Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 16, 2008

Nov 14, 2008

When Germany celebrated its reunification in 1989, the state of Brandenburg was a symbol of a failed Wind turbines, like these in Jacobsdorf, can be found across Brandenburg - © picture-alliance - ZBcommunist ideology.

Lignite strip mines marred its polluted landscape. Its lack of modern infrastructure combined with exposure to West Germany’s competitive market economy brought about widespread unemployment.

Yet this month Brandenburg was one of three states named Germany’s ‘Lodestar 2008’ for fully embracing and promoting the use of renewable energy.

The award is the result of a study that produced a unique database of renewable energy statistics. Commissioned by Germany’s Renewable Energy Agency and carried out by the German Institute for Economic Research and the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, every German state was compared in 49 separate categories. The states were judged on the degree of political support for renewable energy, the amount of investment to promote it, and the ultimate success of these efforts.

Brandenburg shared the top spot with two western German states, Schleswig-Holstein and Baden-Wuerttemburg.

It’s an extraordinary transformation for a former East German state which has successfully overseen a radical technological and economic turnaround in the last twenty years. This recognition of its success in clean energy production, though, is no reason to slow down the progress and innovation, says Matthias Platzek, Brandenburg’s Minister-President.

“When we installed our first wind turbine in the ‘90s during my time as Environment Minister here in Brandenburg Minister President Matthias Platzek - © Landesregierung BrandenburgBrandenburg, many people laughed at us,” he remembers.

Platzeck’s belief in the benefits of renewables is supported by hard facts. Renewable energy has already created 4,000 long-term jobs in Brandenburg. The state is a leader in solar technology, and is Germany’s top wind energy producer. And by 2020, fully one-fifth of Brandenburg’s energy needs and an impressive 90% of its electricity demand will be covered by wind, solar, biomass, hydro power and geothermal energy.

There is, nevertheless, still room for improvement. Although Brandenburg is a strong producer of solar energy, its actual use of solar energy remains relatively weak.

Critics also point to Brandenburg’s on-going reliance on lignite or brown coal. Carbon dioxide emissions from brown coal fired plants are generally much higher than for black coal plants, and their continued operation, particularly in the absence of emissions-avoiding technology, is controversial.

Platzek argues that energy from both renewable and traditional sources are necessary to cover current energy demands. He maintains brown coal is an acceptable energy source if extracted using technology that reduces CO2 emissions.

He’s also convinced, however, that renewables should be the focus of the future, and statistics back this up. The turnover of Germany’s renewable industry was 24.6 billion euros in 2007, and the share of electricity generated from renewable sources reached 14.2 percent, meaning Germany has already met the European Union’s national target that 12.5 percent of electricity should come from renewable sources.



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