German Solar Experience Offers Critical ‘Lessons Learned’ For America
Benjamin Franklin once said, “half the truth is often a great lie.” Keep that in mind when you read a recent report prepared for our friends at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) about Germany’s experience with renewable energy, including solar power.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Here’s the gist of the argument made by the energy consulting firm, Finadvice: Germany’s wholesale markets are suffering from “disequilibrium” because of increased consumer costs. The 86-page report is pretty much a hatchet job on renewables. “In conclusion, the lessons learned in Europe prove that the large-scale integration of renewable power does not provide net savings to consumers, but rather a net increase in costs to consumers and other stakeholders,” according to the report.
Really? That’s the problem with half-truths. Not surprisingly, there’s no mention of the enormous societal costs of the damaging pollution which is caused by burning fossil fuels and undeniably driving climate change.
So what’s the other side of the story—the one utilities fail to mention? In response to that question, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today released a comprehensive study taking an in-depth look at Germany’s solar support programs and how the United States can benefit in the long term from the experiences of the world’s leading solar producer.
Prepared for SEIA by the widely-respected Brattle Group, which provides economic and financial consulting around the world, the new report examines, among other things, the rising cost of Germany’s feed-in tariffs (FITs) for solar PV and resulting reform efforts. Today, Germany has 35 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity and is on track to hit 52 GW in the near future, representing about 7 percent of the nation’s wholesale generation.
Most importantly, the report found: “By and large, the German path has been remarkably successful, given the goal—shared by a great majority of the population—of ‘de-fossilizing’ Germany’s electricity sector.”
But the report also acknowledged that there have been growing pains, as well, with some critics calling Germany’s solar support programs too expensive.
“The primary lessons from the German experience are that a system of FITs such as the one used in Germany can be highly effective in promoting the growth of solar PV,” the report continued. “But FITs for new installations should be adjusted regularly and perhaps automatically … so as to avoid undue increases of electricity rates for retail customers.”
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Yet the benefits of solar, according to the report, clearly outweigh some of the problems being experienced by Germany. One of these critically important benefits is reliability. “As the recent Ukraine crisis has shown,” the report stated, “the transition has also helped reduce the exposure of Germany to potentially volatile input prices to the traditional power system.” The report went on to say, “it is perhaps not surprising that the German system has been capable to remain highly reliable up to now, even with a significant and rising contribution of intermittent renewable energy sources.”
This is a thoughtful report—not a scare tactic—and SEIA plans to share its findings with policymakers and regulators nationwide.
Here’s my takeaway from the report: When you examine all of the facts, Germany is a lesson to be learned from, not an experience to be avoided. Admittedly, the costs of Germany’s renewable support programs, including solar PV, have been significant—and higher than expected. But that’s only part of the story.
As the report pointed out, there is also significant evidence that increased power production from the use of solar and other renewables is a major contributor to falling wholesale market prices in Germany, while also helping to significantly reduce pollution. For the U.S., the goal should be to improve solar support programs, not eliminate them. This new report reinforces that objective.
The Brattle Group report concluded by stating: “The reform efforts of the solar PV and renewable support programs in Germany should not be interpreted as an acknowledgement of a broad failure of the Germany systems of FITs. Rather, the reforms are indeed an effort to improve the design of the FIT system … Germany’s experience therefore likely provides an opportunity to ‘look ahead’ and see how electricity systems and the rules governing them will have to adapt when penetration rates of various renewable energy sources reach levels similar to those in German today and beyond.”
In the final analysis, let’s have a debate about renewable energy which includes all of the facts—from the costs of energy to the costs of pollution—and then decide what’s best for America in the long run.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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