The Full Renewable Energy Supply: Challenge of the Century for Humanity

An Interview with Eurosolar, the City of Bonn’s Annual Partner 2018

We spoke to Tobias Jaletzky, Managing Director of EUROSOLAR, Bonn’s annual partner in 2018. EUROSOLAR is a membership-based organization promoting the use of renewable energies. The organization was founded precisely thirty years ago as the European Association for Renewable Energy and is a registered non-profit organization today.

Tobias Jaletzky was born in the city of Würzburg in 1978 and studied sociology in Bremen. Building several photovoltaic installations in his side job, he decided that renewables were his mission. After spending some years as sales agent for photovoltaics he moved to Bonn and started working as project manager for EUROSOLAR. He was appointed for the position of managing director in 2016, with a special focus on strengthening EUROSOLAR’s membership, networks and conferences.

EUROSOLAR – the European Association for Renewable Energy is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to the cause of completely substituting nuclear and fossil energy with the whole range of renewable energies. EUROSOLAR conducts its work independently from any kind of interest groups and acts to change political priorities and common infrastructures in favor of renewable energy, from the local to the international level. For international conferences, political symposia as well as the award ceremony for the German and European Solar Prize, EUROSOLAR brings together expertise from the fields of politics, economy, science and culture. Thereby, action plans and concepts for the introduction of renewable energy are promoted.
EUROSOLAR is a member-based association providing the opportunity for everyone to play a part in the socio-cultural movement for renewable energy. About 2,000 members, most of them individuals from civil society, but also politicians, scientists, cooperatives, public utilities, cities and companies, are enabling the constant activities.

Interview with Thomas Jaletzky, Managing Director of EUROSOLAR

Mr. Jaletzky, you are EUROSOLAR’s Managing Director since 2016. What is your organization about … in just one sentence?
EUROSOLAR is working for a fast, decentralized and complete energy transition to 100 % renewable energy, equally addressing power, heat and mobility.

Could you point out what makes EUROSOLAR so relevant when it comes to the transition towards renewable energies?
Where to begin? EUROSOLAR was actively involved in the preparation of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) that became effective in 2000 and has also supported the predecessor programs for the introduction of solar technology. The EEG has been one of the most successful laws of the Federal Republic and has been adapted in many countries around the world.
The law did enable the market entry and cost reduction of renewable energies. Due to a guaranteed priority feed-in, a cost-covering remuneration of the fed electricity volumes and a purchase guarantee of more than 20 years, the law triggered the required willingness to invest in and implement decentralized plants. And some local governments like the City of Bonn played a very special role by creating local incentives for the expansion of photovoltaics through a "cost-effective feed-in tariff for electricity from renewable energies" even before the introduction of the law. These examples were of great help – both as a proof of feasibility and for gaining practical experience.
The work of EUROSOLAR and its founder Hermann Scheer is immeasurable in its implications. Hermann has convinced people around the world of the necessity and the benefits of a decentralized and renewable energy supply. It is also thanks to him that more and more people have become active proponents for the energy transition. One example: In 1996 Hermann met Muhamad Yunus, one of the world’s most successful bankers, and convinced him that solar energy can make a significant contribution to overcoming poverty. Six months later, Yunus founded a solar bank which sells solar energy to the poor through micro credits. Until today, he has thereby financed about four million solar power plants. That is just one example of the inspiring power of our shared vision of a peaceful, just and sound society powered by sun, wind, water and biomass.

EUROSOLAR celebrates 30 years of work towards a renewable energy future … or better: present! Could you name three major milestones within the past three decades?
In general, we tend to measure EUROSOLAR’s success and impact less in milestones than in little steps advancing to a complete energy transition. Over the last 30 years, we have accompanied a lot of committed and visionary people. Far more than 400 Solar Prizes have been awarded to path-breaking renewable energy projects in Germany and Europe. The City of Bonn, for instance, received the European Solar Prize in 2004. EUROSOLAR has organized well over 200 events, bringing together uncounted experts, providers of ideas and committed citizens. Also, we have managed to establish a European network with sections in twelve countries. 
But if you pinned me down to three milestones, the first would be, as I already mentioned, the implementation of the EEG in Germany – a successful law that has been copied in numerous other countries over the world. The second milestone was the foundation of IRENA – the intergovernmental organization supporting countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future. And last but not least, the foundation of Grüner Strom Label (GSL), the most reliable association in certifying green power and gas products which is also based here in Bonn. 

You mentioned the instrumental role EUROSOLAR (and in particular your former President Hermann Scheer) did play in the coming into existence of IRENA. What exactly did this role look like?
Honestly, this is a pretty long story because it has been a long way. In fact, we have published a book on that topic, called “The long road to IRENA”. Hermann Scheer presented a Memorandum for the Establishment of an International Solar Energy Agency in Bonn in 1990 already. Since then, he and EUROSOLAR promoted the foundation of such an agency on countless occasions to a broad variety of international politicians and decision-makers. Eight years later, the German Parliament voted in favor of a resolution, drafted by Hermann that welcomed the first steps of the German Government to establish IRENA. At the time, EUROSOLAR also promoted Bonn as location for the IRENA headquarters. It took until 2009 - when IRENA was founded in Bonn with headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Still, the IRENA innovation and technology center is located here in Bonn.
Today, we critically monitor the activities of IRENA. We are pleased that the scientific studies of the Agency underpin our arguments. Yet, as an independently working NGO, we are generally pushing for higher ambitions in the transformation process.

Climate and sustainable energy have to be thought together. The implementation of the Paris Agreement requires a significant shift towards renewable energies if we want to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. What is your vision for this shift – pre and post 2020? And why is the local level so essential for this vision to become real?
What we need is not only a significant shift towards renewable energies but a fast, decentralized and entire replacement of fossil fuels as well as nuclear power by all sorts of renewables. Our goal is a renewable energy economy: An energy supply that is sustainable and affordable, but also fair and leading to peace by withdrawing the fuel, namely fossil fuels and nuclear, of military conflicts. All the technology for an ecologically and socially beneficial energy supply from 100 % renewable energy is already available. But for a broad implementation of renewables, we need a New Energy Market Order (NEMO). In the one we drafted, we strongly recommend to focus on the convergence of the markets for electricity, heat and transport.
For a revolution of the energy system, we have to start thinking in different patterns with multi-level approaches. As the legal framework is the bottleneck for revolutionary change, the local level in its variety of actors is crucial to the energy transition: It offers all the opportunities for decentralized innovative energy harvesting and production, of value and job creation, social integration and acceptance for the change.

Bonn is a proud host of EUROSOLAR, of the technology and innovation branch of IRENA, of the UN Climate Secretariat and many other like-minded organizations. What makes Bonn such a good place for EUROSOLAR’s work in particular?
Our head office is indeed placed in one of the best locations imaginable. As you mentioned, in the city and also in our house, we are surrounded by like-minded organizations. We benefit from each other when it comes to organizing events or just sharing ideas. We also appreciate a lot the international flair in Bonn with its vivid network of international organizations. For the success of our work, the approachable and cooperative local government has always been of great value. Beyond all that, the city is just a great place to live and work: offering the proximity to vibrant city life as well as to the Rhine and the beautiful nature.  

And what is it you look forward to most in this partnership year with the City of Bonn?
Firstly, we are excited to organize the launch event to our yearlong partnership with the City of Bonn on February 22nd. On the occasion of the partnership and our 30-year anniversary we are hosting events such as the German and the European Solar Prize in town this year. It will be a unique opportunity to address the general public and showcase best practice examples from Germany and Europe. Also, we are hosting the anniversary celebration in August in Bonn and are very much looking forward to this gathering. We hope with all these events to expand local networks as well as our membership base and contribute to Bonn’s activities for a successful shift to a renewable world.

For more information on EUROSOLAR, visit: https://www.eurosolar.de/en/