By Jan Ahlen, NFU Climate and Energy Coordinator
ÖkoFen Pellet Heating in Austria and Krinner “The Ground Screws” in Germany. These are the names of two companies that have profited from the opportunities of German and Austrian renewable energy laws. ÖkoFen manufactures pellet boilers and 80 percent of their revenue comes from exports. Krinner manufactures ground screws for solar PV installations. The screws are enormously popular because they negate the need for asphalt and thus keep the ground viable for agriculture. Krinner’s biggest markets lie in exports. Neither of these companies would have become so successful if there were not stable long term renewable energy policies.
The two companies are no exception. Hundreds of these companies have sprouted up all over these two countries. ÖkoFen Pellet Heating currently has 260 people on staff, not including salespersons. It is obvious that the system is working and good paying green jobs are contributing substantially to economic development.
Can a similar system be replicated in the United States? Some will say that implementing similar policies would lead to more job losses than new jobs. However, look no further than the region of upper Austria. The area currently boasts an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent. Upper Austria currently generates 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. The goal is to generate 100 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.
With the entrepreneurial talent and culture that we enjoy in the United States, American businesses are poised to lead the world in the clean-tech industry. It is up to politicians to step up and push for long term policies that will encourage investment and persuade entrepreneurs to enter to industry.