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Initiative for an International Renewable Energy Agency

Energy Autonomy
Energy Autonomy.
The Economic, Social and Technological Case for Renewable Energy. Earthscan/James & James, December 2006.

Feed-In Tariffs - Boosting Energy for our Future
Feed-In Tariffs - Boosting Energy for our Future. A guide to one of the world's best environmental policies. World Future Council brochure, June 2007.


Speech of Dr. Hermann Scheer, President of EUROSOLAR, European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference, Barcelona, June 6th, 2005

Albert Einstein once concluded his life experience in the sentence: „It is impossible to solve a problem with the same means that caused this problem.“ It is also impossible to solve a problem with the same people who have caused the problem. The main problem of the world is the already existing and culminating energy crises.

Our world faces a turning point. We are at the borderline of the present global energy system:

1. The liquid oil and natural gas resources – that is 60% of the present commercial energy supplies and demands - are running out. Proposals to extend the life time of the fossil energy system by using so called non conventional fossil energies will lead to tremendous price progressions and would definitely overburden the ecosphere.

2. The ecological limit of fossil energy consumption is closer than the limit of resources. Time is overdue for a general shift to Renewable Energies. This is the elementary challenge of our century. There is no time for further postponements.

3. The curve of cheap fossil reserves and therefore its supply possibilities decreases. On the other hand the curve of energy demand will rise. Only Renewable Energy can avoid a crossing of the two curves of demand and supply in the next decades.
If Renewable Energy is not introduced on a larger scale and in time, we will have to face the dangers of global economic crisis and energy conflicts.

4. The atomic option remains a negative-vision. Even the useable uranium reserves will run out within 5 decades, based on the present number of atomic power plants. Thus the prolongation of the fission materials by reprocessing and fast breeders leads to incalculable additional costs and risks. It is irresponsible to leave the atomic waste management for more than 20,000 years to future generations. Furthermore, the peaceful use of atomic energy paves the way for the global proliferation of atomic weapons. That definitely has to be avoided. Which political system can be kept stable for thousands of years? It is not the come back of atomic energy, which is at stake, but the immediate acceleration of Renewable Energy.

5. The future option of atomic fusion is a non-option. No supporter of atomic fusion is asked and speaks about the costs, which will be at least three times higher than for atomic fission. They ignore the prognosis of M.L. Lidsky, the former head of the Plasma Fusion Centre of MIT, that “if the fusion program produces a reactor, no one is going to want to have it.” Moreover, they ignore the fact, that there is no need for another energy option if we take advantage of the solar potential. The fusion perspective is unrealistic; the Renewable Energy perspective is real.

6. Because Energy is the basic need of life, we can’t leave the basic decisions about the future energy supply only to forecasts based on actual energy costs on the energy market. The costs for the outrunning conventional energies go up. Renewable energy costs will go down, because they are almost exclusively technology costs, except for Biomass. All technology costs are declining in the course of technological progress and mass production.
The acceleration of Renewable Energy is not an economic burden. It is a unique new economic opportunity.

7. Conventional fossil/atomic energies have multiple negative macroeconomic side effects – such as the increasing need to protect the globalized power lines against attacks; the high water consumption for mining, extractions and for heating power stations; the currency-costs for importations; not to forget the environmental damages and those on our health.  
In contrast, Renewable Energy sources have multiple positive macroeconomic benefits, due to the fact that Renewables simply help to avoid all these negative-effects mentioned above. The practical challenge is the creation of policies for the transformation of these benefits into microeconomic incentives for application.

8. Only with Renewables Energies can we come to real energy efficiency. In the long global conventional energy chain from the mines and wells to the customers, sometimes over distances of more than 20,000 miles, there are great energy losses. Thus only with short energy chains based on the use of indigenous Renewable Energies, energy losses will be reduced radically. The central work for Research and Development must therefore focus on the enabling of short energy chains. An absolute priority in Research and Development for new storing technologies, not only with hydrogen, is mandatory. 

9. Conventional energies are politically privileged everywhere in the world by large amounts of public money for research and development; by military protection costs; by 300 billion Dollars of subsidies annually. There was a worldwide public promotion amounting to more than 1 million dollars for atomic energy since the 50ies.

In contrast to this, Renewable Energy is up to now politically discriminated. Less than 20 billion dollars of the tax payers money were spent in the last 30 years to intergovernmental institutions for promoting atomic energy (the IAEA, EURATOM), but not a single one for Renewable Energies. Time is overdue to overcome the double-standard against Renewables.

10. Since 30 years governments and international institutions are aware of the limits of conventional energies and their damaging consequences. This is common knowledge since the oil-crisis in the 70ies, the Global 2000-Report of the Carter Administration in 1981, the UN Environment conference in 1982, the Rio Conference in 1992 or the Johannesburg Conference in 2002. But they avoided coming to the central point: the substitution of non renewable by renewable energies. One element to circumvent the central point is the wording on “sustainable energy”. Due to the assumption that only Renewables are – by definition sustainable, let’s speak about it.

Governments and institutions based their work on the assumption, that global problems require common global actions. They tried to develop a global consensus for action. But consensus means always that the slowest move determines the speed. The result was the attitude of “globally talking and nationally postponing”. The consensus principle leads to a practical paralysis.

The remarkable achievements for Renewable Energies cannot hide the fact that the global fossil energy consumption is increasing faster than the introduction of Renewable Energy. That means: up to now world civilization increases its dependency on fossil energy: it is running into the fossil energy trap.
Therefore the promotion of Renewable Energy has to gain speed. It is in the proper interest of every single country in the world. No one should have to wait any longer for others and for an international consensus.
                                                                                                                                                   The official discussion on Renewable Energies changed in the last years.
The famous philosopher Schopenhauer identifies three phases in the formation of a new solution. At first it is ignored. Secondly there is strong opposition against it. In the last phase the former opponents introduce themselves the new initiatives and make them their own.

The state of Renewable Energy development doesn’t confirm this view: nowadays everybody speaks in favour of Renewable Energies. However, in practice too many are continuing their blockade or remain ignorant of Renewable Energies manifold advantages. Up to now, too much lip-service is paid and too little concrete action can be observed. Renewable Energies are not really accepted as a priority by a majority of decision makers in politics and economics. Numerous excuses are on the table: the costs are too high and the technologies not ripe enough; the market won’t accept Renewables and a lack of consensus exists.

However all these excuses betray only that there is a lack of leadership and a lack of courage to define the right priority. No one will ever become a driving force if he is lacking courage, consistent concepts, new allies and autonomous actions.

The reasons of the German success are the following:

  1. The right concept. Our feed-in-law left space for independent power suppliers and protected them from the dominant influence of the conventional power suppliers by a special market frame-work for Renewables outside the conventional market rules. It is based on a guaranteed access to the grid and on guaranteed feed-in-prices. It offered investment security for Renewables.
    Wherever this concept of price regulation was introduced, Renewable Energies were introduced very fast. Wherever, in contrast to this concept, a quota or RPS-system was introduced, there was a much slower development and – by the way – less cost decline. The reasons are very obvious. Not everyone who favours the quota system is against Renewable Energies but everybody who tries to block Renewable Energies does favour the quota system.
  2. The initiatives in Germany came from the Parliament, based on its constitutional duty and the legitimacy to act out of the common interest and not for special interest.
  3. The mobilisation of the common people, based on common values. As soon as the public realized that Renewable Energies really work they were the most valuable ally for Renewable Energies. Therefore it is a must to inform the people about the manifold possibilities and advantages of Renewables.

At this point, I would like to tell you a story about four people named everybody, somebody, anybody and nobody – a story I first told a large plenary, when ALURE held his conference in December 2004 in the Congress Hall of the US Senate.

There is an important job to be done
And everybody expects that somebody would do it.
Anybody could do it, but nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that, because it is Everybody’s job.
Everybody thinks that anybody should do it,
But nobody realizes that everybody would not do it.
It ended up that everybody blames somebody
When nobody does what anybody has to do.

WE have to promote Renewables by creating public confidence and by referring to the two main values of the people: Individual freedom by getting energy independence for everybody and not only for some people, and social commitment, that means access to energy without damaging the life quality of others. This is only possible with Renewables.

4. The establishment of a new social economic alliance.

Two strong campaigns against our Feed-in-Law were set up in Germany. We counteracted these campaigns by two manifestations in front of the Parliament, carried not only by the Renewable Energy Associations and the RE protagonists in the parliament but also by the economic-interest groups that see their own future with Renewables: the farmers associations, the association of small-and-medium enterprises, the association of machine manufacturers and the Union of the workers in the machine, electrical equipment and buildings construction industry. At no point in history did such an alliance of different groups exist.

It is only possible to mobilize these allies, if the direct benefit lies with the society.

Two Guidelines:

1. The possibility of completely covering energy demands by means of Renewable Energy sources should be shown worldwide and for each country.

By highlighting this, it is not necessary to calculated accurately. No serious economist is in a position to predict the future cost of a new technology; no one can predict neither the applications and their different impacts on costs, nor the speed at which costs will decline as a result of mass production, nor further technological developments. It is only necessary to outline the opportunity to replace all conventional energies in order to overcome the myth that they are indispensable.

If society and its members become aware that full-coverage can be provided by Renewable Energies, more and more decision-makers will abandon the obsessive idea that further large-scale investments with long-term capital tie-up for conventional energy plants will be needed.

However, the conventional energy industry is unlikely to change in the necessary speed, because their interests are tied too fast to the old structures and investment patterns.

Therefore the prime candidates for a transformation of the system are those industries whose current sphere of activity is relatively close to solar conversion technologies: the engine industry; the glass industry; the electrical appliance industry; the electronics industry; the building materials industry; mechanical and plant engineering companies; manufacturers of agricultural implements (for biomass harvesting equipment); and, not to forget, agriculture and forestry. Our farmers will become combined food, energy and raw material producers and they will be ecologically integrated. The agricultural economy will come to a revival with many new jobs. Our farmers will be the oil sheiks of tomorrow.

2. Facing the future debate: solar or nuclear
The experience that a new energy source takes many years to establish itself does not hold true in the case of Renewable Energies. While their provision requires a lot of human work-force, most Renewables do need the infrastructural outlay necessary for the nuclear and fossil energy chains.
The installation of a fossil or atomic power station requires up to ten years or more, the installations of a windmill including its basement takes perhaps one week. Renewable energy is provided on a module basis. That means that renewable energies can be established much faster than conventional energy experts assume. There is no faster way to overcome an energy availability crisis than by Renewable Energies. Renewable Energies offer short term solutions.

The question of how much time really is necessary for creating the solar age is fairly easy to answer: not long if we act with self confidence, knowledge, courage and with the right allies.

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