organisations, forums and initiatives

Clean Energy Ministerial - CEM

The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) is a multilateral forum that was set up to promote sustainable energy generation around the world. It was established at the initiative of the USA. Prior to the COP 15 climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the major economies – all substantial emitters of greenhouse gases – drew up ten technology action plans for a number of low-carbon technologies, which were to serve as a constructive contribution to the negotiations. Within the CEM, these technology action plans have been translated into initiatives focusing on specific issues and technologies. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy heads the Multilateral Solar and Wind Working Group along with Denmark and Spain. As part of this working group, a ‘global atlas’ depicting the places where there is potential for exploiting renewable energy was launched. The atlas project, to which Germany has made a big contribution (work undertaken by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and, from 2014, by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy), is now being continued by IRENA. The multilateral working group has also developed studies on increasing the potential for value creation from renewable energy and on the design of auctions for the promotion of renewables. It is additionally involved in initiatives to raise the energy efficiency of electric appliances, as well as initiatives on electric mobility and smart grids.

Other initiatives within the CEM are dedicated to implementing the plans for bioenergy, hydropower, sustainable cities, improved access to energy in developing countries and gender mainstreaming in the energy sector. Every year, the progress made within these initiatives is presented to ministers at the annual conference. The sixth such meeting was held in Mérida, Mexico, in May 2015. The seventh meeting was held in California, USA, in June 2016. The first of these ministerial conferences was held in Washington, D.C., in 2010.

Energy Charter Treaty

The European Energy Charter was signed in 1991. It marked the launch of the Energy Charter Process, in which the countries of eastern and western Europe express their will to increase the level of cooperation in the energy sector.

The Energy Charter of 1991 is to be distinguished from the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) of 1994, the latter setting out rights and obligations under international law concerning access and protection of investments, transit, and trade in the area of energy. It entered into force together with a Protocol on Energy Efficiency and Related Environmental Aspects (PEEREA) in 1998. The ECT has been signed by 51 countries, including all the EU Member States, the republics of the former Soviet Union, Japan, the European Community (now part of the European Union) and Euratom, with a view to developing the potential for energy in the contracting parties and safeguarding the energy security of the EU. The Treaty sets out binding rules on investment in production and generation, trade in energy, energy transit and the protection of foreign investment. It also provides for dispute-settlement mechanisms for the resolution of state-state and investor-state disputes. The Protocol on energy efficiency promotes energy efficiency policies and cooperation on energy efficiency.

The ECT remains today the only multilateral agreement containing legally binding rules on energy cooperation at multilateral level. Where there are violations of obligations under the Treaty, sanctions can be imposed on the member states. The ECT also established the Energy Charter Conference and the Energy Charter Secretariat. These institutions provide a forum for discussion on issues of energy policy and on developing the ECT. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy takes part in this process within the above institutions.

On 20-21 May 2015, Germany and 62 other countries joined together with the EU, EURATOM, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to sign a political declaration called the International Energy Charter. The Charter was developed as a means of enabling other countries to move closer to accession to the Energy Charter Treaty. In signing the International Energy Charter, countries not party to the ECT are, for example, granted observer status. In June 2016, the countries party to the ECT decided to extend the tenure of the current Secretary-General, Mr Urban Rusnák to include the period of 2017-2021.


Since 2014, the G7 energy ministers have been holding regular meetings again. In 2014, the Rome G7 Energy Initiative for Energy Security (PDF: 175 KB) was adopted. In 2015, under the German presidency, former Minister Sigmar Gabriel initiated talks on securing a sustainable energy supply. He also launched discussions on how competitiveness and climate protection can be combined when it comes to reorganising energy supply. During the two-day summit, the energy ministers adopted the G7 Hamburg Initiative for Sustainable Energy Security, which was set out in a joint communiqué by the G7 energy ministers (PDF: 162 KB).

At the beginning of May 2016, the energy ministers met again, under the Japanese G7 presidency in Kitakyushu. Once again, the issue of energy security was at the top of the agenda, with a strong focus placed on economic growth. At this meeting, the G7 energy ministers adopted the "Kitakyushu Initiative on Energy Security for Global Growth" (PDF: 144 KB).

For further information on the G7, please click here.


Coordination on energy policy within the G20 is organised by the Energy Sustainability Working Group (ESWG), which was established in 2013.

Since the Australian presidency in 2014, the issue of energy efficiency has been a top priority, having been laid out in an action plan on energy efficiency adopted by the G20, which is coordinated by the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC). Under the Turkish presidency in 2015, topics on the ESWG agenda included access to energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, market transparency, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the reduction of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels. The discussion on the expansion of renewable energy and on improving energy efficiency has gained further traction during the Chinese presidency. The meeting of the G20 energy ministers in Beijing at the end of June 2016 focused on how to achieve a sustainable energy supply. The G20 energy ministers have adopted various action plans which are to be implemented in the coming years. They include: a voluntary action plan on renewable energy (PDF: 612 KB), a G20 Energy Efficiency Global Leading Programme (PDF: 787 KB) and an action plan on access to energy in Asia and the Pacific region (PDF: 612 KB). The final declaration can be found here (PDF: 393 KB). The final declaration can be found here.

Germany held the G20 Presidency from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017. The ambitious work of the Working Group on Energy and Sustainability was continued under the German presidency.

Further information about the G20 is available here and on the website of the Chinese G20 presidency.

SE4ALL – The Sustainable Energy for All initiative

“Sustainable energy for all” is the aim of an initiative launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2011. Apart from ensuring universal access to modern energy services, the initiative wants to double the speed of annual energy efficiency improvements and the share of renewables in the global energy mix. These targets are to be attained by 2030

Today, 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity. Unless additional efforts are made, this figure is forecast to remain virtually unchanged until 2030. The same is true of almost 3 billion people who rely on traditional biomass for their energy supply.

A high-ranking group of 46 advisors from business, government and civil society has drawn up an agenda for action in order to implement the three individual targets. As the relevant steps are then taken, it will be necessary to combine the efforts made by both the public and private sectors and civil society in order to increase the overall impact. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio (Rio+20), 50 countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the group of the Small Island Developing States, plus a large number of companies, local governments and various groups from civil society, presented their own commitments towards implementing the Action Agenda. The initiative thus succeeded in harnessing the political momentum from the Rio+20 negotiations to mobilise support..

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

With 164 member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the world’s leading organisation for global nuclear cooperation. It is headquartered in Vienna. The IAEA has set itself the goal of promoting reliable, safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy and nuclear technology. The main decision-making bodies are the General Conference, which once a year brings together representatives of all member states, and the Board of Governors, which consists of representatives from 35 countries and is the IAEA’s steering committee. Since December 2009, Japan’s Yukiya Amano has been Director General of the IAEA. The IAEA Secretariat employs more than 2300 staff. The Federal Republic of Germany acceded to the IAEA in 1957. Germany has been represented on the Board of Governors without interruption since 1972. Germany provides 6.9% of the funding for the IAEA, making the country the third-largest contributor after the U.S. and Japan

The IAEA is an important pillar in the global efforts to prevent military use of nuclear energy. It is responsible not least for monitoring the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In particular, it carries out inspections to prevent the unlawful misuse of nuclear material for military purposes.

In order to achieve its goals, the IAEA promotes measures to improve security and safety around nuclear installations and fissile materials. In the context of Technical Cooperation, the fields of basic and materials research, nuclear medicine, industrial applications, agriculture, food hygiene and water supply in developing countries are becoming increasingly important.

The International Energy Agency (IEA)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is one of the world’s most important energy organisations. As an autonomous institution within the OECD, it acts as a voice for the industrialised nations, which all consume high levels of energy, and currently consists of 29 OECD member countries. Given the strong growth in energy demand outside the OECD countries, the IEA has set out to deepen its relationships with major emerging countries that are not OECD members. In November 2015, the IEA granted China, Indonesia and Thailand Association status, with more countries set to follow.

The IEA was founded in response to the first oil crisis in 1974. Its initial mission was to ensure an undisrupted supply of oil. To achieve this goal, its member countries have agreed to hold at least 90 days of emergency oil stocks.

In addition, the IEA is a central platform for sharing experiences and advising policymakers on virtually all aspects of energy policy, such as questions of energy security, energy efficiency and of cooperation on technology. In terms of expanding renewable sources of energy, the International Energy Agency focuses particularly on how these can be integrated into the energy system as a whole.

Much-noted flagship publications of the IEA include regular in-depth country reviews that also set out energy policy recommendations (Germany was last reviewed in 2013) as well as the annual World Energy Outlook (WEO), a comprehensive international reference on energy policy with forecasts currently extending up to 2040.

International Renewable Energy Agency - IRENA

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) .is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to the worldwide promotion of the growth and sustainable use of renewable energy. It was founded in Bonn in 2009 and currently has 149 members, with an another 27 states presently in the accession process

IRENA is headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The IRENA Innovation and Technology Centre, one of its three core divisions, is based in Bonn. IRENA currently works with over 100 international experts.

IRENA serves as the global voice in international discussions on renewables. It is also a platform for countries to share knowledge on what approaches have been successful when it comes to developing renewable energy, an efficient policy environment for promoting renewables, capacity building, financing mechanisms, and energy-efficiency programmes related to renewable energy. In its capacity as an advisory body, IRENA provides access to information on renewables, ranging from technical expertise to economic data and scenarios highlighting the potential for developing renewables. It serves as an adviser on renewables to industrialised countries, developing nations, and emerging economies. As it conducts its work, IRENA cooperates closely with governments, national and international institutes, NGOs, and the private sector..

International Energy Forum (IEF)

The International Energy Forum (IEF) is the product of the dialogue that has already been taking place between oil-producing and oil-consuming countries. Its main aim is to promote global energy security - particularly through trust-building high-level energy dialogue and the fostering of greater market transparency. Energy security is of crucial importance for a country like Germany in particular, which is greatly dependent on imports of oil and gas. At the heart of the efforts to increase transparency in the oil sector is the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) database. This has been coordinated by the IEF Secretariat since January 2005 - originally as the Joint Oil Data Initiative - and has now been expanded to include the JODI Gas Database, which has been publicly accessible since May 2014. The work is supported by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat), the IEA, the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the UN Statistics Division (UNSD).

Every two years, the IEF holds what has become the world’s largest meeting of energy ministers of producer and consumer countries. The 15th IEF meeting was held in Algeria in 2016. Germany is a permanent member of the IEF Executive Committee. Like other major energy-consuming countries, Germany also provides financial support to the Secretariat.


The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) is a global policy network that was founded following the ‘Renewables 2004’ conference. The Network, in which Germany has played a huge part – both in its inception and development, plays a key role in supporting countries hosting International Renewable Energy Conferences (IRECs) as they design and organise the event. REN21 is made up of representatives of governments, international organisations, civil society and the private sector – from the fields of energy, the environment and development.

Every year, REN21 publishes the Renewables Global Status Report (GSR), which tracks the annual global growth of renewables. The Report has become the standard point of reference for information on the development of investment in renewable energy. The report sets out the current state of installed renewable capacity around the world, as well as its global distribution. It also provides information on growth targets, policy instruments and information on global investment in renewable energy. Additionally, there is an interactive map displaying information relating to individual countries.

The Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP)

The Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) was initiated by the G8 and founded in 2006. The GBEP Secretariat is attached to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in Rome. A total of 23 countries and 14 international organisations are currently partners (members) of GBEP, including many industrialised countries. A further 22 countries and 11 international organisations have observer status (including many from Asia and Africa).

One of Germany’s key aims is to strengthen and advance the initiative through active involvement in the Partnership. A key milestone here has been the development of the GBEP Sustainability Indicators for Bioenergy which enable the use of biomass to be characterised based on various sustainability criteria.