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12 Nov 2018, 13:42
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Finance ministry rejects CO2 price plans / Solar power bicycle lane

Clean Energy Wire

Germany’s finance ministry, led by Social Democrat (SPD) Olaf Scholz, has rejected environment minister Svenja Schulze’s (also SPD) plan to work on a national price on CO₂ emissions in Germany, which would include sectors such as heating and transport. “There are no considerations to introduce a CO₂ tax or a new CO₂ price and to increase the burden on citizens,” said finance ministry spokesperson Dennis Kolberg at a government press conference. Regine Zylka, spokesperson for the environment ministry, said that the development of such a concept is just starting and would take a lot of time. “This is not a priority at the moment,” said Zylka, and added: “Of course, our in-house experts will also coordinate their work with the experts from the Federal Ministry of Finance.” Schulze had announced plans to team up with fellow Social Democrat Scholz regarding a CO₂ price during a keynote speech about her priorities as minister. In the days that followed, German mass-daily Bild reported that such a price on CO₂ could make petrol and heating oil more expensive. The parliamentary group of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance rejected Schulze’s plan. Germany’s federal state environment ministers, however, called on the federal government to draw up a proposal in line with constitutional and European law on how CO₂-intensive fossil fuels can be made more expensive and, in return, electricity produced from renewable sources can be made cheaper. The Social Democratic Party, meanwhile, organised a “debate camp” over the weekend – a conference to discuss “ideas for the renewal of the party”. A session on CO₂ pricing was met with “huge interest”, writes the SPD in a press release.

For background, read the CLEW article German env minister plans CO₂ price concept to boost climate action.

Rheinische Post

It was “tactically unwise” for social democratic environment minister Svenja Schulze not to coordinate her initiative for a price on CO₂ emissions better with finance minister and party colleague Olaf Scholz, writes Jan Drebes in an opinion piece in Rheinische Post. “Now the project is almost politically dead before it could even be put in writing,” writes Drebes. He adds that “an additional levy on petrol and heating oil” sends the wrong political signal and that the government had other instruments to reduce CO₂ emissions. “It is difficult to communicate that an SPD minister of all people is now striking out against consumers while her party is still reluctant to send a clear message to the coal industry,” writes Drebes.

Read the opinion piece in German here.

For background, read the CLEW article German env minister plans CO₂ price concept to boost climate action.

Spiegel Online

The first bicycle lane made out of solar panels in Germany has been opened on a 90-meter stretch near the western German city Cologne, Florian Gontek reports for Spiegel Online. The path consists of 150 solar power modules that are capable of feeding about 16,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year into the grid. It has a specifically designed surface that allows it to sustain pressure from vehicles and people on top while generating power at the same time. Project manager Donald Müller-Judex said he hopes to achieve development costs of 25 euros per square meter one day. “It currently is still a lot more expensive than that,” he said.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW factsheet Solar power in Germany for more information.

Zeit Online

The German Social Democrats (SPD) have made climate policy one of the key topics during a special conference ("debate camp") following defeats in two state elections in which the federal government coalition party suffered major voter losses, Michael Schlieben writes for Zeit Online. An influential inner-party group wants to make climate and environmental policy a central strength of the SPD for the next years and work towards an “ecologic-social transition” backed by billions of euros in state investments, he writes. “The Green Party would certainly like all of this,” Schlieben writes with a view to the many voters that swapped their SPD vote for a Green one in the latest elections. However, others in the traditionally worker-affiliated party are wary when it comes to adopting green policies and fear a “tackling of lignite” would betray loyal voter groups. The SPD’s internal dissent about the level of ambition in climate policy is also illustrated by environment minister Svenja Schulze and finance minister Olaf Scholz and their inconsistency over the introduction of a CO2 price in Germany, the article says.

Find the article in German here.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

The German Green Party should not overlook the concerns of workers in the steel or car industry when it debates the decarbonisation of the country’s economy, metalworker union IG Metall head Jörg Hofmann said as a guest speaker at the Greens’ annual party conference, Stefan Braun writes in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Hofmann said representatives of the right-wing nationalist party AfD routinely tried to intercept metalworkers right in front of their factories to exploit frustration with the government’s handling of the dieselgate scandal and to incite resistance towards progressive climate policy. “For Hofmann, this is proof that climate protection can only be implemented if it is accepted and accompanied by social policies,” Braun writes.

Read the article in German here (paywall).                          

Find background on the Greens latest election success in the CLEW article Merkel prepares departure in shock move at key time for climate policy.

Germany energy company E.ON has said it has reached the first “major decisions” in the planned integration of former rival company innogy into its own company structures. In a press release, the company said it would continue to run by the name E.ON in the future and leave the regional structures of innogy largely intact. The latest decisions will be implemented once the merger of the two companies that had come as a surprise to many observers in March 2018 have been approved by regulatory agencies.

Find the press release in English here.

For background, read the CLEW article RWE and E.ON overhaul power sector - German reactions to innogy deal, the dossier Utilities and the energy transition, and the factsheet Germany’s largest utilities at a glance.

Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

The German economy and energy minister, Peter Altmaier, has renewed calls for a European battery cell factory to counter Asia’s dominance in the sector. “We need competitive, innovative and environmentally sustainable production capacities for battery cells in Germany and Europe,” Altmaier said in a press release issued in the run-up to a major conference on e-mobility organised by his ministry. “We want to save jobs and know-how in the long run and avoid a dependence on non-European markets of our manufacturers,” he added. Besides several industry representatives, Altmaier will welcome EU Energy Commissioner Maros Sefcovic at the conference.

Read the press release in German here.

Find background in the new CLEW dossier Energy storage and the Energiewende and the article Chinese-German battery cell deal key step for mobility transition.

Rheinische Post

Banning older diesel cars from inner cities will only worsen the air pollution problem and carbon emissions in the long run and should therefore be avoided as much as possible, Gerd Landsberg, head of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB), said in an article by the Rheinische Post. Diesel engines in many respects were still better from an environmental perspective than other combustion engines, he argued with a view to the latest driving bans announced to take effect 2019 in the two cities Cologne and Bonn. “The government urgently has to modify the federal emission law (BImschG) and ensure that driving bans are not introduced if limit values are not exceeded by more than ten microgrammes per cubic metre on the annual average,” Landsberg said, adding that this would prevent driving bans in up to 50 cities. If people swap diesel for petrol engines "we’ll soon be debating particulate matter and CO2 emissions,” he said.

Find the article in German here.

For background, read the factsheet Diesel driving bans in Germany – The Q&A.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Energy company EnBW wants to increase the acceptance of new wind farms in Germany by inviting private citizens to acquire a share in the projects even though the company does not need any financial capital, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. EnBW offers investors a guaranteed return of three percent over seven years, which could be attractive for many people since central bank interest rates are near zero, the article says. The company wants to limit the offer to citizens that live near EnBW’s wind farms and will allow investments between 500 euros and 10,000 euros.

For background, read the CLEW factsheets Fighting windmills: When growth hits resistance and Polls reveal citizes’ support for Energiewende.

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