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Reflections on the Role of Foundations in Promoting Renewable Energies

Reflections on the Role of Foundations in Promoting Renewable Energies

2 October 2009
Anchorage, Alaska
United States

The potential for renewable energies is greater in the US than in Germany, and foundations can do much to unlock growth, help create jobs, stabilise communities, and phase out fossil energies and atomic power.  R. Andreas Kraemer of Ecologic Institute presented the German experience at the EGA Fall Retreat in Anchorage, Alaska, on 2 October 2009.

In a session on "Investments Into Renewable Energies – What Policies do Work?" facilitated by Arne Jungjohann of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, R. Andreas Kraemer explained the growth of renewable energies in Germany over the past decades and the outlook to 2050.  The German policy mix allows for innovation, business creation, growth and rising employment across the board, from (mainly small) hydropower, wind and solar power, biomass and the combined conversion of bio-energies into heat and power, to the use of geothermal energy.  Market analyses and demonstration projects revealed that Germany can transform to 100 per cent renewable energies in the power sector by 2050, or even earlier with smart grids and electric cars, and by unlocking demand flexibility through load-based time-variable tariffs and feed-in rules.  Wilson Rickerson of Meister Consulting presented a counterpart view from a US perspective. 

The legend scales of German maps showing wind and solar power potential end where US maps begin.  Even in Alaska, the energy potential from wind and the sun is as great as in Germany; in the "Lower 48 States" the situation is much more advantageous.  Clearly, the US has even more to gain from expanding renewable energies than Germany did with its 280,000 new jobs, and 29 billion Euros annual business volume (2008).

US (and Canadian) foundations – endowed foundation as well as community foundations – can do much to unlock that potential through:

  • Aligning asset management with mission by investing in renewable energy, smart grid and battery technology, and divesting coal, oil & gas, and nuclear; reducing reputational and investment risk along the way;
  • Bringing impartial analysis to understand the obstacles to wide acceptance of renewable energies, often promoted in large scale by large and external investors, excluding locals;
  • Building acceptance through community co-ownership, mechanisms for benefit sharing, and co-decision with local stakeholders;
  • Stepping in as investment aggregators and risk arbitrators between small local investors and large promoters;
  • Advocating for effective policies, regulation, planning and administration at local, state, federal and international levels;
  • Raising awareness of the need to adapt to climate change and the benefits of transforming the energy sector so as to limit global warming.

The presentation [pdf, 5.23 MB, English] is available for download.

The article "Security Through Energy Policy: Germany at the Crossroads" by R. Andreas Kraemer in the eJournal USA issue of September 2009 (p. 19-21) provides additional background.

2 October 2009
Anchorage, Alaska, United States
renewable energy, potential, Germany, US, USA, policy, regulation, acceptance, investment, risk, foundations, asset management