Switching to Renewable Power by Volkmar Lauber–A Review

By Paul Gipe

Volkmar Lauber is one of the world’s pre-eminent academics specializing in renewable energy policy. Lauber, a professor political science at the University of Salzburg, writes fluenty in English, making his work readily accessible to the Anglophone world. His articles are engaging and a joy to read for those of us trying to follow the dynamic growth of renewable energy in continental Europe.

Lauber edits this collection of essays on renewable energy policy and fortunately several of his pieces on German policy and electricity feed laws are included.

The theme of Switching to Renewable Power is becoming increasingly common in publishing. See my review of Craig Morris’ new book, Energy Switch. And Hermann Scheer has almost made an industry out of provocative books on the subject.

Lauber has written extensively about the success of feed laws and especially Germany’s original Stromeinspeisungsgesetz and the newer Renewable Energy Sources Act, the famous EEG (Erneurebare Energiengesetz). In Switching to Renewable Power he not only includes some of his own work but also that of Frede Hvelplund from the University of Aalborg in Denmark.

Yet Lauber also includes essays on the other principal policy used to promote renewables: Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Primarily, if not solely, used in the Anglophone world, RPS is a quota or mandate placed on electricity utilities to deliver so much renewable energy by a certain date. In Europe the RPS is called a “quota model” or by its British description, a Renewables Obligation.

Of notable use to policymakers is the essay by Ole Lagniss (now with Center for Hydrogen Research in Baden-Würtemberg) and Lawrence Berkeley’s Ryan Wiser on the Texas RPS. Texas is often cited as the shining example of RPS policy in the USA and this essay tells the full story. I found it striking that for all the plaudits the Texas RPS has received, total installed wind capacity at the time of the book (1,100 MW) was less than installed in 2-3 years in California in the early 1980s with the Golden State’s famed Standard Offer No. 4 contracts. Bear in mind that California’s success was built on what are considered small wind turbines by today’s standards: 50-100 kW. Moreover, Texas’ success is only with wind energy. No other renewables benefit from the program. And this is one of the quota model’s major limitations. Where used, it has only benefited wind energy.

Lauber closes the book with his conclusion that feed laws, or what are now called renewable tariffs, are the most successful policy mechanism for both promoting the rapid growth of significant amounts of renewables, but for also promoting a range of renewable technologies, not just wind energy.

Switching to Renewable Power: A Framework for the 21st Century, Volkmar Lauber, ed., cloth, 256 pages, 234×156 mm, figures, tables, index, ISBN 1-902916-65-4. Earthscan, 2005, London, United Kingdom, £50. Earthscan, +44 (0) 20 7387 8558, earthinfo@earthscan.co.uk, www.earthscan.co.uk.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Promise of Renewable Power, by Volkmar Lauber

Part 1. Context

Oil Depletion, by Werner Zittel and Jörg Schindler

Global Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Exploring the Links, by Ian H. Rowlands

Renewable Energy for Developing Countries: Challenges and Opportunities, by Giulio Volpi

Part 2. Policies to Develop Renewable Electricity and its Generation Technologies

Danish Wind Power Policies from 1976 to 2004: A Survey of Policy Making and Techno-Economic Innovation, by Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen

Germany: From a Modest Feed-in Law to a Framework for Transition, by Staffan Jacobsson and Volkmar Lauber

The UK Renewables Obligation, by Peter M. Connor

The Design and Impacts of the Texas Renewables Portfolio Standard, by Ole Langniss and Ryan Wiser

European Union Policy towards Renewable Power, by Volkmar Lauber

Part 3. Evaluation of Policies and Approaches

Comparing Support for Renewable Power, by David Elliott

Renewable Energy: Political Prices or Political Quantities, by Frede Hvelplund

Tradeable Certificate Systems and Feed-in Tariffs: Expectation Versus Performance, by Volkmar Lauber