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August 14, 2008 / Mridul

People Should Be Encouraged, Not Forced To Switch To Renewable Energy

'Solar Homes' in Vauban (Freiburg), Germany

'Solar Homes' in Vauban (Freiburg), Germany

Even before the current global economic crisis unfolded there were voices of opposition against a large scale switchover to renewable energy sources as it could cost billions of dollars straining the economies across the world. And then came the long impending energy crisis which made the use of renewable energy imperative. While the governments around the world unleashed massively ambitious national energy plans in an effort to check the degrading effect of high fuel prices, somewhere, it seems, this new energy revolution has hit a wall. A wall which has made the common people rethink about their capacity to bring about significant changes in their lives in order to undo the damages they have done, knowingly or unknowingly, to the environment.

Although this practice isn’t common but a German town recently passed a law which makes it mandatory for its people to install solar energy equipment whenever they buy a new home or renovate the existing one. The motive of the town’s council no doubt is well intended as it tries to press on the use of renewable energy but the law would certainly face serious opposition from the people. As Nicholas Kulish of the New York Times puts it

The town council’s decision to require solar-heating panels has thrown Marburg into a vehement debate over the boundaries of ecological good citizenship and led opponents to charge that their genteel town has turned into a “green dictatorship.”

Such a step hasn’t been taken anywhere else in Germany which has become a global leader in renewable energy, especially in the solar energy sector. Being the leader in the solar energy sector is the proof that the German people are willing to do their bit for the environment, that they are educated and well informed about the benefits of using renewable energy; so why force them to go solar.

In the race to go carbon neutral and set an example for the rest of the world, the council of Marburg has taken this hasty decision and one which could very well prove counterproductive. The council should encourage the people to replace some of their fossil fuel consumption with renewable energy since such a transition is slow and takes time people should not be forced into it otherwise people might lose interest in the new energy scheme as they would see it as a policy against their best interests.

Some of the weak points of the law were stressed upon by the local opposition leader, Hermann Uchtmann, who calls it ‘green dictatorship’.

Marburg is already a leader when it comes to the use of solar energy, but up until now they’ve always tried to convince people rather than forcing them. It’s unfortunate that they decided to compel people, because I think you breed opponents that way rather than friends of solar energy, Mr. Uchtmann said.

He said he found the demands too invasive for existing homes, especially in the case of older citizens who might not live long enough to justify the upfront costs of installing the solar systems.

People should be encouraged to decrease their carbon emissions gradually and shouldn’t be expected to make the transition to renewable energy sources in a flash or against their wishes. Germany has seen tremendous growth in the solar energy sector and it has achieved such energy milestones without enacting such mandatory laws. The politicians of Murburg must put their trust in the people and encourage them to use solar energy equipments.

Incentives, subsidies and feed-in tariffs could be implemented. Solar panels should be provided at subsidized rates plus additional tax benefits for consumers can also help popularize solar power. By introducing a feed-in tariff agreement between the consumers and the local industries the town’s council could create a market for home owners who manage produce more than they consume. Such measures would not only reduce the chances of dissatisfaction among the consumers but would also make people responsible towards their energy consumption.

Photo Credit: meaduva (Creative Commons)

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6 Comments

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  1. preplan / Oct 14 2008 9:20 pm

    My web site is down right now but you can check out my blog at http://preplan.wordpress.com/about/ where I discuss a plan that addresses your concern. I agree with you totally even though I believe the world needs to move to renewable energy in an immense way. My plan, the PRE-Plan asks that government NOT pay for renewable energy, not even subsidize it. My plan allows you and me to invest in it and to make a significant profit. If people choose not to invest, then renewable energy won’t happen and when global warming or the next energy crisis hits hard, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves. The plan makes sense and all it needs from government is some support and perhaps legislation.

  2. Mridul Chadha / Oct 14 2008 11:31 pm

    Thanks for the comment.

    I completely agree with you that renewable energy should be seen as an investment opportunity and should be directly linked to the economic growth of the country.

    If people make profit by using renewable energy they would definitely be attracted towards it. But it is important that someone takes the first step to popularize the still expensive renewable energy systems. That’s where government comes in.

    Once the people have installed the renewable energy systems they should pay back the subsidies through profits, as you suggested.

  3. preplan / Oct 14 2008 11:58 pm

    Just to clarify, the PRE-Plan isn’t really directed at people installing solar panels on their rooftops but at individuals and businesses investing in large-scale projects located where they make the most sense (deserts, moutain passes). The economy of scale and proper siting makes even solar profitable, although less so than wind. My plan is for people to invest in these large scale projects and receive electricirty as their profit. I won’t go into the details too much, but an investment of $5,000 might provide an investor around 900kWh/month for 25 years. That might be a utility bill of $90/month today. With inflation your $5,000 investment might save you $45,000 or more over the life of the project. There are a lot of variables to consider but in the end the incentive to invest is way better than net-metering or feed-in tariffs and it costs the consumer and the government far less out of pocket. My web site should be back up Thursday and you can read more if you are interested (www.ProfitableRenewableEnergy.com).

  4. Mridul Chadha / Oct 15 2008 8:55 am

    That is a great approach but with this credit crunch the businesses would definitely want subsidies or tax breaks from the government in order to install large scale projects.

    I agree that feed-in tariffs are pretty complicated and receiving electricity in return of investments seems a better way.

  5. kalwepliaiply / Mar 5 2009 9:33 am

    Excellent site fortheplanet.wordpress.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. It’s taken me literally 3 hours and 47 minutes of searching the web to find you (just kidding!) so I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  6. Mridul Chadha / Mar 6 2009 3:01 pm

    Thanks for the kind words 🙂

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