New website for DEFG

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The 7 billion bodies question

A lot of people are worrying about the world population this week as we approach 7 billion. (US and World population clock.) I am an optimist; I believe we can find new resources, develop new technologies and use the existing resources and technologies more appropriately. That is, we can be much, much more efficient. We can reduce the impact of the industrial revolution on the planet, even as we approach 10 billion people in the coming decades.

The blunt, inefficient tools of the industrial age create pollution and waste. We can use information technologies to put an end to this. The old tools were great in their day — in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It is time to move on to the information age.

Aren’t we there? No, we are not out of the industrial age. It is premature to declare that we have entered the information age. Smart phones, mass communications and the Internet are just the tip of the iceberg of necessary advances. We must educate and inform ourselves. We must make a transition to much greater efficiency to lessen our waste of resources.

Freedom, education and wealth are excellent ways to promote the stabilization of the population. Population grows more slowly in places with freedom, education and wealth. Education and awareness lead to changes in the patterns of our behavior. We freedom, education and wealth we develop new technologies and tools that can lessen the impact of humans on the planet.

A lot of Americans are ready to criticize other countries for their population growth. Let’s stop finger pointing. It’s easy to talk about what other people should do. Find a mirror and take a look. Education and self dicipline are great tools for each of us to apply to get our literal and figurative houses in order. Nearly every major issue facing the US today would be resolved if we were more efficient and less wasteful.

Feed-In Tariff and Regulatory Choice

DEFG’s senior associate, Cynthia Boland, esq., has written an excellent summary of the laws and policy options surrounding the use of “feed-in tariffs” (Fit) to promote renewable energy development in the United States. “Feed‐In Tariffs and Renewable Resource Policy Tradeoffs,” is the second in the “Series of Regulatory Choices” published by DEFG to promote thinking and discussion surrounding issues relating to the smart grid, alternative energy development, and the expansion of customer choices in energy services. Interested persons may download a copy of the report here. This second report describes the key provisions of feed-in tariff policy, the German experience, U.S. renewable resource policy and the issues presented by a FiT policy.

UPDATE 6/15/2010: The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has published a short guide on this topic. “Feed-in Tariffs (FIT): Frequently Asked Questions for State Utility Commissions,” is available as a PDF download here.

DEFG’s “Series of Regulatory Choices” explores the federal, state and local regulatory decisions that expand the choices available to energy consumers as they construct and inhabit buildings, purchase and maintain energy‐consuming devices, purchase energy, or manage their consumption of energy. I believe that greater choice increases economic efficiency — that is, makes us better off.  The “tagline” of the series is “All agencies make a series of choices,” because each government agency makes decisions about whose rights matter, and good public policy requires a balancing of competing choices. DEFG’s regulatory practice remains focused on energy consumers and customer-facing issues in the selection of alternative resources and energy efficiency services. Comment below on those regulatory issues – federal, state and local – that you are grappling with in this period of market transformation.

The FiT report complements DEFG-EcoAlign’s “Project Energy Code” paper on Germany. “Why Germany? Why Solar?” discussed Germany’s experience with solar energy, and included a political-economic analysis of Germany’s industrial and energy policy. It considered: Why have Germans supported government intervention in the energy industry and why are they willing to pay more for renewable energy? Why does solar energy make sense if Germany is not particularly sunny? Why is the German experience worthy of study? Download the paper here.  The “Project Energy Code” facilitates a discussion among energy professionals and social scientists about the “green gap” between consumers’ stated intentions and purchasing behavior. The reports address social, psychological, emotional and instinctual “codes of behavior” that affect human energy consumption.

DEFG-EcoAlign has third series of papers. The popular “EcoPinion” presents the results of statistically valid consumer surveys. EcoPinion is a macro-level assessment of consumer values, drivers and behavior around energy and environment. The periodic surveys target 1,000 people matching the U.S. population by age, gender, region and ethnicity. The surveys indicates various examples of the gap that providers have to fill through marketing. Learn more.

Project Energy Code: Germany and Solar Energy

Most Americans support the development of renewable resources, and understand that in the future the cost of solar energy may be dramatically reduced. If that occurs, low-cost solar could play a large role in our resource mix. We do not know how much would be utility-scale power plants, and how much would be distributed solar energy, nor do we know what technology will be successful. Most Americans believe these changes will be good.

Americans disagree over how rapidly change occur, and they strongly disagree over the role of federal and state governments to pick winners and losers or to create subsidies for one group of stakeholders or another.

Take a look at another country, understand what they have done regarding solar energy, and begin to ask whether the lessons learned are relevant to the United States? Germany provides this opportunity. A new report gives a political-economic analysis of Germany’s industrial and energy policy.

Project Energy Code facilitates a discussion among energy professionals and social scientists about the “green gap” between consumers’ stated intentions and their purchasing behavior. Project Energy Code deepens our understanding of the economic, social, psychological, emotional, instinctual and subconscious “codes of behavior” that affect human energy consumption. Project Energy Code applies anthropology, economics and psychology to explore notions of sustainability.

Why have Germans supported government intervention in the energy industry and why are they willing to pay more for renewable energy? Is the German experience worth studying?

Germany’s decision to favor solar energy has become a part of fabric of German life. New institutions developed decades ago continue to this day. Germany has shown how to turn policies aimed at energy and environment into national industrial policy to create jobs. Get the paper and read it and provide comments here.