Energy Democracy – Germany’s Energiewende to Renewables
Over the last decade, my colleague (and meanwhile, partner in crime) Craig Morris and I have spent a lot of our time communicating German energy and climate policymaking for the international community. He is the American living in Freiburg, Germany’s solar capital near the French border, while I am the German who lived in Washington DC until 2013. Following the nuclear phaseout in 2011, the Energiewende drew a lot of attention around the world: either for being a panic reaction to the nuclear accident in Fukushima or for being allegedly exceptional with its rapid move to wind and solar. We both were struck by these awkward interpretations. The Energiewende, with its roots in the 1970s and 1980s, is the opposite of panicking. Yet, Germany and its energy transition is not exceptional; other countries are actually faster transitioning to renewables.
But the Energiewende is nonetheless exceptional in one way too often overlooked: Germany is (apart from Denmark and maybe Scotland) the only country in the world where the switch to renewables is a switch to energy democracy. Once we realized how this uniqueness was being overlooked, we wanted to get the word out. So back in September 2014, on a sunny late summer evening at the Landwehrkanal in Berlin, we decided to write a book: a history of Germany’s energy transition – its Energiewende.
In Energy Democracy: Germany’s Energiewende to Renewables we outline how the Germans convinced their politicians to pass laws allowing citizens to make their own energy, even when it hurt utility companies to do so. We trace the origins of the Energiewende movement in Germany from grassroots movement against the industrialization of farming communities in the 1970s to the Power Rebels of Schönau in the 1990s and up to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s shutdown of eight nuclear power plants following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. And we explore how community groups have become key actors in the bottom-up fight against climate change by taking ownership at a local level. Individually, citizens might install solar panels on their roofs, but citizen groups can do much more: community wind farms, local heat supply, walkable cities and more.
Our aim is to show that the transition to renewables is a one-time opportunity to strengthen communities and democratize the energy sector – in Germany and around the world. The book is to be published by Palgrave MacMillan in August 2016. Until then we will have put up a website for the book right here where you can order the book or just individual chapters, get author-signed copies, find cool graphics and short videos and hear about upcoming events when we will present the findings of our analysis.
Just click here to get this important book that tells the tale most often overlooked.
PS: Back in 2012, I made it on US television to talk about the Energiewende and energy democracy. It was the Dylan-Ratigan-Show on MSNBC, and apparently it was the very final episode. Don’t ask me why I look so concerned throughout the interview (though the reason may have been that it was live, and for the show I had to leave a public screening of Germany vs. Greece in the European Championship). The interview fits quite well with our topic: