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September 8, 2017
Paul Gipe

Comments by Bernard Saulnier on the Book Energy Democracy


In response to my review of Energy Democracy, a new book on Germany’s energy revolution by Craig Morris and Arne Jungjohann, long-time colleague Bernard Saulnier contacted me with his thoughts.

Saulnier and his partner, Réal Reid, are two of Canada's pioneers in wind energy. They are also co-authors of L'éolien au cœur de l'incontournable révolution énergétique, one of the most authoritative books on wind energy in French. Like Morris and Jungjohann, they too have also grappled with what to call the dramatic changes taking place in electric utilities, energy policy, and renewable energy. Their title, Wind Energy at the Heart of an Inevitable or Unavoidable Energy Revolution in English, reflects their view.

Here’s Saulnier’s thoughts on the book Energy Democracy.

On 16 may 2017, Arne Jungjohann was in Montreal for a conference on the book Energiewende at the Goethe Institute. There I had the pleasure to chat with Arne. I bought the book and I am glad to say that the pages of my copy are just as book worn as yours.

The book is written in a language that is so fluid and lively it’s almost like you’re reading a thriller. The authors have made a colossal contribution to the sorely needed discussion of how to build a sound democracy and where exactly we should start. It is a tour de force when considering how dull most academic books analyzing democracy appear to the average reader. This book talks to everyone of us. It is a book that tells an extraordinary powerful tale about a handful of competent (and stubborn) people and how they planted the seeds that took root, pushing their nation down a different—and better—path energywise. I relished every chapter of it.

On the first page the authors discuss the translatability of wende, saying, “Wende can also mean a fundamental turn for the better.”

As you suggest, one can refer to this “fundamental turn” as being a revolution (incidentally, we used precisely this idea for the title of our book, specifying that the change was ‘incontournable’). Pondering your argument about the word Revolution being the right translation for the German Wende, it struck me that in French one could also use ‘virage’ (indeed, an inescapable turn) as a plain and useful image representing the fundamental redesign that must be implemented worldwide to make our energy infrastructures safe and sustainable for generations to come. This idea of a “fundamental turn” (virage incontournable en français) may actually take root in the public vocabulary as representing the factual need to get out of our catastrophic fossil dependency, to a point where it can eliminate altogether the expression ‘energy transition,’ which means anything and its opposite in too many political stances today all over the world—and, unfortunately, this is actually the case here in Quebec right now. I’ll give it a try…

Just wanted to thank you for your great account of the best book I’ve read so far on energy, politics  and the true meaning of democracy.


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