16 Nov 2016 | Julian Wettengel

German elections ahead: The road to the next Energiewende government

One year from now, Germans will have cast their votes in the general elections and we will know who is going to be in charge of the next phase of the country’s energy transition. The elections in the federal states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin have been widely portrayed as the starting point for parties to move into campaign mode. Discussions about presidential frontrunners are already in full swing. The Clean Energy Wire will follow the road to the next Energiewende government with background material and live coverage of milestones along the campaigns. This factsheet provides a first overview of relevant events over the coming 12 months, and will be updated as new dates are set. [Updates latest poll, G20, CDU federal conference]

German federal election results 2013 and latest poll for 2017.



04 – 05 November

Party conference of the Christian Social Union, in MUNICH.

The Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) dominates politics in Germany’s largest state and has provided all of the state’s premiers since 1957. It has a close partnership with the sister party Christian Democratic Union (CDU) on the federal level and has three ministers in the current federal coalition government of CDU/CSU and Social Democrats (SPD). The two parties have an understanding that the CSU does not enter election contests in any of the other 15 federal states, while the CDU steers clear of Bavaria. At the November conference, the CSU adopted a new party manifesto that mainly focuses on security, order and conservative values. It includes one paragraph on energy and states: "The Energiewende must not come disproportionately at the expense of the citizens and the economy, or endanger jobs."


11 – 13 November

Federal party conference of the Green Party, in MÜNSTER.

The Greens are currently the smallest group in the Bundestag. At the same time, they are part of eleven out of sixteen state governments. Party members wield a lot of influence over key policies and other decisions as these are typically set from the bottom up. This includes the election of a frontrunner duo consisting of candidates from both the leftist and the pragmatic party wing – including at least one female candidate. The Greens dub this primary process “the big bang for the Green federal election campaign 2017”. In Münster, the Greens laid down their priorities in energy policy for 2017, which will include advancing e-mobility through banning combustion engines in new cars by 2030 as well as exiting coal-fired power production as early as 2025.


01 December

Germany assumes presidency of G20

Germany took over the G20 presidency from China at the beginning of December. The focus is clearly on the stability of the economies, but Germany’s G20 sherpa Lars-Hendrik Röller said, the country would be using its presidency to “push hard” on furthering the UN’s Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and ensure that “climate and energy are looked at together.” China and the USA used the recent summit to announce the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement. Chancellor Angela Merkel last year induced G7 leaders to make a commitment to limit global warming to 2 degrees and decarbonise the global economy over the course of this century at their meeting in southern Germany.


05 – 07 December

Federal party conference of the Christian Democrats (CDU), in ESSEN.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected as party chair at the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) conference in Essen and will lead her party in the 2017 campaign. Merkel has been called “Climate Chancellor”. However, energy and climate policy was on the sidelines at the conference due to other, more prominent issues, such as domestic security and migration. In Essen, the centre-right CDU laid the groundwork for its 2017 federal election campaign programme which it will agree on together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), in spring. 



End of January

Green Party announces results of primary election of the two candidates

The Greens will have chosen the frontrunner team to lead the party into the upcoming federal elections after 2-3 months of primary campaigns.


12 February

Election of the Federal President of Germany

The role of the president of the Federal Republic of Germany is mainly ceremonial with few opportunities to influence day-to-day politics. The successor to current president Joachim Gauck will be elected by an assembly made up of the federal parliament’s members (Bundestag) and an equal number of delegates elected by the 16 state parliaments, typically state politicians and public figures. The president has traditionally stood above party politics but the ability to name a successful candidate has often been seen as a test of the stability of coalitions or the chances for new cooperation between parties. The current coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD has agreed on backing current foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier from the SPD as a common candidate, making his election to office highly likely. 



Federal party conference of the Social Democrats (SPD)

The Social Democrats, as the smaller partner in the current grand government coalition, provide seven of 17 ministers in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third cabinet. Among them is vice chancellor, party chairman and federal economy minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose ministry has also been in charge of recent German energy policy such as the reform of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG). The party has not yet announced if the conference in spring 2017 will decide on a frontrunner for the federal elections.



Germany will host G20 ministers’ meetings as part of its G20 presidency

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sherpa to organise the G20 summit in Hamburg is Lars-Hendrik Röller, head of the economy, finance and energy policy department in her chancellery. He coordinates the work of the individual ministries that host G20 meetings before the summit in July. These include foreign, finance, labour, health, agriculture and digitalisation minister meetings.


26 March

State elections in Saarland

Elections in one of the 16 German states shortly before the federal elections are often seen as providing some insight into what is likely to happen on a national level. Saarland will be the first of three state elections in the first half of 2017. The outcome and possibilities for government coalitions in Germany’s smallest non-city state will depend on, among other things, the strength of right wing newcomer AfD. Since the last elections in 2011, Christian Democrat state premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been leading a grand coalition with the Social Democrats. The latest polls see the CDU in the lead with 34%, ahead of the SPD with 29%.


28 - 30 April

Federal party conference of the Free Democrats (FDP), in BERLIN.

The Free Democratic Party had missed the 5% threshold at the last federal elections and failed to enter parliament for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. Recent polls (see above) show that the liberal and business-friendly FDP could re-enter the Bundestag next fall. The April party conference will decide on the campaign programme.


07 May

State elections in Schleswig-Holstein

Schleswig-Holstein, bordering both the North and Baltic seas, is one of the key Energiewende states, leading the ranks in wind power capacity additions in 2015. But Schleswig-Holstein also suffers from lagging power grid expansion both inside the state and connecting it to Germany’s industrial south. In 2012, current state premier Torsten Albig (SPD) introduced Germany’s first energy transition ministry, with Green politician Robert Habeck as the first state minister for the Energiewende. Habeck proposed Schleswig-Holstein’s own energy transition and climate protection law in July, including greenhouse gas emission targets and goals for electricity production from renewables. It is currently being debated in the state parliament.


14 May

State elections in North Rhine-Westphalia

The most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia is one of Germany's key economic centres. It accounts for the largest share of the German GDP of all states, making these elections very important to the national parties. North Rhine-Westphalia is home to the country’s big utilities RWE, E.ON and their new units innogy and Uniper. Germany still relies heavily on coal for its electricity production and a large share of the country’s lignite mining and power generation happens in North Rhine-Westphalia. A possible German coal exit, as has been debated time and again over the past years, would affect this state strongly. Since the last state elections in 2012, the Social Democrats under state premier Hannelore Kraft have governed in a coalition with the Green Party.


16 – 18 June

Federal party conference of the Green Party, in BERLIN.

The Green Party will introduce its campaign programme at this conference about three months before the federal elections.


07 – 08 July

G20 summit, in HAMBURG.

Chancellor Angela Merkel decided that Germany’s 2017 Group of Twenty summit will be held in the country’s largest port city, Hamburg.


23 August – 22 October

Federal parliamentary elections

The federal parliamentary elections will most likely take place on 17 or 24 September 2017. The date will be announced by the Federal President of Germany around the beginning of the year. Citizens elect the members of the German Bundestag, the country’s federal parliament and most powerful legislative body. After the election, the often time-consuming and complicated process of coalition building can take many weeks, as can working out the government programme for the coming legislative term. At the end of the negotiations and consultations, the Bundestag elects the new chancellor, who in turn appoints the members of her or his cabinet.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)”. They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.