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Going Green

Peter Hille (als)
August 10, 2007

Climate change is a matter of great concern for many people around the world, and Germans are not exception. They are increasingly trying to cut down on their carbon footprints by switching to green power.

Power mast against the sky
Green "juice" is becoming more popularImage: picture-alliance/dpa

At the G8 summit at the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm this past June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel put measures for reducing CO2 emissions at the top of the agenda.

The heads of government of the largest industrialized countries agreed to reduce their CO2 emissions to help fight global warming, but for many people in society, that is not enough.

Many Germans, too, think they should be taking action in their own daily lives and since the beginning of this year, more than three million of them have changed their electricity provider.

The four big energy companies RWE, Vattenfall, EN-BW and E-On are the biggest losers in this development. Customers are neither happy with their prices, nor with the source of energy these companies use.

Going green

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had climate change on her agenda as EU presidentImage: AP

Since the liberalization of the German energy sector in 1998, the Green party has encouraged people to switch to more ecologically oriented providers.

However, the dominant position of the big four players, who rely mainly on energy from nuclear and fossil fuel sources, has largely gone unchallenged.

Now, even the director of the Federal Cartel Office, Bernhard Heitzer, has begun appealing to Germans to think about changing to a smaller provider.

Gerd Billen, Director of the Association of German Consumers, said consumers are heeding the call.

"Many consumers are concerned about climate change," said Billen. "They want to do something and not wait until government or companies take action."

Switching to so-called eco-electricity providers means consumers can help reduce their CO2 emissions, he added.

People taking green action in Brussels this year
People taking green action in Brussels this yearImage: AP

A wide range of green power providers have sprung up like mushrooms on the German market.

They provide power generated from renewable sources such as wind, water and the sun. A fear of nuclear accidents and difficulties with nuclear waste disposal have also driven more Germans away from nuclear energy. Recent accidents at two German nuclear power plants have reinforced this trend.

Some green power providers said they have had thousands of new customers knocking on their doors since the accidents.

Beyond borders

Billen, however, said that consumer awareness for green power is not only limited to Germany.

"A lot is changing in the United States as well," he said. "Awareness about climate change is growing and consumers are asking what they can do to slow the harmful effects of climate change."

Awareness is also growing in the United Kingdom, he added.

Solar is a renewable energy source
Solar is a renewable energy sourceImage: AP

The Association of German Consumers has just started a new campaign to encourage even more people to change their power provider.

Posters for the campaign display pictures of electrical sockets on walls which look like monsters, with sharp teeth and a greedy mouth.

"Change now" is the slogan.

The six-month campaign aims to prompt around one million households to change to green power providers -- not only to help save the planet, but also to save money. Currently, about 2.5 million, or six percent, of German households have tapped into green energy.

Billen said a normal household can save around 60 euros ($82) a year by switching to green power; family households can save an average of 185 euros.

Billen also had another piece of advice: consumers can simply cut down on consumption and save on the juice coming out of the electrical socket. Turning appliances completely off, rather than to just "stand-by" mode, can help save one household around 115 euros ($157) a year.
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