Analysis: Germany model for U.S. market?

By STEFAN NICOLA, UPI Germany Correspondent  |  Sept. 29, 2006 at 8:33 AM
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BERLIN, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The United States can learn from recent German energy policies to push its emerging renewable energy market, experts say.

"Germany's renewable feed-in tariff has revolutionized the market for wind and solar energy," John L. Geesman, California's energy commissioner, told United Press International on the sidelines of a conference on climate change in Berlin. "Those are things that California is directly looking at" for ways to support renewable energy sources at home, he added.

German solar technology companies could be very successful in emerging U.S. markets, he said.

Hans-Martin Rueter, head of Conenergy, a German company focused on renewable energy sources, has high hopes for his company's success in the United States.

"In 10 years, I believe the United States will be the world's biggest market for solar energy," he said at a roundtable of experts in Berlin. "But the market is still very small ... we need more security for investments."

What Rueter was referencing was the lack of a unified national energy strategy, such as the one spelled out by Germany when it implemented the Renewable Energies Law, or EEG, the tariff feed-in that has caused the German renewable energy market -- and especially solar companies -- to be among the most powerful in the world.

Geesman called the national U.S. energy policy "confused," and said Americans were "a lot clearer" in their conviction what really needed to be done to successfully fight climate change.

He said California had to push limits when it comes to energy policies and climate protection.

"We and other states have to be the disruptive element," he told UPI. "And then the federal government will hopefully step in and implement some of the best policies from all the 50 states."

Speaking later at the roundtable of experts, which was moderated by Klaus Toepfer, a German energy expert and the former head of the U.N. Environment Program, Geesman said support to increase the use of renewable energy sources in California was up to 85 percent; "elsewhere in America, the same potential for that public support exists."

California indeed has pushed some quite daring initiatives:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday signed a bill agreeing to cut the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

The state will also prohibit the state's electric utilities from signing long-term contracts with coal-fired power plants, or investing in such plants.

A day earlier, Schwarzenegger decided that California should reach its goal to produce 20 percent of its electricity through renewable energy sources in 2011, rather than 2018, the previous deadline.

"By 2018, we also want to have 1 million solar roofs in California," Geesman added.

In a controversial move, California decided to challenge in court America's six major carmakers for costs associated with the emission of greenhouse gases.

At the root of all the initiatives was the issue that has dominated energy-related headlines recently: Global warming and climate protection.

"I believe we are at a tipping point when it comes to climate change," Toepfer said.

Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said, "If you lower CO2 by more than 2 percent a year, you are going to disrupt your economy."

That exactly will be challenged by California, which hopes to spark a renewable energy boom that, in turn, will lead to job creation, proving that such a bold measure could be done without hurting the economy.

"If you can prove that, then this would be a great, great chance," Toepfer said.


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