In 1998, Herman Scheer initiated the founding of Grüner Strom Label e.V. The association has now been working tirelessly for a renewable energy future for over 20 years. Daniel, you have been part of this history for 11 years and manage the association's office in Bonn. What previous stations led you on this path?
A first very important station was my study of political science with a focus on environmental and development policy. I became aware of the Grüner Strom Label e.V. association during an internship at EUROSOLAR; this is also where I subsequently began my career as a research assistant.
EUROSOLAR is the sponsor and initiator of the Grüner Strom Label e.V. The former chairman, Hermann Scheer, was also largely responsible for the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). Around the turn of the millennium, the association was able to win its first label recipients, both pure green electricity providers and progressive municipal utilities. In 2006, the association's full-time office was finally set up - before that, the Green Electricity Label was "looked after" "on the side" by EUROSOLAR employees and the voluntary board.
I found the interface of Grüner Strom Label e.V. between environmental organizations such as BUND or NABU and the energy industry to be a very exciting and challenging field of work; and so I have remained loyal to the association and the energy transition for 11 years.
What is your inner motivation for your work? Why are you committed to renewable energies?
There are several reasons for this. A sustainable lifestyle is essential for me in my everyday life and I try to relieve and protect the environment and the climate even with small changes. As far as possible, I avoid air travel and try to make my vacations sustainable. I pay attention to ecologically and fairly produced clothing and food and try step by step to bring more sustainability into my everyday life.
In my opinion, low-emission and ecological energy supply is a cornerstone for overcoming the climate crisis. However, most so-called green electricity products have no measurable impact on the expansion of renewable energies. But we have to drive this forward. People regularly take to the streets to demand the most comprehensive, rapid and efficient climate protection measures and climate-friendly policies possible, because climate change is already in full swing and we simply do not have an Earth 2.0. The awareness of this need for a renewable energy future, as well as my personal interest in the topics of environmental and development policy, let me drive to the office every morning with a good feeling. I have the possibility to find my private convictions in my job.
Let's take another look at the year 1998. Why was an eco-label developed at this particular time?
In 1998, the energy market in Germany was liberalized, meaning that from that point on, consumers were free to choose their electricity supplier and their electricity product. Several environmental and consumer associations then joined forces, as they were aware that a market for green electricity products would also emerge. This liberalization offered opportunities but also risks. The associations' fears that, in addition to credible green power products, many "green-labeled" products would come onto the market that offered no added value for the energy transition were confirmed.
For this reason, the Grüner Strom-Label was created. However, the label was not only intended to stand for 100 percent green electricity. Rather, the vision of the founders was already at that time that political framework conditions alone would not be sufficient to implement the energy transition as quickly as possible and to make it as decentralized, citizen-oriented and nature-friendly as possible. Therefore, the core criterion of the label was and is the guaranteed expansion of new renewable energy plants through a subsidy per kilowatt hour of green electricity consumed. Consumers thus support the energy transition through their electricity purchases. Over the past 20 years, our subsidy logic has triggered investments of around 280 million euros in the energy turnaround - that's energy turnaround conceived for the long term.
With this clear and transparent support system, energy providers can offer their customers truly credible green electricity products, which we label with the Grüner Strom-Label. Consumers on the other hand know directly through our label where they stand. That continues to motivate me in my job.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of the energy transition and what are the possible solutions?
One of the biggest hurdles is that there are simply too few renewable energy plants being built in Germany at the moment. In addition to the lack of expansion, there is a risk that many old plants will no longer be economically viable when they cease to receive EEG subsidies in the next few years. This will result in the dismantling of eco-power plants that could continue to supply clean electricity for years to come. Policymakers urgently need to create suitable framework conditions to preserve old plants and build more new ones.
A positive sign on the part of the German government is currently the abolition of the 52 gigawatt photovoltaic cap. However, if we want to achieve the Paris climate targets, we need significantly more such measures.
Now that we have looked back, I would like to end with a look into the future .... How will the association position itself in the coming years?
That is an exciting question. In addition to green electricity, we have also been certifying biogas for several years. At the moment, we are again experiencing a significant increase in interest from consumers and energy providers in certified green electricity and biogas. For the Green Gas label in particular, we have recently been able to attract great new label holders.
At the same time, we are focusing on future issues: We are currently developing our own model for the preservation of post-EEG plants. As already mentioned, the preservation of these plants is an important task in the energy transition. At the same time, we are currently revising the criteria for the Grüner Strom-Label to ensure that we remain well positioned in this area. In addition to electricity, we also want to focus more on heating and transport in the future. And we will be working intensively on the topic of green hydrogen. Just as we did with the newly liberalized green electricity market at the turn of the millennium, we should not simply leave the emerging market for green hydrogen to its own devices. Because with Green Hydrogen, a good overall strategy and the right ecological criteria are very important.