Hans-Josef Fell, Father of the Feed-in Tariff

I dropped by the Bundestag office of Germany’s Green MP Hans-Josef Fell the other day. Fell is a fascinating character and is one of the figures hailed as “the father of the feed-in tariff (FiT)” — Germany’s law that guarantees private producers of renewable energy a fixed, higher-than-market rate for their energy. This law is largely responsible for sparking Germany’s renewable energy boom, and has been copied around the world.

Fell comes from a small town in northern Bavaria, Hammelburg, which was the first municipality in Germany to implement a FiT in 1993. When he entered the Bundestag for the Greens in 1998 (with the Greens in government) he helped author the Renewable Energy Law, the seminal legislation that set the FiTs. 

Fell is obviously eager for the Greens to get back into power. The current government, he argues, is playing a double game, paying lip service to the Energiewende, but in fact backing the giant power utilities whose profits have suffered — and will continue to suffer — as the amount of renewables in Germany’s energy mix increases.

“Industry is fighting a rear-guard action because they and conventional energy are the losers. The more solar and wind power pumped into the system, the less conventional energy they sell. That’s the law now and the bottom line,” said Fell. “They’re fighting for survival. Part of this is trying to undermine the energy produced outside of their factories.”

Although frustrated with the government’s procrastination and zigzagging, he says there’s no secret as to who’s going to win out in the end: “The price of renewable energies is going down and down, while fossil fuels are getting more and more expensive.”

But some still don’t see the writing on the wall. “Germany still provides massive subsides for coal and nuclear.The renewable sector isn’t bankrolled by subsidies but through the FiT. All this talk about renewables being subsidized to the gills while fossil fuels somehow aren’t is complete rubbish,” he says. “It’s the other way around.”

Fell admits that the renewable energy law is in need of revamping. But he wants to be the one to do it, in a way that will boost renewables yet further — not obstruct them.

This blog was originally published at DGAP.

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Paul Hockenos is a Berlin-based author who has written about Europe since 1989. Paul is the author of three major books on European politics: Free to Hate: The Rise of the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe, Homeland Calling: Exile Patriotism and the Balkans Wars, and Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic: An Alternative History of Postwar Germany. From 1997-99 he worked with the international mission in Bosnia and 2003-04 in Kosovo. Since then, Paul has held fellowships with the American Academy in Berlin, the European Journalism College in Berlin, and the German Marshall Fund. He was an editor at Internationale Politik, Germany’s leading foreign affairs journal, for five years. He is currently author of the blog Going Renewable and is writing a book about Germany’s energy revolution.

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