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Germany Turning Back to Wind for Energy

Aired May 16, 2004 - 00:00:00   ET


JONATHAN MANN, HOST: Coming up, Germany's spin machine: the environment minister runs like the wind.

JURGEN TRITTIN, GERMAN ENVIRONMENTAL MINISTER: It's a run against time. In the year 2050, only economies will be competitive that have a huge share of renewables in their energy production.


MANN: But opponents argue that clean isn't always green.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see we have here one of the most beautiful landscapes in Germany. And this is destroyed this industry.


MANN: Who said money doesn't grow on trees?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people who did the research for us in Wisconsin informed that this was a little diamond in the ruff.


MANN: A chocolate lover's dream in the heart of the Amazon. And catching some z's in Bedzed.




MANN: "Z" or Zed is for zero emissions. Urban living has never been so hip.

Hello and welcome to GLOBAL CHALLENGES. I'm Jonathan Mann.

If you want to feel nature's power between your fingers, put your hand into the wind. If you want to harness that power, you can push a shift, drive a nail, or these days, do just about anything.

Over the centuries, people have turned to steam, to coal, to oil, even to the atom for their energy. But here in Germany, as CNN's Chris Burns found out, increasingly they're turning back to the wind.


CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How much wind turbines have altered Germany's landscape in recent years is striking. In many regions, it's hard to find a horizon without them. Depending on whom you ask, the graceful, helpful beacons heralding an era of clean, renewable energy and energy independence that will create jobs. But others see wind farms as growing, costly, noisy eyesores, are not in to wind drag on the economy, job killers, fiscal money pits.

The man behind Germany's drive toward wind power and other renewable energy, environment minister, Jurgen Trittin of the Green Party, the same man driving the country out of nuclear power.

TRITTIN: It's a race against time. There are estimations from companies like V.P. or Shell that came to the same results as NGOs like Greenpeace. In the year 2050, only economies will be competitive that have a huge higher share of renewables in their energy production.

BURNS: There are more than 15,000 wind turbines across Germany; a five-fold increase says the leftist government of Chancellor Gerhart Schroeder came to power in 1998. The government says those turbines generate enough power for 7.5 million households. There are big plans for more.

The Schroeder government recently persuaded the Bundestag to approve a new, renewable energy law. It aims to increase that energy from eight percent of the electrical generation now to 12.5 percent by 2010. That includes hydro power, solar power, and wind power.

(on camera): Rain or shine, night and day, and that's a leg up on solar power, they're spinning across Germany and that's why environment minister Trittin is calling his country the bermeister (ph) or world champion of wind energy. He'll be showcasing that at Renewables 2004.

(voice-over): Trittin is hosting the International Conference on Renewable Energy in Bonn in June, aimed at having two billion people around the world who have lived without electricity to turn the lights on. The conference can also mean sustainable development for Germany's wind power industry. Companies like Anneltad (ph), who, outside Berlin, are building a new wind barn. They'll see huge potential for job creation and export.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's actually enormous. Think about it. Its heavy machinery construction the people said was dead in Germany but now is growing in double digits. There are 40,000 more people directly employed by wind energy.

BURNS: Though wind power can cost twice as much as conventional power, Anneltad (ph) has bullish outlook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A price explosion can surely be expected in the fossil fuels. We see with the Iraq conflict right now that the oil prices are rising at least 1.5 percent a year so that in 2014, at the latest, wind power can be cheaper than fossil energy.

BURNS: Too good to be true? It's a nightmare for Hansyer Himengal (ph), a political science professor from Freie University in Berlin and an anti-wind farm crusader in the Ucanmak (ph) area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see we have here one of the most beautiful landscapes in Germany. And this is destroyed by this industry.

BURNS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is the Don Quixote of Ucanmak (ph). He says wind farms are more than visual solution, they cast shadows on villages. They're noisy and bad for migrating cranes and other species.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These forests are protected area for these birds. And now, because these windmills are lighted during the night, and it's like a disco. And of course, the birds are gone.

BURNS: In the nearby village of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), some humans consider themselves an endangered species.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's getting to the point that people are saying there's no more reason to live here.

BURNS: Ironic, that those who for years faced down police and bitterly protested Germany's involvement in nuclear power, face a new opposition to what they thought was trouble-free energy.

The expression "not in my backyard" now applies not only to the anti- nuclear movement but to those fighting wind power.

The Don Quixote of Ucanmak and his supporters aren't alone. Germany's main news magazine, "Dea Spiegel," recently dedicated a 17-page expose attacking the government's wind power policy. It quotes experts estimating wind power will cost billions in tax breaks and higher energy prices.

Economy minister, Wolfgang Clement says the rise in cost of power will cost jobs and economic growth.

(on camera): Your colleague, Mr. Administer Clement called this effort to develop wind energy as a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a break on the economy. How do you answer that?

TRITTIN: Well, the figures show that the opposite thing is correct. One of the very few booming branches in Germany is the branch of the renewable energies. There is now about 120,000 people in employment.

BURNS (voice-over): On the "not in my backyard" rebellion, Trittin admits he's running out of room, but has an answer.

TRITTIN: After the boom on onshore, we see that we don't have enough space for that what we want to do. And that is the reason why we are orientating on building up the capacities also in the offshore area. It's a very ambitious plan.

BURNS: And costly, critics say. But Germany isn't the first to do it. Denmark has the world's two largest offshore wind parks and generates an estimated 15 percent of its power from wind turbines.

What role will wind play in German's energy mix in 2020?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wind energy, which is in the moment for a person of our generation, it will be in the range of eight percent. And we will have a phase out of nuclear power, which is still there in 2020, but only in a smaller part. And probably the largest percentage at that time will be natural gas.

BURNS: Natural gas that will mean energy dependence on what could be unstable regions of the world. All the more reason, some say, for a race against time to catch the wind.

For GLOBAL CHALLENGES, I'm Chris Burns in Berlin.


MANN: We take a break now, but in a moment, we'll go to the Amazon for an amazing find, one of the world's favorite flavors growing wild, abundant, and renewable in the rainforest. GLOBAL CHALLENGES will return right after this.


MANN: Welcome back. Remember the story of Jack and the beanstalk, the boy who got reach from the magic beans? Well, there's something to that story. Some of the world's largest industries are built around beans: coffee and cocoa, for example. CNN's Harris Whitbeck has the story now of one cocoa's little known cousins, a bean that could do enormous good for the people of the Amazon.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It grows on trees in the Brazilian Amazon. A large, brown, hard-shelled fruit called cupuacu. So common place, it had been used by local farmers as feed for their animals. But about 12 years ago, a businessman from the United States took an interest in the fruit after Brazilian researchers discovered it could be used as a substitute for Cacao, the traditional source of chocolate. Jeff Moats first arrived in Brazil as a consultant for the World Bank. Hearing cupuacu is a genetic cousin to Cacao, he had nutritional analyses done on the fruit and is now quickly turning cupuacu into one of the hottest comities to come out of the Amazon.

JEFF MOATS, AMAZON ORIGINS INC.: The people who did the research for us in Wisconsin informed us that this was -- you have no idea what you've stumbled upon here. This is like a little diamond in the rough.

WEDEMAN: He says research showed that unlike cacao, cupuacu does not contain stimulants like caffeine or theobromines, making it a healthier alternative to chocolate.

The fruit generated such an interest that it caused an international legal battle for the exclusive rights to market it. Moats says the court fight delayed his efforts to market products made from cupuacu, but now, his company will use Brazilian cupuacu to produce chocolate-flavored drinks for children in the U.S. public system early next year.

That's good news for people like Jose Maria (ph), a farmer in the Amazon who has been harvesting cupuacu for 22 years not knowing of its potential as a substitute for chocolate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I used to have to harvest everything manually and rent land. But now, I've been able to buy a house, a tractor and other farming equipment.

WEDEMAN: Local farmers throughout Amazonia are now harvesting cupuacu by the ton.

MOATS: He's now making money on seeds that he -- if he didn't have a pig or a cow to feed it to, he threw away. So now the value of this fruit has tripled to him in terms of income.

WEDEMAN: But getting the cupuacu to market is a huge challenge. Roads are scarce in the Amazon and farmers say that until recently local governments did little to support the development of alternative products from the rainforest. Eduardo Braga, the new governor of the state of Amazonas, recognized the potential and has instituted new policies to help realize it.

EDUARDO BRAGO, AMAZONAS GOVERNOR (through translator): We're establishing programs that provide access to credit, new technology, logistics, and a guaranteed market. We are restructuring the state to achieve that.

WEDEMAN (on camera): Reaping the Amazon's bounties has its drawbacks. Too much agricultural activity here can put the rainforest at risk. The challenge is in trying to take advantage of everything the Amazon can offer without destroying it.

(voice-over): Because the rainforest's offerings are limitless.

MOATS: You know you've got cupuacu, you've got camucamu (ph), you've got (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You've got all of these fabulous fruits in this region and everyone makes juice from it or ice cream from it. Well, what else can you do with it? Can you extract oils from the skin? Can you do something with the seeds? What else can be done? And that -- with cupuacu, we discovered you could produce chocolate.

WEDEMAN: Moats is also looking beyond fruit to look for sustainable ways to better the economic livelihoods of Amazonia's dwellers. And he seems to have found other options in the Amazon River itself. Exotic fish like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are being caught, processed, flash-frozen and fed to restaurants in the United States.

MOATS: There's a lot here. It just -- people need to tape into it and deliver a market for it.

BRAGA (through translator): This is about establishing a base for sustainable development so that people look at the rainforest not as an impediment to development, but as an element that contributes to it.

WEDEMAN: The perception of the rainforest as an economic asset is nothing new. For decades, it has been used as a source of precious woods and has grazing land for cattle, economic practices that have contributed to the destruction of the Amazon at an alarming rate. The equivalent of about seven football fields a minute. But changes in perceptions of the Amazon's resources and ways of exploiting them might just give the Amazon a reprieve.

As for cupuacu, the tree grows all over Amazonia and if the marketing of its fruit is as successful as its promoters say it will be the rewards from the cupuacu harvest will be as sweet as the chocolate it produces.

Harris Whitbeck for GLOBAL CHALLENGES in the Amazonia region of Brazil.


MANN: Maybe you've heard the expression that every little bit helps. Well, put all of those little bits into just one place and you get Bedzed. We'll take you there when GLOBAL CHALLENGES continues.


MANN: Welcome back. Have you ever heard of Beddington in the London borough of Sutton? Probably not, but right now, sitting on the edge of one of the world's most historic cities is a community that's making some history of its own. Here's Daljit Dhaliwal in a small town and a small revolution in how people use resources.


DALJIT DHALIWAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're in the market for a new home and want to do your bit for the environment, this place could be right up your street. Bedzed is Britain's first real green housing estate but it's also unusual because it's in a suburb of London so it sees something of a shining light in a city for looking for green answers to some of the planet's biggest threats.

(on camera): I'm on my way to see one of the residents to find out how you can have a sustainable life without much effort at all and without giving up on modern comforts.



THOMAS: Come in. Can I take your coat?

DHALIWAL: Yes, please. So how long have you been living her?

THOMAS: I've been here for about two years now.

DHALIWAL: And what's it like?

THOMAS: Well, I really love it.

DHALIWAL (voice-over): Moving to Bedzed was a labor of love for Paul Thomas.

THOMAS: In here, we have the -- our hot water tank. The whole water tank is run on recycled wood chip.

DHALIWAL: He heard about the estate from a friend and he was so impressed by what he saw, he moved into the neighborhood so that he would have a better chance of being considered.

THOMAS: Here's where we have the recycling bowl, household waste. You can do your normal stuff and then you've got bottles, glass bottles, plastic bottles, paper, and stuff like that.

DHALIWAL (on camera): Does it get tedious to having to sort all this stuff out?

THOMAS: Well, not really because I mean it's a lot more convenient doing it this way.

DHALIWAL: Paul said it's not hard to imagine living anywhere else. This is his idea of utopia.

THOMAS: Here, I mean, it's something that will always interest me and I was trying to make my life more environmentally friendly. And then seeing the benefits of living here where, you know, things like recycling, for example, are made so much easier and the fact that the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) energy development was absolutely perfect.

Probably the thing that's had the larger impact on my life has been the social aspect, which has been unlike anything I've ever experienced in London. I've lived there all my life, but moving here, I've made some friends in such a short space of time.

DHALIWAL: There are plenty of other (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a powerhouse produces all of the estates' heat and energy running off a small converted Lory engine. There are no dirty fossil fuels. The clean green choice if you were here is recycled wood chip.

A few miles away, central London is choking with congestion and traffic pollution. The capitol has been trying for years to come up with an effective public transport strategy so that people think twice before driving into town.

Bedzed's answer is a car club with a solar-powered car. The idea has worked out quite well. Bedzed's office workers get to use it during the day and residents have it in the evening and at week's end.

The design is the handiwork of architect Bill Dunster. Getting all of the new technologies up and running was no cake walk. There was also the challenge of selling the concept.

BILL DUNSTER, ARCHITECT: It's proving very hard but it's only proven difficult because it's initially more expensive to do. So once we build a tiny number of these units each year is expensive, but if we had about 5,000 of these homes being built a year and there's 160,000 homes being built in the U.K. every year, then there would be no cost extra yet (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DHALIWAL (on camera): And it would be expensive why?

DUNSTER: It's expensive because it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE), things like the wind tunnels, things like all the special components of some of the -- which attach to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Scandinavia. A lot of these things didn't exist in the U.K. and now we've got to start making them.

DHALIWAL (voice-over): The idea came about because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) charity needed offices. What they ended up doing was going into partnership to build an ecovillage. He believes that we'll see more counting edge green developments as more people take (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of how they're living.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're trying to do is create a way of making a community here. You can live in an environmentally friendly way. I actually do believe that we're going to see a lot more of these and they seem to become a sort of very inspirational way of living as well.

DHALIWAL: So could this little piece of suburbia turn out to be a blueprint for the future?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to have to find new ways of living if we're going to, you know, continue living on this planet without destroying it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a relief in forest around the world, we're looking at oil reserves, you know, being depleted and also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the next 10 to 15 years. And what are we going to do after that? So really it's now that we have to start seriously thinking about, you know, how we're going to live in the future.

THOMAS: I can't leave. There's no where else to go. Bedzed is the only place to live.

DHALIWAL: It may well be that others also want a slice of green living. They've impressed in Portugal and in South Korea. But the more immediate challenge at least in the United Kingdom is getting the housing industry to dip its toe in the water.

Daljit Dhaliwal for GLOBAL CHALLENGES, London.


MANN: And that's our program. I'm Jonathan Mann. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you next time for another edition of GLOBAL CHALLENGES.



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