Dylan Ratigan Show   |  June 22, 2012

Bringing energy sustainability to the US

Arne Jungjohann of the Heinrich Böll Foundation joins MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan to discuss energy sustainability and how the United States stacks up in renewable energy usage compared to Germany.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> beautiful friday afternoon to you. i am dylan ratigan . exciting day around here. lots of changes. today, the last time that you and i will be able to meet in this particular fashion for this particular version of this particular conversation. so, it is appropriate that our final big story is our last wow stat. our last evidence that it is possible to get way more of everything for way less if we simply decide to change how we do things. we talked about the farmers, the teaching, health networks. david kennedy sat here yesterday and explained you can reduce shooting by 60%. it's about resources, how you do it. an entire nation is showing us how to do that with sustainable energy . i want you to imagine that 20% of a nation's entire energy usage was produced by renewable sources . not by some government plan, either. germany , not the sunniest planet, is proving that exactly this is possible. in fact, germany holds the world record for solar production. they've achieved as much as 50% of their overall production of electricity from distributed solar on the houses. obviously when the sun is out. how? widely distributed power in their culture. they correlate freedom to self-generated power from the ground up and if 20% doesn't sound like much for you for comparison, here in the united states , only 9% of our energy comes from renewables. don't blame the government. it's not the republicans' fault or democrats'. they did it because the culture in germany was a cultural shift. not a government shift. germany now produces as much energy from solar panels and wind turbines as what comes from 20 nuclear power stations and less than a tenth comes from the nation's four big utility companies to reenforce my point. this is not a top down strategy. 65% of the power in germany is self-generated by either individuals or communities not the government. this is an energy revolution. a cultural revolution being generated by individual citizens as a matter of social status , social pride, as a matter of their own sense of independence. you're not a man if you can't make your own electricity in germany and while merkel's government has accommodated the culture by allowing individuals to sell power back up on to the grid, that change in rules in the government is merely a reaction to the cultural demand of the german people . in fact, since chernobyl, their culture knows all too well the dangers of top down energy , including nuclear. they boarded up half of their nuclear plants after the fukushima disaster. look at the goals. renewable production, 35%. distributed. 2020 to 80% by 2050 and a 50% cut in consumption by 2050 . this is about a decision of how to live and joining us now is arna, and everybody believes, they look at germany and say that's because the german government was so brilliant and had this big plan and everybody did it. you and i spoke on the phone a couple of days ago and that is not the case. what's going on over there?

>> thank you for having me. the case is that this has been long-term in the making. there's a wide political agreement going for renewable energies is a valued study and good for the environment. germany imports a lot of its resources. we import coal to produce electricity. and it's just common sense to produce clean energy at home. use it with your farmers, tech niss, bring people to work to isolate houses. and i think that's what we see right now in germany is a long-term approach, there's a lot of certainty in this development and it has brought political backing.

>> it's interesting to look at the correlation between the concept of freedom or the concept of independence. the concept of being able to take care of yourself. with generating your own electricity. where does is that born in the count country?

>> i think a lot of germans are they not only want to produce clean power, but do it on their own. the big utilities, they have old coal plans, old nuclear plans and they are reasonable for high prices on the energy market and a lot of germans be the progressive or conservative, they think it's better to do that on your own. so what you see for example, you're shown some of those nice pictures from german countries. there are hundreds of villages moving towards 100% renewable energy consumption and this is something that brings the community together. people go together and 95% of all villages are part of this energy co-op they found to move on and invest in a wind park , so i think that's a very good development.

>> what is the barrier to america doing more of this or for that matter, brazil or india or any other nation in the world and why are we not seeing more of it?

>> that's a good question, dylan. the united states of america has great resources when it comes to solar, wind. when it comes to biomass. for example, germany is currently the world leader in -- as you have mentioned. we have sunny days when basically half of the countries run on -- but germany is as sunny as alaska, so just think about it. if you had solar penetration in arizona, california, where out of the same panel, you get twice the amount of electricity. i think the united states has a great potential to move forward. there are some politics, policy constraints, why that is not happening at the same speed as germany , but i think there's an opportunity to break that up.

>> the biggest would be u that the german government would allow a citizen to sell power back to the grill, where as an american utility will allow an american to do it as a hobby, but they can't actually create a revenue stream if they produce ten times more electricity.

>> correct. if you want to invest in a wind park , you can do that and the grid of the radar has to bialek tristy. the contract is two pages long. over here, it's much more difficult. the contracts are 70 to 80 pages long and often the grid, sorry, we can't buy your electricity, not for us. so i think it's really done in an easy way in germany that people can produce their own power and be part of the national grid .

>> it's been interesting this week going back to the first conversation with the marine sergeant who had $ 1250 month water bill, colin, on monday. figured out how to produce twice as much food, soil and water. we had martha, runs a health care union in the midwest. figured out how to use networks hot spotting to identify the sickest people, treat them earlier and reduce their health care costs. all these examples which we'll talk about. the interesting thing about them is that they seem to be more determined by the culture of the people themselves than by who is in charge of the government. is that a fair assessment?

>> at least for the german, the energy case, that is definitely the case. if you go to germany and my group, we do these transatlantic dialogues and bring americans over to germany and the other way around and my american friends that go there, they are impressed with what they see because they see citizens are engaged. they do the business on their own. they want to do this. and it's a certain mentality and it's a good spirit. it's not like everything is rosy or perfect over there. we have our problems. the not in my backyard issue. in general, there's a more open mentality to do things to get going and to work together in your community.

>> thank you for giving us a little bit better of on understanding and for letting me use the work of your country men and the folks in germany as a great model simply by deciding to do it. so thank you for that as well.

>> thank you very much for having me and good luck.