SDFU President, Other South Dakota Leaders to Travel to Germany, Austria to Tour Renewable Energy Sites

August 17, 2011

South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) President Doug Sombke and a group of other leaders from South Dakota and across the country will travel to Germany and Austria August 21-27, 2011 to participate in the Renewables and Rural Energy Opportunities Study Tour organized by Ecologic Institute and the Atlantic Council of the United States. State Sen. Jason Frerichs of Wilmot, S.D., and East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Jeff Nelson of Madison, S.D., are the other South Dakotans accompany Sombke on the trip which will include about 15 participants from the U.S. A representative from National Farmers Union and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union will also attend.

The study tour will provide an opportunity for European and American professional foresters and farmers, policy makers, non-profit groups and biomass and biogas experts to share experiences about the economic and political factors informing land-use and renewable energy on both sides of the Atlantic.

“It will be an incredible opportunity to see what the German people have done in the renewable energy industry,” Sombke said. “We’ll be able to share ideas with them about what South Dakota has been doing to enhance its renewable energy industry, and learn from them to see how they’ve been able to grow their own industry.”

The tour is the first of three conducted through the Incubating Communities of Influence for Transformation of their Economies and Environment (I-CITE) project hosted by the Ecologic Institute in Berlin and Washington, D.C., and the Atlantic Council of Washington, D.C. The tour is supported by the European Union, German Federal Foreign Office and World Future Council.

The study tour will take place in Bavaria, Germany and Upper Austria and will include visits to Germany’s largest solar installation, one of the region’s biogas plants, a region committed to 100-percent renewable energy consumption (so called "bio-energy-regions”), a biomass-fired combined heat and power plant, and they will analyze the bioenergy value chain. In Austria, biomass heat installations will be visited in tandem with discussion of forestry practices and forest products. The tour will focus on support policies for renewable energy, especially in rural areas.

The participants will meet with a number of experts and political leaders. This includes two Green Party politicians - Hans-Josef Fell, a Member of the German Parliament, and Christine Kamm, a Member of the Bavarian Parliament. In Austria, the participants will speak with Rudi Anschober, the State Secretary for Environment and Energy in Upper Austria, and the President of the Upper Austrian Chamber of Agriculture.

In the past year, there has been an ongoing discussion of the future of energy in Germany. As of late last year, the country is committed to meeting 35% of its electricity needs from renewables by 2020 and 80% by 2050. This year, the Free State of Bavaria announced a strong commitment through 2021. Wind energy should increase by roughly 10 times from 0.6% of the electricity in the state to 6-10%; the installation of 1,000-1,500 wind mills through 2021 is anticipated. Photovoltaics will rise roughly five-fold from 3% to 16% of electricity; and biomass will cover 10% of electricity and 9% of primary energy.

“It’s impressive what Germany has done in the area of renewables,” Sombke said. “They have huge goals to become more energy independent and create good paying jobs in the renewable energy industry. I’m looking forward to learning how they’re going to get there and what ideas we can bring back and implement here in the U.S.”

“Germany has more than doubled its renewable energy capacity over the last decade, producing about 17-percent of the country’s energy through renewables,” Sombke said. “They’re creating jobs and moving toward being 100-percent energy independent. The U.S. has a lot to learn from the Germans in this area, and I’m excited to bring ideas home from this study tour that can help South Dakota and our country become more energy independent.”

At the same time, participants will see the progress that Austria has made in the fields of biogas and biomass, where they are a regional leader. Not only will the participants meet with the companies in Upper Austria that are leading the way – in terms of technology and also processes, like heating pellet production from biomass – but they will also discuss the policies that have pushed the industries forward.

Last Modified: 06/25/2014 12:22:02 pm MDT


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