Germany asks Belgium to switch off nuclear plants / RWE turmoil

BMUB / Deutsche Welle

“Germany asks Belgium to hit the switch on disputed Tihange and Doel nuclear reactors”

Environment minister Barbara Hendricks submitted an official request to Belgian authorities asking for two nuclear reactors to be taken off grid until further security checks can be completed. Hendricks's request is based on a report from Germany's independent Reactor Safety Commission (RSK), which concluded that security reserves at the two reactors were sufficient for normal operation, but might be insufficient in the event of a fault. “Therefore, I think it is right to take the sites off the grid, at least until further investigations are concluded,” said Hendricks in a press statement. “It would be a strong signal for prevention. And it would show that Belgium takes their German neigbours' concerns seriously.” For security reasons, the reactors were taken off line in 2012, but re-started operations last December.

Find the press release in German here.

Read a Deutsche Welle article in English here.

 

Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Handelsblatt

“Turmoil at RWE meeting”

Environmental activists stormed the stage at RWE’s annual shareholder’s meeting, reports Handelsblatt. The protesters criticised the company’s nuclear and coal power generation and shouted “Your time is over”. At the meeting, RWE chief executive Peter Terium later warned of the “economic collapse" of conventional power generation if electricity prices remained at historic lows, writes the Wall Street Journal. Terium also defended the decision to suspend dividend payments for the first time in 50 years: "The fact that the supervisory board unanimously approved this proposal shows that this decision, while difficult, was necessary,” quotes Reuters. RWE shareholders will vote on the decision to suspend dividends later in the day and local municipalities suggested that they might not formally back the management.

Read the Wall Street Journal article in English here.

Read the Handelsblatt article in German here.

 

Germanwatch / BUND, et al.

“Civil society calls for tightening national climate targets”

A group of over 40 NGOs is calling for a tougher climate protection regime in Germany, including setting an emissions reduction target of 95 percent by 2050 and enacting a coal phase-out by 2035. Weeks before the environment ministry will publish a Climate Action Plan 2050, the organisations tabled their own “Climate Action Plan 2050 of the civil society”. The plan suggests every sector should be given an emissions target. It also calls for specific medium term targets, as well all separate laws for climate protection and efficiency. Antje von Broock from Friends of the Earth (BUND) said that Germany had to work hard to reach its 2020 climate targets, otherwise it would be much harder to achieve later decarbonisation goals.

Read a press release by the NGOs in German here.

Read the Climate Action Plan 2050 of the civil society in German here.

Read a CLEW factsheet on the government’s Climate Action Plan 2050 here.

 

Brandenburg government / Mining union IG BCE

Mining state – Energy policy must not squander opportunities of Vattenfall sale

Attempts to protect the climate must not squander the chances the Vattenfall sale offers to east Germany’s lignite mining region, according to the affected German state of Brandenburg. “I expect a public commitment to German lignite from the federal government,” Brandenburg state premier Dietmar Woidke, a Social Democrat, said on Wednesday. “There must be no further ideologically motivated interventions in the lignite sector.”
Woidke, who hails from the mining area of Lusatia, said his state will only support the government’s Climate Action Plan 2050 if it does not involve additional measures to curtail lignite. At an event by mining union IG BCE, Woidke added he squarely rejected the proposals by think tank Agora Energiewende for a coal phase-out. He said the Vattenfall sale was a step forward for the mining region of Lusatia, not least because with buyer EPH, there was finally a new partner for talks about the region’s future. Woidke and IG BCE head Michael Vassiliades demanded the focus for the Energiewende must now be on developing power storage and extending the grid, rather than pushing renewables.

Find a CLEW article on the Vattenfall sale here.

Read a CLEW factsheet on the Climate Action Plan 2050 here.

 

Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

Government invests more money into energy research

The German government has spent 863 million euros on supporting research into modern energy technology in 2015, an increase of 5.3 percent compared to 2014, the economy and energy ministry reports. 74 percent of the funds were used on renewable energies and energy efficiency research. “The success of the energy transition will also be judged in terms of Germany’s ability to remain a competitive industrial location with a profitable energy supply,” said economy minister Sigmar Gabriel in a press release. Energy research established the necessary basis for this development, he said.

Read the press release in German here.

Read the ministry report on energy research spending in German here.

Read a CLEW dossier on technologies in the energy transition here.

 

Süddeutsche Zeitung

“Many car companies use tricks when it comes to Diesel”

Following the VW scandal, many other carmakers face accusations of tweaking engines to emit nitrogen oxide (NOx) unfiltered at normal temperatures, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung. New findings by the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) showed that the car manufacturers took advantage of EU regulations that allowed them to turn off filtering to prevent engine damages in cold conditions, writes the newspaper. Official emissions tests were then run at higher temperatures of about 23°C – with an active filter system. Many filter systems only start to work at temperatures between 10 and 20°C, according to the article. Unnamed government officials told the paper they “could never have imagined the extent” to which this “thermal window” was exploited.

Read the article in German here.

 

Süddeutsche Zeitung

“Coalition advances promotion of electric cars”

The Social and Christian Democratic parliamentary groups in the Bundestag have agreed on the main features of a funding structure for electric cars, a new document shows according to Süddeutsche Zeitung. The plans include exemptions from vehicle tax for buyers of new e-cars, a research program on battery technology, and setting up a charging infrastructure. Discussions on a buyer’s premium were postponed to a summit of auto industry representatives with Chancellor Angela Merkel and economics minister Sigmar Gabriel at the end of the month.

Read the article in German here.

 

Frankfurter Rundschau

“Energy transition for fools”

Government plans for a cap on renewables expansion pose a risk for the dynamic of the energy transition, writes Frank-Thomas Wenzel in the Frankfurter Rundschau. If renewables were left to grow at the current rate, Germany would reach more than 45 percent renewables in the power mix by 2025 – but the economy and energy minister wants to cap it at 45 percent. Particularly onshore wind development would be throttled – and this even though it is the cheapest of all renewable technologies, the author says. Offshore wind capacity may only grow by 700 megawatt (MW) after 2020 (in 2015 it was 2250 MW), which would harm the entire industry sector in Germany, according to Wenzel.

 

Die Welt

“Reorganisation of the offshore wind power business”

Offshore wind power company Dong Energy has welcomed the change from feed-in tariffs to auctions that is planned by the government in its reform of the Renewable Energy Act this summer. Auctions for the offshore wind sector would help to reduce prices and increase competition, Trine Borum Bojsen, managing director of the wind sector at Dong Energy told Die Welt.

Read the article in German here.

 

Rheinische Post

“Nuclear power companies haggle over money”

The commission on financing the nuclear clean-up generally agreed on an additional billion-euro risk premium by utilities, reports Rheinische Post. The amount of such a premium remains to be decided. With the payment into a public fund, the nuclear power companies would be freed of their responsibility concerning final storage of nuclear waste.

Read the article in German here.

Find the CLEW factsheet on utility payments for the nuclear clean-up here.

 

Frankfurter Rundschau

“Emissions trading can’t serve as scapegoat”

Global overcapacities cause trouble in the steel industry, rather than the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), argues Green politician Annalena Baerbock in a guest commentary in Frankfurter Rundschau. Baerbock criticises economics minister Sigmar Gabriel for trying to “score cheap points” with the industry when blaming EU climate protection efforts for the dire situation of steel. “Especially for the steel sector, the trade with CO₂-Certificates is a veritable gold mine,” adds Baerbock.

Read the commentary in German here.

Read a CLEW article on the protests by the German steel industry here.

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