Debate in Germany heats up ahead of next coal exit commission meeting
A report commissioned by RWE, one of Germany's largest owners of lignite mines and coal-fired power generation, says that a mandated German coal exit by 2040 would shift power generation and related CO₂ emissions to neighbouring countries and lead to higher costs for electricity consumers. Such a phase-out path would increase power prices by nine euros more per megawatt hour than in a scenario without such a coal phase-out, says the report produced by Frontier Economics, seen by the Clean Energy Wire. In total, a coal exit conducted this way would cost electricity consumers up to four billion euros per year more than in the reference scenario, the report says. Many energy-intensive companies have expressed concern that the recently formed coal exit commission will put further strain on them, Klaus Stratmann writes in a front page article on the report in Handelsblatt, a major German business daily. “Energy-intensive companies that compete internationally cannot pass on the additional costs that arise from special national rules,” Utz Tillmann, chief executive of the German Chemicals Industry Association (VCI), commented.
Read the Handelsblatt article in German here.
For background, read the dossier Energiewende effects on power prices, costs and industry and the factsheet Industrial power prices and the Energiewende.
Berliner Zeitung / WWF
German energy company RWE has rejected calls for a moratorium on forest clearing as part of lignite mining during its negotiations with the country’s coal exit commission, and said it would continue mining operations at the controversial Hambach mine, the Berliner Zeitung reports. According to the article, RWE head Rolf Martin Schmitz told the coal exit commission’s leaders in a letter that the company would continue clearing Hambach Forest by October in order to keep its nearby power plants in operation. Schmitz said the company was not able to comply with the request of environmental organisations to pause mining activities until the commission has reached the end of its deliberations, scheduled for December. Hambach Forest, near Cologne, has become a symbolic place for many climate activists from across Europe, some of whom have been living in the forest for years to prevent the last old trees from being felled.
Environmental organisation WWF Germany has sharply criticised RWE’s announcement, saying “no precedents should be created while the negotiations are still ongoing.” WWF climate policy spokesman Michael Schäfer said that a viable compromise to be found by the coal exit commission was “in the interest of the entire society,” and the actions of a single company must not lead to an escalation that could prevent the commission from finding a consensus.
German Institute for Economic Research (DIW)
In order for Germany to meet its 2030 emissions reduction target, a rapid phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation is needed across the country, but especially in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), according to a report published by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) on 15 August. Of all federal states, industrial and heavily populated NRW is “by far” the largest emitter, as it is home to 50 percent of the capacity of Germany’s lignite-fired power plants and a third of the capacity of the country’s hard-coal-burning power stations, the report says. Against that backdrop, NRW should completely phase out lignite-fired power generation by 2030 and stop burning hard coal “by 2040 at the latest,” as well as much more rapidly expand renewable energy deployment, according to the report.
Read the report in English here.
For background, read CLEW’s “Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out” and the factsheets Germany’s coal exit commission and When will Germany finally ditch coal?
Handelsblatt / BDEW
Increasing the deployment of “volatile” renewable energies in Europe threatens power supply security across the continent, Klaus Stratmann writes in the Handelsblatt, citing an analysis from the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), which indicates that the surplus volume of secure power generation capacity will decline in the medium to long term throughout Europe. “It does not matter where on a map of Europe you look: secure power generation capacity is about to be taken off the grid almost everywhere” as EU member states expand renewable energy deployment, BDEW head Stefan Kapferer told the Handelsblatt.
Coal-fired power generation does not have a future in Germany’s energy transition, write the environmental NGO WWF Germany and the green power provider LichtBlick in a joint report, seen by the Clean Energy Wire. In their report “Dead end coal – Why coal use does not have a future,” which will be published ahead of the next meeting of Germany’s coal exit commission, WWF and LichtBlick examine six theses, including “a coal country cannot be a global climate pioneer;” “coal is not cheap;” and “coal is needed less and less for a secure power supply.” They argue that renewable energies no longer make the energy system more expensive and that old coal plants have little economic value. “They survive economically, because the consequential damages are hardly taken into account in the current market framework, and because they are able to increasingly flood neighbouring countries with climate-harmful electricity,” says the report. A coal exit may be politically complex, but also without alternative, it concludes.
The report will be published in a webinar on 22 August 2018 (10am CEST) here.
For background, read CLEW’s “Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out” and the factsheet Germany’s coal exit commission.
The most important political decisions in Germany cannot be made by directives but must be earned by reconciling antagonist factions in society trough compromise and consideration, Thorsten Knuf writes in a commentary for the Frankfurter Rundschau. “This has been true for the decisions made on the nuclear exit, its funding, and the search for a final repository. And, in an ideal case, it will be true for the impending decisions on a long-term, socially acceptable end of coal-fired power production and the effects it has on the climate,” he writes. “This, at least, is the idea behind the government’s coal exit commission,” Knuf says, adding that the announcement by energy company RWE that it will ignore calls for a lignite mining moratorium until the end of the commission’s work could easily upend the hope to find a compromise. “It’s not clear if the government grasps what is at stake here. If things don’t work out, the government is to blame – not the commission,” Knuf writes.
The European Union will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45 percent by 2030 if the new targets for renewables expansion and energy efficiency are fully implemented, according to the European Commission’s calculations outlined to the news agency dpa by Miguel Arias Cañete, commissioner for climate action and energy. Until now, the EU has set itself the goal of 40 percent GHG emissions reduction by 2030, but Cañete has been pushing for an increase to 45 percent. “In any case, the EU is in a strong position to take part in the political discussion about ambitious goals at the coming world climate conference in Katowice,” said Cañete.
Find the article in German here.
For background, read the CLEW dossier Germany's energy transition in the European context.
Clean Energy Wire / Stiebel Eltron
Lowering energy costs is one of the most important goals for Germans in the Energiewende, according to the “Stiebel Eltron Energie-Trendmonitor 2018” report, seen by the Clean Energy Wire. Seventy-two percent of the respondents in the representative survey said that lowering heating costs is important or very important, and 71 percent supported lowering electricity costs. Sixty-two percent named “climate protection via CO₂ savings” an important or very important goal, while 48 percent said the same about an exit from coal. In a separate question, almost three quarters of respondents said that Germany should become more independent of imported fossil energy.
Find a press release on some of the results in German here.
For more details on the public perceptions, consult the CLEW factsheet Polls reveal citizens' support for Energiewende.
Dow Jones / Interfax / German Government
The Russian government has said it is ready to resist "illegal" attempts to intervene in the completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project that it plans together with Germany, as the US government has reiterated its threat to impose sanctions on companies involved in the project, according to media reports. News agency Dow Jones said the US administration is working on “concrete punitive measures” against the pipeline that are aimed at “sending a clear signal to everyone involved in Russian pipeline projects,” the agency quotes a source familiar with the proceedings. However, the source said it was not clear whether these sanctions would apply only to companies active on site or also to banks funding the project. According to the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, a business lobby group, the US sanctions could pull the plug on Nord Stream 2.
Russian news agency Interfax quotes Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that Merkel and the Russian president “addressed” the issue of interventions in their plans at a meeting near Berlin on 18 August. Peskov said the pipeline is “fully commercially beneficial,” making it necessary to ensure that it “would be protected from possible non-competitive and illegal attacks from third countries.” Peskov added that the German and Russian governments agreed that the pipeline has to be completed, and said the planned US sanctions “contradict, and are a gross violation of, all trade rules and norms of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).”
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert refused to adopt the language used by his Russian counterpart, adding that Germany's focus regarding the project currently was to ensure that gas transit through Ukraine will continue after the pipeline has opened.
See the CLEW article Putin and Merkel meet to find solution on Nord Stream 2 and a factsheet on the pipeline project for more information.