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

Posted By Lowell F. on November 13th, 2012

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.

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