Exploring Environmental Governance: A Meeting with Prof. Michael Pregernig

On August 6, I met with Prof. Michael Pregernig, Professor of Environmental Governance at Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg. As stated on his page, one of his research interests is “the role of science and expertise in environmental- and resource policy, with a focus on effective policy advice (evidence based policy making) and democratic inclusiveness.” He has conducted numerous policy studies in Europe and the US, among other locations. Given these interests, I walked into his office with two big questions to tackle:

  • Can science/policy interaction explain why Germany and the EU have been so much more progressive than the US in terms of climate change legislation?
  • How can local governments successfully incorporate citizen participation in realizing long-term social/ecological/economic goals?

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Life Update!

Hi friends! Sorry for posting so infrequently. During the past two weeks, I’ve been busy meeting with a bunch of different people in the renewable energy and Smart Grid space. I’m excited to share insights from those meetings with you, but the posts will be a little slow in coming since they take so long to write. (The weather’s also been really hot and humid, which hasn’t been very conducive to productivity.)

However, some small updates in the meantime:

  • Kadda finished her exams and left for vacation and an internship. While I’m so glad she’s done (she was studying all the time!), this means I don’t get to see her again before I leave. Viel Spaß, Kadda!
  • I’ve started to get more comfortable with the different parts of Freiburg and finding my way around. Of course, by the time I’m completely comfortable, it’ll be time to leave… which is kind of the point 🙂
  • After walking a few miles to/from a meeting this week in the hot sun, I decided to buy a Coca Cola. Coke here is made using real sugar, so I liked it better than the US’s high-fructose corn syrup Coke. However, I think Mexico’s Coca Cola still wins for me so far.
  • There was a thunderstorm last night. It was awesome! My apartment is on the 5th floor of the building (which here means 5 floors above the ground level), so the lightning felt really close. It was also incredibly windy up here!
  • I lost my first hair elastic today. I’m yet to lose a pen or chapstick though, and I’m hoping it stays that way!

I’ve also started receiving quotes of the day via email. Today’s seemed particularly appropriate given the recent Black Lives Matter protests and tragic news in Ferguson, so I thought I’d share it:

“If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” – Lucy Larcom

A Visit with EWS Schönau, Germany’s “Electricity Rebels”

On Wednesday (August 5), Sebastian and I went to visit EWS Schönau, an extremely successful German energy cooperative. EWS was founded after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, when the town of Schönau’s provider KWR refused to phase out nuclear or move towards environmentally friendly energy. Schönau’s citizens realized the only way to change the status quo was to own the grid themselves, and after many negotiations, multiple citizens’ referenda, and a large fundraising effort, EWS was finally established (1994), allowed to operate Schönau’s electricity grid (1996), and allowed to buy and own this electricity grid (1997).

We were greeted at EWS by Tanja Gaudian. EWS currently sits in its own office building, with additional buildings for a workshop and a small entertainment center. The EWS office also has a co-generation plant, a fuel cell, and rooftop solar. With 100 employees, it’s the biggest company in Schönau (and incidentally, Schönau’s biggest taxpayer). Continue reading

Local Energy Transition: A Meeting with Simon Funcke

On Tuesday (August 4), I met with Simon Funcke, a Ph.D. student at Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg who studies the local effects of energy transition. Mr. Funcke co-published a guide for municipalities or small regions looking to start local energy cooperatives; has participated in multiple “added value” studies for renewable energies (such as this assessment for PV in Freiburg); and has recently been studying the actors and political discourses associated with renewable energy deployment. During our conversation, I learned quite a bit about the interaction between Germany’s national and local renewable energy movements. Continue reading

Viel Tourismus

This weekend, I was a tourist! I spent Saturday (August 1) wandering around Freiburg’s city center and Sunday (August 2) at Lake Titisee in the Black Forest.

Freiburg’s city center on a sunny Saturday is magical. Street performers play and the farmers’ market bustles with tourists. I spotted an English-speaking tour group and tried to linger behind them for a free tour of Freiburg Münster, but I wasn’t quite stealthy enough. It was okay, though; I made up the time I would have spent learning historical facts instead being awed by the Cathedral’s beauty.

IMG_20150801_125524124      IMG_20150801_125956475      IMG_20150801_130029174

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