29 Mar 2017, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann

Env min: USA "harms itself" with new energy policy / RWE bets on coal

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Following the executive order by US President Donald Trump to repeal former president Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” Germany’s Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks warned the US against “making a stand against technologic and economic change,” Michael Bauchmüller and Sacha Batthyany write in Süddeutsche Zeitung. “Anyone trying to go into reverse" would only harm their own international competitiveness, Hendricks told Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Read the article in German here.

For background, see the CLEW dossier The energy transition and climate change.

manager magazin Online

For a long time, Germany's insistence on the energy transition raised eyebrows, Nils-Viktor Sorge writes in an opinion piece for manager magazine Online. Six years on from the Fukushima disaster, it's the USA that increasingly looks like the odd man out, Sorge argues, as Donald Trump embarks on an emotionally driven "energy policy killing spree". If Trump “gets away with it,” the biggest loser - besides the climate - will be the US itself, Sorge writes. Trump’s “abstruse pro-coal campaign slogans” will impede innovative US companies and help their counterparts in China, which is actively pushing to modernise its energy system.

Read the opinion piece in German here.

Handelsblatt Online

Despite a surge in clean energy production, German utility RWE will continue to rely on coal and gas plants for the foreseeable future, Handelsblatt online reports. RWE CEO Rolf Martin Schmitz said conventional power plants were irreplaceable as long as renewables could not guarantee an uninterrupted power supply. “There is a demand. We don’t have a plan B,” Schmitz said. RWE is even considering buying up capacity from competitors retreating from fossil energy generation, fuelling speculation that RWE could target E.ON spin-off Uniper for takeover, Handelsblatt Online reports. After years of heavy losses due to falling wholesale energy prices, companies like RWE hope the decommissioning of Germany’s remaining nuclear plants in 2022 will push prices up again, the article says.

See the article in German here.

For more information, read the CLEW factsheet How can Germany keep the lights on in a renewable energy future?.

Hamburger Abendblatt

Solarworld still is Germany’s largest producer of PV and other solar installations, but its outlook is becoming more and more grim, Hannes Koch writes in Hamburger Abendblatt. Last week, the company announced a loss “equalling half of our capital stock.” Solarworld CEO Frank Asbeck said “dumping” by Chinese PV exporters was responsible for the company’s woes, but curtailing of Germany’s renewables support had also been a heavy blow for Solarworld, Koch adds. The company has already made drastic job cuts, reorganised production, and got a haircut on its debt to stay in business. But a 700-million euro compensation claim from the US for failing to comply with a supply contract looms large, Koch says.

Read the article in German here.

Welt Online

Last Friday's vote in the German parliament in favour of plans to find a final nuclear repository could finally herald an end to the decades-old conflict over where to store Germany's nuclear waste, Daniel Wetzel writes for Welt Online. But anti-nuclear activists say the problem will not be resolved as long as a current interim storage facility near Gorleben is not excluded from the search, Wetzel writes. They argue the Gorleben site was "scorched earth" due to its long history as a protest theatre and could be unsafe in the long term, since its geological conditions mean it may not withstand a future ice age, opponents argue. However, Wetzel says that the site has weathered previous ice ages and could do so again. 

Find the article in German here.

See the CLEW dossier The challenges of Germany’s nuclear phase-out for more information.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Six years after Germany resumed plans for a quick nuclear exit, there is a still question over whether funds put aside by nuclear plant operators for a final nuclear waste repository will be sufficient, Bernd Freytag writes in an opinion piece for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Freytag describes the uncertainty as demonstrating “the whole madness of [German] energy policy.” How the utilities will fare under the liability is clear from a glance at EnBW’s balance sheet, however. With 1.8 billion euros in losses, the state and municipalities who own the company will have to waive their dividend, employees part of their salary and EnBW part of its capital stock, Freytag writes. 

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

Handelsblatt Online

Strong demand for heavy sports utility vehicles (SUVs) means German carmarker Daimler has failed to reduce average emissions from its vehicle fleet for the first time since 2007, Handelsblatt Online reports. For the second year in a row, emissions stood at 123 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Regulations in line with the EU’s climate protection goals stipulate that Daimler must reduce emissions to 100 grams by 2020, the article says. Daimler’s research director Olaf Källenius said complying with the regulation would be a “serious challenge” for the premium carmaker, requiring it to “use all possible paths towards this demanding goal,” including both development of Daimler’s e-car line and further reliance on diesel engines, which consume up to 20 percent less fuel than petrol engines, Handelsblatt reports.

See the article in German here.  

Read the CLEW factsheet Reluctant Daimler plans “radical” push into new mobility world for more information.

Der Tagesspiegel

Frank Appel, director of Germany’s postal service Deutsche Post AG, says the country is unlikely to achieve its aim of shifting a considerable share of its freight transports from road to railroad to reduce emissions, Alfons Frese writes for Der Tagesspiegel. Germany’s railway system is “not flexible enough” for distances below 500 kilometres, while for longer distances there were “not enough lines,” Frese writes. Expanding the railway network is unlikely to be an option since citizens would resist it, Appel added. According to Deutsche Post's director, the CO2 problem will nevertheless “be solved in the coming decades,” but mainly through the use of e-cars and diesel cars with tighter emissions controls, Frese writes.

See the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s transport sector for background.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

German oil and gas exploration company Wintershall continues its involvement with the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, despite resistance from eastern European states, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. Wintershall CEO Mario Mehren said Russian fossil fuel reserves were essential to European energy security. Kurt Bock, CEO of Wintershall’s parent company BASF, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently to advance the project, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine. Putin said Europe’s gas demand was growing while domestic production declined, making Nord Stream 2 “the natural answer.”

See the CLEW factsheet Germany’s dependence on imported fossil fuels for background.  

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