What Happens In Germany Will Affect Us All
Last November I came across an ingenious campaign by the German wind energy association in support of the Energiewende and wind’s essential role in the energy transition. This is the kind of campaign I can heartily endorse.
The campaign by the Bundesverband Windenergie (BWE), www.wind-bewegt.de, was designed to influence the then ongoing negotiations between the CDU and the SPD on their agreement to govern Germany in coalition. Now that the agreement has been struck, it’s clear that BWE’s campaign was desperately needed.
Under pressure from the utility and coal industry, the coalition appears determined to strangle growth of wind energy in Germany. If successful, they will also delay the Energiewende–Germany’s transition to renewable energy.
As BWE notes in its campaign, wind energy is the workhorse of the energy transition in Germany–as it is in most countries where renewable energy is making significant inroads into conventional generation. The utilities and the coal industry understand this and that’s why they’ve had their sights set primarily on slowing the growth of wind energy.
BWE, as a wind association, is unique and their effort reflects this. Most English speakers translate the organization’s name, Bundesverband Wind Energie, as Germany’s federal wind energy association. Unfortunately, this translation, while literally correct, doesn’t capture the difference between BWE and trade associations in the English-speaking world.
Industry associations in the US, for example, primarily represent the interests of their board of directors. And membership on the board is usually restricted to those who can pay—and pay a lot. Thus, in the US, decision making by trade associations is usually reserved for manufacturers, utility companies, or their un-regulated subsidiaries.
I prefer to describe BWE as Germany’s “wind turbine owners association.” BWE is the largest wind association in the world, and its more than 20,000 members drive its policy. Everyone who owns a wind turbine or owns a stake in a wind turbine can become a member for a modest fee based on the amount of wind-generating capacity owned. And all members, including manufacturers, suppliers, and its 17,000 individual members, have an interest in and can influence BWE’s decision making. In this regard BWE is more a grass-roots advocacy organization, like the Sierra Club in the US, than an industry trade group.
This distinction explains why North American’s sometimes find the positions and public statements of BWE so surprising. BWE openly supports distributed generation, advocates cooperatives, pushes local ownership, and emphasizes developing wind energy on land in Germany.
So, in solidarity with BWE, I’ve endorsed their campaign by taking the small step of including one of their themes in the banner of my web site. I’ve posted one banner in the original German and one English version. The banners rotate with other images from my web site.
The banner I chose is “Arbeitsplätze ohne Perspektive hat die Windenergiebranche nicht zu bieten“. It says, in essence, that if you want a job without a future, don’t choose wind energy.
The campaign featuring post cards, banners, posters and digital images is a clever play on words in German: Wind bewegt Menschen—wind moves people.
There are several other themes in the campaign. Here are a few with my crude translation.
Schlechte Aussichten wenn Windenergie jetzt ausgebremst wird.
[There are] Poor prospects (for the Energiewende) when the brakes are put on wind energy.
Unberechenbar ist der Preis für fossile Brennstoffe, Wind weht umsonnst.
Incalculable is the price of fossil fuels, but wind blows for free.
Wind bewegt den Strompreis.
Wind moves (down) the price of electricity.
There are several ecards on the campaign’s dedicated web site. These compare conventional fuels to renewables.
Das kostet mehr als Sie bezahlen.
That costs more than you pay [on your utility bill]. There are no hidden costs with renewable energy [with a picture of an old coal plant].
Das wird teuer. Keine verstecken Kosten: Erneuerbare Energien.
That [a picture of BP’s platform fire] is a cost. There are no hidden costs with renewable energy.
Was das noch kostet, wollen Sie nicht wissen.
You don’t want to know the real costs.
There are no hidden costs with renewable energy.
Diese Kohle kostet Sie noch richtig Asche.
This coal costs you more than just the ash.
For Germans, the slogan includes a clever play on words. Asche also is slang for money. In other words, coal also costs you money.
All in all BWE’s Wind Moves Us campaign is sophisticated, clever, and most of all inspirational.
I wish them success. They are going to need it. Institutional forces from Brussels to Berlin are lining up to put a straightjacket on the Energiewende and especially those upstart citizens who have made it a household word. These Jeffersonian rebels have the nerve to believe that they have a choice in their own—and the nation’s—energy future and, moreover, a right to own it as well.
Though renewable energy development ebbs and flows from one country to the next, the industry is on the march globally. Germany’s re-orientation won’t spell the death of renewable energy. Nevertheless, the Energiewende is a uniquely German idea. If the country slows downs or puts off into the distant future the transition to renewable energy, an opportunity will be lost to demonstrate that it can be done—and done much sooner than anyone ever anticipated.