Boon and bane of Germany's heat wave/ Employment plan for coal regions
The exceptionally sunny weather in Germany has brought solar plant owners an unusually high yield of power from the sun, energy company E.ON says in a press release. Between May and July, the German Meteorological Service (DWD) registered 817 hours of sunshine, 156 more than in the same period one year before. The increase was even greater in certain individual regions, E.ON says. In the northern federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, 909 hours of sunshine meant the sun was out 275 hours longer than in 2017, while in Berlin the increase was 213 hours. Germany’s 1.6 million solar power installations produced 17.4 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in the three months up to the end of July, two billion kWh more than in the year before.
Find the press release in German here.
See the CLEW article Germany’s power system weathers heat wave despite fossil plant curbs and the factsheet Volatile but predictable: forecasting renewable power production for more information.
Trees in German cities are stressed by an unusual drought that affects their ability to absorb CO2 and convert it into oxygen, biologist Michael Blaschke says in an article written by Peter Clement in the Rheinische Post. Many trees in inner cities shed their leaves to save energy, and contrary to their fellow specimen in forests, their root system is usually not extensive enough to source water from deeper layers of the soil, biologist Blaschke says. “They need all of our help right now,” he warns, adding that an average tree needs between 50 and 80 litres of water per day to flourish. In many German cities, firefighters currently use their equipment to water trees and green spaces. A big tree can convert up to 9,400 litres of CO2 on a sunny day, equivalent to the carbon output of two or three families, but this ability is greatly diminished if the plant does not have enough water at its disposal. “This climate cooling effect is largely absent this year,” Blaschke says.
Read the article in German here.
See the CLEW article Germany’s power system weathers heat wave despite fossil plant curbs and the dossier Cities, municipalities, and the Energiewende for more information.
Federal employment minister Hubertus Heil has put forward a six-point plan to soften the effect of a coal phase-out in the three lignite (brown coal) mining districts in Germany. There should be a special plan for road, rail, and digital infrastructure projects, and the federal government should negotiate support conditions with the EU since the coal exit is expected to benefit the European climate targets, Heil wrote in the WirtschaftsWoche. Both federal and state governments should pave the way for establishing new research and development facilities as well as public agencies in the lignite mining regions. They should also hold “intensive talks” with German industry representatives to encourage them to open businesses there.
Read a short online version of the article in German here.
General Anzeiger Bonn
A state-managed fund for dealing with the financial legacy of lignite mining in Germany is the wrong way to ensure that the extraction’s long-term effects are dealt with properly, Antje Höning writes in a commentary for the General Anzeiger Bonn. Contrary to the existing nuclear fund, which the state uses to deal with the so-called “eternal costs” of safely storing nuclear waste, a similar fund called for by the Green Party for lignite mine renaturation is unnecessary, she writes. “The energy companies are responsible for the restoration of their mines – so the state has to leave them the money to do it,” Höning says. Germany’s energy companies are financially healthy enough to accomplish this task, “and whoever calls for a lignite fund intends to bring about an immediate coal exit. Germany’s coal exit commission must not allow this to happen,” she writes.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
While Germany’s coal exit commission has already started its work, the commission tasked with finding a concept for the future of mobility in the country still lies in a “summer slumber,” Kerstin Schwenn writes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Germany’s government coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democrats (SPD) promised to set up a commission composed of industry representatives, environmentalists, municipalities, and other stakeholders to make progress on the transport sector’s climate record and master the technological shift in the automotive sector, she writes. “It’s high time to start if the commission wants to present its first recommendations by early 2019 as planned,” Schwenning writes, adding that a fight over competencies between the SPD-led environment ministry and the conservative-led transport ministry has slowed down the commission’s appointment. Chancellor Merkel said that transport minister Andreas Scheuer will be responsible for the body, and he plans to start its work in August, Schwenn says.
See the CLEW article One year after Germany’s “diesel summit,” air quality challenge remains for background.
The German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) might order the recall of 124,000 electric cars due to the fact that some of their parts contain the toxic metal cadmium, Annina Reimann reports in the WirtschaftsWoche. Car industry supplier Kostal delivered the contaminated parts to carmakers VW, Audi, and Porsche, but other manufacturers could be affected too, including US carmaker Tesla, the article says.
Find the article in German here (paywall).
German utilities that are focusing on conventional power generation, i.e. RWE and Uniper, are exposed to “decarbonisation risks,” rating agency Moody’s has said. The country is likely to accelerate coal plant closures and implement other low-carbon measures to meet its climate targets, although the time frame remains uncertain, the agency stated. If more coal-fired plants were shut down, this would relieve pressure on power prices from increasing renewable capacities.
Find the press release (behind paywall) here.
German Wind Energy Association
Political restrictions on wind power expansion rather than cost pressure in the sector are responsible for the current troubles of many wind power companies in Germany, Hermann Albers, head of the German Wind Energy Association (BWE), says in a press release. Between 2014 and 2017, Germany on average added 4,600 megawatts (MW) of onshore wind power, Albers says. The changes made with the Renewable Energy Act’s 2017 reform are aimed at reducing expansion to 2,800 MW per year. “Not the lack of demand but that of clearly defined political decisions let the market shrink by 40 percent,” he says. Albers calls for a restart of the government’s wind power policy to secure jobs and market shares of German companies, and urges the adoption of a strategy to reach the country’s ambitious 2030 renewable energy goal.
Read the press release in German here.
See the CLEW article Wind industry calls for special auctions amid expansion slowdown for more information.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The German government has used a “cunning trick” by making the state-owned business development bank KfW acquire a stake in grid operator 50Hertz that had been eyed by Chinese power company SGCC, Andreas Mihm writes in an opinion piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “There’s a high risk that the KfW paid much too high a price,” Mihm says, arguing that there is “no politically unsuspicious investor around” to put its money into the low-yield grid business. Even if the German government says the move was necessary due to security concerns about critical infrastructure going into the hands of foreign owners, the 20 percent share the KfW bought is still below the threshold defined by Germany’s foreign trade laws, he says. The KfW’s entry into the grid operator business instead bears the risk that the state gradually becomes too influential in the already highly politicised sector that is at the heart of Germany’s energy transition – and which benefits from external investors competing for the best technological and economic solutions, Mihm writes.
For background, read the CLEW news piece German politicians closely watch Chinese company’s plans tgo buy share in German grid operator, the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s power grid.