Renewable energy policies and the example of Germany with Craig Morris
“The interesting question is not which country is the best now in term of renewables, it’s how can we move forward, and there are lessons to learn from Germany here.”
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Born in the United States, Craig Morris has been living in Germany since 1992. He is the author of Energy Switch (2006) along with numerous articles in both English and German on energy technologies and policies. Craig Morris is currently the Contributing Editor of Renewables International and a writer for EnergyTransition.de. He works on various projects with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and has also co-authored a book on Germany’s energy transition, Energy Democracy, released in September 2016.
About Germany: “What makes Germany’s shift unique is that they started up as a grassroots movement, like in Denmark. The Germans copied the idea from the Danes. Our book, Energy Democracy, looks at the shift from a societal point of view. This is the German government giving the people what they want even when it hurts the incumbent industries that influence politics. The book investigates why and suggests that such things can only happen in a healthy democracy.”
About ReMap: “IRENA’s Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future — REmap — determines the realistic potential for countries, regions, and the world to scale up renewables in order to ensure an affordable and sustainable energy future. IRENA builds its study on the “Reference Case” which is the only collection of governmental policies worldwide investigating technologies and markets. Thanks to the Reference Case, IRENA shows the gap between countries and the path to follow in order to fill this gap. The study shows what steps governments can take to reach 100% renewables. Today, even the most skeptical countries’ energy ministers engage with IRENA when they might not even take the Greenpeace studies seriously.”
About billionaires investing in RE: “If you heard what Bill Gates said about renewables, it’s very dangerous. He says: ‘I will bring the billionaires together and we will put the money where it’s needed — in R&D — to come up with the technologies that will save the planet.’ But we already have the technology today. There is no technology on the horizon that is so awesome that we won’t need the wind and solar energy anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there are great ideas out there (e.g. geothermal energy, ocean energy) and yes we need R&D, but it’s dangerous to say that without acknowledging that 2/3 of the transition, 2/3 of what we need, is wind and solar.”
About the best countries in terms of RE development: “In terms of the overall, China is doing the most for both wind and solar, because of the size of the country, and the size of the energy growth. So you are comparing apples and oranges here. Greece, for instance, has already 10% renewable energy and is super interesting from a policy standpoint. Nobody talks about it because we all look at the reports on sales from the business point of view.”
About the best RE country policies: “If we talk about electricity for the moment (as opposed to energy) Costa Rica, Norway, and Iceland are almost 100% renewable already thanks to hydro and/or geothermal. You can’t compare with other countries. If the French government says ‘Norway is 100%, let’s copy Norway: be a small population on a bunch of fjords’, it will not work. You can’t copy Norway. ‘OK, let’s copy Iceland then. Everybody sits on a volcano.’ That doesn’t work either. These are not policy recommendations.
The interesting question is not which country is the best now in term of renewables, it’s how can we move forward, and there are lessons to learn from Germany here. Germany is a super interesting example. They are doing it with wind and solar, which every country has at a significant level. In fact, Germany has a bad potential for both. So today, Germany is doing something that is more easily replicable everywhere.”
Interview by Anne-Sophie Garrigou