Wisconsin group to look at how Germany does green

Friday, March 26, 2010

From a letter to the editor of the Capital Times by John Imes, executive director of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative:

Ask me why I’m going to Germany.

Yes, it’s partly because I can celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Wisconsin/Hessen sister state relationship and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall.

Yes, it’s partly because the delegation going with me includes the likes of Ambassadors Tom Loftus (Norway) and Rick Graber (Czech Republic), as well as Roberta Gassman, secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development, and other distinguished leaders from business, academia, and nonprofits.

But mainly it’s because Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich are rolling out a red carpet to showcase their bright green economic growth, which includes cutting-edge high-speed rail technology, advanced water systems, large-scale solar and biogas facilities, and new directions in environmental and economic cooperation.

I’m going on the March 21-29 trip because I want to help Wisconsin look beyond the traditional approaches and solutions to new strategies and policies that let us achieve the environment, quality of life and healthy business climate we deserve. I expect to capture, study, learn and bring back lessons on energy, transportation, manufacturing and higher education that are keys to the emerging green economy.

Where are we going? Here are a few stops:

•Cutting-edge high-speed rail stations, technology and systems: The largest employer in Germany and a major economic driver is the Deustche Bundesbahn (German National Railroad). Every 500 million euros invested in the network expansion creates approximately 12,500 jobs during the construction phase and roughly 2,500 to 3,400 jobs from related business and service providers. We will get behind-the-scenes tours of high-speed rail stations, construction, maintenance, control and virtual training centers.

• Clean-tech exchange program: We will study green building design and offshore wind generation that will provide up to 15 percent of German power by 2020.

• Reliable and environmentally friendly energy and water resources management: Wisconsin values balanced and diverse energy investments. So we’ll get to see examples of that with a large solar farm and a biogas facility that feeds refined biogas into the German natural gas grid. Another highlight will be a presentation on Bavaria’s water resources management, one of the most advanced water systems in the world.

• New directions in environmental governance: What sets Germany apart is its “can-do” attitude and demonstrated ability to bring all the players to the table. Germany’s National Association of Manufacturers and the Federal Environmental Ministry work together to address issues like climate change, set meaningful environmental goals, and provide flexibility and incentives for superior environmental performance. We know some of this because we borrowed similar ideas 10 years ago to help set up our bipartisan, groundbreaking Green Tier law, which was championed by Sen. Mark Miller and Sen. Neal Kedzie and signed by Gov. Jim Doyle.