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Better Than We Found It

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Posted on May 21, 2012
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By Darrell Park

“Better Than We Found It” explains dozens of complex and entrenched issues that plague today’s world and applies a thoughtful and straightforward approach to problem solving. In the following except, author Darrell Park suggests Germany as a model for America’s fledgling renewable energy industry.

Average People Making Lots of Money From the Sun and Wind:

Replicating Germany’s green energy successes in America

The problem—we need green jobs and a nationwide con-version to clean energy

The benefits of wind and solar power are widely understood: they are renewable, have very low maintenance costs, do not produce pollution, and do not help support nasty dictators in distant lands.

The chief roadblock to incorporating these new technologies is cost. Installations that use wind or solar energy to produce electricity aren’t cheap, and power companies are reluctant to throw large amounts of capital at them when dirty coal produces energy cheaply and reliably. This helps explain why less than 2 percent of our energy is currently produced by the wind and sun.

Why the problem exists—and how to think differently about it

There is a better way. Germany—a country with very modest sunshine—is the world’s largest producer of solar energy. How? With a simple but extremely innovative feed-in tariff program.

The feed-in tariff is a fancy way of saying that utilities pay a generous per-kilowatt-hour rate to individuals or companies that install renewable energy technology and use it to produce electricity. By pushing electricity back into the power grid, rather than drawing it out, average people are paid for the power their efforts generate. Citizens who install these technologies and use them to produce surplus electricity can make a tidy sum by selling their clean energy back to the grid—and these prices are guaranteed for years to come.

This means that greening efforts in Germany are not relying on slow-moving corporations. Instead, they have created green energy entrepreneurs in unstoppable numbers. Individuals can take the initiative and install renewable energy sources for their own profit, and they are guaranteed to get paid a very high rate by their utility for every bit of electricity that they make and put back into the grid. This effort has created hundreds of thousands of green jobs and billions of dol-lars renewable energy in Germany, leading to more than 10 percent of German electricity being produced from renewable technologies in 2010.

The obvious question is, Who pays for it? In short, all users of electricity in Germany subsidize these payments, and it turns out to be a great deal for everyone. The feed-in tariff has in-creased the average monthly family electricity bill by roughly two dollars, but for this investment Germany now has a sig-nificant percentage of renewable electric power and a massive green economy, and it sits on the cutting edge of green technology. Furthermore, all German citizens are free to become green entrepreneurs and turn a profit by selling clean energy back to the grid.

How would it work in the U.S. and who would pay for it?

If Germany can do so much in so little time, imagine how quickly this entrepreneurial opportunity would take root in America. By giving individual electricity consumers a financial incentive to go green, while at the same time making it easy for the utilities to be supportive, the largest roadblocks to green energy can be greatly reduced.

How to get it done

So how do we do this in America—the land of opportunity and entrepreneurship, and the very place where many of these green technologies were invented? All it takes is a feed-in tar-iff bill similar to the one Germany has in place, passed by Congress and signed by the President.

To get the ball rolling, contact your members of Congress (https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml) and ask them to sponsor feed-in tariff legislation to make every American a potential green energy entrepreneur and make the United States the world leader in renewable energy. Then contact the White House and tell the President to support a feed-in tariff as well (http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact /submit-questions-and-comments).

If you are passionate, start a Web page or a Facebook page devoted to promoting a national feed-in tariff and post You-Tube videos describing how almost everyone in America could be a green energy entrepreneur and get paid to produce green energy rather than having to pay the utilities for energy that pollutes our air and water. Using Germany’s numbers as an example (statistics on costs and payouts in Germany are readily available on the Web), show readers how much green energy they could produce and how much money they could make if the U.S. had a feed-in tariff.

Get in touch with those that lead your utility (you can find them by plugging the company name listed on your bill into a Web search engine) and call the CEO’s office. Keep leaving messages till you get a call back. A feed-in tariff would be an opportunity for the utility to improve its finances at the same time as reducing the pollution in your community.


New and Improved Comments

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By Friedemann Buschbeck, May 23, 2012 at 6:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Change does not come from writing letter to congress or power companies. Change comes from voting for different politicians.

Your vote is the most powerful political action you have; the two parties spent millions to get your vote. Make a sign of protest that our two parties have to become greener to get your vote.

Don’t blame the Green Party for steeling votes. It is our voting system that is not working.  If Germans had waited for the Green Party to get at the first vote 15%, they would still wait….

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By MeHere, May 22, 2012 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

Contacting lawmakers and corporations for the cause of green energy? That’s easy enough to do and some of us have been doing that for years. But what have we got so far?  Mostly that politicians and big energy businesses have introduced the word “green” in their vocabulary and advertising while nothing substantial has been accomplished. We have been playing their game and they love it.

The people of this nation haven’t made a true environmental commitment. If they had, they would be engaged in taking away the power from big interests and the politicians who feed on them.
Let’s be hopeful but keep our hopes in the right place.

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Shoes 4 Industry's avatar

By Shoes 4 Industry, May 22, 2012 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

Hold your horses, hippy. You’ve overlooked the fact that the American economy is based on every citizen trying to screw every other US citizen. This would just be one “green energy” scam after another on both side of the table. Some “consumers” would immediately be figuring out how to use electric lights to power solar panels and pocket the change. And how many poor consumers, who would have to pay the $2. to support the 1% that could afford to install panels? Germany is no doubt highly regulated, it’s Germany fer crists sakes! You need to start suggesting “real world” solutions and not just mimicing that idiot Thomas Friedman.

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By Doubtom, May 22, 2012 at 9:52 am Link to this comment

This skips right over the fact that utilities in the United States are far from
enthusiastic about the proliferation of individual solar arrays cutting in on their
territory and the very real fact that the utilities have one hell of a lot more political
clout than the citizens do and its called money, that ingredient that runs our
government.

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By Sebastian Lawhorne, May 22, 2012 at 7:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ Gerard: I would highly recommend this book as well: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9697369-the-great-disruption

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, May 22, 2012 at 6:01 am Link to this comment

QUOTE, Darrell Park:

“So how do we do this in America”
_________________

The same way sensible Germans did. They elected enough Greens to get some good done.

99% of America’s voters have been voting for the corporate (R) & (D) party’s money manufactured candidates, then begging between elections for some good to be done… while getting all the sociopathic (R) & (D) evil shit they voted for.

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

http://chenangogreens.org/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=498&Itemid=1

Jill Stein for President:

http://www.jillstein.org

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By gerard, May 21, 2012 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment

One of my pet peeves is that all the doomsday talk—whether religiously based or politically based—discourages people from doing anything to “save the planet” because it induces hopelessness.

Articles like this should be very helpful and ordinary people should rush to support them and put recommendations into action. (The main recommendations here involve getting in touch with officials, which is something the many TD commenters have simply written off as useless.) How can broad support and action on this be actually promoted instead of merely talked about?

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