Europe Exits Fossil Fuel, will hit 30% Renewables by 2017

by Zachary Shahan

Following up on a Credit Suisse report stating that ~85% of US energy demand growth would come from renewables by 2025, we thought it would be good to take a look at the energy trends in Europe as well.

Actually, one of our readers pitched this idea prior to the publishing of that article, and did most of the research for this piece. I then had the pleasure of putting it together to create the primarily positive (with one notable hiccup) non-fiction story below. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the broad overview. UBS analysts in 2013 reported that utilities in Europe need to shut down 30% of their gas, coal, and oil-fed power capacity by 2017 — not necessarily to fight global warming, cut pollution, or cut fuel imports, but because the renewable energy revolution is pushing fossil fuels off the grid.

In other words, increasingly cheap and fast-growing renewables are killing fossil fuels in Europe

“Producers must close 49 gigawatts of capacity to stabilize profits at 2012 levels, analysts led by Paris-based Per Lekander wrote in an e-mailed report,” according to Rachel Morison of Bloomberg.

“That includes 24 gigawatts of ‘mainly cashflow positive capacity’ on top of the 7 gigawatts that utilities already plan to shut and an additional 18 gigawatts of closures expected to be announced.”

“The most important driver has undoubtedly been the remarkable increase of renewable capacity, and in particular solar, mainly in Germany,” Per Lekander said.

Image Credit: Nuclear Energy Agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development, via @SamHamels
Image Credit: Nuclear Energy Agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development, via @SamHamels

Unfortunately, the most closures are projected to be of natural gas power plants. Coal power’s big exit is projected to get rolling in 2015.

However, that’s not to say no coal power plants are being closed or kept off the grid until 2015. Back in August 2013, it was announced that a coal power plant in Finland would shut down due to its failing competitiveness.

“Finland’s largest utility, Fortum, is closing a coal-fired power plant in Inkoo, west of Helsinki,” yle wrote.

“Built in the mid-1970s, the 750 MW plant has rarely been used in recent years, only supplying backup power to the Nordic grid during periods of peak demand. It has long been a loss-maker. This is partly due to falling electricity prices in Europe, driven by Germany’s shift toward renewable energy.”

The Finnish government, in the meantime, has committed itself to transitioning to a clean, renewable energy future — only logical, right?

And in the center of much of the clean energy revolution, Germany, dozens of coal power plants have been canceled or closed in recent years.

In Germany, dozens of coal power plants have been canceled or closed in recent years, with others 'walking the plank'.
In Germany, dozens of coal power plants have been canceled or closed in recent years, with others ‘walking the plank’.

It’s true that coal power production increased in Germany in 2012, but you have to put that into some context to understand why. What many people don’t know is that many coal power plants were previously planned for Germany.

The renewable energy revolution hasn’t increased the need for coal power plants, as many misinformers would have you believe, but has resulted in the majority being dropped. Closing of nuclear power plants, combined with high natural gas prices in Europe, however, did result in a slight rise in coal power production.

Natural gas is clearly the fossil fuel getting hit hardest in Europe at the moment. As Tino Andresen and Tara Patel of Bloomberg wrote in March 2013.

“Three years ago, Germany’s largest utility spent 400 million euros ($523 million) building a natural gas-fired power station. Later this month, the company may close the plant because it’s losing so much money.”

EON’s Irsching-5, the power plant in discussion, only operated 25% of the time in 2012!

The factors for the quick death of such an expensive plant were varied, though: “As Europe’s weak economy holds back electricity demand, cheaper coal, requirements to buy renewable energy and the collapsing cost of carbon permits are undercutting gas-fired plants.”

But it’s not only happening in Germany

“Gas-fired plants are stopped three days out of four,” Gerard Mestrallet, chief executive officer of GDF Suez, France’s former gas monopoly, said at a briefing on Feb. 28.

“The thermal industry is in crisis. There is overcapacity.”

The story is essentially the same in the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic, and other European countries.

In the end, the story is actually rather simple: as more renewable energy comes on line, something has to go off line.

Aside from nuclear power plants that are being shuttered due to old age and citizen demand, the big loser at the moment is natural gas. However, coal is on its way out too, just a bit more slowly. Of course, if there was a higher price on carbon, or other fossil fuel market dynamics changed, we could see those two switch places on their way out the door.

Anything more you’d like to add? Chime in below.

Keep up to date with the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our main cleantech newsletter, or by stalking our homepage. We’re not Kim Kardashian’s Twitter feed, but I think we’re more interesting.

This article, Europe’s Fossil Fuel Exit — 30% Of Fossil Fuel Power Capacity To Close By 2017, UBS Analysts Project, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary ShahanZachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Solar Energy Storage System Wins A 2013 German Renewables Award

Solar Energy Storage System Wins A 2013 German Renewables Award | 26/11/13
by Nicholas Brown

A new German energy storage system has received a 2013 German Renewables Award at a ceremony which was held earlier this month in… Germany. The system is called the ASD Sonnenspeicher. It is was created by Automatic Storage Device (ASD).

Electricity lines in Germany. Image Credit: Shutterstock.
Electricity lines in Germany. Image Credit: Shutterstock.

I’m sure that Germans will be pleased to hear that it is manufactured in Germany, which happens to be a country that has made impressive progress where the growth of solar power and energy storage is concerned.

There may be some serious merit behind the award, as the system can switch itself on and off almost instantaneously (12 milliseconds), according to ASD. This is wonderfully dispatchable compared to typical coal power plants, which can take three hours to start. ASD notes that this system can also switch between its lithium-ion batteries and the power grid within 1 millisecond.

Interestingly, the managing director of ASD, Walter Wolfram says that he designed the system because he could not find a suitable energy storage system for his home.

The energy storage system comes in different sizes, such as the Sonnenspeicher 300, which is 4.8 kWh; the Sonnenspeicher  600, which is 8.06 kWh; and the Sonnenspeicher 900 and 1,000 models, which are 13.44 kWh. The systems can, naturally, be used residentially or commercially.

Prof Andreas Reuter, director of Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology, explaining the judges’ decision to award “Innovative Product of the Year” to ASD, said:

The ASD solar storage system sets new standards by storing solar energy much more efficiently. It eases the burden on the grid and uses intelligent power management to maximise on-site consumption.

The system therefore has the potential to significantly help Germany and other countries reach their energy policy goals.

This article, Solar Energy Storage System Wins A 2013 German Renewables Award, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa

‘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).

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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.

Germany Solar PV Report, A Must-Read For Any Energy Reporter

by Zachary Shahan

One of our Dutch readers, Remco van der Horst of Better Energy, recently passed along an excellent report on various aspects of Germany’s solar power boom. The report actually reads more like a fact-checking of common claims (in media and politics) regarding Germany’s rapid energy transition. It is easy to read, organized by common questions/claims, and full of interesting facts. I actually learned a few things from this one that have been itching at my mind for awhile.

I definitely recommend checking out every question and at least the short answer for it. However, I’m pulling out a few of the key ones and sharing them below. Have a look!

2. Does PV contribute significantly to the electric power supply?

Yes.

As estimated on the basis of figures from [BDEW3] and [BDEW4], PV generated 28 TWh [BDEW4] of power in 2012, covering approximately 5.3 percent of Germany’s net power consumption (compare section 20.8). Taken as a whole, renewable energy (RE) ac- counted for around 25.8 percent of net power consumption, while the proportion of Germany’s gross power consumption covered by PV and RE stood at 4.7 percent and 23 percent respectively.

On sunny days, PV power can cover at times 30 – 40 percent of the current power consumption. According to the German Federal Network Agency, PV modules with a rated power of 32.4 GW had been installed across a total of around 1.3 million plants in Germany by the end of 2012, meaning the installed capacity of PV has exceeded that of all other types of power plants in Germany. See Figure 1.

renewable energy germany

Solar PV Prices Will Continue To Fall

“The price of PV modules is responsible for more than half of a PV power plant’s investment costs. The price development of PV modules follows a so-called price learning curve, in which doubling the total capacity installed causes prices to always fall by the same factor. Provided that significant efforts continue to be made to develop products and manufacturing processes in the future, prices are expected to continue to fall in accordance with this rule.”

Solar PV Lowers The Price Of Electricity & Cuts Into Utility Profits

“The feed-in of PV power has legal priority, meaning that it is found at the start of the price scale of power being offered. With fictitious marginal costs of zero, PV power is always sold when available. It is, however, predominantly generated during the middle of the day when power consumption experiences its midday peak and during these periods, it displaces mainly electricity from expensive power plants (especially gas-fired and pumped-storage power plants). This displacement lowers the overall electricity price and, in turn, the profits made by utilities generating power from fossil fuel and nuclear sources (Figure 8). It also lowers the utilization and profitability of traditional peak-load power plants.”

Here’s a conundrum that I think doesn’t get enough attention:

“The feed-in of PV electricity reduces the stock market price through the merit order effect and paradoxically increases the calculated differential costs. According to this method, the more PV that is installed, the more expensive the kWh price of PV appears to be.”

“The cheaper the electricity price becomes on the Leipzig European Energy Exchange (EEX), the more the EEG levy increases and thus the more expensive electricity becomes for private households and small consumers.”

Fossil Fuel & Nuclear Subsidies

3.8 Are the fossil fuel and nuclear energy production subsidized?

Yes.

A study from the Forum Green Budget Germany [FÖS2] states: ‘For decades, the conventional energy sources of nuclear, hard coal and brown coal have profited on a large scale from government subsidies in the form of financial assistance, tax concessions and other beneficial boundary conditions. In contrast to the renewable energies, a large portion of these costs is not accounted and paid for in a transparent manner. Rather, funds are appropriated from the national budget. If these costs were also to be added to the electricity price as a “conventional energy tariff,” they would amount to 10.2 ct/kWh, which is almost three times the value of the Renewable Energy Tariff in 2012. Up to now subsidies for the renewable energies have amounted to 54 billion euro. To compare, from 1970 to 2012 subsidies for hard coal amounted to 177 billion euro, for brown coal at 65 billion euro and for nuclear energy at 187 billion euro respectively.’

conventional energy subsidies higher

Nuclear energy is simply far too expensive and risky to warrant investment.

“The risks of nuclear power predicted by experts are so severe, however, that insurance and reinsurance companies the world over are not willing to offer policies for plants generating energy of this kind. A study conducted by the Versicherungsforen Leipzig sets the limit of liability for the risk of the most serious type of nuclear meltdown at 6 trillion euros, which, depending on the time period over which this sum is built up, would increase the electricity price per kilowatt hour to between 0.14 and 67.30 euros [VFL]. As a result, it is essentially the tax payers who act as the nuclear industry’s insurers.”

Industry Exemptions Raise Electricity Prices For Normal People

“Policy makers determine who finances the transition to renewable energy. They have decided to release the majority of energy-intensive industrial enterprises which spend a high proportion of their costs on electricity from the EEG levy, and are planning to ex- tend this level of exemption in the future. It has been estimated that more than half of the power consumed by industry shall be largely freed from the levy in 2013 (Figure 19) with the level of exemption totaling 6.7 billion euros. This increases the burden on other electricity customers and in particular householders who account for almost 30 percent of the overall amount of power consumed.”

Coal Production Increased Because of Broader Market Dynamics (Beyond Germany) & Because It Takes A Long Time To Shut Down & Start Up Coal Power Plants

“Electricity is exported during the day, because it is hard to throttle back coal-fired plants (lignite) due to their inertia or because it is simply lucrative to produce power in Germany and to sell it in other countries (bituminous coal). In countries other than Germany, gas-fired plants also became unprofitable. The statistics convey a clear message: Compared to the first quarter 2012, electricity exports in the first quarter 2013 increased by ca. 7 billion kWh. During the same period, the electricity production from RE (Figure 21:) decreased by 2 billion because of weather conditions [ISE4].”

electricity exports Germany

Solar PV & Wind Power Are Complementary

“Due to the country’s climate, high solar irradiance and high wind strength have a nega- negative correlation in Germany. With an installed capacity of 30 GW of PV and around 30 GW of wind power in 2012, the amount of solar and wind power fed into the grid by September 30 of that year rarely exceeded the 30 GW mark (Figure 29: ). Therefore, limiting feed-in from solar and wind at a threshold value of nearly half the sum of their nominal powers does not lead to substantial losses. A balanced mix of solar and wind power generation capacities is markedly superior to the one-sided expansion that would be brought about through the introduction of a competitive incentive model (e.g. the quota model).”

.solar pv and wind power complementary

Increasing Solar Power Is Needed For Storage To Make Sense

The common talking point is that energy storage is needed for solar power to dominate the grid. However, Fraunhofer points at that more solar power is actually needed in order for energy storage to make sense.

10.6 Does the expansion of PV have to wait for more storage?

No.

Although the EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger in an interview with the newspaper FAZ (2 April 2013) said: “We must limit the escalating PV capacity in Germany. In the first place, we need to set a tempo limit for renewable energy expansion until we have sufficient storage capacity and an energy grid that can intelligently distribute the electricity.”

In fact, the situation is the opposite. Investing in storage is first profitable when large price differences for electricity frequently occur, either on the electricity exchange market EEX or on the consumer level. Currently investments in storage, specifically pumped storage, are even being deferred because cost-effective operation is not possible.

First, a continued, further expansion in PV and wind capacity will cause prices on the electricity exchange EEX to sink more often and more drastically. On the other side, the reduced amount of nuclear electricity due to the planned phase out and more expensive electricity from coal-fired plants due to CO2-certificates or taxes will cause price increases on the EEX at other times. This price spread creates the basis for a profitable storage operation. If the price difference is passed on to the final customer through a tariff structure, then storage also becomes an interesting alternative for them.

A study from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) comes to the conclusion that surpluses from renewable energies are a problem that can be solved [DIW]. By making the electricity system more flexible, especially by eliminating the “must-run” basis of conventional power plants which is presently at ca. 20 GW and establishing a more flexible system of biomass generated electricity, the electricity surplus from wind and solar energy can be reduced to less than 2 % by 2032. The DIW takes the grid development plan 2013 as its basis [NEP] with an installed PV capacity of 65 GW, onshore wind capacity of 66 GW and offshore wind of 25 GW respectively.

In other words, what’s really needed is to cut slow, inflexible, “baseload” power from coal and nuclear power plants in order to move.

Keep up with the latest Germany cleantech news by keeping an eye on or subscribing to those archives.

Also see:

 

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This article, Germany Solar PV Report — A Must-Read For Any Energy Reporter, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

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.

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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.

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