That pragmatism has paid off handsomely. Solar panels cost the same in Germany as they do in the United States, but a German homeowner pays $10,000 to install a typical rooftop system while a U.S. homeowner pays $20,000 for the same system. The difference is entirely due to the German focus on reducing the cost of deployment. Permitting fees that can run into the thousands of dollars in the United States cost nothing, or close to it, in Germany. The rest of the German price advantage comes from making distributed generation an attractive investment for citizens and small businesses. So many people were suddenly buying solar that installers streamlined their operations and passed the savings on to customers.
The lesson for America is clear: Sometimes, being methodical is its own form of genius.
Funding for Clean Break was provided by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, through a Climate Media Fellowship, and by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.