Guten Tag from Germany! We have finished a series of productive meetings in Hamburg to wrap up our comprehensive energy tour of Germany. Our first two meetings were with innovative city developers, IBA Hamburg and HafenCity. We could tell right away at IBA that city planning is robustly supported politically and financially in Germany. Both organizations were working to redevelop old industrial areas on the Elbe river, the iconic port area of Hamburg. The managing director of IBA showed us the plans for innovative built structures constructed including: A building whose walls were filled with Algae, with the opacity regulated by the amount of CO2 sequestered; a “light active house” design that used principles of the greenhouse to regulate heat while producing more energy then it consumed through solar roofs; an above sump rental unit; and a house that expanded as the family grew. The project also transformed an old bunker from World War Two into a a huge solar water heater to provide the project area with hot water supply. The overriding idea of the development project was to mix uses merging the best of redeveloped industrial characteristics with new green development for living, working, and leisure.
The HafenCity project was structured so that the developer could demand sustainability directives through the power of owning the waterfront land (handed over from the Port Authority), using competitive bid auctions to drive down costs and force innovation in meeting high level sustainability goals in the development. The project is talked about all over Germany for its forward vision of integrating sustainability into the core of the largest urban development project in the whole of Europe.
Finally for our last meeting in Germany we met with Lichtblick, an energy service provider that sells 100% renewable energy to it’s rapidly growing customer base. More recently the company has begun to cell micro CHP units to households and commercial buildings under the concept, “Schwarm Strom”, swarm energy. The building gets power, while the electricity is fed back into the grid where it is distributed to meet demand and balance the intermittency of renewables. Lichtblick’s strategy is to develop a distributed power plant that meets both heat and power needs incredible efficiently.
With Lichtblick, and throughout our experience we have seen what happens when innovative organizations meet strong policy support. When it comes down to it, the strong policy and immense money behind renewables development and efficiency in Germany comes down to a choice of the German people. Our biggest surprise has been seeing the consistency in this choice, and the engagement of everyday people in debating how Germany should best approach it’s energy future.
Auf Wiedersehn aus Deutschland.