News
09 Feb 2018
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

China eyes German grid operator / German carmakers slow on batteries

Handelsblatt

The State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) is reaching out for a 20 percent share in Germany’s transmission grid operator 50Hertz in a bid to gain valuable insights into a business area in which China strives for a leading global role, Thomas Sigmund and Klaus Stratmann write in Handelsblatt. “Policymakers are unable to prevent this,” they write, saying that SGCC’s planned share of 20 percent is “cleverly” left below the 25 percent threshold needed for German lawmakers to intervene in foreign investments into critical national infrastructure. 50Hertz is one of Germany’s four major transmission grid operators and already sources more than half of the power used in its operational area from intermittent renewable energy sources, which makes it especially attractive for state-owned SGCC, the world’s second largest company. “The Chinese can learn a lot from 50Hertz,” the authors argue, as the grid operator has proved that it is possible to uphold a stable transmission service even with large amounts of volatile energy source capacities like wind power.

Read the article in German here (paywall).

See the CLEW article Sino-German tandem: Export champions promote global energy transition for background.

WirtschaftsWoche

Concret plans for starting battery cell production are rife across Europe but Germany risks missing out on the rise of an industry branch that will be crucial for its mighty car industry, Stefan Hajek and Angela Hennersdorf write in the WirtschaftsWoche. The CEOs of important German car industry companies like Bosch, Daimler or Continental constantly reiterate that batteries will be a key component of the industry’s future but shy away from announcing concrete investment plans. The demand for lithium-ion-batteries by the car industry is set to massively increase in the next years, meaning that the VW group alone could need half of the world’s newly produced cells by 2020. Supply bottlenecks already lead Asian manufacturers to break agreed supply deals for Europe and instead auction their cells to the highest bidder in China, the authors say. While the EU pushes for a common European battery consortium and Swedish and Swiss companies press ahead, German carmakers are reluctant to agree to the necessary billon-euro-investments. “No manager of a listed company dares to do this,” a sales manager of a supplier told WirtschaftsWoche. “They’d rather go into retirement with a diesel.” 

Read the article in German here.

Read the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers for more information.

Munich Security Conference

The Munich Security Conference included climate change and emissions pollution as some of the biggest issues for international security in its 2018 report. “In the end, few experts doubt the long-term effects a changing climate will have on international security […]. While climate change will affect economic, security, and political systems all over the world, it will mainly act as a “threat multiplier” in those states with limited capacities to deal with it,” write the authors. They call for more action on exiting fossil fuel combustion, as it not only fuelled climate change, but air pollution is responsible for millions of deaths every year.

Find the full report for download here.

See the CLEW dossier The Energiewende's implications for international security for background.

klimaretter.info

The Social Democratic (SPD) state premier of coal-mining state Brandenburg is at the forefront of a “PR-battle” over the energy transition’s costs that usually is dominated by sceptics in the right-wing nationalist AfD party, Jörg Staude writes for website klimaretter.info. In an interview with news agency dpa in early January, Woidke said Germany’s “entire Energiewende needs to be put into question” and said costs from the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) amounted to 800 billion euros “for building wind turbines and solar power plants”. Staude says that “anyone familiar with the topic knows that Woidke came up with a figure that no one has ever seen before”. Even the AfD and the generally energy-transition sceptic Federation of German Industries (BDI) calculate with lower EEG costs. A parliamentary inquiry by the Green Party in Brandenburg about Woidke’s sources “did not deliver any concrete results”, Staude says. Investigations by klimaretter.info on the 800-billion euro figure led to a single online source, the “anti-Energiewende and AfD-affiliated” association Naeb.

Find the article in German here.

See the CLEW news digest item Energiewende costs “unknown” to German government for background.

Tageszeitung (taz) / Tagesspiegel

The pollution of the City of Berlin’s main river Spree with sulphate stemming from coal mining activities in the neighbouring federal state of Brandenburg prompts reactions by local authorities, Claudius Prösser writes in the Tageszeitung (taz). The waterworks of the city Frankfurt an der Oder in Brandenburg plan to upgrade a water treatment plant to clear the region’s water from sulphate, which in higher concentrations can be harmful for sensitive consumers, such as the very young, very old or sick, Prösser says. The city wants to hold mining companies from the Lusatia region, such as Leag, accountable for the ten-million euro investment, saying it wants to “cite the damages caused by mining and see how lawmakers and those responsible will react”. Prösser says similar moves have not happened yet in the much larger German capital Berlin, “but who knows for how long – there’s no end of lignite mining activities in sight”.
In a separate article, Stefan Jacobs reports for the Tagesspiegel that a former open cast lignite mine in Brandenburg will soon be flooded and become Brandenburg’s largest body of water. The “Ostsee” will cover 19 square kilometres [Please note: corrects earlier figure of 19 million square kilometres] near the city of Cottbus, about 70 kilometres south of Berlin, and operator Leag estimates that filling the pit with water from the river Spree could take up to six years. Critics say the artificial lake will increase the risk for Berlin of higher sulphate concentrations in its drinking water supply.

Find the taz article in German here and the Tagesspiegel article in German here.

See the CLEW factsheet Coal in Germany for more information.

WirtschaftsWoche

The United States government politicises the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project because it wants to sell its gas in Europe, Matthias Warnig, the company’s CEO told WirtschaftsWoche in a long interview. “They abuse the unfounded fear of a dependence for their own economic interests,” said Warnig. Nord Stream 2 was simply an economic project between a Russian and five western companies. Russian gas alone will not be able to fulfil Europe’s future needs, and the European market is already so flexible that nobody depends on just one supplier, said Warnig. He warned that should the EU change regulation now at Gazprom’s disadvantage, compensation for damages could become a topic. Europe is the most important market for Gazprom and so the company “needs Europe as a customer”, writes WirtschaftsWoche.

Read the interview (behind paywall) in German here.

For background, read the CLEW news digest item Nord Stream 2: green light for 55-kilometre section in German territorial waters and the factsheet Germany’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.

pv magazine

Wind power turbines are Germany’s most important renewable energy source and in 2017 produced more electricity than coal plants for the first time, Thorsten Preuschgas, CEO of Soventix, writes in a guest commentary in the pv magazine.  But it is “a false conclusion” that wind power is “the Energiewende’s panacea”, Preuschgas argues. Wind power production is very volatile and transmission grid operators often have to undertake costly interventions to throttle the feed-in, leading to the impression that renewable power sources are expensive per se, he says. An energy transition “under the aegis of wind power is bound to fail”, as power generated in the north cannot be transported south in quantities that would allow for shutting down nuclear plants there, Preuschgas writes. “Decentralised solar power could play a much more prominent role”, as they do not need large transmission lines. While wind power was “indispensable” for the Energiewende, its dominance “overshadows the advantages of other energy sources”.

Find the commentary in German here.

See the CLEW dossier Onshore wind power in Germany for background.

dpa / Frankfurter Rundschau

The German federal state Hesse, led by a coalition of the conservative CDU and the Green Party, has hired the comedian duo Badesalz to advertise the energy transition to young people, news agency dpa reports in an article carried by Frankfurter Rundschau. Hesse’s Green economy minister Tarek al-Wazir says the three video clips with the famous Hessian duo had to “go viral to reach young people”, the article says. Comedian Henni Nachtsheim says he was criticised for taking sides and politicising his work by anti-wind power activists, but coming from “a Green dynasty”, he would not have a problem “being used” for promoting the transition to renewable energy sources.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW news digest item “The Energiewende: our success story” for more information.

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