Coal commission focussed on economy / Bavarian nuclear request
Clean Energy Wire
The upcoming commission tasked with the management of Germany’s coal exit will prioritise jobs and economic stability over climate protection, a strategy paper seen by the Clean Energy Wire suggests. “Federal government policy aims to create full employment and comparable living standards in all of Germany,” the paper’s first sentence reads, underlining the commission’s strategic priority of ensuring local economies weather the phase-out of both coal mining and coal-fired power production.
The document acknowledges Germany’s pledge to become “largely greenhouse gas-neutral” by 2050 and confirms the government’s 2030 target of reducing emission by 55 percent compared to 1990. But it says climate action must be “harmonised” with economic development and social considerations. First reported on by Spiegel Online, the paper says growth and employment in affected regions must be supported by a fund to minimise the impact of the coal exit and other structural changes associated with the country’s Climate Action Plan. It says a first report on the economic perspectives of lignite mining regions will be compiled by October and the final recommendations ready by the end of 2018.
The task force, formally called the Special Commission on Growth, Structural Economic Change and Employment, will also come up with a plan to come as close as possible to Germany’s 2020 target, ahead of this year’s COP24 in Poland in December, the paper says. In response to a report by newspaper Handelsblatt that the commission’s timetable would be delayed, economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier said on Twitter: “if they asked me beforehand they would produce fewer false reports.” The strategy paper says the commission will set a final date for the end of coal-fired power production but does not suggest any interim measures, such as the immediate shutdown of old coal plants called for by the Green Party and environmental NGOs. It says that for Germany to reach its 2030 climate target, carbon emissions from coal-fired power production will have to fall by 60 percent compared to 1990.
Environmental Action Germany / Heinrich-Böll-Foundation
Germany needs to clearly spell out the steps it will take to phase out coal, and ensure binding commitments by all relevant levels of government, NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) and the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation say in a press release. Following nearly two years of consultations with stakeholders in Germany and in the neighbouring Czech Republic, DUH and the Green Party-affiliated foundation say the government has to come up with “clearly defined exit scenarios” and “early identification of alternative strategies” to help coal regions cope with the transition. Germany and the Czech Republic face similar challenges due to their dependence on lignite, the organisations say. The planned coal commission in Germany must present a coal exit timetable to create planning security for policymakers and investors in the region, the organisations say. Klára Sutlovičová of Czech think tank Glopolis said Czech law ensured financial reserves for “recultivation” of affected regions, serving as a “positive example” for German lawmakers.
Find the press release in German here.
Read more on how Germany gears up official talks on coal phase-out.
Bavaria's government wants to keep the nuclear plant Isar 2 running as long as possible, arguing that lagging grid development could leave the state short of power without it, Michael Bauchmüller writes for Süddeutsche Zeitung. The maximum amount of power Isar 2 is still allowed to produce under Germany’s nuclear phase-out law is set to expire mid-2020, long before the plant’s final decommissioning date at the end of 2022, the article says. The Bavarian Conservative (CSU party) government said that to ensure a secure electricity supply in the southern economic powerhouse state, “it is vital that the nuclear plant Isar 2 does not go off grid prematurely.” In a statement seen by Süddeutsche Zeitung, the state calls for the remaining capacity of other plants to be transferred to Isar 2, which is operated by utility E.ON close to the state capital Munich. Green Party nuclear expert Sylvia Kotting-Uhl called the Bavarian government’s demand “stupid, frivolous and dangerous,” pointing out that the state blocked the necessary grid expansion.
Read the article in German here.
Most of Germany’s heavily indebted municipal utilities say investments associated with the Energiewende are the cause of their woes, Franziska Holler, Benjamin Oehlschlägel and Sören Gaum write for industry magazine Public Governance. In a survey of Germany’s 100 biggest municipalities, three quarters of the 40 most indebted utilities said the energy transition was either responsible for their financial problems or posed substantial risk, the article says. In 2016, only 60 percent held the Energiewende responsible for their difficulties. Costs such as investment in renewable energy infrastructure were exacerbated by a fall in revenue in from fossil power plants, the article says.
Find the article in German here.
Also read the CLEW factsheet Small, but powerful – Germany’s municipal utilities.
Clean Energy Wire / Federal Network Agency
In this year’s second auction of onshore wind power capacity, not enough bids were submitted to cover the 670 megawatts (MW) on offer, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) says in a press release. “The moderate undersubscription of an auction confirms a trend of decreasing capacities offered,” said BNetzA head Jochen Homann, adding raising support rates for future auctions would likely attract more bids. Support rates for submitted projects, totalling 604 MW, ranged from 4.65 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to 6.28 cents/kWh, with an average of 5.73 cents/kWh, the press release said. The agency told the Clean Energy Wire the lowest submitted bid was in fact 4.3 cents/kWh. But since it came from a citizen cooperative, rules stipulate that it is eligible for receiving the highest rate awarded to another project. The BNetzA says changing auction rules to require all participants to obtain licenses before submitting their bid had little effect on the support rate. Citizens’ energy cooperatives, which were exempted from this obligation in earlier auctions, secured projects with a capacity of 113 MW this time, it adds.
Find the press release in German here.
Find background in the CLEW factsheet High hopes and concerns over onshore wind power auctions.
The German Green Party has requested special wind power auctions to ensure enough new renewable power capacity. In a draft law to amend the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), the Greens propose auctioning off an additional 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind power capacity and 0.8GW of solar power still in 2018. From 2019, auctioned capacity would be set at 5GW of wind and 3GW of solar. Reform of the renewable capacity auctions last year has resulted in uncertainty over whether successful projects will actually be implemented, as many bidders did not have to obtain a license before submitting their application, the Greens argue. “Wind power expansion is at risk of collapse over the next two years,” the party says.
Find the draft law in German here.
See the CLEW dossier Onshore wind power in Germany for more information.
The European Commission has announced it will sue Germany and several other countries including France and the UK at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over violating air pollution limits in cities, news agency Reuters reports. “Additional measures proposed are not sufficient to comply with air quality standards” introduced in 2005 and 2010, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said.
Find the article in English here.
Clean Energy Wire
Organising a “just transition” to a largely decarbonised economy has to become much more of a focus of the political debate, Germany’s largest trade union umbrella group DGB said in a newly adopted decision at its annual congress this week. The DGB is the umbrella group for eight of Germany’s largest trade unions, with nearly 6 million members in total, including vocal critics of current energy transition policies from the Trade Union for mining, chemicals and energy industries (IGBCE).
In the document, the DGB reiterated its support for the goals of the Paris Agreement, as well as German and EU climate targets, including the sector targets in the government’s Climate Action Plan 2050. A “just transition” in the transport sector would require retaining the whole value chain for car manufacturing in Germany, the DGB says.
Please note: CLEW will publish an article on the DGB decision shortly.