31 Oct 2016, 00:00
Sören Amelang Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Can natural gas be green? / China's e-car plans worry carmakers

BDEW, Future Natural Gas, Federation of German Heating Industry, others

The German natural gas sector is demanding changes to the government’s forthcoming Climate Action Plan 2050, saying the current draft fails to recognise the potential of natural gas on the way to decarbonise Germany’s economy. A ‘natural gas exit’ would make the heating transition more complicated and unnecessarily increase the price of CO₂-reductions, according to a joint appeal entitled “Natural gas can be green”. The German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), the Initiative Future Natural Gas and others are behind the appeal. It says: “Because of its flexibility, the energy source natural gas is the only fossil energy with the potential to be both a partner of renewables and become renewable itself.” Biogas and power-to-gas could make the gas infrastructure “the battery of the Energiewende,” it adds. Future Natural Gas recently started a PR campaign criticising the high-emissions coal industry, petrol and diesel cars, and positioning natural gas as the cleaner alternative.

Find the gas sector’s appeal in German here.

Read the CLEW article Deep divisions persist over German climate plan, coal exit and the CLEW factsheet Germany’s trimmed-down Climate Action Plan for background.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

The Chinese government’s announcement to introduce a quota  for e-cars from as early as 2018 could mean a great deal of strain for German car makers, write Thomas Fromm and Christoph Giesen in Süddeutsche Zeitung. For example, Volkswagen currently sells around three million cars in China. The quota would then prescribe the “manufacturing of 60,000 e-cars”, Fromm and Giesen write, quoting the China Passenger Car Association’s chairman Cui Dongshu. The government’s plan has led to “tremendous concern” in the industry that making business in the world’s largest car market will become more cost-intensive, the authors write.

Read the article in German here.

Find more on the struggle of German manufacturers to shift to carbon-free mobility in the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.

Der Spiegel

German states’ resolution to recommend the phase-out of new combustion engine vehicles at EU level by 2030 was “one of the most brilliant political coups of recent years”, even if it was mainly symbolic, write Sven Böll and Horand Knaup in weekly magazine Der Spiegel. Many state premiers were totally unaware that the resolution, which was pushed by green politicians, included this target when they took a vote on it, according to the report. The resolution “shows how easy it is for a group of determined specialist politicians to dupe the council of German federal state governments (Bundesrat),” write Böll and Knaup.

For background, read the CLEW article German states - New cars in EU should be emission-free by 2030.


It doesn’t make economic sense for German carmakers to produce e-car battery cells, according to Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche. “We know today that we can buy them for a fraction of our costs on the international market […] and no-one knows which technology will prevail,” Zetsche said in an interview with business daily Handelsblatt, adding that cell production was highly automated and therefore could not secure many jobs.

Find the interview in German (behind paywall) here.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Grid congestion at the Austrian border that led to last week’s decision by the German government to prepare the split of the common power price zone was a “homemade problem”, writes Christian Geinitz in an opinion piece for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “The blame lies with the Renewable Energy Act that supports – and cheapens – alternative electricity. Additionally, grid expansion is very slow,” writes Geinitz.

For background, read the CLEW articles Loop flows: Why is wind power from northern Germany putting east European grids under pressure? and Europe's largest electricity market set to split


The planned extension of the Nord Stream gas pipeline that links Germany with Russia via the Baltic Sea has come under fierce criticism from environmental and conservation organisations, the dpa news agency reports. Doubling the number of pipelines would also mean doubling the detrimental effects on the fragile marine ecosystem, the organisations Nabu and BUND say, according to dpa. “This project is the wrong way in terms of the environment, energy supply and geopolitics”, says Nabu's Kim Detloff , dpa reports. The organisations announced that they will closely monitor the approval procedure for the pipeline, supposed to commence in early 2017, and consider filing a lawsuit against the project if necessary, dpa adds.

Read more on Germany’s dependence on imported fossil fuels in the CLEW factsheet on Germany’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Welt Online

The environment group Nabu plans to advocate for “stricter limits” on the construction of wind turbines in Germany’s forests, writes Daniel Wetzel in Welt Online. Despite being “generally in favour of the energy transition and wind power expansion”, a position paper from Nabu argues for a number of criteria that should be met before new turbines can be built in German forests, says Wetzel. If the position paper is adopted at Nabu’s general assembly on 11 November, it would put the group at odds with German government plans to increase the share of wind energy capacity in regions with dense forest in the South of the country.

Read the article in German here.

Read more on the future of wind energy in German forests here.


Supporters of solar power are seeking to head off a proposed legal constraint on small modules that can be easily plugged into wall sockets, writes Bernward Janzing in taz. The German section of the International Solar Energy Society (DGS) wants to see a requirement removed that would oblige the estimated 20,000 national users of so-called “Guerilla modules” to connect the devices to a closed circuit due to security concerns. The constraint proposed by the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies poses “a hurdle for the use of small solar modules unparalleled in Europe”, Janzing quotes engineers from the DGS.

Read the article in German here.

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