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The Future of Renewable Energies

Participants at the annual renewable energies conference in Berlin discussed the future of sustainable energies and stressed the importance of guaranteeing uninterrupted service for the future generations.

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Something new under the sun: Solar energy is the energy of the future

At the recent annual conference on renewable energies in Berlin, security was the word du jour.

"Do we have to flatter the countries with authoritarian systems, just because we rely on their energy?" asked the president of the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE), Johannes Lackmann. "Emancipate yourselves."

There are, indeed, plenty of reasons for changing the way we look at traditional energy sources. The Hamburg World Economic Institute reports that the world's supplies of crude oil will run out in 40 years, and those of natural gas in 70 years. Because of their limited supplies, fossil energy resources -- above all crude oil -- carry a high conflict potential.

Needless to say, oil dependency is also becoming increasingly expensive. According to Shimon Awerbuch, economist from the British University of Sussex, record oil prices in the period from 2000 to 2004 have cost the EU economies $400 billion (336 billion euros).

Limitless e n ergies

Jürgen Trittin, Vogelgrippe

Former German Minister of the Environment Jürgen Trittin

With the development and increased use of renewable energies, which sidestep the problematic fossil fuels, the energy-related conflicts could be avoided. Hydraulic and wind energy, biomass, solar and geothermic energy are sustainable natural resources that can, in addition to being renewable, contribute to environmental protection.

"Renewable energies are domestic energies in unlimited quantities", said former German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin.

This is an important point of view, which Germany already recognized in 1973, after the first oil crisis. Ever since then, Germany has been pushing for renewable energies. According to the current study by the Federal Environmental Agency, the energy holes created by the nuclear phase-out, which the previous German government under Gerhard Schröder set to take place by 2020, could be easily filled by the "renewables."

Bri n g the su n shi n e o n

Greenpeace-Protest

Germany will stop producing nuclear energy by 2020

The figures, presented by the German Renewable Energy Federation in Sept. 2005, showed that renewable energies were already contributing more to the German energy supplies than the remaining nuclear power plants. While nuclear power is responsible for less than 6 percent of German energy use, the production of "renewables" and, above all, biomass, is currently at 6.4 percent.

Renewable energies are also becoming an important economic factor in Germany. Already in 2004, 157,000 Germans were employed in the renewable energy sector.

But Germany is not the only EU country that has recognized the benefits of limitless energy sources. Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, for example, adapted the German Renewable Energies Law (EEG) for themselves. As a consequence, the market volume for solar energy in Spain tripled in 2005. Italy is expecting a tenfold increase in the market volume in 2006 thanks to the fact that the caps on aid programs have been abolished. For the German economy, solar electrics could become an export hit on the European and transatlantic markets.

The Golde n States goes for the su n

Wellenreiten in Kalifornien

California: a dream destination for surfers and solar energy proponents

Sunny California is also banking on solar energy. The Golden State would like to become the world's third largest producer of solar energy, after Japan and Germany.

In Jan. 2006, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) granted $2.9 billion for the support of the California Solar Initiative in the period from 2007 until 2018. Subsequently, private homeowners and public institutions that invest into solar energy will receive subsidized incentives. 2.3 million Californians will be relying on solar energy by that time. The investment program will be partly funded by end consumers themselves through a monthly surcharge of about $1 on the energy bill.

Coal clea n i n g

Luc Werring, the EU director general for transportation and energy, announced at the conference that the EU was planning to publish the EU Green Book on March 6 in order to make the European energy policies more integrated, more efficient and better coordinated. One of the main goals of the project is to support renewable energies and research in the area of "clean coal."

Since the coal supplies on earth will run out "only" in 200 years, there is a need for environmentally friendly coal facilities. These would catch the dangerous carbon dioxide during combustion and compress it in a special process. How and where the large quantities of the compressed carbon dioxide waste will be buried is still not clear and, according to Trittin, one of the greatest problems of this technology.

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