Germany, A Solar Success Story

What can the US learn from Germany? Two veterans of the German renewable energy industry will be answering this question at the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) National Solar Conference in Baltimore, MD, April 16-20. Germany is moving rapidly towards a renewable energy economy and for years has been the World’s top installer of photovoltaic systems.

Featured Speakers

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Photo Credit: Marcus Gloger

Jochen Flasbarth, President, German Federal Environment Agency, Thursday April 18 

At 10:30am Jochen Flasbarth will join Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, in a plenary session on Climate & Resiliency. Other speakers include Alice LeBlanc, former head of the Office of Environment and Climate Change at American International Group (AIG) and Patricia Hoffman of the Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

 

David-Wedepohl-picDavid Wedepohl, Markets & Communications Director of German Solar Industry Association, Friday April 19

At 10:30am Mr. Wedepohl will speak on “Building the Solar Industry” along with Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industries Association; Tony Clifford,  CEO of Standard Solar; and Laura Jones, a partner at Hunton & Williams and an expert on tax incentives for renewable energy. Wedepohl will also participate in the1:15pm panel session, What Can We Learn from Germany? that explores which German policies might be appropriate in the United States.

The following national goals were set by the federal government:

  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020.
  • Produce 35% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
  • Reduce fossil fuel imports to create energy security for Germany
  • Promote sustainable economic growth.

What’s actually happening in Germany?

  • Germany has the fastest growth rate of renewable energy infrastructure of any country in the world.
  • Electricity produced from renewable energy is now at 26%
  • Germany has shut down 7 of its 17 nuclear power plants and plans to retire them all by 2022
  • 132 regions in Germany are 100% renewable, using a combination of solar, biomass, wind and hydropower. Each region consists of dozens of rural villages

How did the Germans Do it?

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  • Feed-In-Tariff: Germany has had an aggressive Feed-In-Tariff (FIT),  a long-term contract guaranteeing revenue for solar producers over a twenty-year time-period. The FIT, which pays more than the retail cost of electricity, has encouraged hundreds of thousands of German farmers and homeowners to earn income by owning grid-tied solar. Because of the FIT guarantees, banks are eager to finance energy loans.
  • Easy permitting: The paperwork to sign up to be a renewable energy producer in Germany, and earn a profit from the FIT, is two pages long.
  • Less red tape: Germany has focused on eliminating red tape and cumbersome permitting requirements, so the cost of a PV system in Germany is half what it is in the United States.
  • Grid Parity: Now, due to the falling prices of solar equipment, renewable energy in southern Germany has reached “grid parity” without any subsidies, according to the investment bank UBS. This means that the cost of centrally-generated electricity is the same as  that of solar.
  • Distributed Energy: Germany encourages the development of distributed energy, as opposed to central power production, a policy which has boosted economic development in rural areas and made them into net energy exporters.
  • Green jobs: Germany’s solar industry now employs upwards of 300,000 people, more than its auto industry.