Court to rule on nuclear shut-down / Misguided traffic plan?
Six years before Germany's last nuclear plant is due to go offline, the utilities’ lawsuits over the legality and costs of the phase-out procedure pose a final but major obstacle for the nuclear exit, writes Michael Bauchmüller in Süddeutsche Zeitung. On Tuesday, Germany’s constitutional court is to decide whether the government's decision to speed up the nuclear phase-out following the 2011 Fukushima disaster stripped the companies off their rights. The ruling could have an effect on how the expected 23.6-billion-euro bill for finding, building and maintaining a final repository for Germany’s nuclear waste will be split between the public and the utilities, Bauchmüller writes. A cross-party commission warned that a prolonged legal dispute could damage companies' restructuring plans. If the utilities abandoned their lawsuit, they would know when to start funding the phase-out, potentially saving millions of euros in interest for delayed payments, Bauchmüller argues.
Read the article in German here.
For background on the end of nuclear power production in Germany, see the CLEW dossier The challenges of Germany’s nuclear phase-out.
For information on the expected costs for a final repository, see the CLEW factsheet Securing utility payments for the nuclear clean-up.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The Federal Constitutional Court is to rule on utilities’ rights in their case against the government over the shut-down of nuclear power plants, Corinna Budras writes for FAZ. Nuclear power plant operators RWE, E.ON and Vattenfall are suing the German state for 19 billion euros in compensation for the government’s decision following the Fukushima disaster in 2011 to take power plants offline earlier than planned. Vattenfall is claiming 4.7 billion euros over the shut down of its Krümmel plant, the youngest of the plants concerned, which had its working life reduced by seven years. One of the rulings the court is to make Tuesday is whether Vattenfall, as a foreign company owned by the Swedish state, is allowed to file such a claim. Unlike the other utilities, Vattenfall does however have the right to bring the case to private tribunal in Washington, under the International Energy Charter that Germany signed up to in 1991.
For black ground see CLEW's Factsheet: Legal disputes over the nuclear phase-out
Germany’s 270 billion-euro Federal Traffic Way Plan is a “document of missed chances”, says Georg Ehring in an opinion piece for national radio station Deutschlandfunk. Ehring says the plan fails to signal real change on how traffic is to be managed. Germany’s largest ever infrastructure investment will not alleviate pressure on the country’s roads, or launch a mobility system based on greater use of public transport, Ehring writes. Rather than substantially improving railways and inland waterway transport, Federal Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt has opted to perpetuate a mobility system centred on private vehicles, despite many people being “ready to switch” to less resource-intensive transport “if they had attractive alternatives,” Ehring says.
Read the commentary in German here.
For more information on the Energiewende and mobility, see the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s transport sector.
Carmaker BMW is “taking a deep breath” to prepare for the breakthrough of electric mobility, writes Markus Fasse in Handelsblatt. The company will have to work hard to ensure the 3 billion euros it so far has invested in e-cars don’t end up as sunk costs, Fasse writes. BMW introduced its “i3” and “i8” e-cars three years ago but 98 percent of the cars it sells still have combustion engines. That sends a signal to other companies that entering the market too soon can result in heavy losses, according to Fasse. However, the Bavarian carmaker is determined to expand the share of e-cars in its sales to 15 to 25 percent by 2025, Fasse writes. To achieve this, it is pursuing a parallel strategy with its DriveNow car-sharing-network, which is set to expand to many more cities in the coming years and buy up much of BMW’s electrified vehicle fleet.
Read the article in German here (behind paywall).
For background on the challenges for Germany’s mighty carmakers during energy transition, see the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung
Today, all a household needs to secure an autonomous power supply is a roof-top solar panel, internet access and a cupboard-sized battery in the basement, writes Inge Kloepfer in weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. By offering just that, battery manufacturer Sonnen GmbH has become an energy provider in itself – with the help of its customers, Kloepfer says. The company builds batteries that not only store power but also communicate with a platform to create a virtual power plant that adapts to the power demand of the connected households. Once guaranteed feed-in tariffs for the first wave of solar panels expire in 2020, many owners will rethink what to do with the power they produce and many could decide to join a virtual power plant and become even more independent of conventional power production, Kloepfer writes.
For more information on private households’ stake in energy transition, see the CLEW dossier The People's Energiewende.
Just 1,231 new electric vehicles were registered in November, down 10 percent on the same period last year, Die Welt reports. Part of the reason may be that a subsidy introduced in June boosted sales slightly in the following weeks and resulted in long waiting times for some models. Things look better in the plug-in hybrid market, the article says, with sales up 10 percent on last year in November, and 40 percent in October.
See the article in German here.
Industrial enterprises are increasingly using power-to-heat technology to save on energy bills, the Handelsblatt reports. A sugar factor in east Germany, for example, needs constant heat for its production processes, Jakob Struller writes. At times when there is excess power on the grid, an electric boiler automatically switches on. In this way, companies can earn money on the control power market for helping to keep the grid stable when there is a surge of electricity from renewable energy. Regulatory changes could make the power-to-heat sector even more profitable, with large-scale power-to-heat plants able to prevent the current problem of power being lost when renewable facilities are switched off to prevent grid congestion.
See the article in German here (behind a paywall).
Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi)
German statesecretary Rainer Baake has called for “consistency on European climate and energy targets” and capacity markets not to undermine emission trading. Speaking during consultation between EU energy ministers' following the release of the union's energy package, Baake welcomed the package as a step towards a “stronger and more flexible internal power market” for Europe, the BMWi said in a press release. He added that it was “right that capacity markets will only be allowed as a temporary solution and subsidies for new coal plants avoided.”
Read the press release in German here.