The Rise of Third Parties and the Fall of Incumbents Driven by Large-Scale Integration of Renewable Energies: The Case of Germany

Bremen Energy Working Papers No. 24, April 2016

(published in The Energy Journal, Vol. 37, No. 2)

Gert Brunekreeft, Marius Buchmann, and Roland Meyer


The energy transition is dramatically changing the electricity supply industry in Germany implying two big trends. First, significant market entry by third parties (i.e., non-incumbents). Based on empirical evidence, we argue that the emergence of third parties is the immediate result of the large-scale integration of renewable energy sources. The electricity supply industry is changing quickly from a top-down, single-firm game to a decentralized multiple-player system, with far-reaching consequences for the governance and regulatory structure. Second, the incumbent players are facing disruptive challenges: under pressure of the energy transition, conventional centralized generation is losing profit margins very quickly. We analyze the disruptive challenges and sketch how the incumbents respond by splitting their activities into an old business, which is likely to be phased-out, and a new, future-oriented business: renewable energies, the distribution business, and customer-oriented solutions.