Eulogy to Hermann Scheer, Winner of the 2009 Karl W. Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit, awarded on May 7, 2009, University of Delaware
The presentation of the ‘Laudatio’ to Hermann Scheer today is not only a great honour for me but indeed a personal pleasure and satisfaction as I am connected in friendship since many years with both Hermann Scheer, the awardee, and with the sponsor of this Solar Energy Medal of Merit, Karl Wolfgang Böer.Wolfgang Böer, originally Professor of Physics in Germany, the land in which physical science benefits of high prestige in society, is known there as a hero who rebuilt, virtually from scratch, the Physical Institute at the Humboldt University in Berlin from the ruins of WW II. He created also among many other things the Journal ‘physica status solidi’, in which I published myself in the mid-60s the results of my thesis on Photovoltaics: for me this article was the opening of my career in France. Then, in the 1970s, when the terrestrial solar energy got slowly on its way, namely in the US, we met several times here in Delaware. Later on, when Professor Böer created the prestigious Solar Energy Award here at the Institute of Energy Conversion, I initiated from my side – exactly 20 years ago – the European Becquerel Prize for Merits in PV and eventually, together with the American IEEE and the Japanese PV community, the World Award for Photovoltaics. If I may say so, somehow we were brothers in action.
Dr. Hermann Scheer whom we honour today has indeed played a unique role as a world pioneer for the promotion of Solar Energy in all its forms. Time Magazine named him a ‘Hero of the Green Century’. The Swedish Parliament awarded him the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’. He also received as a first winner the ‘World Photovoltaic Prize’ by the World PV Community.
It is my believe that worldwide nobody could claim the role he has played in modern times for the development of Solar Energy and all its Renewable components for the well-being of our society, now and in the future. He covered the whole global scenario: the intellectual analysis, a strategic outline of action, mobilisation of the progressive quarters of society, political implementation, industrial policy. He always knew that new ways and means for the birth of the coming ‘Solar Age’ are necessary; he devoted all his life to fight for making it happen. And he was successful on all fronts of his fight against entrenched conservative powers in the energy sector. Today he stands here as a winner!
Just recently, an ultimate achievement of Hermann Scheer that got high international recognition was the creation earlier this year of the International Renewable Energy Agency ‘Irena’ by the Governments of 77 Countries from all over the World. It is important to note that ‘Irena’ is not an NGO but a brand new Governmental Agency specialising in Renewable Energy. Only a political hardliner like Hermann could have had the courage to fight this uphill struggle over 19 years, as it were, against the established system. The creation of Irena is, if I may say so, the jewel to the crown of the ‘Solar King’ as he is called in the German media!
Hermann presented the idea of an Irena for the first time in 1990. He intervened successfully at the UN in New York and its General Assembly voted indeed in December 1990 the creation of Irena. But that was only the beginning of a fighting marathon with ups and downs that brought the breakthrough only this year 2009. And without his political leadership in Germany, the lead country for Irena, there would be no Irena today: thanks to his political influence, the Bundestag passed in April 2003 a resolution demanding the creation of an Irena and in 2005 when the current German Government got in place, it was included in its official work programme. And surprisingly, the Government did what it had promised.
Hermann was originally less connected to the anti-atomic or the environmental movements that are both very strong in his country; rather he became aware of the need for the Renewable Energies in association with the peace movement of those days: in the 80s when both parts of Germany were packed with nuclear weapons, it was actually a question of death or life for the country, if not the whole World. Since 1981 when he had become a Member of the Bundestag, he was his SPD group’s spokesman in the Parliament for the questions of disarmament and arms control.
Hermann Scheer was never a backbencher in the Bundestag. And he is popular in his party: still today he is an elected Member of the Directory of the SPD, here in the US you would say the Democrats… Since the later 1980s Hermann concentrated all his activity and political career on the Renewable Energy: in 1988 he created the Associations Eurosolar with several thousand members and in 2001 the World Council for Renewable Energy, both with headquarters in Bonn. Eurosolar organises Conferences, issues a Journal and sponsors the German and European Solar Prizes.
Hermann Scheer created since that time the intellectual ground for the Solar Revolution: almost every second day he is lecturing somewhere in the World based on a sheer endless list of publications. He published actually a dozen books most of which are translated into English and other languages. 13 of his writings are registered at the ‘Library of Congress’.
It is true that ideas can sometimes revolutionise the World even more than wars or invasions. But Hermann went much beyond the spreading of the idea for Solar Energy – and that makes him exceptional in this field: he took himself care of preparing the political and legal framework for implementation as is illustrated by the ‘FIT’ or ‘feed in tariff’ scheme taking priority for Renewable Energy in the grids. The German administration is fundamentally not more pro-solar than that of similar countries, but it was Hermann’s leadership and force of conviction that made it possible to turn German politics around in support of the Renewables. Thanks to Hermann the Bundestag adopted the ‘FIT’ that became legally binding for Wind Energy since 1990 and for PV and other Renewable Electricity in several steps since 2001.
And the vision made implementation gave results: ‘little rainy’ Germany has by far the largest PV capacity installed today worldwide; in Wind Power Germany that disposes only of a rather modest resource is World leader with the United States. Last year the Solar sector was the one that was booming the most in the German economy, an economy that stands for the World’s largest export nation.
And sometimes countries are even able to learn: more than 40 countries have opted in the meanwhile for the ‘FIT’. The yearly global turnover of all Renewable Energy exceeds presently 200 Billion USD. Who would have thought 20 years ago when it all started? Nobody! Today I dare to say that quite a bit of this economic and social success to the benefit of our environment and climate and of our security of energy supply is owed to Hermann Scheer!
But the fight is not over; we are only at the beginning. But we have under Hermann Scheer’s leadership shown what is possible. For the middle of this century Hermann sees a 100% Renewable Energy society for the World. This compares with ‘a conventional wisdom’ that improved its vision to 50%. Hermann will again be Member of the German Bundestag after the forthcoming elections this fall. We will need him to continue!