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Solar and Wind Power: More Energy Security for the US?

Solar and Wind Power: More Energy Security for the US?

17 February 2005

pvThe Ecologic Dinner Dialogue on 17 February 2005 focused on the role of renewable energies in the USA. It was held to honour Jan McFarland and James H. Caldwell. This "zero-emission-pair" has shown great commitment over the last decades for a change in energy supply leading to an increased use of renewable energies in the USA.

One day after the entry into force of the Kyoto-Protocol, one of the most important aspects of the Dialogue concerned the impacts of an increased use of renewable energies for climate protection. It was generally agreed upon that an intensified use of renewable energies was necessary. Against this background and to exchange experiences made in this context, the participants addressed the impediments and questions of acceptability, as well as the different strategies and instruments in the USA, Europe and Germany in particular.

Jan McFarland opened the Dialogue with a presentation of a programme of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CalSEIA). This not-for-profit organisation aims to promote a more extensive use of solar thermal energy and photovoltaic (PV) generators. The main focus lies on the promotion of an increased installation of PV and solar thermal energy generators in private households. To this end, the organisation offers special customer counselling service, supports "solar-friendly" legislation and professional as well as ethical energy management. According to Jan McFarland, the advantages of a decentralised "on-site generation" are, on the one hand, the independence from the grid system and, on the other, an active integration of the public in the choice of energy supply.

Since Arnold Schwarzenegger took office as governor of California the solar industry has seen more lee-way in its efforts to promote renewable energies. In this context, Jan McFarland referred to the "50% PV Plan" according to which 50% of new buildings have to be equipped with PV-generators by the year 2009. This aim is to be realised by agreements between the building and solar industry, in addition to incentive instruments granted by the state of California. Furthermore, a new building programme is currently under weigh with which the erection of "zero-energy" houses is being promoted.

With certain envy, though, Jan McFarland follows the development in Germany where -contrary to the USA- a national energy programme exists which has set more ambitious aims. At the beginning of the 1980s California still held the leadership in the field of renewable energies; now it has fallen behind and it is high time to catch up on development.

Jan McFarland is Executive Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CalSEIA) and Vice President of Americans for Solar Power, as well as the PV Manufacturers Alliance (PVMA). Since 1977 she has been working in the field of transport, environment and energy policy with particular emphasis on renewable energy; at government level she acted as advisor for the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Californian Energy Commission, as well as for various enterprises and not-for-profit organisations. Jan McFarland is co-founder of the Centre for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, having been the first national coalition of enterprises and environmental associations with the aim to realise cost-efficient projects of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

windJames H. Caldwell, director for Renewable Policy at the PPM Energy, the second largest project developer and trader in the field of wind energy world-wide, gave at the beginning of his presentation an overview of the current developments in the USA concerning the energy and the wind energy sector in particular. Since last year wind bonds have been traded at the Wall Street for the first time. With view to the USA, having become a net-importer of natural gas and, as a consequence, the gas prices having doubled, it is predictable that the contribution of renewable energies to the energy production and wind energy in particular will considerably increase in the oncoming years. At the moment, all wind-energy generators in the US count circa 1/3 of the those installed in Germany. James H. Caldwell claims that in the USA the conditions in terms of wind-potential are much more promising than, for instance, in Germany. According to James H. Caldwell, the decisive factor is that wind energy generators in the USA are already profitable.

James H. Caldwell has dedicated his work to wind energy in the USA. For forty years he has been working for enterprises as well as for not-for-profit organisations in the field of environmental protection and energy supply. Prior to joining PPM Energy, James H. Caldwell worked as policy director of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). He was responsible, inter alia, for the "Transmission Initiative" which aimed to integrate wind into the wholesale electricity market structure and to create regional grids capable of moving significant amounts of wind energy from resource rich areas to load centres.

The ensuing discussion focused on the following issues:

  • Comparison of energy costs in the USA, the European Union and Germany, reasons and differences;
  • Liberalisation and regulation of the energy sector: potentials and dangers in Germany - experiences made in the USA with the introduction of economic competition in the energy supply sector;
  • Intensified use of renewable energy and wind energy in particular: grid integration, reinforcement and expansion; expectations toward the "DEnA-grid-study".
  • The importance of measures of energy efficiency and decentralisation of energy supply;
  • Comparison of the different approaches concerning incentive measures for renewable energies in the USA and Europe or Germany, respectively;
  • Renewable energy and security of energy supply with view to the independence from oil-exporting countries or the reduction of dependence on energy-imports;
  • Renewable energy potential for becoming export technologies.


Jan McFarland
James H. Caldwell
17 February 2005
Berlin, Germany