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Clean Break Inspires Americans to Pursue “Energy Change”

| Written by John Farrell | 1 Comment | Updated on Nov 14, 2012 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/clean-break-inspires-americans-pursue-energy-change/
Clean Break cover

Friend and renewable energy journalist Osha Gray Davidson released a book today called Clean Break, detailing the German Energiewende (translation: energy change).  It’s a story of how the Germans systematically shifted to clean energy, finding as they proceeded that the possibilities were greater, the costs lower, and the benefits for ordinary citizens more prodigious than anyone could have forecast. From the book:

“We’ll definitely get to 35 percent renewable power by 2020,” [Dr. Joachim Pfeiffer, a leading spokesman for the center-right Christian Democrats] said, referring to the next official target. “In fact, we’ll probably reach 40 percent.”

…A whopping 65 percent of the country’s total renewable power capacity is now owned by individuals, cooperatives and communities, leaving Germany’s once all‐powerful utilities with just a sliver (6.5 percent) of this burgeoning sector.

It’s a good lesson for the U.S., where policy makers often feel that they have to cater to set expectations based on entrenched interests (e.g. utilities and fossil fuel companies), and where the Germans took their inspiration from (in President Carter’s response to the energy crisis).  President Reagan undid most of our progress, and the German lead on clean energy is the result of our belated return to the game.  Clean Break shows how the Germans have led, and how (in turn) the U.S. can regain its leadership role in clean energy.

My recommendation? Read this book.  Buy it for $1.

And believe that we can do the same.

In the face of modest renewable resources and a grid dominated by large fossil fuel and nuclear power, Clean Break is the story of how committed German citizens have achieved remarkable energy change. It’s the story of the democratizing and renewablizing an entire country’s electricity system from the bottom up, a triumph of local power.

What the German people have accomplished is like the American Apollo Program landing on Mars instead, five years ahead of schedule, and powered by a million citizen-built sparklers. And that’s just the first stop. Clean Break helps Americans understand that they don’t have to be left behind.

John Farrell, ILSR Senior Researcher

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About John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. More

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  • Daniel Ferra

    Hello, we need a National Feed in Tariff, with laws that level the playing field, this petition starts in California. Australia, Japan and Germany will pay residents between 32- 60 cents per kilowatt hour, here in California they will pay us 4 cents per kilowatt hour, want to change our Feed in Tariff? Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

    http://signon.org/sign/let-california-home-owners