Germany Has More Solar Power Because Everyone Wins

Date: 8 Feb 2013 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 7 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Suddenly everyone knows about Germany’s solar power dominance because Fox Newsheads made an ass of themselves, suggesting that the country is a sunny, tropical paradise.  Most media folks have figured out that there are some monster differences in policy (e.g. a feed-in tariff), but then latch on to the “Germans pay a lot extra” meme.  Germans do, and are perfectly happy with it, but that’s still not the story.

The real reason Germany dominates in solar (and wind) is their commitment to democratizing energy.

Half of their renewable power is owned by ordinary Germans, because that wonky sounding feed-in tariff (often known as a CLEAN Contract Program in America) makes it ridiculously simple and safe for someone to park their money in generating solar electricity on their roof instead of making pennies in interest at the bank.

It also makes their “energy change” movement politically bulletproof.  Germans aren’t tree-hugging wackos giving up double mochas for wind turbines, they are investing by the tens of thousand in a clean energy future that is putting money back in their pockets and creating well over 300,000 new jobs (at last count).  Their policy makes solar cost half as much to install as it does in America, where the free market’s red tape can’t compete with their “socialist” efficiency.

Fox News’ gaffe about sunshine helps others paper over the real tragedy of American energy policy.  In a country founded on the concept of self-reliance (goodbye, tea imports!), we finance clean energy with tax credits that make wind and solar reliant on Wall Street instead of Main Street.  We largely preclude participation by the ordinary citizen unless they give up ownership of their renewable energy system to a leasing company.  We make clean energy a complicated alternative to business as usual, while the cloudy, windless Germans make the energy system of the future by making it stupid easy and financially rewarding.

I’m all for pounding the faithless fools of Fox, but let’s learn the real secret to German energy engineering and start making democratic energy in America.

John Farrell
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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.

7 Responses

  1. Peter Lynch
    | Reply

    John – simple, concise and spot one all in minimal space…..great job

    Peter Lynch

  2. Ed Woolsey
    | Reply

    BINGO John! Excellent article! We have a broken public policy. There seems to be some “light” out in the States where the inside-the-beltway policy control is weaker. You folks in Minnesota sound like you may make some good strides this legislative session. In Iowa we are having some luck reaching Tea party folks with the “competition” message. I get pushback on the German example due to their higher electricity retail rates.

    “we finance clean energy with tax credits that make wind and solar reliant on Wall Street instead of Main Street. We largely preclude participation by the ordinary citizen unless they give up ownership of their renewable energy system to a leasing company. We make clean energy a complicated alternative to business as usual”

  3. Gold Coast Energy
    | Reply

    It has been known that Germany is the leading nation throughout the
    world when it comes to renewable energy. Particularly, they invest on
    solar energy in which their policies are also in line with the
    improvement and promotion of the said renewable source. Well, we cannot
    also deny that Germany is a small country, yet this nation gets more
    sun based on “par with that sunbather’s heaven” compared to the United

    Well, one of the reasons why Germany is successful
    with renewable enrgy is that there exist a Feed-in-tarrifs that helps
    the people to ease expenditures in the installation of solar panels in
    their home. POLICIES of the state determines the quick transition from
    hazardous nonrenewable energy to clean energy. This is actually an
    obvious fact. We know that renewable energy is more expensive that the
    conventional source of energy which is the fossil fuel. But the global
    impact from the damage caused by the conventional source is unbearable
    that is why we need to switch to clean energy. The question is, “How are
    we going to switch to clean energy such as solar energy if the policy
    of the state does not support the transition of hazardous source of
    energy to clean source of energy?” The thing is, legislators must create
    a law supporting the utilization of renewable energy.

    At the
    end of the day, the choice is still in the hands of the lawmakers. No
    matter how abundant the sunlight, wind, and other renewable forms of
    energy in your state is, without the policy, then everything would not
    be effectively utilize. We are going to suffer the consequences of our
    actions. I just hope that lawmakers throughout the world will exert more
    effort before its to late…

  4. John Farrell
    | Reply

    A feed-in tariff isn’t a subsidy, but is a long-term power purchase contract to buy electricity at the cost of generation. That cost may be different than buying power from a different source, but the Germans have prioritized renewable energy. They have also calculated that the purchase of renewable energy has depressed wholesale electricity rates and, on balance, had a greater economic benefit than cost.

  5. Sally Sue
    | Reply

    Can’t help but think about the billions in subsidies and tax breaks Big Oil enjoys.

  6. DrewRL
    | Reply

    P.S. The U.S. subsidizes fossil fuels 7x more than renewables and fossil fuels create less jobs.

    | Reply

    This is what other developing countries need, a good strategic plan for their renewable energy program, like the Philippines where the energy crisis is really taking its toll on everyone. When can Government learn how to benchmark from Germany or other countries. Perhaps, the Government energy officials lack “humility” in the first place.

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