BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Dec 13 12

From Germany, With Love (Part Two of a Two Post Series)

Part 2.

This post is by Andreas Marcotty, Legislative and Policy Aide for the BlueGreen Alliance.

In the last post, we posited the question that even with the current momentum in developing offshore wind as an energy resource in the United States, advocating for a new industry is aided by some concrete examples. So where are they? 

As is typical in progressive policies, Europe, and specifically Germany, come to mind. 

Beginning in Washington D.C., and making our way to Maryland through Annapolis and Baltimore, and then to Albany, New York, our delegation embarked on a tour to present the benefits of an offshore wind industry, as told through the experiences of the German city-state of Bremen and its port of Bremerhaven. As an expert witness, the Heinrich Böell Foundation brought over Dr. Joachim Lohse, Senator for the Environment, Construction and Transportation of Bremen to tell the story that state and federal government audiences need to hear: offshore wind fulfills both expectations as a economic powerhouse and as a potent resource

The tour stops read like an offshore wind highlight reel: Bicameral congressional briefing hosted by Senators Carper and Snowe and the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Department of Interior, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Maryland Energy Administration and Public Utilities Commission, Office of Governor Martin O’Malley, New York’s Workforce Development Institute, Office of New York Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Energy Tom Congdon, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. 

A key component to the tour was the ripple effect throughout the manufacturing supply chain, felt not just in Bremen and Bremerhaven but throughout Germany as a whole (note: Google offers a ‘translate’ service for those not fluent in German…). This provides state governments in the U.S., near the coast or not, a way to create a surge of economic activity and reflects the deep investment of labor interests in ensuring that domestic offshore wind reaches it’s full economic potential by working for the American worker. 

After the excitement of this news wore off, we found people had one question: How did Germany get to this point? The answer is the same argument clean energy advocates have long been shouting: long-term policy support. Germany’s clean energy industry has become the behemoth it is through sustained long-term planning and financial certainty due to the implementation of the feed-in-tariff, among other direct investments and market mechanisms. Passed in 2000 as an update to the original legislation passed in 1990, the feed-in-tariff has benefitted from around 22 years of institutional and cultural support for renewable, clean energy technologies; this, in contrast to the debate around 1-year extensions of the Production and Investment Tax Credits here in the U.S.… 

The tour made it clear that offshore wind has a distinct role to play in America’s energy mix, and is part of the solution to many pressing economic issues in our states. The German model and the great successes in Bremen are a target at which to aim - Germans even have a unique word for this effort: Energiewende. And here at the BlueGreen Alliance we refer to it as the 21st Century Clean Energy Economy. For this to become a reality, and for our energy needs to be met in a sustainable way that leverages the America’s industrial base, it needs firm, consistent support. And it needs that support right now. 

It will be to the benefit of our economy and our ecosystem (read: general livelihood) if we can recognize the potential of offshore wind without the visual support of already spinning turbines or the subtle hypnosis of a well-designed map. But, should our calculations and endeavors prove unconvincing, thankfully we have our friends-in-energy across the Atlantic to help us keep the wind at our backs.