This week, I’m going to be traveling to Berlin under the gracious auspices of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, a German progressive nonprofit that does work on clean energy. Exciting! It’ll be my first time in Germany.
Aside from saying the words “schnitzel” and “spätzle” as often as possible (schnitzel! spätzle!), I’m going to be attending a symposium on Nuclear Power After Chernobyl and Fukushima, speaking at the Re:publica Conference about being a climate blogger in the U.S., visiting some nearby renewable energy installations, and speaking with a variety of Germany’s leading lights on the subject of distributed energy and how it has affected German society and politics.
It’s that latter bit that most interests me. Readers know I’m a big fan of distributed energy, which is perpetually overlooked or marginalized in the mainstream U.S. energy conversation. In Germany, however, they’re going for it. Their aggressive feed-in tariff program (which guarantees generators above-market returns for any clean energy they produce, mostly from solar panels) has made Germany a world leader in renewable energy and, specifically, in distributed energy — something like 60 percent of the distributed energy generation in the country is owned by individuals, not utilities. (Don’t hold me to that number — I’m writing in a mad rush before I go catch a plane.)
That means thousands and thousands of Germans have invested in renewable energy and are relying on it for a steady income stream, a dynamic not unlike Social Security or other entitlements in the U.S. How has that changed German politics and culture?
I hope to find out, or at least get started finding out. I’m not sure I’ll have time to post much while I’m there, but hopefully by the time I’m back I’ll have some good thoughts and info to share.
In the meantime, you should bookmark Heinrich Böll Stiftung (don’t worry, it’s in English). There’s tons of great stuff there.
Auf Wiedersehen! Also: schnitzel!