27 Jul 2017, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Env min "disappointed" with carmakers/ VW CEO: need combustion engine

Clean Energy Wire

German environment minister Barbara Hendricks said the German government was “disappointed” with the country’s major carmakers amid claims they formed a cartel to agree on prices, suppliers and technological standards. It would be a major “loss of trust” in the automotive industry by German authorities if the allegations were true, Hendricks said during a visit at carmaker Volkswagen’s headquarter in Wolfsburg. She added that the car industry’s importance to the entire German economy meant that carmakers “of course would find an open ear” in the government if they wanted to voice their concerns. “But maybe this relationship has gotten a little too close”, Hendricks said, with respect to criticism that the state failed to exert effective control over the industry’s dealing with emissions limits. She said external controls for car emissions were going to be intensified. And former complaints by carmakers that tighter environmental standards led to diminished competitiveness “never turned out to be true”. The minister also criticised a study by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) which said about 620,000 jobs in Germany depended on the combustion engine, as being “simply wrong”.  

For more information, see the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.

Clean Energy Wire

VW CEO Matthias Müller said the internal combustion engine “will continue to be needed in a transition period towards e-mobility”. Following talks with German environment minister Barbara Hendricks at his company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Müller said VW and the German government “basically agreed” on strategic decisions that needed to be taken to steer the country’s automotive industry towards future competitiveness. With respect to the allegations over VW and other major German carmakers forming a cartel to influence prices and agree on suppliers and technological standards, the company head said he hoped the national diesel summit on 2 August was going to be used as “a forum to talk with each other and not about each other.”

For background, read the CLEW factsheet The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany and the CLEW article Reactions to allegations over German carmaker cartel.

Federal German government

The federal German government is currently not planning a combustion engine ban similar to British plans. “A ban of diesel or petrol cars is currently not on the agenda of the federal government. It’s about making possible a low-emission mobility,” a spokesperson told journalists at a press conference. The government supported the development of alternative propulsion systems like e-mobility. Chancellor Angela Merkel had often “warned of demonising the diesel”, as “the diesel engine emits less CO₂ and is thus more climate-friendly”. At next week’s diesel summit, the government expected “actions and movement by the industry. We will see on 2 August what the industry is ready to do”, said the spokesperson.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany and the CLEW article Reactions to allegations over German carmaker cartel.


British plans to ban the combustion engine in new cars by 2040 make it clear that a change in propulsion systems was needed, Christian Democratic transport politician and former state transport minister of North Rhine-Westphalia Oliver Wittke told Deutschlandfunk in an interview. “It is unacceptable that an important European country gives the central impulse, as it leaves the European Union, while the automobile country as such lags behind. Of course, we must reach such an agreement [to ban the sale of diesel and petrol cars], if possible in coordination with our European partners. If 2040 as a date is adequate, we will have to debate,” said Wittke.

Read the interview in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany and the CLEW article Reactions to allegations over German carmaker cartel.

BWE / VDMA Power Systems

Germany saw strong onshore wind power expansion in the first half of 2017, but development could severely slow after the transition phase from set feed-in tariffs to auction-based remuneration by 2019, said German Wind Energy Association (BWE) and industry association VDMA Power Systems at a press conference in Berlin. Auctions, which started in 2017, limited annual expansion and – at the moment – gave citizens’ energy projects the possibility to enter even without the permit to build the turbines at the planned location. This meant the manufacturers lacked the planning security, after the transition period ends. Andreas von Bobart, deputy chairman of VDMA Power Systems, said that “2019 will be the year of truth”. Until then, the industry could plan with more than 6,500 MW which had already been approved by the end of 2016.
In the first half of 2017, 790 wind turbines with a total capacity of 2,281 megawatt (MW) were added in Germany, an increase of 11 percent compared to expansion in the same period last year. By 30 June 2017, a total of 27,914 wind power facilities with a total capacity of 48,024 MW were in operation in Germany. For the whole year 2017, BWE and VDMA expect additional 5,000 MW of wind power capacity.

Find the press release in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier Onshore Wind Power in Germany.

Die Zeit

The Green Party not being part of the federal government for the past 12 years is a “medium-sized economic and ecologic disaster”, writes Bernd Ulrich in an opinion piece in German weekly Die Zeit. The current emissions and carmaker cartel scandal showed that the government was too interwoven with the industry and unwilling to act as the “corrective and supervisor” it should be. “If anyone could have pulled the car companies out of their diesel madness on time and pushed them for their own good, then it would have been the party of the ecologic cause and the long-term view, equipped with federal political power,” writes Ulrich.

Read the opinion piece in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende.

Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) called for the removal of five gas grid development measures from current plans because the expansion of the German-Russian pipeline Nord Stream was “still too uncertain”, the agency said in a press release. The measures should only be put back into the plans once construction of Nord Stream 2 was approved. “With the changes, we protect German gas customers from unnecessary costs,” said BNetzA president Jochen Homann.

Read the press release in German here.

EnBW / Reuters

German utility EnBW reported a 10.9 percent increase in its first-half core profit, citing refunds of a nuclear fuel tax, consolidation of a majority in gas supplier VNG in April 2016, and the sale of an offshore wind park stake, reports Reuters. EnBW is “well on track” to reach its earnings target for 2017, but “must continue to make every effort to achieve it”, said Thomas Kusterer, Chief Financial Officer, in a press release. “The reimbursement of the nuclear fuel rod tax changes nothing in this regard. Although it eases the tense situation in terms of equity and debt on the balance sheet, it is just a one-off extraordinary effect,” said Kusterer.

Find the Reuters article in English here and the EnBW press release in English here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier Utilities and the energy transition.

pv magazine / SolarWorld

SolarWorld’s provisional insolvency administrator is in talks with a group of investors that may be interested in acquiring the company’s German manufacturing facilities in Freiberg and Arnstadt, according to a company press release, reports pv magazine. The acquisition would include only 450 workers employed at the two factories, while another 1,200 would be transferred to an Employment and Qualification Company (BQG). At the end of 2016, SolarWorld had 3,000 employees in Germany and the United States. Most of them, around 1,300, were working at the Freiberg factory, while another 750 were active at the Arnstadt facility and 250 were located in Bonn, writes pv magazine.

Read the article in English here and the SolarWorld press release in English here.

For background, read the CLEW article Last major German solar cell maker surrenders to Chinese competition.

Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten

Civil protection units in the eastern German city of Dresden “intensively train for a large-scale blackout”, Thomas Baum-Hartwig writes in Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten. Dresden’s mayor Detlef Sittel said the energy transition had made grids far more susceptible to disruption, “posing a major challenge for us”. Sittel also argued that the city increasingly relied on a stable electricity supply, for instance to keep hospitals and communication systems running.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW dossiers The energy transition and Germany’s power grid and Cities, municipalities and the Energiewende for background.

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