Welcome everyone to our new blog. Visitors who have interacted with the GACC South, either on the business or the social side, may know about the structure of our bilingual organization. But I assume that only a few know about our two competence centers established within the Consulting Services Department not long ago. Well, once you think about the strengths of Germans it might be quite obvious… No, the two competence centers are not called “beer” and “football” (the one you actually play with your feet). I am talking about German strengths in the global economy, the two industries in which “made in Germany” is widely acknowledged as high quality and technologically advanced:
Automotive and Renewables!
Today I would like to share with you my thoughts on renewable energy and why the collaboration between US and Germany is essential for scalable clean energy…
The growing importance and focus on Renewables motivated us to establish a branch office in Houston, TX in 2007 dedicated to this industry. The close cooperation between the offices in Atlanta and Houston enables us to cover all sectors of the green industry thanks to Texas’ strengths in wind and solar energy (myriad technologies) and the Southeast’s abundant supply of biomass and also its emerging solar industry. My motivation for taking over the responsibilities of the Green Initiative was not the environmental mainstream way of thinking that has emerged in the last few years- that going green is trendy. Everyone is talking about a green revolution, but just shortening the time you take in the shower does not solve the problem. I recently read that “Green” was actually the single most trademarked term in 2007, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office which underlines the trend. I have a feeling that nowadays no candidate can get elected without holding a speech on the importance of clean fuel and climate change. I ’m not saying that raising awareness about the problems caused by our excessive consumption of natural resources is not important. All I am saying is that we need more action and less talk to manage the aftermath of the industrial revolution. I think that we do need a green revolution which is reflected by a whole new way to power our plants and fuel our cars.
One reason for Germany’s leadership in green technologies is that politicians and economists understood early that the only way to decrease the dependence on oil countries (like Saudi Arabia, Iran & Russia), create new jobs, and limit unmanageable climate changes is to make clean electrons scalable and affordable. From my perspective, the most wide reaching and dangerous issue from the above is, not only Germany’s but also the world’s dependence on ‘petrodictator countries’ (a term coined by Thomas Friedmann which reflects this issue). The key incident which affected Germany’s energy policy significantly was the escalation of the (currently still ongoing) crisis between Russia and the European country of Georgia. Georgia’s supply with gas is vital to Western Europe’s oil and gas supply. 39% of Germany’s imported gas has its source in Russia. The energy policy path which Germany followed, even more eagerly afterward was reflected by very generous tax incentives, regulatory incentives, renewable energy mandates, and other market shaping mechanisms that created durable demand for these already existing clean power technologies.
Why do I emphasize “existing” clean power technologies? Because I don’t think we are exploiting the current technology to its full potential. I do understand that clean energy is still too expensive for utilities and hence consumers. However, I don’t believe that governments can afford to wait for a technological breakthrough that will lead to cost effective energy and simultaneously increased demand. I am sure that at some point we will reach the point of scalable clean energy production. I like to compare this development with my first cell phone (NOKIA 5190) and today’s technology (i.e. iphone). There is no comparison! But what we can do until we have reached the era of affordable low-carbon technology is to break down market barriers. The only thing which concerns me is the pace of our progress: According to Joseph Romm, energy physicist and former Clinton Department of Energy official, it took 25 years after the commercial introduction for a primary energy form to obtain a one percent share of the global market.
One approach to break down these barriers is to capitalize on the strengths of each economy. Germany offers the technology and know-how, the United States the resources and the potential for large scale deployment. A good example of market barriers between Europe and the US is the SRCC certification program, whose “primary purpose (is) the development and implementation of certification programs and national rating standards for solar energy equipment”. The certification from this non-profit, Florida based organization is required in order for consumers to be eligible for tax incentives when installing solar collectors (solar collectors refer to a solar thermal technology). However, it used to take German companies more than a year to obtain this certification, which is essential for entering the US market. A lot of convincing was necessary before the SRCC accredited five German and one Swiss laboratory just a few months ago. Fortunately, now German companies can certify their products domestically (with the supervision of SRCC).
This certification process was only one barrier our client, Powersol GmbH, a German manufacturer of high quality, evacuated solar tubes, had to overcome.
Especially solar thermal systems, which I perceive as the most promising technology for clean energy because it doesn’t need a battery for storage unlike solar photovoltaic energy (PV will not become abundant until a battery that can store massive amounts of solar-generated electricity is invented, so that the energy will be available even when the sun is not shining) and it has a much higher efficiency rate. Solar thermal cooling systems, pioneered by Powersol GmbH, make this technology even more interesting.
Thus, my personal and the GACC South’s commitment is to build bridges between Germany and the United States, especially in the green energy industry. I would like to share a quote with you by Lois Quam, former managing director of alternative investments at Piper Jaffray, which I feel underlines the significance of our efforts and the importance of going Green:
“The green economy is poised to be the mother of all markets, the economic investment opportunity of a lifetime, because it has become so fundamental. The challenge of global warming presents us all with the greatest opportunity for return on investment and growth that any of us will ever see. To find any equivalent economic transformation, you have to go back to the Industrial Revolution. And in the Industrial Revolution there was a very clear before and after. “After,” everything was different: Industries had come and gone, civic society changed, new social institutions were born, and every aspect of work and daily life had been altered. With that came the emergence of new global powers. This [clean energy transformation] will be an equivalent moment in history.”