German Experience for American Renewable Energy
Our first Dinner Dialogue in Aspen, Colorado, focused on the German experience with and the prospects for Colorado state policies in support of renewable energy. As a side event to the annual American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) Summit, the dinner involved local community leaders and Colorado State Senator Gail Schwartz as guest of honor. The deliberations built on AREDAY discussions about the effectiveness of feed-in tariffs for rewarding independent renewable power producers, and provided broader context for further policy development in Colorado and the US.
Senator Gail Schwartz chairs the Colorado State Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and represents Colorado Senate District 5 with a population of just under 120,000 in 11 counties, including Pitkin County with Aspen at its heart.
In 2011, Senator Schwartz co-sponsored legislation to study the feed-in policy’s potential in Colorado. This bill, though defeated on partisan grounds, focused attention on the state-wide economic and employment benefits of the proposed policy. Senator Schwartz also introduced or cosponsored a range of bills that passed, which include: The Species Conservation Trust Fund; the Water Conservation Board Construction Fund, and the Forest Health Bill of 2011 (with provisions to study Colorado’s potential for woody biomass market development).
Participants at the Aspen Dinner Dialogue, which was co-hosted by the Sopris Foundation as local partner, included members of Colorado's ad-hoc working group on economic development through distributed power generation, farmers, national policy makers, philanthropists and political activists from across the state. The event was held in conjunction with the I-Cite Exchanges "Transforming Economies through Community".
Since 2009, there has been growing interest in Colorado to establish a feed-in policy, known in the state as a CLEAN Contract (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now), or Renewable Energy Purchase Price (REPP). In her remarks, Senator Schwartz emphasized the need of creating economic development by providing opportunities for distributed electricity generation, including priority grid access. Senator Schwartz reiterated the need to use the State’s four million acres of deadfall timber – caused by a pine beetle epidemic – as a ready source of biomass for energy purposes. This decaying timber threatens multiple watersheds within the state, poses the threat of catastrophic wildfire, and will release tons of carbon dioxide and methane as it decomposes (or burns). Yet it poses tremendous potential for economic development through biomass use and restoration work.
The dinner discussion moved quickly toward strategic next steps for the state. While the landscape of electric utilities does not necessarily lend itself to statewide legislation in 2012, promising efforts or preliminary discussions about local initiatives and the potential for pilot projects are underway in Fort Collins, Durango, and the Roaring Fork Valley. R. Andreas Kraemer of Ecologic Institute, in Aspen as a speaker for AREDAY, recalled that the German feed-in law began similarly, through local initiatives in small towns and rural areas. One conclusion from the dinner is that modest trials for specific renewable technologies, with a cap on capacity (in MW), may be the most feasible first step. On the issue deregulation, the German experience underlines the importance of ensuring priority grid access for renewable power generators, especially if there was no prior unbundling of distribution and transmission grid ownership from power generation.
The following afternoon, the AREDAY summit hosted Randy Hayes of the World Future Council, Craig Lewis of the CLEAN Coalition, Piper Foster of the Sopris Foundation, and R. Andreas Kraemer, on a panel moderated by Katie Hoffner of Prieto Battery Inc. to describe feed-in policy, with it's accomplishments in Germany and worldwide, and ongoing efforts in Colorado.
- American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) Summit 2011
- Ecologic Institute Project: I-CITE Transatlantic Dialogue: Transforming Economies through Community
- Ecologic Institute Project in cooperation with the Atlantic Council of the United States (ACUS): Emerging Leaders in Environmental and Energy Policy Network (ELEEP)
- Article of the US Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) on "Smart grids and smart meters in Germany"
- Article "How Merkel Decided to End Nuclear Power" in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune by Judy Dempsey
- R. Andreas Kraemer's op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle and essay in the AICGS Advisor: The nuclear endgame begins in Germany
- Ecologic Institute Energy Program web site
- Ecologic Institute Economics of Transformation Program web site
- Ecologic Institute Transatlantic Outreach Program web site