Two former Volkswagen employees serving as key witnesses for US authorities have accused former and current members of the German carmaker’s top management of trying to cover up VW’s emissions fraud scheme, Claus Hulverscheidt, Georg Mascolo and Klaus Ott write in Süddeutsche Zeitung. VW’s ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn and current board member Herbert Diess had been told about manipulations of emissions test of the company’s diesel vehicles in the US in July 2015 but failed to tell US authorities, the newspaper said. “The cover-up rather continued for weeks,” the authors write. If the key witnesses’ accusations turned out to be true, the “emissions scandal would enter a new stage”, they add. VW’s position so far has been that Winterkorn and the company board had learned about the fraud scheme only days before US authorities made the issue public on 3 September 2015.
Read the article in German here.
Volkswagen / Reuters
Volkswagen has confirmed that a settlement with US authorities regarding the company’s emissions fraud scandal is within reach. VW “negotiated a concrete draft of a settlement agreement” which contains “fines with a total amount of USD 4.3 billion”, according to the company’s statement. The settlement agreement also included a “Guilty Plea” to criminal misconduct. A final conclusion of the settlement was still subject to confirmation by VW’s management and US authorities, VW explained. The news agency Reuters reported VW’s total costs in the “Dieselgate” scandal will exceed the 18.2 billion euros (USD 19.2 billion) the carmaker set aside for penalty payments. The company “will face oversight by an independent monitor over the next three years”, it added.
For background, see the CLEW factsheet Dieselgate forces VW to embrace green mobility.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Netztransparenz.de (TSOs)
German green power support costs exceeded 25 billion euros in 2016 for the first time, writes Andreas Mihm in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, citing figures released by the four German transmission grid operators (TSO). With 22.8 billion euros, electricity consumers paid the largest part with the EEG surcharge, the mechanism that finances the feed-in tariffs. The surplus in Germany’s green energy account of 2.9 billion euros at the end of last year was about 450 million euros below the level at the end of 2015. “The surplus would have likely been used much more, if the past year had not been a comparatively bad year for wind energy,” writes Mihm.
Find the 2016 figures by the TSOs in German here.
For background read the CLEW factsheet Balancing the books: Germany's "green energy account" and the CLEW dossier The reform of the Renewable Energy Act.
German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel’s decision to scrap the harmonisation of grid fees across the country continues to outrage politicians in eastern Germany, Jens Tartler writes in Tagesspiegel. Heads of eastern states accuse the federal government of “breaching its promise”, according to Tartler. They intend to complain to Chancellor Angela Merkel about Gabriel’s backtracking regarding the nationwide alignment of power prices. Tartler explains that “rumour in the energy industry has it” that Gabriel tried to spare the populous West German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where “grid fees are low and a state election is due” in May.
Grid fees account for about a quarter of the power price and are higher in regions that are sparsely populated and where grids have to be expanded due to newly installed renewable energy capacities.
For background, read the CLEW dossier Energiewende effects on power prices, costs and industry.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Introducing a toll for passenger cars on German highways might yield far lower returns than the annual 500 million euros expected by transport minister Alexander Dobrindt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports. A study by the NGO Green Budget Germany (FÖS) commissioned by the Green Party found that a growing number of cars fulfilling the Euro-6 emissions standard, whose owners will have to pay less for the planned road tax discs, could shrink net revenues by as much as 20 million euros per year, FAZ reports. The transport ministry dismissed the study as “unsound,” saying that it was not based on current data, according to the newspaper.
For more information on Germany’s mobility systems and the Energiewende, read The energy transition and Germany’s transport sector.
Environment minister Barbara Hendricks’ proposal to aid the breakthrough of e-mobility with a mandatory quota for e-cars is misguided, argues Klaus Stratmann in a commentary for business daily Handelsblatt. He says EU emission limits are a suitable instrument to achieve climate goals. “As a steering instrument, CO2 limits have a decisive advantage: They are open to all technologies. The fixation on e-cars has reached manic proportions in some parts of politics.” Environmental politicians should make sure that CO2 limits are met not only in the laboratory, but also on the road, instead of stifling alternatives to e-cars, such as vehicles powered by natural gas.
For background, read the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.
It is surprising how long it takes for the subject of “negative emission” to make its way from scientific models into climate policy mainstream, write Oliver Geden from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and Stefan Schäfer from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. There is no debate on the urgent topic, even though ambitious climate targets are out of reach without technologies to take CO2 out of the atmosphere. “If we don’t want to give up on the temperature targets agreed in Paris, we must discuss unpopular technology options, and at least support researching them.”
German car suppliers are in good shape thanks to the current global success of the country’s carmakers, but the industry faces an uncertain future, write Imelda Flaig und Inge Nowak in Stuttgarter Zeitung. The international move to electric and shared mobility puts many businesses at risk, and numerous suppliers have to find entirely new strategies. Major suppliers ZF Friedrichshafen, Eberspächer, Borg-Warner, Bosch, Mahle, SHW and Allgaier said they have long woken up to the challenge, and told the authors about their plans for an electric future. But many companies focused on combustion technologies didn’t react to the journalists’ enquiries, or said they didn’t want to comment on their plans.
Read the article in German here.