Germany’s Renewable Ownership Society – the Green Middle Class

October 16, 2012

Want to know why Fox News and the Tea Party congress hates green energy? The most important reason is that renewable energy properly deployed is profoundly democratizing, devolves power and control away from the Exxon-Mobils and Koch Brothers of the world, and into the hands of states, counties, cities, communities, local businesses, and individuals.

Renewable Energy World:

Another misunderstanding about Germany’s clean energy shift is the idea that somehow “the state” or green treehuggers are behind it.

Well, it ain’t so.

For the most part, Germany’s new energy producers are home owners, small and medium-sided businesses, and farmers, many of the latter who faced ruin only a decade ago. At the heart of Germany’s alternative energy bonanza is the country’s reputed Mittelstand: the nation’s well-situated, educated, conservative, entrepreneurial-minded middle class, which is the backbone of its economy.

Germany’s environment ministry has compiled a fascinating graph that shows exactly who has invested in the country’s renewable energy production: Nearly three quarters of the investment came from small private investors. In a sense of just how much this is: It is the equivalent generation capacity of 20 nuclear power plants. “The state“ owns none of it and the major utlities only 7 percent.

The ownership figures also reflect how dramatically Germany’s energy market has been turned upside-down since liberalization in the late 1990s. Not only has energy production in Germany been pried from the hands of the “Big Four,” namely the four utility giants that had dominated the German energy market, but it is now also radically decentralized. Energy production isn’t concentrated in places with nuclear reactors, but rather distributed across the country, from the Black Forest to the Baltic coast, with over a million people involved as energy producers or investors in energy production. This dispersion has wide-ranging implications not only for Germany’s energy future and power distribution, but ultimately also for democracy.

In an intriguing trend: Ever more numerous among the small-scale private investors are citizen-led cooperatives that bundle their resources to invest in a local PV farm or wind power facilities. In many of them, just 500 euros suffices to be a part owner, with a say in decision making. Around 80,000 citizens are members of several hundred energy collectives today — and the number is growing.

These trends — shifts in power from top to bottom, from the center to the peripheries — have enormous implications for German democracy. In just one example: This conservative Mittelstand now has a vested interest in seeing the Energiewende succeed — and their votes will reflect this.

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10 Responses to “Germany’s Renewable Ownership Society – the Green Middle Class”

  1. ahaveland Says:

    What is there not to like about this for all humans and Republicans?

  2. rayduray Says:

    Off Topic

    Wyoming Supercomputing Center Opens

    http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/west/2012/10/16/215439.htm

    “The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC), which houses one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers dedicated to the geosciences, officially opened (in Cheyenne),”

    “A minimum of 10 percent of the power provided to the facility will be wind energy from the nearby Happy Jack Wind Farm. NCAR and UCAR will continue to explore options to increase the percentage of renewable energy provided to the facility in future years.”

  3. neilrieck Says:

    Many people today do not know that the telephone companies got the first shot at “packet switching” but turned down the idea as too expensive (plus, they were making too much money doing “circuit switching” based upon a hub-and-spoke model). The internet is proof that you can replace a hub-and-spoke with a web-grid model which, in theory, would let you connect to you neighbor (via voice or computer) without requiring an intermediate trip to the phone company. Like phone companies, many large north-American power companies don’t yet see that their hub-and-spoke model is about to be replaced with a web-grid model. Just as consumers added their own cheap computers to the internet (which can optionally be rented out as part of some cloud computing scheme), consumers will add their own cheaper power plants to the grid. In this way, if your neighbor loses his power plant for a time (or forever), he can just grab a small percentage from his neighbors. All the meters will run in two directions so the power company now can decide who pays and who receives. The really big advantage to a scheme like this is that consumers use their own funds to create power now, rather than relying upon others to put up billions for some mega power project which come in way over budget 7-10 years from now. Germany has been proving this possible since they introduced FIT (feed-in-tariffs) in 1999.

  4. jpgreenword Says:

    Could anyone enlighten me as to WHY private investment is such a large portion of investments in renewables in Germany? I assume it is public policies that were put in place… but which one?
    Thanks.

    • neilrieck Says:

      As I understand it, the CO2 problem can been handled from two directions. The traditional direction involves solutions like “Carbon Taxes”, “Cap-and-trade”, and UN negotiated emission reduction agreements. The Germans rejected all of these as being too difficult to negotiate and enforce (just think about the international drugs cartels). So Germany went a different route called FIT (feed-in-tariffs) which provide higher incentives to renewable power producers who may get as high as 40 cents a kilowatt hour (for wind) and is guaranteed for 20 years. Note: producers only get this rate when they are producing electricity; If the company installed cheap equipment which was always breaking down then they’ve just shot themselves in the foot. To the best of my knowledge, FIT has only been implemented twice in North America. Gainesville Florida in the USA and the province of Ontario in Canada. (CAVEAT: the original German plan was set up in 1999 to ensure that the average power bill in Germany would only rise by one cent per kilowatt hour or about $50 per year; I think it may be a little higher than one cent by now)


  5. Europe (UE) – Germany – this is an example a very bad idea. A similar system was adopted in my country – Poland. Mainly – in the German system – make money power companies (as equipment manufacturers, technology developers, for the receipt and transmission). European fuel companies – in the end – they are the main beneficiary of subsidies including them in the cost of production of equipment, fuel and energy. Subsidies separate state institutions – a potentially very corrupt system.

    Writes about Oxfam report (http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/pressroom/pressrelease/2012-09-17/europes-thirst-biofuels-spells-hunger-millions-food-prices-shoot-up) :
    “Europe’s biofuels policies are making climate change worse, not better, and poor people are paying the highest price. There are alternatives – getting governments to set efficiency standards for car manufacturers, create better transport systems and promote electric cars,” added Alonso.

    After this report, the Germans want to completely change your (and European) system of “green energy” (especially the system of subsidies, and as biomass – only straw).

    However, no simple solutions. For example, when the straw is in the soil to decompose several years. 30% of the carbon is in it for many (even thousands) of years. As biomass burning straw in a 100% (in a few minutes …).

    German – European system so destroys the basis of trust in the State the basis of democracy – can not – particularly small-scale producers – any guarantees. Cultivation of energy crops in monoculture destroys soil – multi-species – the “natural” – reforestation, only the poorest soils (preferred system in Poland) are much better.

  6. otter17 Says:

    If only the USA had this type of culture.


  7. [...] 2012/10/16: PSinclair: Germany’s Renewable Ownership Society – the Green Middle Class [...]


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