CEDAR FALLS |A foreign diplomat from a country leading the world in environmentally friendly energy practices came to tell Iowans what they shouldn’t take from their example.
Peter Jahr, a German representative in the European Parliament, the governing body of the European Union, talked renewable energy with an intimate audience on the University of Northern Iowa campus Tuesday night.
“Germany has become one of leading countries for renewable energies in world,” he said. “But there’s a bad side to every good story.”
About a quarter of the energy used in Germany is renewable or produced through wind power, sunlight, geothermal or plant material called biomass.
Part of a massive campaign called “energiewende,” German for energy transformation, the goal is that by 2022, Germany hopes to phase out nuclear energy and depend more on renewable sources.
But Jahr was critical of the economic structure in place, saying it forces consumers to pay for a system that’s producing more renewable energy than the country can handle.
“At times we have to pay other countries to take our energy otherwise the grid would collapse,” he said.
Jahr said Germans are spending billions on a renewable energy system that doesn’t provide for healthy market competition.
“You need development and innovation. If you give too much money to renewable energy, you’re sleeping well and you do nothing,” he said. “The example of Germany shows how difficult transforming an energy system can be.”
A member of the Christian Democratic Union, Jahr’s politically aligned with Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany who’s leading the massive campaign for green energy in the country. By 2030, renewable energies would be the dominant source for 81 million Germans.
Jahr, a part-time wheat and cattle farmer, has a deep Iowa connection. For the past four years, Jahr has selected Iowan students to work alongside him as interns in his European offices.
Two UNI students at Tuesday night’s lecture served as Jahr’s personal assistants last year while they were studying at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls. They witnessed first-hand the complexity of the EU, a government body representing 28 countries and political systems.
“It was amazing...I’ll be able to apply what I saw to my classroom. And just knowing that the United States isn’t the only country in the world; there’s other people out there too who have some things to say,” said Michael Lamoreux, a UNI senior studying social sciences education.
Jahr’s visit was part of the UNI Diplomat Series sponsored by the Office of International Programs and co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science, the Center for Social and Behavioral Research and the Center for Energy and Environmental Education.
Since its inception in 2011, the series has brought four other foreign leaders to Cedar Falls from countries like Austria, Taiwan and Chile.
“We’re trying to internationalize our campus,” said Craig Klafter, associate provost for international programs at UNI. “While we would hope a large number of faculty, students and staff will venture out, the reality is they will probably not. We need to bring outside world to us.”