November 14, 2012

Germany plans to be 100 per cent Renewable by 2050

Fully twenty five percent of Germany’s energy pie is now renewable energy – compared to six percent in the United States.

And Germany is pushing to transform from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

The USA is stalled, dead in the water.

If the Germans can do it, why can’t the USA?

That’s going to be the topic of conversation at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. tomorrow morning when The Heinrich Boll Foundation and InsideClimate News hosts a press briefing titled Clean Break: The Story of Germany’s Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It.

Panelists include Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Christopher Flavin, president emeritus of the WorldWatch Institute, Anya Schoolman of the Community Power Network, and journalist Osha Gray Davidson, author of the just published book – Clean Break.

Davidson spent three months this summer in Germany traveling to the sites of key projects and meeting with the people who are helping to push the country toward 100 percent renewable energy.

Davidson lives in Phoenix, Arizona and when it comes to renewable energy, hometown does not compare well.

“In America’s sunniest and driest big city, swimming pools still outnumber solar panels by one thousand to one,” Davidson writes. “In fact, Germany – which receives only half as much sunlight as Arizona – has four times as much solar power installed per capita as the Grand Canyon state. Compared nation-to-nation, Germany’s advantage is even more lopsided – this darker, cloudier central European county has 23 times more solar power per capita than the United States.”

Why the difference between USA and Germany?

“The primary reason for the renewable energy gulf between the United States and Germany can be summed up in one word – policy,” Davidson writes. “In 2000, Germany’s renewable Energies Act went into effect, and power generated from the sun, wind and biomass soared. In 2012, U.S. politicians are still wrangling about whether global warming is a hoax.”

Decentralization was key to Germany’s Energiewende – energy change.

“It rewarded people who installed solar panels on their roofs, or invested in cooperatives that bought wind turbines, by paying them for the energy they produced,” Davidson writes.

The Germany energy act gave every German the right to generate power and sell it to the grid.

How can the government afford to pay all that money?

Ratepayers pay – through a monthly surcharge on their utility bills, Davidson says.

The average German household pays around $108 a month for electricity, with a renewable energy surcharge accounting for $11.50 of that amount. The average U.S. household pays $110 per month for electricity.

“The absurdity of the U.S. impasse over energy reform was highlighted when the primary author of the Germany law, Hans-Josef Fell, told me what I had heard from other German leaders – that he was inspired to write the act by what today seems like an unlikely source,” Davidson writes.

“Your President Jimmy Carter was the first politician to promote an industrial revolution with renewables,” Fell told Davidson when they met in Fell’s Berlin office in April. “I looked to the USA in the 1970s. There was wind power in California and solar power on the White House. I thought – ‘Oh, this is wonderful! Why can’t we have this in Germany?”

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