Video: “Clean Break” Author Osha Gray Davidson Speaks About Germany’s Energy Transformation

This morning, journalist and author Osha Gray Davidson spoke as part of a panel discussion about his new book (“Clean Break: The Story of Germany’s Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It”) at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The subject was how Germany, a “modern industrial economy, the biggest and most powerful in the European Union, is making a clean break with coal, oil and nuclear energy,” and is now “on track to be running on 80% renewable energy by 2050.” In the video above, Davidson discusses this transformation (Energiewende in German). Here are a few key points:

  • Germany has increased its percentage of renewable energy from 6% in 2000 to 26% today. The country’s goal is 35% clean energy in 2020 and 80% in 2050.
  • If anything, Germans are optimistic that they can beat their goals for 2020 and 2050, possibly even reaching 100% clean energy by that year.
  • How Germany has done this, first and foremost, was by deciding to do it and then putting it into policy.
  • According to Davidson, the key to making this policy work has been giving everyone in Germany “skin in the game,” and also by making it “the most democratized [and decentralized] system of energy in an industrialized, large nation.”
  • Renewable energy has supporters across the political spectrum in Germany, in part because everyone “can make money off it…anybody in Germany can be a utility.”
  • Also critically important, renewable energy has “grid priority” (over coal, oil, etc.) in Germany, which means that “anything you produce, you’re going to be paid for.”
  • Under Germany’s feed-in-tariff, “you get a 20-year contract guaranteed the amount that you’ll be paid for each kilowatt-hour that you generate.” This provides “a guarantee of stability” so you “can tell if this will be a good investment or not.”
  • Ratepayers, not the government pays for the feed-in-tariffs. This is key, because it means that it can’t be cut, as it’s “not dependent on the government.”
  • The bottom line is that “everybody participates in [the renewable energy transition in Germany] one way or the other.”
  • The net result of all this: Germany has 23 times the amount of renewable energy per capita as the United States.

P.S. Inside Climate News is publishing the book one chapter at a time.