05 Feb 2019, 13:40
Julian Wettengel

Altmaier wants to boost battery cells, autonomous driving as part of industry policy

German economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier has presented a draft strategy with the aim to secure and create global economic and technological leadership of key German and European industries. These include the auto industry, which is dealing with big changes due to the emissions scandal, and the development of e-mobility and automated driving. Globalisation and innovation, as well as state intervention and the fact that some countries increasingly abandon multilateralism has put pressure on European companies and industry sectors, which these alone might not be able to deal with, Altmaier told journalists in Berlin.

In such cases, the minister calls for support by European governments, such as funding or changing regulatory conditions, for example by making company mergers easier. European battery cell production should receive financial support, as well as help to form consortia, writes Altmaier. Governments might also have to buy temporary stakes in companies under pressure of being taken over, for instance when they are relevant for national security or critical infrastructure - such as Germany did with grid operator 50Hertz. Regarding the “paramount question” of autonomous driving, a direct stake by states also “seems necessary and justified”, writes Altmaier in his paper, and proposes a state fund from which this could be financed.

The minister also said that increasing electricity prices are a problem for companies in international competition, but he did not make a proposal on how to cushion these. Germany’s coal exit commission has recently proposed to compensate consumers for rising prices due to a state-driven phase-out of coal power. The strategy now has to be debated with the industry itself, unions, parliamentarians, within the federal government and European partners, the minister said.

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