23 Feb 2017, 00:00
Sören Amelang Sven Egenter Julian Wettengel

Energiewende to stay priority after election - chancellery chief

Clean Energy Wire

The Energiewende, Germany’s energy transition, will stay at the top of the agenda for the next government after September’s federal elections, Peter Altmaier, head of the Federal Chancellery, said at utility association BDEW’s Smart Renewables event. An increasing share of flexible renewable energy sources may require adjustments to financing mechanisms and market designs, Altmaier explained. “This is a generational project, so we always have to ask: are we going in the right direction, do we have to make adjustments?” Altmaier defended the decision to reject calls for a capacity market – stand-by payments for conventional power plants – saying that the solution based on the energy only market was cheaper and fostered innovation. Altmaier said that setting a pre-defined corridor for the expansion of renewable sources was necessary to create planning security for all players involved. The next government would have to look at the way the renewables extension was financed as an ever-increasing surcharge paid through the power price might hurt companies that did not enjoy exemptions. Speaking at the same event, BDEW Chairman Stefan Kapferer reiterated his call for an overhaul of the system, especially as other sectors like mobility and heating would increasingly have to shift to renewable energy sources.

Read the CLEW dossier for background on how the government is betting on competition and flexibility with the power market reform.


Last year’s agreement on financing the nuclear clean-up between the German state and nuclear power providers does not seem to have brought permanent peace as utilities refuse to drop the lawsuits against the nuclear fuel tax, write Jürgen Flauger and Klaus Stratmann in Handelsblatt. During the contract negotiations on the details of the agreement over the past months, utilities had signalled their willingness to end several legal proceedings concerning nuclear power, but not the one against the fuel tax, write Flauger and Stratmann. Dropping the lawsuits was “definitely not acceptable,” said the providers. The tax – introduced in 2011 – is payable by nuclear power station operators whenever they use new fuel elements in their reactors.

Read the article (behind paywall) in German here.

For background read the CLEW factsheet Securing utility payments for the nuclear clean-up and Legal disputes over the nuclear phase-out.


Municipal shareholders of German utility RWE are under pressure after the energy company announced it wouldn’t pay a dividend for a second consecutive year, writes Jürgen Flauger in Handelsblatt. The city of Essen, seat of RWE’s company headquarters and currently holding about three percent of RWE shares, is considering a withdrawal. “The administration has been in talks since last year on whether we should have a share in the company in the future and what this could look like,” said Essen Mayor Thomas Kufen.

Read the article (behind paywall) in German here.

Also read the CLEW factsheet Small, but powerful – Germany’s municipal utilities.

Deutsche Welle

German utility RWE would be “merely a sort of ‘bad bank’ of the energy business” without the 75 percent share in its renewable spin-off innogy, and RWE's problems are self-inflicted, writes Andreas Becker in an opinion piece for Deutsche Welle. “The fact that RWE's payment to [the nuclear clean-up fund] has now shown up on the books as a record annual loss proves once again that RWE and Germany's other big electricity utilities have lived very well for decades off a cash-cow business for whose considerable risks they made very little financial provision, preferring instead to pay out generous dividends to shareholders,” writes Becker. RWE had announced a multi-billion euro write-down for 2016. Further write-downs were assured if “additional constraints on coal-fired power plants” were put in place after the autumn parliamentary elections when discussions on a coal phase-out could gain new momentum, writes Becker.

Read the opinion piece in English here.

For background read the CLEW factsheet Securing utility payments for the nuclear clean-up.

It is in Germany’s immediate interest to embrace the European dimension of the Energiewende, argues Rebecca Bertram in a blog post for “Germany needs Europe to drive its own Energiewende forward,” writes Bertram, citing German power exports and imports to compensate fluctuating renewable generation. A European energy transition could also be a vision for an EU facing a serious identity crisis and would benefit energy security as well as competitiveness, according to Bertram. “Germany should, together with its European neighbours, develop a new narrative about a common European Energiewende – one that addresses the concerns of other European member states as well.”

Read the post in English here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier Germany’s energy transition in the European context and the factsheet Loop flows: Why is wind power from northern Germany putting east European grids under pressure?

The digitalisation of the energy sector has only just begun and is already having massive repercussions for utilities, writes Gerard Reid, founder of consultancy Alexa Capital, in a column on “In the digital energy revolution, humans take centre stage: Increasingly, consumers are controlling their power consumption with mobile apps and saving money by choosing cheap contracts, hooking up PV arrays when needed and charging their batteries when power is cheapest,” writes Reid. “The new digital energy order is coming faster than most people think. It will become a crucial test for companies that don’t want to change.”

Read the column in German here.

Environmental NGO WWF and green energy provider LichtBlick launched their “Energiewende-Dashboard” – a website that shows up-to-date information on the progress of the German energy transition. In the "style of a digital car or airplane dashboard", the website depicts data such as greenhouse gas emissions, the current German power mix  and the number of installed wind turbines. Sources include the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA), Agora Energiewende*, the European Environment Agency (EEA) among others.

Find the dashboard in German here, the project description in English here and a press release in German here.

*Like the Clean Energy Wire, Agora Energiewende is a project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation. 

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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