A Bachata in Fukushima

20130904-YFC Bonn-001Feel like some Latin heat? There’s a new dance craze in town and soon the whole world is moving to the seductive rhythms of the Bachata in Fukushima. The energy is flowing and the atmosphere is electric. Unfortunately, the party is over before it begins – the music is cut and the globe is plunged into darkness. Soon the only sounds are those of explosions and sirens wailing in the distance. Who could have foreseen the chaos and tragedy that would follow our reckless attempts to harness the power of the atom? Perhaps there were some who knew – the people who came before. They tried to warn us, but did we listen?

With nuclear power clearly no longer an option, governments and industry struggle to find alternative sources of energy. But with the threat of climate change looming on the horizon and renewable power a seemingly distant reality there appear to be few options available. Enter the gas industry with a proposal that promises to provide clean energy, that’s not only cheap but abundant. Their arguments are slick and the numbers are certainly very convincing. But is natural gas really as green as they say? And who are those environmentalists whispering about water pollution? It doesn’t matter – it’s cheap, it’s green and it’s ours – ladies and gentlemen, we’re fracking!

20130814-BRIGHT-002The electricity is back on and the profits are growing, but things aren’t going so well down on the farm for Farmer Willi. Something is very fishy about all those shiny new gas wells that have suddenly popped up all over his property. And now his prize cow Rosalinda has taken ill, apparently bloated with methane. With his livelihood going down the gurgler, and getting no sympathy from wife Heidi, Willi heads to the local tavern to drown his sorrows. Who should he find there but his entrepreneurial cousin Tina, who has a plan to get them both rich – quick! Tina’s idea to turn his farm into a solar energy park by taking advantage of the government’s high feed-in tariffs sounds fool-proof, but can he really risk his life savings, and what will Heidi say?

20130814-BRIGHT-004With dollar signs rolling before her eyes, Tina heads to work at the local golf course to tell everyone about her ambition to become a solar tycoon. Little does she know that there are others there who are also keen to sink their claws into a share of the renewable market. And these people have friends in high places – the Ministry of Energy in fact. With elections coming up the Minister is under pressure to keep electricity prices down. The solution from industry – cancel the high feed-in tariffs for small scale investors and leave the energy transition up to the big boys. Once again the numbers add up, but can she really do it? After all, people have invested their life savings. The Minister soon finds out that the conventional energy industry can be very persuasive!

Having lost their farm and blown their savings on ill-fated investments in solar power, Farmer Willi and Heidi are forced to move to the city to find work. Things are looking up when Heidi secures an interview for a position in the government’s new green jobs campaign. But things aren’t what they seem and the interview is certainly not what they expected – especially when they are given a tour of the Cycling Demonstration Plant. Pedalling all day to produce green power means that working in the renewable energy industry has never been such hard work. The conditions are intolerable and the pay turns out to be non-existent – and doesn’t their new boss look surprisingly like the fracker who took Farmer Willi’s precious Rosalinda away?

20130814-BRIGHT-005In the tinder box atmosphere, it only takes a spark of mystical inspiration from an ancestral figure for the Cycling Demonstration Plant to erupt into revolution – the energy revolution. They have their own land, their own solar cells, and now they are determined to make their own electricity, in their own towns and communities. The plant workers are swept off their bikes by the revolutionary spirit and the festive Latin rhythms that are feeding the celebration of new found freedom. But what about the energy? Shouldn’t they start working? Ah, there’s always tomorrow.