Creating Jobs via Renewable Energy Adoption

Creating Jobs via Renewable Energy Adoption | 07/02/15
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Adding new jobs to the economy is always a good thing

In good times or bad, adding more jobs to the economy always equates to higher GDP, lower debt-to-GDP levels, lower unemployment insurance expenditures and higher revenues for governments from income tax and sales tax.

There are no examples where adding net jobs to an economy has resulted in a net loss to the economy

It’s positive for individuals too. Higher employment levels generally lead to higher incomes, small and large businesses notice increased revenue and there is always the chance that companies may begin to expand their facilities and hire more staff to handle increased sales.

Which is why the case to add more renewable energy is so compelling

IRENA Renewable Energy jobs infographic - Global
Global jobs created by the Renewable Energy industry. Image courtesy of IRENA.

Over decades of time, mature industries have figured out ways to increase output with fewer employees.

In the Top 10 on the mature industry list, must certainly be hydro-electric power plants, followed by nuclear power plants and gas-fired power plants. There we have astronomical installation costs and employment numbers — but once construction of the power plant is completed only very low staffing levels remain to operate the power plant.

Which is very unlike the case with renewable energy. Why? Because once a multi-billion dollar hydro-electric dam is built, it’s built. You don’t need to build thousands of them per day.

It’s the same with multi-billion dollar nuclear power plants — all you need after the construction phase ends are a small number of highly trained people to monitor the various systems. And some security people. That’s it.

With solar panels, a factory must produce 1000 per day (or more, in the case of larger factories) every weekday. Suitable markets must be found, factories must be built/leased, production floors must be built, materials sourced, and the panels themselves must be designed and engineered, assembled, packed, shipped and accounted for. Accountants do what they must do, marketing people manage a steady train of media events, trade shows and advertising programs, and on and on it goes — and all of it is a part of the solar industry. That activity creates work for thousands of people, every workday of the year. (And that short description doesn’t begin to cover it)

Then there are the solar panel installers, the sales teams/estimators, and the companies that build the inverter systems, which is a whole other value chain.

The wind power industry can also make high employment/lower power plant cost claims — although wind turbines average about $1 million dollars each — as opposed to solar panels which mostly range from $10 each to $400 each, depending on their size and composition.

Renewable energy is hugely labour-intensive and many thousands of permanent jobs are created — quite the opposite of conventional power generation

It is worth commenting that 2014 renewable energy employment numbers (once they become available) will show a significant improvement over 2013 numbers.

The entire industry is surging forward unequally, but renewable energy growth in some nations is trending upwards like the Millennium Falcon trends upwards.

Below is a breakdown graphic showing the labour intensity of the various types of renewable energy.

Globally, 6.5 million jobs were created in 2013 from renewable energy.
Globally, 6.5 million jobs were created in 2013 from renewable energy. Image courtesy of IRENA.

We can also look at a breakdown graphic of jobs per MW of electricity produced where we see that coal, nuclear, and oil & gas require very few humans per MW.

Potential jobs by MegaWatt (MW) by energy type. Image courtesy of IRENA.
Potential jobs by MegaWatt (MW) by energy type. Image courtesy of IRENA.

There’s no doubt that global energy demand is growing, not only in the developed world, but in the developing world as well.

Each kind of energy (non-renewable and renewable energy) has it’s own pros and cons.

One of them, is that non-renewable energy requires far fewer humans over the lifetime of the power plant.

Renewable energy on the other hand, is a rapidly-growing manufacturing, installation, and marketing industry that requires evermore blue collar and white collar employees.

And now that solar power, wind power, and biomass power have reached — or are within months of matching (per kWh) price parity with non-renewable power plants — the question becomes;

Do we want to employ 1.3 persons full-time per MW, or do we want to employ up to 24 people full-time per MW?

For comparison purposes, the typical coal, gas, or nuclear power plant can supply 1000 MW (or 1 GigaWatt) of electrical generation capacity, while the average wind turbine can supply 1 MW each.

The average 1 MW wind turbine costs about $1 million apiece, so to get 1 GW of electrical generation capacity, you need to install 1000 of them (1000 x $1 million each = $1 billion total) and the installation and connection to the grid of that many turbines might take up to 24 months.

Each 1 GW installation of coal, gas, or nuclear power, costs well over $1 billion and can take up to 15 years to construction completion.

For example, the 2.4 GW nuclear power plant under construction in Vogtle, Georgia was originally planned to cost $14 billion, but due to construction and regulatory delays (and now lawsuits between the principals involved) it may cost significantly more than that and the completion date has been extended by months, or even years.

At this point, the total cost may exceed $17 billion and it may take an extra year to complete — for a total of 2.4 GW of installed capacity over 11 years of construction and delays, at a total cost of $7.08 billion per GigaWatt. It won’t get any better than that, but it may get much worse.

The 10-year construction plan is already behind schedule by 14-months, and now faces an additional (up to) 18-month delay.

PennEnergy: Southern Co. might spend [another] $8B on nuclear plant
ABC News: Builder Projects 18-Month Delay for Nuclear Plant in Georgia

One point about Plant Vogtle (the official name of the plant) is that the two 1200 MW (1.2 GW) reactors are of the latest GE/Toshiba AP-1000 design, noted for their passive safety systems and additional safety redundancies built into the power plant. If you’re going to build a nuclear power plant it might as well be the safest one.

As new capacity is added to global electrical grids, more of it is renewable energy

More utility companies are adding new renewable energy capacity as opposed to adding new non-renewable energy capacity due to faster installation time frames, fewer regulatory delays, the lack of fuel supply concerns going forward, and total installation cost per GigaWatt.

In 2013, of the 207 GW added to the world’s electrical grids — renewable energy accounted for 120 GW of new installations, while 87 GW accounted for non-renewable energy.

Once the 2014 numbers are released to the public, the renewable energy statistic will have improved over 2013’s numbers. And 2016 should easily surpass the 70/30 metric.

It’s easy to visualize this in the chart below.

Global generation capacity additions to 2013 - renewables vs. non-renewables. Image courtesy of IRENA.
Global generation capacity additions – renewables vs. non-renewables. Image courtesy of IRENA.

As renewable energy displaces non-renewable energy additions to the grid — remember that renewable energy gets only 1/4 of the subsidies that fossil fuel energy gets!

See: Energy Subsidies: The Case for a Level Playing Field

Imagine if renewable power generation got the same subsidies as non-renewable energy power generation

In practical terms, it would mean that 100% of all new power generation would be renewable energy.

Also, the renewable energy manufacturing sector would need to accelerate production to meet demand — meaning many hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs would be created immediately after the levelized subsidy was announced.

Between 2017-2019 — and even with the higher subsidies enjoyed by coal, nuclear, and oil & gas — it will cost less to install new renewable energy power plants than to install new non-renewable energy power plants.

Germany is one of the countries leading the transition to renewable energy

Due to German public pressure in the aftermath of the Fukushima-Daiichi incident in March 2011, Germany shut down nearly half of their nuclear power plants and were forced to accelerate their transition timeline to renewable energy.

This unexpected development created additional costs for Germany, but regardless, their Energiewende program is still a stunning renewable energy success story.

Although progress has slowed from the frenetic pace of 2011-2013, Germany is very much a world leader in the transition to renewable energy.

Renewable energies were the number 1 source of power production for the first time ever. [In Germany]

Renewables gained slightly in 2014 and now comprise 27.3 percent of domestic power consumption.

They have now permanently displaced lignite [brown coal] as the top source of power in the electricity mix. — The Energiewende in the Power Sector : State of Affairs 2014 (downloadable PDF)

Here is a nice chart, courtesy of our friends at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.

How goes the Energiewende, Germany? Es geht gut! Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute.
How goes the Energiewende, Germany? Es geht gut! Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute.

There is no doubt that the world will transition to renewable energy, and even major oil companies like Shell and BP are in agreement that by the year 2100, almost 95% of all energy demand will be met by renewable energy.

In one scenario, Shell says that by 2060 the largest energy provider will be solar power.

How quickly that energy transition will occur, is what the present conversation is all about

Increasingly, the conversation centres around matching renewable energy subsidies with the (4x higher) subsidies enjoyed by coal, nuclear, and oil & gas power generation.

So get ready to breathe fresh air, because change is coming!

Related Articles:

Thank you to our friends at IRENA and at Fraunhofer Institute for their valuable graphics!

German renewable energy leaves coal behind

German renewable energy leaves coal behind | 06/12/14
Originally published at johnbrianshannon.com by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Germany, a thriving economic powerhouse under the Chancellorship of Angela Merkel, is also a renewable energy superstar and a country that is loaded with potential.

Lately, the Germans have taken a break from aggressively adding renewable energy to their grid by ending a lucrative feed-in-tariff (FiT) subsidy program that ramped-up the adoption of solar, wind and biomass installations across the country.

Not that these so-called ‘lucrative’ subsidies approached anywhere near what fossil fuel and nuclear power plant operators receive and have received since the postwar period began, as all energy in Germany (like most countries) is heavily subsidized by taxpayers but only the (much smaller) renewable energy subsidies get the headlines. Go figure.

Chancellor Angela Merkel made the courageous decision to accelerate the shutdown Germany’s nuclear power plants in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in 2011 after stress tests of German nuclear power plants showed safety concerns existed within their nuclear fleet. She ushered in meaningful FiT subsidies to speed the German Energiewende program towards its goal of transition to renewable energy and greater energy efficiency — which had received only sporadic subsidies prior to Merkel.

Snapshot of the German Energiewende program

  • A popular Germany-only program to move towards a highly industrialized, sustainable green economy
  • Full phase-out of nuclear energy by 2022
  • 80-95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050
  • Minimum of 80% renewables in the power sector
  • 50% increase in energy efficiency by 2050

Germany’s utility companies haven’t seen change like this since WWII. After a century of serving conventionally-generated electrical power to a captive electricity market — approximately 1/3 of all German electricity is now generated via renewable energy if you include nuclear, biomass and hydro-power. That’s historic change by any standard.

Germany-renewable-energy-power-capacity at October 29, 2014 Fraunhofer Institute image
Germany renewable energy power total installed capacity at October 29, 2014. This is not how much electricity Germany actually used — it represents how much total capacity exists in the German electricity grid when all power plants are running at their full rated capacity. Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute. © Fraunhofer ISE

Although solar panel outputs are lower during the winter months, over the late spring and summer of 2014 renewable energy generated more than 75% of total demand on many of those days. Not bad, for 5 years of relatively minor renewable energy subsidy euros provided by a (now ended) Feed-in-Tariff!

Germany renewable energy generation for the first 10 months of 2014 courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute
This chart shows how much electricity was actually produced by each type of energy in Germany for the first 10 months of 2014. Some of this energy was exported to nearby nations as a cash-on-delivery export. Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute. © Fraunhofer ISE

Another benefit of the switch to renewable energy was the added billions of euros of economic activity generated annually by European solar panel and wind manufacturing companies like Vestas, SolarWorld, Siemens, ABB, and the jobs created for hundreds of SME renewable energy installation companies in the country.

Exports of German solar panels and wind turbines went through the stratosphere — once Germany proved to the world that solar and wind could replace lost nuclear power generation capacity at a much lower cost than building new, multi-billion euro, nuclear or coal-fired power plants with their massive footprint on the land and their obscene water usage levels.

Germany renewable energy power generation change (in absolute terms) for the first 10 months of 2014 compared to the first 10 months of 2013. Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute
Germany renewable energy power generation change (in absolute terms) for the first 10 months of 2014 when compared to the first 10 months of 2013. Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute. © Fraunhofer ISE

For Germany, installing their own solar, wind and biomass power plants proved to the world that large-scale renewable energy could add huge capacity to a nation’s electrical grid and that different types of renewable energy could work together to balance the over-hyped ‘intermittency problem’ of renewable energy.

It turns out that in Germany, during the long, hot days of summer when solar panels are putting out their maximum power the wind actually tapers off, but at night the wind blows at a very reliable rate. Karmic bonus! That about covers the summer months.

During the winter months in Germany, the wind blows day and night, adding significant amounts of reliable power to the national grid.

Germany solar and wind energy are complementary, helping to stabilize the German electricity grid without adding pollution to the air. Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute
Germany solar and wind energy are complementary, helping to stabilize the German electricity grid without adding any pollution to the air. Chart shows actual output for the first 10 months of 2014. Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute. © Fraunhofer ISE

And now, all of that renewable energy capacity is operating without FiT subsidy — quite unlike the coal, nuclear, and oil and gas power generation in the country which require huge and ongoing subsidies every day of the year to continue operations. That’s every day since 1946, meine Freunde!

Also a factor with coal-fired power plants are the massive healthcare spending to combat the adverse health effects of fossil fuel burning/air pollution on humans and animals, on the agriculture sector. And the hugely expensive security infrastructure necessary to preclude theft of nuclear materials and nuclear related terror attacks.

While the rest of Europe (with the exception of notables like Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg) wallowed in recession or near-recession since 2008, the German economic powerhouse not only set global export records year-on-year, it bailed-out numerous other EU economies like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and others, and began an unprecedented domestic renewable energy program. And now, Germany is an electricity net exporter.

That’s heady stuff, even for this industrious nation of 82 million.

Germany imports and exports of electricity 2001-2014. Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute
Germany imports and exports of electricity 2001-2014. Germany exported a record 33.8 TeraWatt hours of electricity in 2013 for truckloads of cold, hard cash. Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute. © Fraunhofer ISE

Where to next?

Not only has Germany added many TeraWatt hours (TWh) of clean, renewable energy to its electrical grid to replace lost nuclear power generation, it is now an electricity net exporter — raking in millions of euros per year at present — and make that an electricity exporting superpower if they ever decide to revive their now defunct Feed-in-Tariff subsidy for renewable energy.

Replacing coal with renewable energy in Germany:

If Germany revived the previous FiT regime for 5 years, *all brown coal electrical power generation* could be eliminated within 10 years.

If Germany revived the previous FiT regime for 10 years, *all brown coal and black coal electrical power generation* could be eliminated within 10 years.

Replacing coal with renewable energy in Germany would save millions of Germans, Polish, Swiss, Austrians and others living downwind of German smokestacks from breathing toxic coal-fired air pollution. Think of the health care savings and the taxes involved to support this. Some people believe that the health care savings alone could far exceed the cost of any FiT subsidy.

Not only that, but as a result of leaving coal behind, historic buildings, concrete bridges and roadways would require less maintenance to repair the spalling caused by the acid rain from coal burning. Additionally, Germany would save the millions of litres of water consumed annually by the coal industry.

Replacing coal with renewable energy in Germany would create thousands more jobs for solar, wind, and biomass manufacturing and construction, the agriculture sector would begin to show ever-improving crop outputs and importantly, leave clean air to breathe for tourists, expats and German citizens!

A note about (renewable energy) Hybrid power plants

So-called Hybrid power plants offer the best of both worlds in the renewable energy space by providing plenty of electricity day and night. This Hybrid power plant uses solar panels and wind turbines, while others can incorporate biomass or hydro-electricity dams, along with wind or solar, or both.
Hybrid power plants offer the best of both worlds providing balanced electricity generation, day and night.

An energy policy stroke of genius for Germany could come in the form of a new subsidy (a FiT or other type of subsidy) that could be offered to promote the installation of Hybrid power plants — whereby 30% of electricity generated at a given power plant site would come from solar and the balance could come from any combination of wind, biomass, or hydro-electric generation. (30% solar + 70% various renewable = 100% of total per site output)

As long as all of the electrical power generation at such a site is of the renewable energy variety and it all works to balance the intermittency of solar power, then it should receive automatic approval for the (hereby proposed) Energiewende Hybrid Power Plant subsidy.

When all the different types of renewable energy work in complementary fashion on the same site, energy synergy (the holy grail of the renewable energy industry) will be attained.

More jobs, billions of euros worth of electricity exports to the European countries bordering Germany, lower health care spending, less environmental damage and better agricultural outputs — all at a lower subsidy level than coal and nuclear have enjoyed every year since 1946 — are precisely why Germans should renew their commitment to renewable energy.

Seriously, what’s not to like?

Bonus energy graphic shows the various kinds of energy extant in Germany at the end of 2014.

How goes the Energiewende, Germany? Es geht gut! Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute.
How goes the Energiewende, Germany? Es geht gut! Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute.

Recommended Articles:

When And Who Will Reach Solar PV At 2c/kWh?

by Giles Parkinson.

Solar panel close-up view
Solar Panel close-up view.

Originally published on RenewEconomy

(Editor’s note: This is part of a series of interviews and stories that will run over the next few weeks looking at Germany’s Energiewende, and the transition of Germany’s energy grid to one dominated by renewable energy. You can find them all in our Insight section).

Solar PV at 2c/kW by 2050? It’s simply a matter of when, not if, the solar industry says. But the head of one of the world’s leading research organisations is warning that the biggest problem may be creating enough capacity to meet demand.

That’s not the big issue right now for the solar PV industry. For the last two years, solar manufacturing capacity has far exceeded demand, leading to cut-throat pricing that undercut manufacturing costs, causing huge losses and many to be forced out of business.

That balance is now being redressed, as rationalisation takes hold and demand soars in Japan, US, China and some emerging economies. The good news for consumers is that manufacturing costs are still coming down.

Eicke Weber, the head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg, Germany, the biggest solar research facility in Europe, and the second biggest in the world, says the greatest concern is that cheap solar may be available to just 10 per cent of the population.

That is why Weber is now advocating what he describes at PV 2.0 – an ambitious plan to build a pan-European manufacturing capacity along the same lines as the Airbus consortium.

Part of this plan is motivated by the desire to ensure that Europe retains the manufacturing capacity of an industry it kick-started through the feed-in tariffs launched in Germany and then adopted around the rest of the continent – and more recently in Australia, Japan and China.

German equipment manufacturers have done well out of the Chinese manufacturing boom, even if German module manufacturers didn’t prosper quite so well in the long term. The equipment suppliers sold some €60 billion worth of equipment to the Chinese manufacturing industry, but the Chinese government is now mandating that 80 per cent of that equipment be supplied locally.

Hence the need for a European manufacturing capability that can match others on scale and cost, for the sake of businesses all along the value chain.

Weber says the challenge is more about financing manufacturing facilities at that scale, rather than the emergence of any particular technology. He says the industry is destined for higher efficiencies and lower production costs, and higher degrees of automation as a matter of course.

“Europe has a great opportunity to lose if we do not succeed in financing production plants for our innovative new PV technologies,” Weber told RenewEconomy in an interview in his office in Freiburg earlier this month.

The challenge, he says, is to install modern equipment at the scale needed to ensure that solar manufacturing companies are profitable at module prices below 50c/Watt.

“I like to call this savings at scale, the X gigawatt factory,” Weber said. “That X could be any number, from 1GW to 5GW, or more, but let’s start at 1GW.

“You need to have a certain vision right now, because the industry is not making a lot of money. The 40GW market will soon become a 100GW market, and then a 300GW market.

“If, in 2050, when solar electricity might cost us 2c-3c/kWh, when it is the least expensive way of electricity, it would need total installed capacity of 10,000GW of solar PV to meet just 10 per cent of the world’s demand. Today we have just 100GW.

“We need to get to annual production of 300GW very soon. Even with that we would take 30 years to get to that target.”

Weber says he has no doubt that the capacity will be built, the only question is by whom – which is why he is arguing for a pan-European response. He says the window of opportunity to grab this market is in the next three to four years.

He says Europe has all it needs in terms of research institutes, equipment and materials suppliers, banks and financing, trader, systems integrators and contractors, and construction companies.

The missing link is in the gigawatt-scale manufacturers for silicon, wafers and cells and modules. To match the Chinese, or other countries such as Saudi Arabia with its petrol dollars, a European venture would need credit guarantees and low-interest financing.

“This capacity will be built, because as soon as there is an economic opportunity, they will come. The question is only by whom.”

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, When And Who Will Reach Solar PV At 2c/kWh?, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Giles ParkinsonGiles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

‘Crazy’ Becomes The Norm In Germany After Tremendous Green Progress

by Giles Parkinson

Freiberg, Germany sets sails on Energiewende
Freiburg, Germany sets sails on Energiewende.

(Note: This is part of a series of interviews and stories that will run over the next few weeks looking at Germany’s Energiewende, and the transition of Germany’s energy grid to one dominated by renewable energy).

“They told us we were crazy.”

It is a phrase you often hear from Dr. Dieter Salomon – the Australian-born mayor of the German city of Freiburg – a city so much at the vanguard of the green transformation that is currently underway in Germany that it calls itself – Green City Freiburg. It probably feels that it needs the extra words to reinforce the point – because green, or at least green energy, is now mainstream in Germany.

Salomon, who was born in Melbourne but moved back to Germany with his family at the age of 3, has been mayor of this city of 220,000 people at the edge of the Black Forest since 2002. And in many ways, the story of Freiburg and its attitude to renewables, energy, and sustainability, is a microcosm of what is now occurring in the broader economy.

It goes back to the 1970s, when an unlikely coalition of farmers — many of them wine makers, academics and students — forced the state government to cancel plans for a new nuclear power plant at Wyhl, just 25kms north of the city. It was a ferocious battle (see a video here), culminating in a showdown that attracted a rally of 50,000 people. It remains, Salomon says, the only nuclear power plant that has been successfully prevented from going ahead, even thought the country has now committed to closing all by 2022.

Dieter Salomon, the Australian-born mayor of Freiburg
Dieter Salomon, the Australian-born mayor of Freiburg

“The prime minister of the state (of Baden-Württemberg), told us we were crazy and said that we don’t build this plant the lights will go off,” Salomon says in his offices in the heart of the Medieval old quarter of the city. “That was 40 years ago, people still remember that comment because the lights haven’t gone off.”

More than a decade later, the “crazy” accusation was levelled at the city again, this time by the local newspaper when the council decided, six weeks after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, to install a long-term program to wean the city off nuclear and fossil fuels, and into renewables, energy saving, and energy efficiency.

“They told us it was a crazy decision,” Salomon says. Despite preventing a new power station, the local utility still relied on nuclear for 90 per cent of its electricity needs. “They told us it was not possible.” Now, the local utility contracts almost all its outside needs from hydro-electric sources in Austria.

The Solar Ship in Freiburg

Freiburg argues that it earns its “Green City” sobriquet from that initial spirit of defiance against nuclear and its subsequent focus on innovation, and sustainability.

It boasts a carbon neutral quarter known as Quartier Vauban, where in some sections the citizens voted against the use of cars; the “Solar City” and “Sun Ship” (pictured right), a residential area that features “energy plus” housing, meaning the houses and adjoining commercial buildings produce more solar electricity than they consume during the year.

There is the famous “Heliotrop”, a unique circular home that rotates so that its massive solar PV array and solar thermal collectors can follow the sun. (See video here).

The town has more than 100 “passive houses”, has retrofitted a high-rise residential building to “passive house” status (see another video here); and new homes have a requirement that restricts the consumption of heating oil to 1.5 litres per square metre per year. That compares to the average consumption of 30 litres/sqm/year a decade ago. Space heating in Germany consumes twice as much energy as electricity.

New housing projects are not begun until a tram line is built. The city estimates that 30 per cent of journeys are done by public transport and 27 per cent by bicycle. Car movements account for just 30 per cent of movements within the city. It is building three new tram lines to ensure that every home is within 500m of public transport.

Freiburg has also become a hub of innovation and industry. I lunched at Solar Fabrik, the first carbon-neutral solar module manufacturing facility. The city is also the home of numerous research facilities, most notably the Fraunhofer Institute for Sustainable Energy, which has grown from 60 people to more than 1,300, and is the second largest solar research institute in the world.

“Freiburg was quite different from rest of Republic,” Salomon says. “They thought we were the crazy guys from the Upper Rhine Valley. But now it is mainstream.” But, he concedes, “a lot of people complain that we don’t do enough, that what we have done is nothing, that we have to do more.”

Indeed, despite its credentials, Freiburg now trails other cities in the deployment of renewables. It gave itself what seems to be a modest target of generating 10 per cent of its own electricity needs through renewables by 2010, but came up well short.

freiburg wind
Picturesque Freiburg, Germany.

It has six turbines on the hills overlooking the town, and solar PV on the stadium, and virtually every other public building that can support it, as well as many private homes. But it still only generates 6% of its own electricity needs through these means. Despite being in the sunniest region in Germany, there is just not that much wind and sun to go power the city within the narrow boundaries of the city, and few biomass or hydro opportunities. About 50 per cent of its energy needs (mostly heat) comes from combined heat and power plants.

Now it has set a target of 100 per cent renewables for the Freiburg region, which includes the surrounding areas that have 650,000 people. It aims to do this by 2050. It will use the open spaces and resources of the surrounding areas for more wind turbines and solar farms, biomass plants and run-of-river hydro. And, Salomon hopes, geothermal. (Some smaller towns scoff at such targets, saying that they have already reached 100 per cent renewables, or even more, in some villages. The region of Emmendingen, which forms part of Freiburg and has 25,000 people, aims to be 100 per cent renewable by 2030).

The Green Conundrum: Fundies vs Realos

Salomon was elected mayor in 2002 – the first Green mayor of a large city in Germany — and re-elected in 2010 (they have eight-year terms). He’s what is knows an a “Realo”, as opposed to a “Fundie”, or fundamental Green that refuse the corridors of power.

It’s been a battle that has raged with the Green Party since it was founded more than three decades ago. The Green Party shared power with the Social Democrats in Berlin a decade ago, and the same arrangement is in place in Badem-Wurrtemburg, where Freiburg is located. The state’s capital, Stuttgart, also has a green mayor.

But in the federal level, the Greens have snubbed the opportunity of forming a Coalition with Angela Merkel, despite being the first party approached. Some say it is because the Fundies rule again in Berlin, others say it is because the centre-right has stolen its thunder by rejecting nuclear and supporting renewables. Still, others are frustrated that the Greens are not sharing power, because the energy transition would likely be quicker than with a centre right/centre left coalition.

For Salomon though, being Green and in government is “quite normal”. “When I was re-elected 3 years ago, I represented the mainstream of Freiburg.”

He says he needs to be a “realo” in more ways than one, because his party has just 13 out of 48 councillors. There are 10 parties represented to the council. “I have to have majority support in the council or I cannot govern,” he says.

Salomon is confident that the Energiewende – the national energy transition that will see it phase out nuclear altogether by 2022 and become a nation predominantly powered by renewables — will succeed.  This is despite a lot of vested interests trying to make political capital out of rising electricity prices.

“A lot of countries are looking at Germany,” Salomon says. Some of them don’t want us to reach our targets, others are hoping that we do. When it works in Germany, a lot of other countries are going to copy it.

“I know some countries think we are crazy, including the British. But now they are building new nuclear power plants with the French and the Chinese. The money they guarantee for every kilowatt hour is more than we pay for solar. Now, that is really crazy.”

See also our story Should Australian communities buy back their grids, which traces the history of Schönau, which was the first village to do so in Germany.

(Thanks to Craig Morris, a Freiburg based journalist who writes the Energy Transition blog (EnergyTransition.de), for allowing us to share some of his videos. More will be featured in our other stories. They can be found here).

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, “Crazy” Becomes The Norm In Germany After Tremendous Green Progress, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Giles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

3 Reasons Germans Are Kicking Ass and Taking Names With Renewable Energy

by John Farrell

German energy pie chart
John Farrell, ILSR

Germany is racing past 20% renewable energy on its electricity grid, but news stories stridently warn that this new wind and solar power is costing “billions.” But often left out (or buried far from the lede) is the overwhelming popularity of the country’s relentless focus on energy change (energiewende).

How can a supposedly expensive effort to clean up the energy supply be so popular?

1. It’s about the cost, not the price

Most news stories focus on the cost of electricity in Germany, which has some of the highest rates per kilowatt-hour in the world.  But they don’t note that the average German electricity bill – about $100 a month – is the same as for most Americans.  Germans are much more efficient users of energy than most, so they can afford higher rates without having higher bills.  (Note to self: check out options for energy efficiency).

2. It’s about vision

Germany doesn’t just have an incremental approach to renewable energy, but a commitment supported by 84 percent of residents to get to 100% renewable energy “as quickly as possible.”  A few U.S. states have renewable energy visions (e.g. 33% by 2020, 25% by 2025) that approach Germany’s, but they’re mired in the notion that despite enormous savings to society in terms of health and environmental benefits, renewable energy shouldn’t cost any more today than conventional, dirty energy on the utility bill.  Germans have taken the long view (about energy security, price volatility, etc).

3. It’s about ownership

I lied in #1.  Support for Germany’s renewable energy quest isn’t about cost of energy, but about the opportunity to own a slice of the energy system.  Millions of Germans are building their retirement nest egg by individually or collectively owning a share of wind and solar power plants supplying clean energy to their communities. Nearly half of the country’s 63,000 megawatts of wind and solar power is owned locally, and these energy owners care as much about the persistence of renewable energy they own as they do about the energy bill they pay. Not only do these German energy owners reduce their own net cost of energy, every dollar diverted from a distant multinational utility company multiplies throughout their local economy.

Not only does local ownership flip the notion of energy costs as consumers become producers, it also flips the notion of political ownership. Three-quarters of Germans want to maintain a focus on “citizen-managed, decentralized renewable energy.”

The tunnel vision on cost so prevalent in the press reflects the perspective of incumbent utilities, whose market share declines as their former customers produce their own power. It’s a story that plays out in the U.S., when debates over new power plants focus narrowly on the cost per kilowatt-hour rather than how an individual or community can retain more of their energy dollar.

It may seem that Germany is going renewable “at all costs,” but only if we are resigned to being energy consumers.  Because their and our energy transition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take charge of our energy future.  That’s priceless.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, 3 Reasons Germans Are Kicking Ass & Taking Names With Renewable Energy, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His latest paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.

.

Related Posts

tesla-model-s-autobahn

Tesla Model S Optimized For Autobahn (Video)

terra-3

Scooter That Can Turn A Smartphone Into A Dashboard

solar panel costs subsidies

Next Year Renewable Market Share In German Estimated As 28.7%

columbia engineering researchers find way to save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions at sewage treatment plants

Surcharges In Germany Should Be At Least 15.6 Cents