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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.


Second World Conference and Exhibition on Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conversion, Vienna, July 6th to 10th, 1998

" 100 years people will say: the work is done, we are living in the Solar Age."

Ladies and gentlemen,
Fellow Solar Advocates,
Dear Mrs. Loretta Schaeffer,
and Chairpersons Jürgen Schmid, Sheila Bailey and Kosuke Kuokawa,

Conflicts are the salt of every new development in society - large. Civilian culture guarantees that they are carried out peacefully, rationally and responsibly. I like to provoke conflicts in order to overcome paralysed conditions and eradicate discrepancies between existing dangers and missing initiatives. I'm not a consensus man. That's why it is an extraordinary event to receive this prize. Thank you very much. The prize confirms to myself that my activities are of value to the development of solar energy. It will encourage me to continue on my path.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words to the participants of the World Photovoltaic Conference on the necessary conflicts for solar energy.

The 20th century is now coming to end and it has been an epoch of unbelievable scientific and technological progress. But at the same time, it has been an era of dramatical environmental decline. This is a deep-seated contradiction of our age. Because three quarters of all global environmental dangers are derived from the burning of conventional energies, the energy issue is the decisive battle of the world's future which can be only won for mankind through the replacement of fossil and nuclear energies with solar energies.

The coming century must create an ecological economy. That is only possible with solar energy. It is my desire that in a hundred years, at the end of the 21th century, people will say: "The work is done; we are living in a Solar Age. All forms of fossil and nuclear energy consumption have disappeared. Mankind has integrated its economy into the ecosphere, enjoys a safer and better quality of life and experiences more equality than ever before. All of this has come to pass because the time is over when different accessability to traditional commercial energy supplies had created a huge gap between rich and poor societies."

This is merited to many committed scientists, engineers and - mostly smaller - industrialists, and to some path breaking political initiatives. But it is first and foremost due to many grass-root initiatives, often comprised of young people, which insisted on taking the solar option and putting pressure on politicians and entrepreneurs to take action and themselves committed in non-profit marketing of solar technologies. They prepared the groundwork and formed the springboard for the development of a new industry and of new political initiatives. It made solar technologies popular before they were available on the market. I personally feel more like a representative of these idealistic common interest campaigners than as a part of political institution. We all should thank these many committed people for their non-commercial work.

One should never forget that the real breakthrough for solar energy can only be mobilised by an increasing commitment of an increasing number of people. They only can be mobilised by showing the principal differences between energy and energy. Whoever considers all forms of energy to be equal uses only prices as a criterium. Whoever does so eliminates human ideas and values, heritage and future, children and nature. To win the people as allies and as customers of solar energy it is a "must" not to fall in the trap of simple price comparisons, but to emphasise the principal ethical and practical differences between non-renewable and polluting energies.

The introduction of solar energy on a mass scale requires intermediately millions and ultimately billions of individual actors actively advocating solar applications. People have the unique democratic and autonomous opportunity no longer to be a part of the danger but to become a part of the solution. For this we need a cultural change toward a new energy mentality and behaviour.

We all welcome the beginnings of commercialisation of solar technologies for reaching the Solar Age more quickly. But because of the necessary participation of the people this should not become merely an ordinary business. The solar business will miss its real opportunity and responsibility if it fails in being a credible ally to the common people.

Considering all the progress solar energy has made we should not forget that up to now the world's demand for energy is increasing faster than active solar energy implementations. The International Energy Agency estimates an energy growth between 1990 and 2010 of 70%. Instead of political decisions for higher conventional energy taxes, more decisions were adopted to reduce conventional energy prices in recent years. Some solar budgets increased, but annual global subsidies for conventional energies, at 300 billion dollars, are 15 times more than the amount of public money that was spent on the public promotion of renewable energies in the last 20 years. We welcome the solar activities of BP and Shell, but their general priorities are already carved in the conventional energy fields. That means that most of the work is not behind us; the much more ambitious work still lies ahead. It is the work for shifting priorities to solar energies.

The decisive question is which ideas and prospects does the spiritual leadership in regards to the general public have. Whoever has this will enjoy practical leadership as well. In order to achieve leadership the prerequisite is the existence of driving forces who have spiritual and practical independence. Moreover, reaching the Solar Age at the right time demands more speed from the driving forces behind solar energy. I want to speak now about these three elements: leadership in the energy debate, independence and speed.

Beside the present minor role of solar energy in the energy statistics: Whoever represents the superior alternative should do so with a superior attitude. Those active in politics, science and the business community should free themselves from the spiritual rulership of the big power companies. Whoever accepts their role as energy oligopolists and their specific premises, subjugates himself.

The appropriate behaviour of solar energy supporters is to act as delegates of the only real energy super power, the sun. In relation to the power of the sun all fossil and nuclear energy is marginal. Mankind will marginalise itself if it continues its dependence on marginal energy sources. All tendencies since the beginning of the industrial age to replace solar power with fossil energies, later on even by nuclear fusion energies - overtax the environment and humans. Now the disastrous consequences of this cultural and economic misjudgements have become obvious.
The existing energy structures were designed for the exploitation, transportation, conversion and distribution of conventional energy sources. These created a specific partisan energy economy which by itself can neither be neutral, fair nor appropriate to solar energy. It's quite normal for the conventional energy sector to want to keep its structure and maintain its monopolistic role. Here we can find all the reasons for the resistance and reluctance to solar energies.

There is no other plausible explanation for the many double standards - here open offers and hands for conventional subsidies, there the denunciation of subsidies for solar energy, here big investment risks for nuclear plants and over capacities, there very few or no investment risks for solar power. These double standards became an element of the culture of energy thinking, including energy policy, because the fossil/nuclear energy system became recognised to be indispensable and thus established a mental hierarchy.

But only solar energy is indispensable. Fossil and nuclear energy are not indispensable. A crucial factor is the structural and therefore.economic turning point of a new energy mentality, besides unlimited availability and the clean quality of renewable energies, is the totally different energy chain. The conventional energy chain begins with mining and drilling in few places, complicated transportation to refinement and large power stations and more complicated distribution to end-users and the waste management. In the solar chain the photons arrive directly at the point of conversion materials and leave it as electrons. It avoids many elements and deviations.

This is the key to new structures and a new economic thinking which will change the present energy structure much more than the new information technologies began to change the industrial structures.

My general advice to solar supporters is: Don't leave the introduction of solar energy to the existing energy system and its economy, because this is like leaving a non-smoking campaign in the hands of the tobacco industry. Public and private advocates of solar energy won't ask the monopolies for permission. They should just do their work. If they are doing their work, some monopolies will follow by diversification of their activities to solar power. This will be the success story of solar energy. Independent public and private actions are the basic prerequisite for solar success. It is an age-old lesson of economic history that a structural revolution is delayed if it's left to the structures which are most threatened and endangered by it than all other members of the society and its economy.

Max Planck wrote in his autobiography: "a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die out." I would like to add: Because we are in a race against time we cannot afford to wait for our opponents to become extinct. We must accelerate the process of change with new democratic decisions and new market instruments.

Psychologically it is absolutely necessary to take the opportunity to show that all the energy needs of modern human civilisation can be fulfilled by solar energy. As long as they continue to believe in its indispensability, people and their political representatives will accept the further use of conventional energies and the dangers they cause. For this reason, supporters of conventional energies tried and continue to try to circulate arguments that solar energy can only meet a small part of the energy demand. Some say 5%, some 10, some 20. Shell, being the foremost global energy player, recently left such misinformation. If people like me or organisations like EUROSOLAR had not publicly insisted time and again that solar energy can meet demands a full 100%, Shell would perhaps not have the courage to now forecast 50% by the year 2050. In my opinion, this is their way of slowly but surely admitting to the possibility of 100%.

This is much more than just an intellectual game. What are people to think if on the one hand they constantly hear about the newest global climate damages or nuclear dangers and at the same time are fed the message that there is no possibility of substituting the fossil and nuclear sources that cause these dangers? If they believe both messages, they will logically become fatalistic and to develop a "no-future mentality". Pessimistic or limited views on solar energy opportunities destroy the mental strength of society to take action against the dangers. Optimistic views for solar energy will jeopardise long-term prospects of conventional energies and will stimulate more and more independent creative activities for renewable energies. The more we can show the opportunity of 100%, the stronger, broader and speedier the support for solar energy in society will be.

In order to mobilise society towards taking the solar opportunity, it is again psychologically necessary to set ambitious targets. With small goals one can never motivate the masses. The announcement of the US government and the EU's proposal for one million PV installations are good for the general advancement of solar energy as is the Japanese PV programme. These give the public confidence in this technology. However, if such targets are not fulfilled it only serves to damage the credibility of those making such announcements. Such targets should be used as a case of reference for implementation and for the organising of a stronger public pressure in favour of it.

There are increasing demands and sympathies for solar energy. But many people can't imagine that the big cathedrals of the conventional energy plants could be substituted by many small solar installations. That's why the psychological breakthrough to solar energy is so important for future development. If we succeed in this, solar energy will be the winner, and with it our society-at-large. The sooner this happens, the cheaper and better it will be for all. The remaining question is not how high are the costs for solar introduction, but how big are the social costs for its postponement. In order to avoid these costs, solar energy supporters should be assertive, creative and tough for leading others into a more promising future.

It gives me great joy to have the opportunity to work for this cause. The World Solar Prize will be my symbol for this opportunity.

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