When the catastrophic failure of the $500 million investment in Solyndra forced us to question if the federal government's role was as venture capitalist, the larger issue lost in the scrum was, what is the proper role of government in clean energy creation and why is it so hard for America to define?
The answers may be waiting for exploration in Germany. Many Americans looked longingly at Germany for being net positive—producing more energy from renewables than it used during a 24-hour period last year—for its $25 billion investment in a smart grid, and its big goal to be off fossil fuels by 2050.
"The government did not attempt to finance green energy, rather, it incentivized these alternative power sources by way of a feed-in-tariff," Business Insider writes. "This means the government pays producers of renewable energy and allows them to purchase their electricity at a discount."
One thing seems clear—Germany’s vaunted energy policies serve as a pipeline for renewables. Can Germany provide answers for how the United States rounds a corner on its energy policy?
Why has policy supporting feed in tariffs, smart grid R&D, or a permanent Investment Tax Credit for solar and wind power taken a back seat to a start up investment strategy in the U.S.? Can we expect a change any time soon? Is there a return on investment for renewable energy policy or R&D like the Obama Administration sees for its new "brain mapping" initiative which is quoted as how the government should "invest in the best ideas"?
This month, we are exploring these and related questions to what is a sustainable future for energy? And how do we achieve it?