in areas such as risk, risk management, tax policy, incentives to renewal energy, and application of federalism to national energy policy.
For example, while there is heightened concern with U.S. security following the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima, “there is every intention to not only continue operation of the existing nuclear fleet, but also to resume construction of new plants.” The first two plants are nearing the beginning of construction, and others are seeking approval. Research also proceeds on nuclear reactor technologies, including thorium-fueled reactors and mini-reactors.
In terms of energy efficiency and controlling emissions, he continued, Germany has relied on market-based mechanisms, especially the feed-in tariff system to promote solar energy, and the aggressive use of tax policy and gasoline taxes to incentivize efficiency. “I find it ironic that the United States, which believes in market forces above all else and opposes regulation, uses regulatory tools for energy efficiency and emissions.” For example, he said, the mandated corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) standard is the key instrument in reducing fuel usage in transportation. Heavy taxation of gasoline to foster conservation is not politically acceptable, he said.
Similarly, while Germany has promoted increased use of renewables done through a market mechanism, the feed-in tariff, while the United States has used what is basically a regulatory approach—but at the state level. More than half the states have mandated that a percentage of energy consumption must be produced by renewables by a specific date, varying from 5 to 40 percent or even higher. For example, California, one of the most aggressive states, requires that 1/3 of its electricity be produced by renewables by 2030. “So if Germany is disappointed in the U.S. Congress for not passing a comprehensive climate bill,” he said, “there is at least extensive action at the state, local, and also corporate levels.”
His second observation was that the degree of U.S.-German cooperation in science and technology is “huge.” Each heavily invests in the other’s energy systems, he said, as well as research, development, and innovation. He gave “representative examples” in both directions, with Siemens and E.ON investing in wind energy in the United States, and First Solar Arizona making a large investment in Frankfurt on der Oder. Solar World in Bonn has production facilities in the United States, and Sulfur Cell based in Berlin has received substantial investment from Intel Capital.
In research cooperation, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and three Helmholtz Association laboratories have agreed to conduct joint research in photovoltaics, solar cells, and concentrating solar power. Fraunhofer opened a center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Cambridge, Massachusetts, several years ago. Finally, he said, the two countries signed a “significant S&T cooperation agreement” in 2010, which will be implemented over several years. “So our S&T cooperation is a big story for innovation policy,” he concluded, “and for our transformation to a low-carbon economy.”