On Monday, 17 October, GMF and the Heinrich Boell Foundation co-hosted an event on how local communities can lead efforts to invest in renewable energy. The event, “Renewable Energy Communities: How Rural Development Policy Can Support a Low-Carbon Transition,” was part of GMF’s series of events supported by the German government’s Transatlantic Climate Bridge initiative. The panel featured Jan-Erik Peterson, from the European Environment Agency; Diane Moss, Founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute; and Neil Veilleux, from Meister Consultants Group. Arne Jungjohann, Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Environment Program in Washington, DC, moderated.
The event highlighted the steps that Germany has taken to integrate renewable energy technologies into rural and other local communities. As a result of these initiatives, about 200,000 farmers are involved in the production of renewable energy from wind, biogas, solar, and other power sources, and about half of Germany’s rapidly growing renewable energy sector is owned and managed by local communities. These communities have easy access to the incentives and infrastructure to support community-based energy projects and the revenues and other benefits (like employment) are returned to the local communities. Similar opportunities exist within the United States, where a bigger agricultural sector produces sees much fewer farmers involved in renewable energy. Participants discussed how to overcome the obstacles in the United States in order to realize these opportunities, including legal barriers, resistance from incumbent energy producers, lack of financing, and uncertainty over the future of U.S. federal policy. The event highlighted the progress that has been made on both sides of the Atlantic on renewable energy in rural communities and the opportunities for future cooperation.