Mainz (Germany) : The success of an energy policy depends on it being owned locally and decentralised, a top policymaker has said, adding: “Many economically underdeveloped regions in Germany are now earning money by tapping energy from renewables.”
The success lies in supporting citizen energy cooperatives, he said.
“The core idea of our energy policy is a locally owned and decentralised energy transition, based on citizen engagement,” said Thomas Griese, Secretary in the Rhineland-Palatinate State Ministry for Energy and Environment.
In an interaction with IANS here, he said by earning money through energy production, formerly economically underdeveloped regions now have the possibility to invest in their infrastructure.
Rhineland-Palatinate, a predominantly rural federal state in southern Germany but a leading one in terms of the use of wind power relative to its potential and also tapping solar for heating, has been a frontrunner in supporting citizen energy cooperatives.
“Supporting cooperatives by the state is an important factor in many communities,” said Griese, who belongs to the Green Party.
Forty-two citizen energy cooperatives are federated and the Ministry of Environment and Energy supports them financially.
“We also support the transition of the energy system by funding local heat networks. To this day we have funded nine local heat networks with an investment of about 12.3 million Euros,” said an optimistic Griese, who has been in office since 2011.
After a first phase of energy transition from fossils to renewable energy, he said “it’s necessary and important that we integrate them into our energy supply system. This should be as cost-effective and efficient as possible.”
According to Griese, energy transition also has to reach the heat sector.
“We can only reduce our dependence on energy imports and climate-damaging emissions if we reduce the heat requirement in our buildings and if we use more renewable energy for heating.”
Forty-eight per cent of the power production in Rhineland-Palatinate is based on renewable energy, mainly wind power, which is significantly above German’s average of 33 per cent as per 2017 government statistics.
It was highly dependent on fossil fuels, mainly mineral oil and natural gas, which accounted for 41 percent and 38 percent of the state’s primary energy consumption in 2015.
“We have succeeded in becoming largely independent from power imports. Seventy per cent of the power we consumed is produced in the state itself. Only a few years ago this situation was reverse.”
“Through the development of renewable energy, more than 10,000 new jobs have been generated.”
On stepping up action for expanding renewable sources, he said: “I expect from the new (federal) government more courage and political commitment to regain global leadership not only to achieve the climate targets but also to gain back a leading position in technology.”
The Rhineland-Palatinate Energy Agency, a state-owned service provider, has been supporting municipalities, public institutions, businesses and citizens in their energy transition and climate protection efforts since 2012.
While the new federal coalition government has just targetted the generation of 65 per cent of the electricity from renewable sources by 2030, Rhineland-Palatinate wants this figure to reach 100 per cent by 2030.
(Vishal Gulati is in Germany for a media study tour of the Clean Energy Wire or CLEW. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )