Author Archives: Peter Sopher

5 Reasons the Future of Clean Energy Investing Looks Stronger than Ever

investment LendingMemoWhy invest? To make money.

People don’t invest in an industry to save the world or promote a cause; they invest because they believe the amount they put in will ultimately be returned to them as a much greater sum.

You’ve got to spend money to make money and, when it comes to clean energy, there is a lot of money to be made. Here are five reasons clean energy investment will continue its positive performance in 2015 and beyond.

1. Clean energy investment has been – and continues to be – on the rise

Recent buzz around clean energy investment has centered on a new Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report detailing the global clean energy industry’s strong 2014 investment results, results that even “beat expectations”.  While 2004-2014 saw an extended recession and high unemployment for the global economy, clean energy investment grew five-fold during those 10 years, up from $60.2 billion in 2004 to an impressive $310 billion this past year, according to BNEF. Read More »

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Germany’s Energiewende Requires Sophisticated Governance, Political Stamina

"Berlin reichstag CP" by Cezary Piwowarski - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_reichstag_CP.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Berlin_reichstag_CP.jpgConceptualizing a policy as broad and ambitious as Energiewende – Germany’s goal to transition nearly 100 percent of its electricity supply to renewable energy by 2050 – is one thing. Implementing it is another thing entirely.

For this, ‘good governance’ is required – or as the Hertie School defines it: “an effective, efficient, and reliable set of legitimate institutions and actors engaged in a process of dealing with a matter of public concern.”

Energiewende’s implementation presents significant governance challenges. It is a public matter that requires cooperation and coordination from various public and private actors, as well as top-down decision-making. It also comprises diverse political levels and jurisdictions – global, European, federal, state, and municipal – as well as interest groups, cooperatives, alliances, banks, and individuals.

While Energiewende is very much a German policy designed for a German political context, there are still lessons the U.S. (and any country considering an energy transition for that matter) can learn from the challenges Germany has faced in developing a governance strategy to go where no one has gone before: overhauling the modern electricity system as we know it to make the German power grid more clean, efficient, resilient, and dynamic. Read More »

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Two Political Lessons from Germany’s Energiewende

Check mateAs the recent midterm elections have thrust American politics to the media’s forefront, battles for political power are fresh in our minds. While Democrats and Republicans are not the contestants in governments outside of the U.S., struggle for power among groups whose ideals clash are the bedrock of political systems everywhere, including Germany, where politics play a major role in shaping the country’s energy transition.

Political actors in countries with coordinated market economies, such as Germany, prefer dialogues, strategic concessions, and trade-offs that give rise to policy decisions unanimous among main stakeholder groups. However, for Energiewende – Germany’s aggressive plan to transition to nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 – unanimity is constrained. That’s because two interest groups, the Conventional Energy Coalition (CEC) and the Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC), support fundamentally different energy systems that oppose each other. Read More »

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Germany’s Energiewende is Shifting the Energy Paradigm – Now it’s Time to Optimize

solar-cells-491701_640Revolutionary paradigm shifts often require cohesive development of many moving parts, some of which advance more quickly than others in practice. Germany’s revolutionary Energiewende (or “energy transition”) is no exception. Set to achieve nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, Germany’s Energiewende is one of the most aggressive clean energy declarations in the world. While growth of Germany’s installed renewables capacity has been explosive in recent years, optimization measures designed for Energiewende have manifested at a relatively slow pace.

Germany already has one of the most reliable electric grids in the world, but as implementation of Energiewende continues, optimization will be key to its future success. This will require better sources of backup generation to accommodate the intermittency of wind and solar, a dynamic energy market that ensures fair compensation for this backup, and a more flexible, resilient grid enabled by smart grid technologies to fully optimize demand side resources and a growing renewable energy portfolio. Read More »

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Germany's Energiewende Proves Electricity can be Clean and Reliable

electric-power-273644_640Since 2004, the year of the first major revision of Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG), the country has added at least 35 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 35 GW of wind to its electric grid – enough to offset upwards of 35 coal plants. What’s more impressive is during the first half of 2014, close to 29 percent of Germany’s electricity came from renewable sources. For perspective, America’s renewables percentage, at about 14 percent, was half of Germany’s during this timeframe.

Meanwhile, the country has improved its status as a grid reliability leader, causing the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Energy Transition blog to conclude, “Clearly, installing the equivalent of 100 percent of peak demand as wind and solar capacity does not bring down the grid.”  Renewables International further asserts, “Renewables have not yet reached a penetration level that has detrimentally impacted grid reliability.”

This success runs contrary to the predictions of Energiewende’s critics, who have sounded the alarms about investing in “too much” renewable energy. Some of these concerns are more valid than others, but the truth is, most of these claims are blown out of proportion, fixable with solutions that are not overly complex, and/or based on no empirical data. Read More »

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While Critics Debate Energiewende, Germany is Gaining a Global Advantage

Source: Frank M. Rafik

Source: Frank M. Rafik

Economics is the focus of many debates surrounding Germany’s aggressive “energy transition” (or Energiewende), which plans to move the country to nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Critics say Energiewende’s costs are unjustifiable, arguing they hurt the country’s international competitiveness and systemic inefficiencies exacerbate these costs.

At first glance, it’s hard to argue with them. The scale of investment in Energiewende can seem intimidating: So far, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates the total cost of Germany’s clean energy expansion at €106 billion. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal quotes government sources when predicting total costs through 2040 to be about €1 trillion.

By contrast, however, Germany’s annual investment in fossil fuels has been €90 billion; and, investments in Energiewende go into electric grid upgrades that would need to happen in Germany anyway, whereas fossil fuel investments leave the country.

When viewed in context, there are many reasons to believe investments in Energiewende will reap economy-wide rewards, giving Germany a competitive global advantage over other countries that lagged behind investing in the future.

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  • About the author

    Policy Analyst, Clean Energy
    Peter conducts research as part of the Clean Energy Program's "Idea Bank," or its internal consultancy. His research centers on many of the moving parts that comprise the electricity sector modernization.

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