On Friday, May 25, and Saturday, May 26, of this year, Germany set a new world record for solar power generation. On Friday, a third of the country’s energy was generated by solar energy and on Saturday, a full half of Germany was running on solar power. This is a remarkable achievement for Germany, and for the world. Since the tragic nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, Germany is shuttering all its nuclear power plants and is committed to replacing them with clean sources of energy. And it seems they are keeping their word. The Guardian reports:
German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours of Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank has said.
Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But the country’s leader, Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is possible.
The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide. The 22 GW figure is up from about 14 GW a year ago. Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.
According to Reuters: Germany has the world’s largest market for photovoltaic energy, and accounts for nearly half of the world’s solar capacity.
Treehugger, explains that Germany’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) system—which requires utilities to buy solar power from producers, including individuals, at a fixed rate—has fueled the nation’s solar boom. In other words, anybody can install solar panels on their roof, feed them into the grid, and get paid for the energy they contribute back to the system. Since solar panels are becoming more affordable, more people are able to install them and offset their electric bill.
In contradiction to her praise for Germany’s solar achievement, Angela Merkel has proposed cutting FIT solar subsidies in yet another misguided “austerity” measure. Britain has also proposed cutting solar subsidies. At a time when government needs to spend to help working families, both countries are doing exactly the wrong thing.
Why are we subsidizing the fossil fuel industry?
Here at home, we use taxpayer’s money to lavishly subsidize the fossil fuel industry—to the tune of $72 billion over the past 5 years. By contrast, we have allotted only $1 billion for the solar industry. Imagine what we could do if we eliminated fossil fuel subsidies from industries that don’t need them because they are already making massive profits? Imagine, too, if they actually paid taxes? We could use those billions to make real headway in transitioning to clean energy. We could fight climate change and clean up the environment. We could provide jobs installing solar and wind systems for people out of work. We could lead the world in alternative energy research and innovation.
What is the problem here? The answer is simple. We have a political class that is beholden to, and therefore supports, the environmentally polluting fossil fuel industry. The industries themselves spend fortunes on highly manipulative, false, Orwellian ads about how responsible they are to you, the citizen and taxpayer. I’m thinking of the “clean coal” adds, for example. And, behind the scenes, industry lobbyists make sure that any legislation that cuts into their obscene profits is watered down or destroyed before it gets to committee.
If we allow this manipulation and corruption to go unchallenged, we will never make headway in the fight against climate change and global warming, and we will continue to pour billions of taxpayer money into old, dead-end, polluting energy sources. End fossil fuel subsidies. Support renewable energy. Help America become more secure, environmentally responsible and energy independent. It’s the sensible and right thing to do.
Madonna Gauding is a freelance writer, illustrator and book designer living in St. Louis. MO. She is the author of 10 books on a variety of "mind, body, spirit" topics.