Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

BOOK OF THE YEAR: Clean Break—Transitioning to 100% Renewables

Energy

Jeff Biggers

Energiewende might be the most important German word to ever enter our American vocabulary.

Thanks to journalist Osha Davidson's riveting new ebook, Clean Break: The Story of Germany's Energy Transformation—and What Americans Can Learn From It, the story of Germany's Energiewende or power shift will hopefully become a driving part of our own energy lexicon.

As we transition into President Obama's second term, and as coal consumption in the global energy market continues to climb, Clean Break is the most inspiring and downright revelatory book to cross my desk this year.

Never has a book been so timely; rarely has a book on a country's journey to a clean energy future unfolded with the verve of a page-turning bildungsroman, with all the facts and figures to lay out a roadmap for our nation's own transformation.

Written with the skill and intrigue of an investigative journalist tracking down a mystery, Davidson takes us on a fact-finding journey to Germany's corridors of power—from politics to the prairies to the Black Forest—to understand how Europe's most important industrial power has managed to meet such an ambitious plan for renewable energy production. Davidson is the author of several books, editor of the Phoenix Sun online website, and long-time contributor on energy and environmental issues.

In a series of clear-eyed dispatches that should be required reading for policymakers, policy wonks and consumers alike, Davidson presents some basic tenets of any plans for a power shift in our own dirty energy ways. Here are three—of many—that leaped out at me:

Getting beyond a "discussion" about climate change:

Such a massive power shift may sound impossible to those of us from the United States, where giant oil and coal corporations control the energy industry and the very idea of human-caused climate change is still hotly contested. Here in Germany, that debate is long over. A dozen years of growing public support have driven all major political parties to endorse the Energiewende. If a member of parliament called climate change a hoax or said that its cause is unknown, he or she would be laughed out of office.

"The fight now, to the extent that there is one, is over the speed of the transition," Jens Kendzia told me as we stood on the Reichstag roof.

Decentralization and democratizing our energy policy:

"The solution to our energy problems, from nuclear to climate change, can't be a centralized one," Eva Stegen explained to me as she piloted us through the cloud-banked mountains of the Black Forest in her three-wheeled electric car. As communications director for EWS, Germany's first clean energy cooperative, Stegen had no doubt explained all of this many times, but she is so enthusiastic about the Energiewende that she answered my most basic questions as if she were hearing them for the first time.

"Einstein said that the way that leads into a catastrophe cannot be the way that leads out," she said, rounding a corner in the little, neon green car. "Centralized power is the problem. So we needed to find a new way. And that is what the EEG gave us."

Turning cities into communities of the future:

A trip across Hamburg is like visiting the launch pad of Germany's renewable energy revolution or Energiewende. Planners call it the "built environment," a term that includes buildings, parks and the transportation system that connects them. How a city handles these ho-hum elements determines everything from energy usage to greenhouse gas emissions to the quality of life enjoyed by residents.

Without this carefully designed platform, the Energiewende would have never left the ground. So my subway ride wasn't just a way to explore Hamburg's built environment, it was an essential part of it, starting with my short walk to the U-Bahn stop. Ninety-nine percent of Hamburg residents live within 300 meters (328 yards) of a rail or bus stop, a figure that bests any major city in Europe or the United States. It's also one of the primary reasons Hamburg was crowned European Green Capital in 2011. Germany's second largest city, which is also its busiest port, shows "how an industrial city can help lead the green revolution," as an editor at Architectural Record put it.

Germany's plan is not infallible, of course, nor is it alone in its goal to operate on 80 percent renewable power by 2050—Scotland recently announced its intention to become 100 percent renewable by 2020.

But as Davidson expertly shows, Germany's Energiewende demonstrates that the issue of climate change and transitioning off dirty fossil fuels should no longer be seen as "a problem," as one analysts explains, but a "task" to be accomplished.

Clean Break is a huge leap in making that task a vital part of our American energy policy.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

——–

Click here to tell Congress to Expedite Renewable Energy.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heavy industry on the lower Mississippi helps to create dead zones. AJ Wallace on Unsplash.

Cutting out coal-burning and other sources of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from heavy industry, electricity production and traffic will reduce the size of the world's dead zones along coasts where all fish life is vanishing because of a lack of oxygen.

Read More Show Less

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted the ability to gather in peaceful assembly, a Canadian company has moved forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A gas flare from the Shell Chemical LP petroleum refinery illuminates the sky on August 21, 2019 in Norco, Louisiana. Drew Angerer / Getty Images.

Methane levels in the atmosphere experienced a dramatic rise in 2019, preliminary data released Sunday shows.

Read More Show Less
A retired West Virginia miner suffering from black lung visits a doctor for tests. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

In some states like West Virginia, coal mines have been classified as essential services and are staying open during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the close quarters miners work in and the known risks to respiratory health put miners in harm's way during the spread of the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Solar panel installations and a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province on April 23, 2019. MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP via Getty Images

Renewable energy made up almost three quarters of all new energy capacity added in 2019, data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows.

Read More Show Less