08 Mar 2018, 00:00
Sören Amelang Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

City toll to avoid diesel bans? / How the Balkans affect German clocks

Frankfurter Rundschau

The EU Commissioner for transport, Violeta Bulc, says a dynamic toll system for inner cities could allow emission levels to be regulated and make driving bans for polluting diesel cars unnecessary. In an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau, Bulc says that “driving bans are a very frustrating thing. But maybe we cannot avoid them”. But she argues that a city toll introduced across the EU would allow national governments to find individual and flexible solutions to manage air pollution by making drivers of dirtier cars pay more and letting clean cars run for free. Bulc argues the costs associated with such a toll system would be outweighed by the health benefits and that driving bans would also require considerable investments to be managed appropriately.

Read the interview in German here.

See the CLEW article Court ruling opens door for diesel bans in German cities and the CLEW factsheet Diesel driving bans in Germany: The Q & A for background.


Germany’s carmakers have retrofitted the software of about 2.5 million out of a total of 5.3 million diesel cars eligible for a retrofitting to lower their emissions, Handelsblatt reports. The country’s largest carmaker, Volkswagen, has carried out over 90 percent of its 2.4 million announced retrofittings, the article says. At the German diesel summit in August 2017, the carmakers had agreed to retrofit the over-5 million manipulated diesel cars with emissions standard Euro 5 and 6 to reduce their average nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 30 percent. According to the German transport ministry (BMVI), there are currently no sanction mechanisms in place if the carmakers fail to comply. The environment ministry (BMUB) says the completed software updates are insufficient to bring emissions levels down to limit values, insisting that hardware updates have to be carried out at the carmakers’ expense.

Read the article in German here.

Find background in the CLEW factsheet "Dieselgate" - a timeline of Germany's car emissions fraud scandal and in the CLEW article Why the German diesel summit matters for climate and energy.


The diesel engine is far from dead because it is the most efficient and cleanest car engine available, according to a “manifesto” by mass-daily Bild entitled “Germany should be proud of the diesel!” In a list of “10 truths that many politicians don’t dare to say”, the paper argues that Germany will miss its CO2 targets without the diesel, that many nitrogen oxide measurements are incorrect, that EU emission rules are “nonsense”, and that old buses are responsible for a larger share of nitrogen emissions than cars.

Read the “manifesto” in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet Diesel driving bans in Germany – The Q&A.

Federal Environment Agency (UBA)

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration in Germany’s air is a “significant burden” on human health, and statistically led to about 6,000 premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases in 2014, down from about 8,000 in 2010, writes the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) in a press release. UBA’s epidemiological study also shows that several hundred thousand of cases of diabetes and asthma are attributed to NO2 pollution. UBA writes the study is based on conservative assumptions and uses the data from several other studies. “We should do everything to make our air clean and healthy,” said UBA president Maria Krautzberger. There is need for action, especially in inner cities, as a recent court ruling had confirmed, she said. “Diesel cars are clearly a significant reason for the harmful nitrogen oxides in the air.” In densely populated urban areas, road traffic is responsible for about 60 percent of nitrogen dioxide emissions caused by humans, writes UBA.

Find the press release in German here, this factsheet, and the study in German here.

For background, read the CLEW articles Court ruling opens door for diesel bans in German cities and Why the German diesel summit matters for climate and energy, and the factsheet Diesel driving bans in Germany – The Q&A.

Die Welt / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

A dispute between the two south-eastern European states Serbia and Kosovo is said to be responsible for a voltage drop in the European power grid, which has caused many electronic clocks on the continent to run slow, Norbert Lossau writes in Die Welt. “Since mid-January, the grid frequency stood at merely 49.996 Hertz on average” instead of the 50 Hertz - or 50 swings per second -that are needed to keep the grid completely stable. The clocks perceive each second to be 0.8 percent too short, which adds up to a couple of minutes after a few weeks. The grid fluctuations are manageable this time, “but if the divergences from the target value increase, a collapse of the entire grid is possible”, Lossau says. He argues the risk of a blackout increases because the energy transition makes a greater exchange of electricity across country borders necessary to balance intermittent feed-in from wind and solar power installations.
In a separate article, Christian Geinitz reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that former German environment minister Klaus Töpfer will travel to Serbia and Kosovo next week to mediate their quarrel. Both states are members to the European Energy Community and have pledged to align their energy policy to European law. Töpfer says he intends to “ease off the situation and highlight the ramifications”. According to the newspaper, the difficulties in the grid between the two Balkan-states partly stem from the fact that Kosovo, which is not recognised as an independent state by Serbia and also by EU members like Spain or Romania, does not have its own grid control area.

Read the Welt article in German here and the article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine in German here. Also see these expert reactions collected by Science Media Centre Germany (in German).

See the CLEW dossier Germany’s energy transition in the European context for background.  

German utility Uniper incurred a net loss of 538 million euros in 2017, down from a loss of 3.2 billion euros in the year before, the company said in a press release. The fossil spin-off of utility E.ON, which was partly sold to Finnish company Fortum, confirmed that it increases the dividend proposal for its shareholders to 271 million euros and aims to reach 310 million euros in 2018. It added that its earnings before income and taxes (EBIT) of 1.1 billion euros met the company’s expectations. ”Despite continued challenging market conditions and a difficult regulatory environment, Uniper posted solid numbers,” CEO Klaus Schäfer said. Uniper says its loss is “entirely attributable to non-cash-effective one-off items”, such as the disposal of its stake in a Russian gas field.

Find the press release in English here.

See the CLEW dossier Utilities and the energy transition for background.


The head of Germany’s central bank, Andreas Dombret, has warned that “far-reaching interventions” in the economic system are necessary if the global community wants to come close to reaching the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to two degrees, Yasmin Osman writes in Handelsblatt. Dombret argues that the financial sector plays a key role in the transformation towards a more sustainable economy, adding that costs caused by natural disasters could otherwise mount so much that insurance companies are no longer able to shield the economy from profound damages. Dombret cautions that a change of the economic system “will force market participants to revaluate many of their assets”, - meaning that the transformation will produce significant losses, for example among fossil fuel companies. The German federal reserve’s head therefore calls for a better risk evaluation of loan approvals to safeguard banks from stranded investments, Osman writes.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW factsheet Climate finance: a brief overview of Germany’s contributions for more information.

Top Agrar

Nearly 50 percent of the almost 690,000 jobs in Germany’s energy industry depend on renewable energy sources, Hinrich Neumann writes on website Top Agrar. According to a study by energy consultancy GWS Research, almost 340,000 people were employed in the renewables sector in 2016. The study has found that total employment in the energy industry has grown since the year 2000 due to the energy transition. The rise is also down to employment in the grid and storage business. The most important branches for employment are Germany’s wind power industry, which employed nearly about 130,000 people in 2016, bioenergy, which created nearly 70,000 jobs, and solar PV with almost 36,000 people working in the sector.

Find the article in German here.

Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten

Heat generated from geothermal sources will become Germany’s primary source for district heating, geo scientist Ernst Huenges says in an interview with the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten. “There are almost no alternatives from other regenerative sources”, as biomass needs to be transported over great distances and solar PV consumes too much space to provide heating to large cities. Huenges says deep geothermal sources are an adequate solution for inner cities that only require initial high investments and can be operated at low costs afterwards. Huenges expects a breakthrough of the technology within ten years. “After that things are going to happen very fast,” he says.

Read the interview in German here.

Rheinische Post

Germany’s environment minister Barbara Hendricks will leave her position once the country’s new government starts its work, Eva Quadbeck writes in the Rheinische Post. “I will not be part of the new federal government,” Hendricks told the newspaper, adding that she is “thankful” to have served as head of the environment ministry (BMUB) for the past four years. “I leave my office on good terms as I believe I was able to contribute to positive developments for our country and for the environment,” she said. According to the newspaper, Hendricks, who is from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), could be succeeded by her fellow party member Svenja Schulze.

Find the article in German here

See this CLEW interview with Hendricks and the CLEW dossier The next German government and the energy transition for background

German environmental NGO NABU says the boom in cruise ship tourism warrants a better control of the ships’ emissions and calls for a ban of “especially dirty cruise ships” in German harbours to reduce air pollution. In a press release, NABU head Leif Miller says “the industry’s success spells a huge air pollution problem for harbour cities”. He therefore calls for a ban on the ships similar to a possible ban for diesel cars in German inner cities. Miller says only ships with a liquid gas engine or those equipped with filters and catalysers should be allowed to enter harbours.

Read the press release in German here.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
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