The Weekend Wonk: Osha Gray Davidson and Germany’s Renewable Breakout

December 2, 2012


Journalist Osha Gray Davidson explains the rapid growth of renewable energy in Germany, the roots of the German sustainability movement, why there is more market stability in renewable energy and what the United States can do to follow the German lead.


15 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Osha Gray Davidson and Germany’s Renewable Breakout”

  1. pendantry Says:

    From the video: “They’ve done what was considered impossible, already.”

    All we have to do is bite the bullet.

  2. neilrieck Says:

    Churchill once stated “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities”. I believe Churchill’s quote should be modified to include North Americans so the only question which remains is “have we exhausted all other possibilities”?

    • otter17 Says:

      There are still a decent amount of fossil fuel possibilities, though one of them is an essential resource that looks like it will peak before the others.

      Unless the projected rapid increase in USA unconventional oil production comes to fruition and the western Iraq oil gets developed in earnest (only if violence goes down), then the EIA numbers are looking at peak. Considering all the countries that are on the downslope in production, it is going to take a lot of development just to keep up on the treadmill. Considering the huge increase in oil prices in the past several years, yet flat production, something is up.

      It would have been nice if the Earth’s fossil fuel endowment worked out that coal would have peaked first, but oh well. Liquid fuel has sure been convenient, but we need an alternative that gets its energy from the Earth’s daily energy budget. Sunlight into liquid fuel. Electrical energy to process liquid fuel. Something.

      So, it seems the possibilities are running out. We can hope that kicks us in the head to start ramping down coal emissions.

      • Why use an internal combustion engine anymore?

        Sunlight -> electricity is enough. If we inductively charge our highways, we could all be driving Nissan Leafs cross country without need for a recharge.

        • otter17 Says:

          Of course. Up for that too. So long as we have a mechanism that can put a price on carbon emissions and the DOE studies some of the best infrastructure and ideas, that’s great.

          Whatever unlocks human ingenuity and hard work to solve the problem, eh?

    • ontspan Says:

      “have we exhausted all other possibilities”?

      – Shale oil and gas
      – Drill further offshore
      – Open up more public lands for commercial drilling
      – Tar sands
      – The Arctic
      – Invade Iran

      Plenty of other bad options for those ‘great’ Americans to exploit first.

      Tip for Obama: start with Iran first before you run out of the domestic oil to support the military operation. Use ‘freedom’ or the ‘threat of nuclear bomb’ to justify it to your deluded population.

  3. mrsircharles Says:

    I know Germany. Osha is bang on in everything he’s saying.

  4. Germany is successful because it is essentially paying people to have PV installed on their roofs. The government of Germany is in the renewable energy business.

    Their model could be changed only slightly, and the government would simply be installing PV on everybody’s rooftops, and homeowners would not be forced to come up with the cash at the start of the project.

    If we really want to save our civilization, I can’t see any way we can do this without having government be in the renewable energy business, can you?

    And if government is in the renewable energy business, they can get materials for rock bottom prices. And they can install renewables where they would be most effective to save even more money. Which probably means they might not want to choose to put up PV on the roofs of people who lived in cloudy areas, but would instead choose to put up PV where the sun shines all the time.

    And, if they put up enough PV where the sun shines all the time, they could generate enough electricity to power our entire country with renewable electricity, so we would not have to burn another molecule of carbon. An area the size of the Mojave Desert would suffice.

    If the U.S. government was as intelligent as the government in Germany, we would have been building that installation ten years ago – right when the government of Germany was itself getting into the renewable energy business.

    • otter17 Says:

      Well, there is the matter of transmission lines, but yes there is a case considering the risks involved.

      Nevertheless, a price on carbon sure helps all the various ways of generating renewable energy, as well.

      Whatever it takes to move forward in an appropriate manner.


        I am a climate skeptic. Nevertheless I am a big supporter of green energy (so also happens …).

        For me, fossil fuels have so many “disadvantages”, that CO2 emissions are not necessary to be a supporter of renewable energy sources.

        Germany, however, for me, such as “errors and distortions” – a disaster “common sense”.

        For example, wind farms in Mecklenburg, Pomerene, were built, but … where there is no adequate “TRANSMISSION LINES”!
        At the time of greatest energy requirements it is not transmitted – received. My country Poland (through which the energy is transmitted) is compelled turn off the transmission (like the Czech Republic). “TRANSMISSION LINES” are excessively burdened. Every year (for this reason) in Poland were big failures – a few days in a year (for several hours), for example, I had no power – electricity. At least 1/3 of German wind farms during “the peak demand” for electricity, produced a energy “on empty”.

        “TRANSMISSION LINES” – an investment is always more expensive than building of eg: small and scattered over a large area; wind farms, biomass power stations, solar, etc..

        • otter17 Says:

          If you a contrarian, check out the joint statement on climate change by the National Academy of Sciences.

          Click to access 06072005.pdf

          And, don’t get too carried away about my transmission line remark. It depends on how the infrastructure and new installments align with their capability.

    • ontspan Says:

      Coal is successful because the US is essentially paying for the pollution and miners subsidies, the US people are essentially paying for the coalplant and their health insurance. The US and it’s people are in the coal business, as by your standard.

      You are wrong about the German EEG model, read up on it. The only thing that the German government has said is that PV generation has to be payed a fixed amount of money which is to be paid by (nearly) all energy users internally (via the network operator) and PV generation has preferred grid access over non-renewable generation. The rest is left to the market, free choice, no FIT money goes through the government. In short, the German government only created a stable environment for PV investment, people are free to choose how they respond.

  5. Germany is shutting down clean and safe nuclear power, while building new dirty and dangerous lignite plants. How is that a success story???

    • ontspan Says:

      The above comment requires some explanation:
      a) Those new coal plants were already long in the pipeline before Germany suddenly decided to mothball 8 of it’s oldest nuclear reactors.
      b) Those new more efficient and more flexible coal plants replace existing old, inefficient and inflexible coal plants.
      c) German grid operators expect to shutdown 18 GW of old coal in the next 8 years, while building only 11 GW of new coal generation. Total CO2 emissions will go down even with new coal plants.

      It’s not like Germany can suddenly shutdown all of it’s coal plants because they invest heavily in renewables, this is a lengthy process, but the sudden shutdown of the old nuclear plants hasn’t particularly increased the speed either.

      But the nuclear shutdown has nothing to do with renewables, so that is a bit of a red-herring.

  6. Bruce Miller Says:

    German Power
    Germany runs well on 26% renewables today. This is Legislated due to 1986 Chernobyl fears. “Feed in tariffs” for Green Energy changes the profit motive from the large corporation to the peon. Everybody has ‘skin in the game’ Biggest sales point was there are no fuel costs after initial costs paid. Co-op Wind Farms encouraged there. Geothermal too – Swiss bigger on this, looking for base load power. Germany will be 80% renewable by 2050. Storage will be needed, and electric battery car ballast will paly bigger role, and make for fewer highly taxed fossil fuel cars. Euro-wide grid can help to even out demand. Supply/demand changes can be made by Social changes, shifts, mostly away from the greedy American Dream lifestyle idiom.
    No 100 % efficient way to store electricity has been found yet. Key is decentralized power, lots of small sources, effective use of power, through LED lighting, higher, super insulation, more efficient electric motors ( more rare earth magnets, lacking un U.S. now?) – Japan already has these, and an EROI per person, more fitting to the domestic energy available without buying foreign oil foreign energy. (Just good book keeping)
    Germany has the same solar as Alaska, same Wind as anywhere on earth however, and Geothermal plays are underway as we speak. Hydro not lost in the general scheme, even Bio mass and methane recovery from sewage, alive and well there. Tidal and Wave not mentioned either?
    Now, my favorite cut and paste from somewhere on the net:
    Imagine with me for just a moment: Had the 3 Trillions of U.S. Dollars for Iraq/Afghanistan involvement, been spent on developing the South Western U.S.A. Solar potential, by the conventional Solar/Thermal technologies of the times – where the U.S.A. Would be today? Still deeply in debt, but for an investment at home that could generate enough industry, energy, to re-pay in a calculable time period. We would be nuclear waste free (this will be our economic Armageddon – costly beyond imagination to remedy – no answer in sight) and the U.S.A. would be the richest nation on earth in clean electric energy!

Leave a Reply to otter17 Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: