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Thanks to a question from Susan on last week’s The Big Think, Nye spends nearly 11 minutes sharing his thoughts on this technology and the future of renewable energy. Germany Could Be a Model for How We’ll Get Power in the FutureThe European nation’s energy revolution has made it a leader in replacing nukes and fossil fuels with wind and solar technology.
Hamburg knew the bombs were coming, and so the prisoners of war and forced laborers had just half a year to build the giant flak bunker. Coming in at night from the North Sea just weeks after the bunker was finished, British bombers steered for the spire of St.
In the central space of the bunker, where people once cowered through the firestorm, a six-story, 528,000-gallon hot water tank delivers heat and hot water to some 800 homes in the neighborhood. Germany is pioneering an epochal transformation it calls the energiewende—an energy revolution that scientists say all nations must one day complete if a climate disaster is to be averted.
What makes Germany so important to the world, however, is the question of whether it can lead the retreat from fossil fuels. What makes Germany so important, however, is the question of whether it can lead the retreat from fossil fuels. The Germans have an origin myth: It says they came from the dark and impenetrable heart of the forest. So in the late 1970s, when fossil fuel emissions were blamed for killing German forests with acid rain, the outrage was nationwide. Workers have been taking apart this Soviet-era nuclear power plant, near Greifswald in eastern Germany, since 1995, cleaning radioactive surfaces with steel grit so the metal can be recycled.
The state government had insisted that the reactor had to be built or the lights would go out in Freiburg.
A nuclear reactor at Kalkar was finished just before the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, Ukraine—and never used.
Germany has Europe’s second highest consumer electricity prices, yet public support for its energiewende—an aggressive transition to renewable energy—is at an impressive 92 percent. After the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, Germany vowed to quickly abandon nuclear energy. Germany has invested heavily in energy generated by offshore wind and expects one-third of its future wind energy to come from offshore farms. To bring renewable power from the windy north to the heavily industrialized south, government and utilities have proposed at least two high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) power lines. The government has boosted renewables by paying producers for energy and guaranteeing prices.
Germany's renewable-energy surge has contributed to a 27 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions.
If you ask why antinuclear sentiment has been so much more consequential in Germany than, say, across the Rhine in France, which still gets 75 percent of its electricity from nukes, you end up back at the war.
In 1983 the first Green representatives made it into the Bundestag, the national parliament, and started injecting green ideas into the political mainstream.
But it took Fukushima, 25 years later, to convince Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that all nuclear reactors should be switched off by 2022. Fell’s house in Hammelburg, the town in northern Bavaria where he was born and raised, is easy to spot among all the pale postwar stucco: It’s the one built of dark larch wood, with a grass roof. A tall man in jeans and Birkenstocks, with a bald, egg-shaped head and a fringe of gray beard, Fell has moments of sounding like a preacher—but he’s no green ascetic. From Fell’s garden, on a clear day, you used to be able to see the white steam plumes of the nuclear reactor at Grafenrheinfeld. It was 1990, the year Germany was officially reunified—and while the country was preoccupied with that monumental task, a bill boosting the energiewende made its way through the Bundestag without much public notice.
But Fell, who was installing PV panels on his roof in Hammelburg, realized that the new law would never lead to a countrywide boom: It paid people to produce energy, but not enough.
Fell was about the only German I met who claimed not to have been surprised at the boom his logic unleashed. The biogas, the solar panels that cover many roofs, and especially the wind turbines allow Wildpoldsried to produce nearly five times as much electricity as it consumes. It wasn’t hard to persuade farmers and homeowners to put solar panels on their roofs; the feed-in tariff, which paid them 50 cents a kilowatt-hour when it started in 2000, was a good deal. Fell’s law, then, helped drive down the cost of solar and wind, making them competitive in many regions with fossil fuels.
Germans paid for this success not through taxes but through a renewable-energy surcharge on their electricity bills.
In the 2013 elections Fell lost his seat in the Bundestag, a victim of internal Green Party politics. Germany got 44 percent of its electricity from coal last year—18 percent from hard coal, which is mostly imported, and about 26 percent from lignite, or brown coal.
Curtailing its use is made harder by the fact that Germany’s big utilities have been losing money lately—because of the energiewende, they say; because of their failure to adapt to the energiewende, say their critics. Vattenfall, a Swedish state-owned company that’s another one of Germany’s four big utilities, is attempting a similar evolution. Citizens have funded half of Germany’s investment in renewable energy after a law made it profitable. Vattenfall, however, plans to sell its lignite business, if it can find a buyer, so it can focus on renewables. Vattenfall isn’t alone: The renewables boom has moved into the North and Baltic Seas and, increasingly, into the hands of the utilities. At the end of April, Vattenfall formally inaugurated its first German North Sea wind park, an 80-turbine project called DanTysk that lies some 50 miles offshore. In part because it has retained a lot of heavy industry, Germany has some of the highest per capita carbon emissions in western Europe.
Though Germany isn’t on track to meet its own goal for 2020, it’s ahead of the European Union’s schedule. In 1996 the Kalkar nuclear reactor site, on the Rhine near Holland, opened as an amusement park: Wunderland Kalkar. Much the same is true of buildings, whose heating systems emit 30 percent of Germany’s greenhouse gases. All over Germany, old buildings are being wrapped in six inches of foam insulation and refitted with modern windows. They knew the energiewende was never going to be a walk in the forest, and yet they set out on it. But here’s the thing about the Germans: They knew the energiewende was never going to be a walk in the forest, and yet they set out on it. In a recent essay William Nordhaus, a Yale economist who has spent decades studying the problem of addressing climate change, identified what he considers its essence: free riders. Photographer and filmmaker Luca Locatelli, who lives in Milan, is passionate about the relationship between humans and technology—and the environmental consequences of those interactions.How did you prepare for this assignment?The biggest challenge was training to join the offshore-wind-park technicians.
Here's what you need to know about ?the warming planet, ho??w it's affecting us, and what's at stake. Carbon is pouring into the atmosphere faster now than during the hottest period in the past 66 million years.
The sea level is likely to rise twice as much by the end of the century as previously estimated. The National Geographic initiative is a call to action to become actively involved, to learn more and do more—to change how we think about and consume energy so that we can all help tackle the big energy questions. The Australian government warns that the bleaching, which is part of a global trend, may be linked to climate change. Giant tree plantations, soil modification, or bioenergy crops could actually add to the harm of global warming, scientist warns. Cities around the world have a secret weapon in the quest to reduce emissions and boost energy efficiency. As the new UN climate accord pushes countries to cut carbon emissions, the United States is making progress. Two ships found in the Arctic may have been part of a disaster that hastened the end of U.S. Will future generations, accustomed to an open Arctic, even want to cover it with ice again?
Some low-lying plants face a watery future, but the legacy of Fukushima is spurring action. We'll have to contend with more than storms and rising seas if we don't curb climate change. The Paris deal aims to accelerate a global shift toward clean energy, and it’s getting help from business and technology.
A National Geographic Emerging Explorer says the world needs legally binding, not voluntary, commitments. Pest infestation and weather changes are taking a toll on the storied French region's herbs, truffles, and olives. But ocean scientists in Paris say negotiators could learn important lessons from the Mediterranean and the Seychelles.
The head of an international agricultural research consortium says food systems can play a key role in addressing climate change.

Continued warming on the slopes could devastate local economies across the American West and New England. Stem is the GREEN indoctrination education system set up by the Catawba River District.Now I have no gripes against teaching science, biology, math, or any of the skills these people are advertising. Their cute circle logo (left) looks like Bill Nye the Science Guy stuff, but teaching children science and biology is not the goal. A unique feature of the Catawba River District is its voluntary programs to certify and promote environmentally sustainable buildings and properties.
Catawba River District Certification is awarded to buildings and properties whose owners meet stringent standards to protect the environment and our wildlife, safeguard the Catawba River and significantly reduce energy consumption. River District Weatherized designation can be earned by owners of existing homes and buildings who want to make their buildings more energy efficient but aren’t ready for the more intense certification process. Both programs help safeguard our fragile yet precious river ecology while creating a sustainable community for generations to come. There is more than this on their website, but again, I ask the question, who are these people and why do they think they are so important that they can hand out certifications for people’s buildings?
The historic Tuckaseegee Ford and Trail- used for many centuries by both native Americans and European settlers.
My point, in case you missed it, is that I am seeing land carved up and claimed, regardless of legal jurisdictions, by environmentalist groups who have set themselves up as judge and jurors of how people are going to live on their own private property.
Nikolai, which somehow survived, stands today as a mahnmal—a memorial reminding Germany of the hell brought by the Nazis. The water is warmed by burning gas from sewage treatment, by waste heat from a nearby factory, and by solar panels that now cover the roof of the bunker, supported by struts angling from the old gun turrets. Renewables now generate 27 percent of the country’s electricity, up from 9 percent a decade ago. By later this century, scientists say, planet-warming carbon emissions must fall to virtually zero.
The German revolution has come from the grass roots: Individual citizens and energy genossenschaften—local citizens associations—have made half the investment in renewables. It dates back to the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about the Teutonic hordes who massacred Roman legions, and it was embellished by German Romantics in the 19th century. The oil embargo of 1973 had already made Germans, who have very little oil and gas of their own, think about energy. In a snowy clearing just uphill stood two 320-foot-tall wind turbines funded by 521 citizen investors recruited by Pesch—but we weren’t talking about the turbines yet. But opposition to nuclear power, at a time when few people were talking about climate change, was clearly a decisive factor. From Disch, sitting in his own cylindrical house, which rotates to follow the sun like a sunflower.
The support is rooted in an eco-friendly culture, a collective desire to abandon nuclear energy, and laws that allow citizens to profit from selling their energy to the grid. It left Germany a divided country, the front along which two nuclear superpowers faced off.
When the Soviet reactor at Chernobyl exploded in 1986, the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD), one of Germany’s two major parties, was converted to the antinuclear cause. On the south side, facing the backyard, the grass is partially covered by photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. A shed in his backyard, next to the swimming pond, houses a sauna, powered by the same green electricity that powers his house and his car. His father, the conservative mayor of Hammelburg, supported nuclear power and the local military base.
In 1993 he got the city council to pass an ordinance obliging the municipal utility to guarantee any renewable energy producer a price that more than covered costs. Today they have five fermenters, which process corn silage as well as manure from eight dairy farms, and they pipe the resulting biogas three miles to the village of Wildpoldsried.
At the peak of the boom, in 2012, 7.6 gigawatts of PV panels were installed in Germany in a single year—the equivalent, when the sun is shining, of seven nuclear plants.
One sign of that: Germany’s tariff for large new solar facilities has fallen from 50 euro cents a kilowatt-hour to less than 10. This year the surcharge is 6.17 euro cents per kilowatt-hour, which for the average customer amounts to about 18 euros a month—a hardship for some, Rosenkranz told me, but not for the average German worker. He’s back in Hammelburg now, but he doesn’t have to look at the steam plumes from Grafenrheinfeld: Last June the reactor became the latest to be switched off. The use of hard coal has declined substantially over the past two decades, but not the use of lignite. It emits even more CO₂ than hard coal, but it’s the cheapest fossil fuel—cheaper than hard coal, which is cheaper than natural gas. E.ON, the largest utility, which owns Grafenrheinfeld and many other plants, declared a loss of more than three billion euros last year. They didn’t have a strategy B.” Having missed the energiewende train as it left the station, they’re now chasing it. In a conference room, Olaf Adermann, asset manager for Vattenfall’s lignite operations, explained that Vattenfall and other utilities had never expected renewables to take off so fast. But lignite shouldn’t be the one to go, he insisted: It’s the “reliable and flexible partner” when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
It’s investing billions of euros in two new offshore wind parks in the North Sea—because there’s more wind offshore than on and because a large corporation needs a large project to pay its overhead. Merkel’s government has encouraged the shift, capping construction of solar and onshore wind and changing the rules in ways that shut out citizens associations.
Last spring Gabriel proposed a special emissions levy on old, inefficient coal plants; he soon had 15,000 miners and power plant workers, encouraged by their employers, demonstrating outside his ministry. By 2050 Germany aims to be a new kind of wonderland—an industrial country that uses half as much energy as before and gets at least 80 percent from renewables.
Rolf Disch in Freiburg is one of many architects who have built houses and buildings that consume almost no net energy or produce a surplus. Low-interest loans from the bank that helped rebuild the war-torn west with Marshall Plan funds pay for many projects.
Aufbruchstimmung means something like “the joy of departure”; it’s what a German feels when he’s setting out on a long hike, say, in the company of friends. Because it’s a global problem, and doing something is costly, every country has an incentive to do nothing and hope that others will act. I spent three days learning to cope with hazardous situations at sea—like when a helicopter is upside down underwater, how to break a window to escape. But ultimately problematic types of electric energy and in which you’ll have to lessen bill nye solar power by electricity costs are calculator option and just one user ranked it a five star product. Other taxpayers are funding this operation by forced collection of taxes and by governments allowing this as tax shelter, thereby putting the tax burden on the rest of us. Some collective crew of control fanatics have crowned themselves kings of a piece of land they do not own? Residential and commercial subdivisions and both new and existing homes and commercial buildings can earn River District Certification. If I were betting, I’d bet the Indians came through the neighborhood I live in, too, at some point in time.
For instance, one non-profit agency then creates another non-profit under it to carry out some new corollary function. This is going on all across the nation thanks to Federal policies of funding groups who are operating outside of the law.
A windowless cube of reinforced concrete, with seven-foot-thick walls and an even thicker roof, it towered like a medieval castle above a park near the Elbe River.
The bunker also converts sunlight into electricity; a scaffolding of photovoltaic (PV) panels on its south facade feeds enough juice into the grid to supply a thousand homes.
Last year about 27 percent of its electricity came from renewable sources such as wind and solar power, three times what it got a decade ago and more than twice what the United States gets today. Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, has promised some of the most aggressive emission cuts—by 2020, a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels, and by 2050, at least 80 percent. But conventional utilities, which didn’t see the revolution coming, are pressuring Merkel’s government to slow things down.
The energiewende will take much longer and will involve every single German—more than 1.5 million of them, nearly 2 percent of the population, are selling electricity to the grid right now. Why is the energy future happening here, in a country that was a bombed-out wasteland 70 years ago? Through the upheavals of the 20th century, according to ethnographer Albrecht Lehmann, the myth remained a stable source of German identity. In the decades after World War II, with a ruined country to rebuild, there had been little appetite for questioning authority or the past.
With an engineer named Dieter Seifried, we were talking about the nuclear reactor that never got built, near the village of Wyhl, 20 miles away on the Rhine River.
Its Solar Settlement, designed by local architect Rolf Disch, who’d been active in the Wyhl protests, includes 50 houses that all produce more energy than they consume.
I had come to Germany thinking the Germans were foolish to abandon a carbon-free energy source that, until Fukushima, produced a quarter of their electricity.

From Rosenkranz in Berlin, who back in 1980 left physics graduate school for months to occupy the site of a proposed nuclear waste repository.
Roughly 27 percent of Germany’s electricity is from renewables; the goal is at least 80 percent by 2050. Demonstrators in the 1970s and ’80s were protesting not just nuclear reactors but plans to deploy American nuclear missiles in West Germany.
Even though Chernobyl was hundreds of miles away, its radioactive cloud passed over Germany, and parents were urged to keep their children inside. When there’s not enough sun to produce electricity or heat, a cogenerator in the basement burns sunflower or rapeseed oil to produce both. Fell promptly organized an association of local investors to build a 15-kilowatt solar power plant—tiny by today’s standards, but the association was one of the first of its kind. Fell teamed up with Hermann Scheer, a prominent SPD advocate of solar energy, to craft a law that in 2000 took the Hammelburg experiment nationwide and has since been imitated around the world.
Outside his sunroom, which overlooks the Alps, nine wind turbines turned lazily on the ridge behind the cow pen.
There it’s burned in cogenerators to heat all the public buildings, an industrial park, and 130 homes. A German solar-panel industry blossomed, until it was undercut by lower-cost manufacturers in China—which took the boom worldwide. The German economy as a whole devotes about as much of its gross national product to electricity as it did in 1991. That’s a major reason Germany isn’t on track to meet its own greenhouse gas emissions target for 2020. According to Romantic lore, the forest forged the German identity as a nature-loving people—a key inspiration for the clean-energy movement. E.ON is splitting into two companies, one devoted to coal, gas, and nuclear, the other to renewables.
In a trench that covers 11 square miles and is more than 300 feet deep, 13 gargantuan digging machines work in synchrony—moving the trench through the landscape, exposing and removing the lignite seam, and dumping the overburden behind them so the land can be replanted. Even with the looming shutdown of more nuclear reactors, Germany has too much generating capacity. It sells electricity to the national grid—but also supplies a local grid that makes Feldheim self-sufficient. Adermann, who’s from the region and worked for its lignite mines before they belonged to Vattenfall, sees them continuing to 2050—and maybe beyond.
Last year the amount of new solar fell to around 1.9 gigawatts, a quarter of the 2012 peak.
Instead, she and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, head of the SPD, reaffirmed their 40 percent commitment last fall. Like the utilities, its famous carmakers—Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, and Audi—were late to the energiewende. With all the parties in Germany in agreement, Rosenkranz said, the energiewende felt like that.
While most countries have been free riders, Germany has behaved differently: It has ridden out ahead.
I would call this a protection racket, back to some very unhealthy practices of fiefdom from the middle ages. Then, when all else fails, they claim it is a historic district where American Indians traded their goods.
And, believe me, if you are going to start down that road, the one where American Indians were here first, we might as well all leave the country on the first available transport. Is it that there’s not enough investment money, not enough profits, not enough public interest, other, all of the above?
The guns protruding from its four turrets would sweep Allied bombers from the sky, the Nazis promised, while tens of thousands of citizens sheltered safely behind its impenetrable walls.
Targeting crowded residential neighborhoods, the bombers ignited an unquenchable firestorm that destroyed half of Hamburg and killed more than 34,000 people.
On the north parapet, from which the flak gunners once watched flames rising from the city center, an outdoor cafe offers a view of the changed skyline. The change accelerated after the 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, which led Chancellor Angela Merkel to declare that Germany would shut all 17 of its own reactors by 2022.
The forest became the place where Germans go to restore their souls—a habit that predisposed them to care about the environment. But by the 1970s, the rebuilding was complete, and a new generation was beginning to question the one that had started and lost the war. I came away thinking there would have been no energiewende at all without antinuclear sentiment—the fear of meltdown is a much more powerful and immediate motive than the fear of slowly rising temperatures and seas. From Luise Neumann-Cosel, who occupied the same site two decades later—and who is now leading a citizens’ initiative to buy the Berlin electric grid.
It’s still not always safe to eat mushrooms or wild boar from the Black Forest, Pesch said. On the March morning when I visited, the wood interior of the house was bathed in sunlight and warmth from the conservatory. Years later, after his father had retired, Fell was elected to the Hammelburg city council. But as renewables have flooded the grid, something else has happened: On the wholesale market where contracts to deliver electricity are bought and sold, the price of electricity has plummeted, such that gas-fired power plants and sometimes even plants burning hard coal are priced out of the market.
Critics say the government is helping big utilities at the expense of the citizens’ movement that launched the energiewende. As a result Munich now produces enough renewable electricity to supply its households, subway, and tram lines. Instead of taxing the utilities, it said it would pay them to shut down a few coal plants—achieving only half the planned emissions savings. For all buildings to be nearly climate neutral by 2050—the official goal—the rate would need to double at least.
We can’t appropriate their experience of two great nation-changing projects—rebuilding their country when it seemed impossible, 70 years ago, and reunifying their country when it seemed forever divided, 25 years ago. And the energiewende has an even longer way to go in the transportation and heating sectors, which together emit more carbon dioxide (CO₂) than power plants. In 1980 an institute that Seifried co-founded published a study called Energiewende—giving a name to a movement that hadn’t even been born yet. And from Wendelin Einsiedler, a Bavarian dairy farmer who has helped transform his village into a green dynamo. When the German Green Party was founded in 1980, pacifism and opposition to nuclear power were both central tenets. Einsiedler had started his personal energiewende in the 1990s with a single turbine and a methane-producing manure fermenter. Wind turbines are a dramatic and sometimes controversial addition to the German landscape—“asparagification,” opponents call it—but when people have a financial stake in the asparagus, Einsiedler said, their attitude changes. On the same rebuilt hill stands a memorial to Wolkenberg, a village consumed by the mine in the 1990s.
The European carbon-trading system, in which governments issue tradable emissions permits to polluters, hasn’t been much help so far. The government’s goal is to have a million electric cars on the road by 2020; so far there are about 40,000. But we can be inspired to think that the energiewende might be possible for other countries too.
They found some currently popular cause to latch onto and then proceeded to fund it using our tax money and to set up tax shelters for donors.
No doubt they are patting themselves on the back every night and day, telling themselves they are saving the planet, the drinking water, the land, the riparian wildlife, and all else from those evil possible developers who might want to use the land.
And so it goes, until some of the larger non-profits have many baby non-profits, all happily enjoying the Federal money feeding frenzy. He and his brother Ignaz, also a dairy farmer, burned the methane in a 28-kilowatt cogenerator, generating heat and electricity for their farms.
There are too many permits in circulation, and they’re so cheap that industry has little incentive to cut emissions. The basic problem is that the cars are still too expensive for most Germans, and the government hasn’t offered serious incentives to buy them—it hasn’t done for transportation what Fell’s law did for electricity. Some Germans say it might take another catastrophe like Fukushima to catalyze a fresh burst of progress.
Not to mention the wealthy persons and corporations who are using these non-profits for tax shelters.

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