On 13 March citizens in three German states went to the polls in regional elections. The vote resulted in a shift to the right, as far-right party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) entered all three parliaments for the first time, costing most of the established parties seats. While energy and climate issues had been a hot topic in the last elections, this time the debate was dominated by the refugee crisis.
The Social Democrats (SPD) and Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who were partners in the incumbent governments of two states, and also form the so-called Grand Coalition at the federal level, suffered big losses in Baden-Württemberg and Saxony-Anhalt.
The Green Party (the party most in favour of the energy transition and timely decarbonisation of the German economy) gained seats in Baden-Württemberg but suffered considerable losses in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt (See Factsheet with election results).
More than two months after the elections, new coalition governments have formed in all three states, and state premiers were sworn in. Because at least one of the major incumbent parties lost seats in each election, the two-party coalitions of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in Saxony-Anhalt, and Social Democrats and Greens in Rhineland-Palatinate, have had to team up with other partners.
The Green Party is now a coalition partner in the Saxony-Anhalt government.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, the Social Democrats and Greens were joined by the business-oriented Free Democratic Party (FDP) to secure a stable majority in parliament.
The Green Party was the overall winner of the Baden-Württemberg election, and has joined forces with the conservative CDU. Previous partnerships between the two parties (dubbed "black-green" due to traditional party colours) were always dominated by the CDU. This is the first time the CDU is a junior coalition partner in a Green-dominated German state government.
Coalition agreements – which lay out a programme for the new legislative period running till 2021 – reflect the Green Party’s participation in all three state governments.
Baden-Württemberg’s green-black coalition has drawn up a coalition agreement entitled “Reliable, Sustainable, Innovative”.
The coalition partners aim to make Baden-Württemberg a “pioneer in resource efficiency”. They want to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, and 90 percent by 2050. By the middle of the century the state aims “to reduce final energy consumption by 50 percent compared to 2010 and have 80 percent renewables”. Interim targets for 2030 are to be set by the government, the coalition agreement says.
Support for renewables – and particularly for solar power – is strong in Baden-Württemberg. The new government plans to set up a programme to make solar PV affordable for tenants and trigger another 50,000 rooftop to be fitted with solar panels. They also want to promote solar thermal installations. Wind power is also to be expanded, but the conservative CDU managed to embed in the coalition agreement a new minimum distance from houses (extended up to 1,000 meters) for wind turbines.
On a federal level, the state government in Stuttgart will push for a technology-specific approach to the pending reform of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) (to be agreed this summer), to ensure that wind power in Baden-Württemberg will get the support it needs, and that wind power is expanded in a balanced way across all German states. It will also lobby to reduce the EEG surcharge for tenants using their own renewable power, the coalition agreement says. Energy-intensive industries competing globally should continue to be exempt from the EEG surcharge.
Writing on klimaretter.info, journalists Benjamin von Brackel and Oliver Grob conclude that Baden-Württemberg’s green-black coalition agreement reads like a tough compromise. It includes a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also a line saying a coal exit should be completed by the middle of the century. Experts have said that to meet the Paris Agreement warming limit of 1.5 degrees, Germany would have to phase-out coal by 2025, Brackel and Grob say.
In their plan for the next five years, Rhineland-Palatinate’s coalition of Social Democrats, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have pledged to support national and international climate targets. In the state itself, they want an “ecological and affordable” energy supply. Renewable energies are to be expanded to achieve this.
The government also wants to strengthen combined heat and power plants, which it considers necessary to accompany power from fluctuating renewable sources, but says this is ultimately up to the federal government.
Stricter rules are to be implemented on the construction of new wind parks. They are not to be built anywhere near naturally or historically protected areas, or within 1,000 meters of the nearest populated area.
The Liberal Democrats had called for a complete end to wind power expansion, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in April. The overall target of achieving renewables covering 100 percent of the state’s power demand by 2030 included in the red-green coalition agreement in 2011, has been dropped.
On the reform of the federal Renewable Energy Act (EEG), the government in the state capital Mainz will push for the continued use of bioenergy, and to strengthen consumer use of self-generated power from rooftop PV installations.
The coalition partners also support the nuclear phase-out and advocate the shutdown of the Cattenom, Fessenheim, Tihange and Doel reactors in neighbouring France and Belgium.
The coalition agreement of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Greens in Saxony-Anhalt states that the target of the energy transition is a 100 percent supply with renewable energies. The coalition will uphold the state’s existing climate action concept and its aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 24.8 percent by 2020, compared to 2005.
The new coalition wants to expand power production from wind energy and will support pilot projects on energy storage, flexibility and mobility at universities and companies. On a federal level, the government will lobby for citizens’ energy, and to see renewables assume greater responsibility for balancing the whole power system. The agreement stresses that Saxony-Anhalt will work towards the fair distribution of grid expansion and re-dispatch costs between all states.
Although a sizeable share of Saxony-Anhalt’s power is still generated from lignite (brown coal), the new government plans to phase out the carbon-heavy fuel by 2035, when its lignite mine at Profen is due to be closed down. No new mines or power stations will be supported. The coalition will also look the possibility of banning lignite exports from Saxony-Anhalt.