04 Apr 2017, 00:00
Sören Amelang Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

German lignite plants EU's top polluters / Free Democrats attack EEG


German lignite plants make up seven out of 10 of Europe’s biggest polluters, according to an analysis of European ETS data by climate NGO Sandbag. “That is because lignite power plants, especially in Germany, continue to run nearly 24 hours a day x 7 days a week.”
On a country-by-country basis, Germany remained Europe’s biggest coal polluter by far last year, according to Sandbag. “The biggest two coal polluters saw the smallest reductions: German coal power plant emissions fell only 4 percent, and Poland emission fell by only 1 percent.  Even since 2010, the movements have been small: minus 5 percent for Germany and minus 7 percent for Poland.”
At the end of last week, the owner of one of Germany’s largest lignite-mining operations, LEAG, scrapped plans to expand one of its mines, a step some observers called the “beginning of the end” for lignite.

Read the Sandbag analysis in English here.

Find background in the CLEW factsheet When will Germany finally ditch coal?

Free Democratic Party (FDP)

The German Free Democratic Party (FDP) wants to “end the sustained subsidies system of the [Renewable Energy Act] EEG” with its priority grid access and feed-in tariffs for renewables, writes the party in its draft programme for the autumn federal elections. The EEG’s goal to introduce renewable energies into the market has long been reached and renewables must face the rules of the market “with all opportunities and risks”, writes FDP. The competition in the free market should be guiding the decision of which source or technology contributes to Germany’s energy supply, instead of renewables development targets. The party criticises how the country’s energy transition was designed so far: “A policy that is able to calculate reconciles the desired with the feasible. The Energiewende is the exact opposite. The desired is sought without taking into account the feasible,” writes FDP.
Other provisions of the programme include:

  • Energy policy must not turn into “banning-policy”, “we want market economy incentives and not abstention and banning ideology with paternalism”
  • Cannot do without fossil fuels for foreseeable time
  • Expansion of renewables must be in line with developments in grid and energy storage
  • Grid expansion must happen now, or “costs of Energiewende” rise further
  • Relieve citizens of costs for grid expansion
  • Wind power development needs acceptance by population; introduce 10-H distance regulation for wind turbine construction nationwide
  • Reduce electricity tax
  • Climate protection needs to be based in market economy: no national solo runs; Paris Agreement as basis; make emissions trading global instrument; no subsidies for emissions avoiding technologies; call for global price on CO emissions
  • Compulsory introduction of e-cars or ban of combustion engine “not suitable climate protection strategies”
  • Strengthen EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and extend to other sectors, no floor price for ETS certificates, finalise liberalisation of EU single energy market, strengthen trans-European grid development > power should be produced where location allows for lowest costs

The final programme will be approved at a federal party conference 28-30 April.

Find the draft programme in German here.

For other party’s programmes and more on the elections year read the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

The election programme drafts by the Green Party and Free Democrats (FDP) indicate areas of agreement - which would open up federal coalition possibilities – but there are considerable differences in energy and climate policy, writes Stefan Braun in Süddeutsche Zeitung. “This field could become full of conflict.” However, the fact that the FDP supported key elements of the Energiewende and climate protection, such as emissions trading, and the fact that the Greens were not hostile towards cars in general, only to the combustion engine, showed cooperation potential.

Read the article in German here.

For political party programmes and more on the elections year read the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende.


Fuel cells are no longer a major part of Daimler’s plans, reports Fortune. CEO Dieter Zetsche said declining battery costs have made fuel cell vehicles uncompetitive with electric cars, according to a report by news site Smart2Zero. Zetsche’s statements could signal the wind-down of a 2013 agreement between Ford, Daimler, and Renault-Nissan to jointly develop fuel cell technology, writes David Morris in Fortune.

Read the article in English here.

For background, read the factsheets The role of biofuel and hydrogen in Germany’s transport Energiewende and Reluctant Daimler plans “radical” push into new mobility world, as well as the dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.

Energy think tank Agora Energiewende* has published a booklet answering 10 frequently asked questions about Germany’s energy transition, providing a “current, accurate and unbiased snapshot of the German experience”. The paper is also available in a Japanese version.

Find the booklet in English and Japanese here.

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


Germany lacks an overarching general concept that includes all sectors for contributing to emissions reduction, energy economist Marc Bettzüge writes in a guest commentary for Handelsblatt. “There is no integrated incentive and refinancing mechanism” to advance energy transition in the transport and heating sector apart from expanding renewable energy sources via the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), Bettzüge says. Additionally, resistance to the surcharge-based EEGis growing from different directions”, he argues. Without a far-reaching societal consensus on future measures, “the ‘Energiewende’ will get stuck in trench warfare about more and more detailed single activities”, Bettzüge says. He adds that Germany’s next government needed to pursue a more inter-European approach, reform the country’s power market and, if necessary, revise the climate targets.

Read the article in German here (behind paywall).

For background, see the CLEW factsheet From ideas to laws – how Energiewende policy is shaped.

Please note: The Clean Energy Wire will publish a factsheet on this topic later today.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Germany needs to lower emissions in the heating sector by one fifth by 2020 in order to meet the government’s climate goals, Hartmut Netz writes in Süddeutsche Zeitung. “To comply with the plan, twice as many buildings would need efficient retrofitting each year” so that the country’s building stock becomes nearly emissions-free by 2050, he says. Retrofitting old buildings saves 60 percent of heating energy on average, according to the German Energy Agency (dena), Netz writes. He adds that the state even offers financial grants to home owners willing to invest. “Those who want save money in the future have to invest now, but that’s looking gloomy.”

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


A large-scale transition to e-cars could shift the power balance between German carmakers and their suppliers in favour of car component producers like Bosch, ZF or Continental, Martin-Werner Buchenau writes in Handelsblatt. The engines have always been “the pride“ of German premium car brands. But “suppliers build the engine”, with e-cars, Buchenau argues. Germany’s suppliers could soon also ramp up their capabilities and produce control units for autonomous cars, as well as battery cells, “to not leave it to the Japanese and Chinese”, he writes. Their flexibility is what makes suppliers a threat for German premium carmakers and will allow them to switch to “more successful customer” companies, whether they come from China, the US – or from Germany, Buchenau says.

See the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers for more information.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Aided by funding from Germany’s economy ministry, 60 companies - including heavyweights such as Bosch, Siemens, E.ON and IBM - have teamed up in the organisation EE-Bus to openly discuss scenarios and develop data sets that make equipment communicate, Wolfgang Tunze writes in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In a smart home that optimises energy efficiency of appliances with electricity supply by wind and solar power, the deep freezer has to communicate with the central-heating boiler, the PV installation on the roof or the e-car that is charging in the garage, Tunze explains. “For this to be possible, all devices involved need to understand each other,” a project that EE-Bus tries to make a reality, Tunze says.

Find the organisation’s website in English here.

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

Rheinische Post

Germany should provide Belgium with power from coal plants in exchange for Brussels’ commitment to shut down the old nuclear plants Doel and Tihange near the German border, Green state MP Hans Christian Markert, from the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), proposed, according to Rheinische Post. “Lignite will be mined in the Rhine district until at least 2045,” Markert said. Since a new power converter will soon provide the state of Baden-Württemberg with Rhenish coal power as a replacement for the state’s gradually decommissioned nuclear plants, the same coal power could be sent across the border to Belgium “to assist nuclear exit in both plants”, Markert explained.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW factsheet Germany’s energy consumption and power mix in charts for background.

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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