OpEd

Story published: 07-09-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Shining example in energy transformation


By Frances Lamberts

A Bloomberg news article recently advised that “U.S. Energy Policy Should Take a Lesson from Germany’s Energiewende.”

The term refers to the transitioning in electric (and transportation) energy from nuclear and fossil fuels to that produced from wind, solar and other renewable sources.

The world’s fifth largest economy and “a manufacturing powerhouse,” Germany gets nearly 25 percent of its electricity from renewables. The transition began in 1991, when its “Greens” party gained ascendancy in politics and the Chernobyl explosion demonstrated the serious safety risks from nuclear power.

A feed-in tariff then passed, offering long-term, favorable contracts to wind-energy producers. In 2000, with the Greens now a coalition party in the national government, a renewable energy law extended the feed-in tariff to other renewable-source technologies.

The electricity share from renewables is slated to grow to around 39 percent by 2020, at least 50 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.

The lights didn’t go out nor the economic sky fall when, after the Fukushima disaster, the country shut half its atomic-power plants, the others set to close by 2022 after expiration of their operating licenses.

The country continues to have the most reliable power supply in Europe and far fewer electricity interruptions than the United States. The transition has spurred investment, and has created 380,000 jobs in the clean energy sector, since 2004.

Strongly supported by the people, the goals in nuclear phase-out and energy tranformation pose challenges for municipal planners.

Implementation models differ among communities, yet appear to match or exceed the national vision.

The city of Munich, for example, investing heavily in geothermal development, draws most green energy from wind farms up north and solar farms in Spain and plans to power all private residences this way by 2015, and all buildings by 2025.

One town stands well above many others in this transitioning success.

Two years ago, Teterow, our Sister City by the Baltic Sea in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, produced from home-grown renewable sources two-thirds of the town’s electricity.

As its mayor, Dr. Reinhard Dettmann stated during his stay here last week, these now generate all electricity, 100 percent, the bulk (80 percent) coming from solar installations.

Though Teterow is situated 20 latitudes to the north of us, “excess solar power” puts money into the town coffer on sunny days.

Germany — and our Sister City as shining example — “is showing that transforming the electricity system can be done economically and affordably,” the Bloomberg piece concluded.

The payoffs are huge for climate protection and the environment, and “power customers will save significant amounts of money.”

How disappointing that the Tennessee Valley Authority seems uncommitted to renewable-energy transitioning.

It recently closed its modest Green Power Providers program and, as CEO Bill Johnson stated, will keep the power mix “at 35 percent nuclear, 30-35 percent coal, 20 percent gas, and the rest hydro and renewables.”