HOW TO GET TO 100% NEW ENERGY (DR. HERMANN SCHEER)
Dr. Hermann Scheer, a pioneering giant in the solar energy world, presented his thoughts on how to make the transformation to a New Energy world. He was not speaking hypothetically. He is the man who led the movement that transformed Germany - a country with the solar resources of Juneau, Alaska - into the world leader in solar energy capacity.
Scheer said the world is at a watershed moment. As a result of a cascading set of crises, “…conventional energy costs will go up more and more…” from rising fuel and environmental costs. New Energy costs “…can only go down by mass production of the technologies and improvement of the technology.”
Scheer is an advocate of political action to grow New Energy. He led the movement in Germany to create the world’s first feed-in tariff (FiT), a guarantee to producers of New Energy that all the electricity they generate will purchased for the grid at above retail prices over an extended 15- or 20- year period.
Scheer’s appearance at UCLA was facilitated by The Renewables 100 Policy Institute, a think tank created to provide research and and analysis to validate the possibility of achieving a 100% New Energy world. The first question, of course, is when can 100% New Energy happen?
Scheer seems to think it can’t happen too soon: “Each postponed year will become very expensive. The idea to wait is wrong.”
Scheer is no innocent idealist. He made the FiT happen in Germany through hardball politics. He not only understands that government policy is the key, he also understands achieving the right government policy is very difficult.
The logic: New Energy provides a range of extraordinary benefits to relieve the cascade of crises the world now faces. It is practical. It offers "macroecononomic benefits" in the form of energies that don't destroy or pollute.
The obstacle: Energy production is in the hands of corporate giants for whom there is no apparent benefit in transitioning away from their Old Energy businesses to a New Energy world. There is no "microeconomic benefit" to them.
Scheer: “The political art is to introduce policies which make it possible to transform the macroeconomic benefit into a microeconomic incentive. Then you have the dynamic…”
Understanding where the microeconomic incentive is requires real knowledge of energy.
Scheer began his talk by describing how antiquated the world’s current energy system is: “We are living with the technology of the 18th century…” Yet, he said almost sadly, probably from having said it so many times, the sun every day provides 15,000 times the energy the world needs.
He outlined the 7 cascading crises the world faces: (1) The climate crisis, (2) the crisis of dwindling conventional energy supplies, (3) the crisis of growing deprivation in the 3rd world, (4) the nuclear energy crisis of dwindling uranium supplies and weapons proliferation, (5) the water crisis, (6) the health crisis from pollution and failing water resources, and (7) the agricultural crisis from failing water resources and poverty.
This led to a description of Germany’s FiT, the key to the microeconomic benefits. It created the most successful New Energy market in the world, generated 250,000 new jobs in less than 10 years and adds more than 3,000 megawatts to Germany’s New Energy capacity every year.
And the FiT has Germany on track to obtain ALL its power from New Energy sources in another quarter of a century.
Scheer: “There is no reason why not.”
Dr. Scheer stressed how it requires a “…shift of ownership, a new calculation, a new paradigm…” to find the willingness to make the transition because it is necessary to appreciate how the "human value" in New Energy also represents microeconomic benefit.
In the face of Old Energy powers that have no incentive to change, it is vital to understand that the economic benefits of New Energy include the savings from not fighting oil wars and not fighting water wars, from not building and rebuilding and protecting pipelines and from not paying the enormous health costs of illness and disease created by dirty coal and dirty transportation and dwindling polluted water supplies.
Scheer: “We should not think only about costs because there is no society without human value…”
New Energy, Scheer stressed repeatedly, provides human value. It is a trick of Old Energy “…to make the discussion only an economic debate and the wrong energy debate and to organize a fog over the debate…”
In a generous question-and-answer session following the talk, Scheer made a few random and interesting final points.
Arnold: He intimated that he had personal knowledge of California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger favors the FiT. But the Governator, Scheer implied, needs political cover from FiT advocates.
Cap-and-trade: He called the cap-and-trade emissions trading concept “the most inflexible and weak instrument…” to fight greenhouse gas emissions. He offered statistics to back up his contention that Germany's FiT was a more effective tool but said the most effective way to fight emissions would be a “pollution tax” (if it was politically obtainable) that taxed pollution instead of energy.
FutureBabble: He rejected space-based solar and was dubious about hydrogen.
"Clean: coal: Finally, he could not have been more unequivocal about “clean” coal: “…I would not spend one penny for that. I believe it is a fake.”
Hermann Scheer. From fechME via YouTube.
Dr. Hermann Scheer, Member, German Parliament (since 1980); President, European Association for Renewable Energy; General Chairman, World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE); Author, policy innovator and global leader in the field of renewable energy; Right Livelihood Award, 1999; Solar World Prize, 1998; World Prize on Bioenergy, 2000; World Wind Energy Award, 2004; Hero for the Green Century, TIME Magazine, 2002; Recipient, Alternative Nobel Prize, 1999 (for worldwide commitment to Renewable Energy)
Scheer shared his perspective on the advancement of New Energy based on decades of work in Germany that made his country a world leader in the sector.
If it can happen in Germany, it can happen anywhere... (click to enlarge)
Based on the success of the German FiT and the rate of growth of New Energy in Germany, it is speculated the country could get 100% of its power from New Energy sources within 25 years.
Scheer’s presentation was November 16.
- Germany’s FiT was the first in 1st in world. There are now 40 nations and states with one.
- Scheer spoke at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The event was sponsored by the UCLA Institute for Sustainable Engineering (ISE), the UCLA Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Dept (MAE) in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SAES), the UCLA Institute for the Environment (IoE) and UCLA Leaders in Sustainability (LiS) in UCLA's Anderson School of Business.
- Germany’s FiT was originally named The Law for the Priority of Renewable Energy.
- Besides a guaranteed, above-retail rate for an extended predetermined period of time, the FiT requires that New Energy have prioritized access to the web and must be paid without distinction of provider.
- Germany’s FiT is credited with creating the most successful New Energy market in the world, generating 250,000 new jobs in less than 10 years, adding more than 3,000 megawatts of New Energy capacity yearly.
- Points about the 7 cascading crises:
(1) It is a mistake to think about the energy crisis as only a climate problem because then the logical conclusion is that nuclear energy is the solution.
(2) The energy availability crisis is also known as “peak” oil, “peak” natural gas, “peak” coal and “peak” uranium.
(3) The 3rd world crisis cannot be isolated from west. 40+ countries pay more for oil imports than they earn. Their per capita earning is 5% to 8% of the per capita income in the west. Their only chance is to shift to indigenous energy sources and they world must bring the technology to them to do so.
(4) The nuclear crisis will not be solved by building new nuclear plant daily for 50 years b/c uranium supplies are running out. And the weapons proliferation in such a plan is deeply threatening.
(5) The water crisis involves 3 groups of water consumers: cities, agriculture, and conventional energy systems. There is no way to eliminate the 1st 2 but the last can be replaced nu New Energy. (1 kw nuc = 3.2 liter water, 1 kw-hr coal = 2.6 liter water). Wind and solar don’t use water.
(6) The health crisis is to some extent the product of pollution, poverty and compromised water supplies.
(7) The agricultural crisis is a product of the water crisis and the 3rd world crisis.
...But it requires smart politics and smart policy. (click to enlarge)
- “My main recommendation to Governors is, ‘Don’t believe anymore conventional energy experts.’ They don’t understand. They speak about single energies. They don’t understand energy flows. It is a kind of blinders…”
- “The political art is to introduce policies which make it possible to transform the macroeconomic benefit into a microeconomic incentive. Then you have the dynamic…”
- “The real question is, we live in our daily activities from a marginal energy source…The problem in this century is, do we continue to depend on these marginal sources? If this will be the case, then civilization will become marginalized…”