Fox News Mocks German Solar Power, But It’s Still A Winning Strategy

John Farrell via ILSR

Suddenly everyone knows about Germany’s solar power dominance because Fox News made asses of themselves, suggesting that the country is a sunny, tropical paradise. Most media folks have figured out that there are some monster differences in policy (e.g. a feed-in tariff), but then latch on to the “Germans pay a lot extra” meme. Germans do, and are perfectly happy with it, but that’s still not the story.

The real reason Germany dominates in solar (and wind) is their commitment to democratizing energy.

Half of their renewable power is owned by ordinary Germans, because that wonky sounding feed-in tariff (often known as a CLEAN Contract Program in America) makes it ridiculously simple and safe for someone to park their money in generating solar electricity on their roof instead of making pennies in interest at the bank.

It also makes their “energy change” movement politically bulletproof. Germans aren’t tree-hugging wackos giving up double mochas for wind turbines. They are investing by the tens of thousand in a clean energy future that is putting money back in their pockets and creating well over 300,000 new jobs (at last count). Their policy makes solar cost half as much to install as it does in America, where the free market’s red tape can’t compete with their “socialist” efficiency.

Fox News’ gaffe about sunshine helps others paper over the real tragedy of American energy policy. In a country founded on the concept of self-reliance (goodbye, tea imports!), we finance clean energy with tax credits that make wind and solar reliant on Wall Street instead of Main Street. We largely preclude participation by the ordinary citizen unless they give up ownership of their renewable energy system to a leasing company. We make clean energy a complicated alternative to business as usual, while the cloudy, windless Germans make the energy system of the future by making it stupid easy and financially rewarding.

I’m all for pounding the faithless fools of Fox, but let’s learn the real secret to German energy engineering and start making democratic energy in America.

John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. This was reprinted with permission.

25 Responses to Fox News Mocks German Solar Power, But It’s Still A Winning Strategy

  1. Zimzone says:

    Fox & Fiends find the bottom. Again.

    I’ve been told Gretchen is a Rhodes scholar. Hard to believe after that comment about Germany being smaller, so it gets more sunlight.

    I still believe that the main reason the USA can’t roll out massive solar efforts is that our utility industry can’t find a way to own sunlight.

  2. fj says:

    Yep, democracy is great but as long as we allow the special interests of the clueless rich to monopolize and corrupt governance we wont have it; a terribly dangerous situation as they continue to rapidly destroy the natural services that support us and life on this planet, while obliviously obstructing action on climate change at wartime speed.

  3. BritInMontreal says:

    Why is Germany building a lot of coal fired power stations?

  4. SecularAnimist says:

    Denigrate every solution. The more successful it is, and the more rapidly it is being deployed, the more it must be disparaged, at all costs.

    Only draconian, authoritarian measures that have no possibility of actually being enacted must be advocated. Baseless claims of the necessity of “painful sacrifices” and drastic deterioration of living standards as the cost of reducing GHG emissions must be endlessly repeated.

    Demoralizing hopelessness, futility and despair must be proclaimed at every turn.

    When denial is no longer a tenable option for obstructing and delaying rapid deployment of today’s powerful and readily available solutions through democratic means that actually enhance standards of living, there are other options.

  5. A few years back I read “The Solar Economy: Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Global Future” by Herman Sheer, the German legislator who wrote the feed-in rules and turned them into policy. It’s a bit dated — 2004 — but still well worth the read.

    Note that the Germans are also taking the lead with Desertec. “Today Germany, tomorrow the world.” But not in the way the bad guys meant it — only through peaceful means and with the sunlight on our shoulders making us happy.

  6. Camburn says:

    Unfortunately Germany is busy building more coal fired power plants to stabilize their grid and provide for uninterrupted electricity.

  7. Turboblocke says:

    pinroot: you don’t give the figures for fuel poverty in the USA, so how do you know there is more in Germany?

  8. Turboblocke says:

    Camburn: are you sure… a lot of projects are being cancelled/abandoned/shelved

  9. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, the amount abandoned and shelved is stunning, must be ~80%, that was based on data from December 2012 it appears.

  10. Camburn says:

    This is from the economist:

    WHILE coal production and use plummet in America, in Europe “we have some kind of golden age of coal,” says Anne-Sophie Corbeau of the International Energy Agency. The amount of electricity generated from coal is rising at annualised rates of as much as 50% in some European countries.

  11. Superman1 says:

    Hopefully, people here will read the linked article, and get the truth without your spin.

  12. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1, your “linked article” is in fact nothing but “spin”. Specifically it is the usual misleading pro-nuclear propaganda.

    See, from the standpoint of nuclear power fans, solar energy has one HUGE problem: it makes nuclear power unnecessary and obsolete.

    But I guess you’ll take your disparagement of solar power anywhere you can get it, huh?

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The joke is so old that it was ‘..because Standard Oil doesn’t own the Sun’, the first time I heard it. As to Rhodes Scholars, well we have one in our Opposition Leader, Tony ‘Climate Change is Crap’ Abbott, a local favourite of the Murdoch pathology, and another, in my opinion at least, fundamental orifice.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Axiom Numero uno for human survival- capitalism and democracy are mutually antithetical and antagonistic.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Germany and China will do the business, if the saboteurs let them.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Économist’- the Market Fundamentalist rag that endeavoured to resurrect ‘Jevon’s Paradox’, turning it into a ‘Law’, all in order to denigrate energy efficiency. Preposterously unimpressive, as ever.

  17. Superman1 says:

    I will let the objective reader decide for themselves whether or not it is spin. Your comments, of course, leave no room for doubt about whether or not they are spin.

  18. Joe Romm says:

    Cause they foolishly shut down their nukes.

  19. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “Your comments, of course, leave no room for doubt about whether or not they are spin.”

    You constantly attack my comments with vague and unspecific accusations of “spin”, but you have NEVER, EVER, not ONCE, offered ANY specific, factual rebuttal to, or contradiction of, anything I have posted.

    All you do is preach hopelessness, futility and despair while denigrating, disparaging and attacking any and all solutions that anyone offers — especially those solutions that are already being successfully implemented on a large scale, such as solar power in Germany.

    Likewise, you regularly attack, belittle and mock those who are actively opposing climate disasters like the Keystone XL pipeline.

    I think it’s pretty clear to “objective readers” what’s up with that.

  20. Superman1 says:

    “but you have NEVER, EVER, not ONCE, offered ANY specific, factual rebuttal to, or contradiction of, anything I have posted.” Au contraire; I have done it many times. You preach conversion to renewables while maintaining standard of living. In one generation conversion, that would result in ten years equivalent of full-time CO2 emissions plus emissions required for the construction of renewables. As Anderson says, no way we can afford these interim emissions; game over.

  21. BillT says:

    That blog is just a pro-nuke, anti-renewable propaganda bullhorn masquerading as concern about climate change. The owner is abusive to anyone who comments unwelcome facts that expose the flaws and false claims in his posts, and he bans people who argue him in to a corner. Typical behaviour from a nuke fan.

    Much the same as the climate science deniers, renewable energy ‘deniers’ need to rely on blogs written by non-experts to get the ‘facts’ that they like.

    * The German coal myth. “If there is a one-year exception to the downward trend in the use of coal or any other non-renewable energy source along the way, this is, as K.F. Lenz puts it, “statistical noise”.”

    * Renewable Energies in Germany – A success story. Renewable energies are of threefold importance to Germany’s economy. They offer climate protection, give incentives for growth as well as job creation and provide increasing independence from energy imports.

    No new coal plants have been planned as a result of the nuke shut down. Those that came online last year or will come online in the coming few years were planned *before* half of Germany’s aging nukes were shut down in 2011.

    Record amounts of renewable energy continue to be deployed in Germany regardless of all the lies and propaganda told about their energy revolution.

  22. BillT says:

    But despite all the spin that people like you produce, Germany keeps on deploying huge amounts of renewable energy. They will soon hit 30%, and 50% is not unimaginable by 2020 because they have consistently beaten their own targets pretty much since they started their energy revolution about 12 years ago.

    Germany has reduced its emissions 27% since 1990 and surpassed its targets under the Kyoto protocol in 2009. Compare that to the US of A: greenhouse gas emissions levels are 10.5% higher than 1990. But people like you try to criticise Germany?

    As they deploy more renewables, more fossil fuels are displaced. It’s pretty simple to understand.

  23. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    I especialy like this quote, about the bank interest,

    “Half of their renewable power is owned by ordinary Germans, because that wonky sounding feed-in tariff (often known as a CLEAN Contract Program in America) makes it ridiculously simple and safe for someone to park their money in generating solar electricity on their roof instead of making pennies in interest at the bank.”

    When i installed solar electric panels 9 years ago, it was a break even proposition over a very long period of time, about 15 years at a constant price for electric. Interest rates were low, but not quite as bad as it is now, 0%. While you will not get rich on solar, it is a great hedge against inflation, as today’s fossil fuel powered electric prices are as low as they will ever be (barring deflatioin), natural gas costs less than the cost of exploring and drilling it. Also, many insulation projects are also competetive with the low intrest rates.

  24. Elouise says:

    I happen to agree completely. Germany is at the forefront of renewable energy and is so successful in solar and wind energy production that nuclear power is frankly unnecessary. Reuters reported that though the energy budget was tight, Germany had enough power to prevent blackouts throughout this winter. This was accomplished without nuclear power and without additional coal plants. Coal is not replacing nuclear power in Germany. More than half of the coal plants that were planned in 2006 were abandoned when Germany changed its energy objectives.

    If Germany wants to do away with nuclear power, then good. The world will eventually phase out of nuclear power anyway, it’s only a matter of time. The real issue here is greenhouse gas emissions, for which it is certainly not Germany that should be blamed.