Energy security
The Ottowa Citizen, July 24, 2008

"The recent G8 Summit achieved one important result. It showed that too
many of our leaders still think energy "security" can be achieved by
calling for an increase in the rate of oil extraction at the expense of
human and ecosystem health.

They are looking for security in the wrong places. For a real lesson in
energy security, and a glimpse of the healthy local economy of the
future, they could start with a small town in Germany, just one of many
in northern Europe that are charting a course toward true energy
autonomy, based on renewable sources of energy.

The town of Freiamt generates its entire electricity needs from locally
owned renewable sources, and then sells a 30-per-cent surplus to
generate revenue.

Proving that "small is beautiful," Freiamt generates so much power from
its small-scale renewable sources that it is turning an annual "profit."
It did so by adding four wind turbines and 800 rooftop photovoltaic
systems to its existing small-scale hydro and biomass installations.
Freiamt now generates 13 million kilowatt hours of power. Since it only
consumes 10 million locally, the surplus three million are sold to other
parts of Germany via the national grid, generating income for residents
and businesses.

Biogas digesters have been built on several farm properties in a joint
"co-op" arrangement whereby a group of citizens invests together,
spreads the risk and shares the revenue. In addition to earning a
significant return for the investors, these biogas systems have provided
a holistic solution to the problems of farm waste that can pollute rural
water supplies and emit powerful greenhouse gases such as methane.

Several factors are critical to the success of the Freiamt project.
First is citizen support. The buy-in of individuals was achieved when
they became convinced that the presence of neither the wind turbines nor
the large solar arrays would cause significant visual or noise
pollution, and that the potential financial return would be a safe
investment, with the money being retained locally.

Underpinning the financial case is a federal law that triggered an
explosion of renewable energy investment in Germany. The so-called
"feed-in tariff" guarantees that renewable energy suppliers receive a
premium rate from energy companies for the electricity they feed into
the national grid. This guarantee provides the certainty individuals and
banks need to invest in renewables.

As long as the sun shines, the wind blows and the grass grows, Freiamt
will be making energy, and selling it at a profit.

Freiamt offers us a glimpse of what a thriving economy built on a
healthy environment can look like - a glimpse of real energy security."

Dr. Ann C. Wilkie                          Tel: (352)392-8699
Soil and Water Science Department          Fax: (352)392-7008
University of Florida-IFAS
P.O. Box 110960                         E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Gainesville, FL 32611-0960
Campus location: Environmental Microbiology Laboratory (Bldg. 246).
BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Society