27 Jul 2018, 12:17
Julian Wettengel

Germany buys grid operator stake / Heat wave: power plants cut output

Clean Energy Wire

The German government will acquire a temporary 20 percent stake in power transmission grid operator (TSO) 50Hertz from Belgian Elia “on national security grounds”, the economy ministry (BMWi) said in a press release. The ministry said the decision was taken, because “the Federal Government has a major interest in protecting critical energy infrastructure” and 50Hertz plays a “key role in the implementation of the energy transition”. In a message on Twitter, Thomas Bareiß, parliamentary state secretary in the economy ministry, said that “securing German infrastructure is of highest priority” for the government.

Belgian grid operator Elia has exercised its pre-emption right on the stake in Eurogrid International CVBA – which indirectly holds 100 percent in 50Hertz – and will directly sell it to German state-owned bank KfW “at the same financial conditions”, Elia said in a separate press release. The Belgian company owns an 80 percent stake in 50Hertz after it had already acquired a 20 percent stake from Australian infrastructure fund IFM in April 2018. The German economy said this is just a temporary measure and it intends to sell the shares again in the future. Chinese grid operator SGCC had tried to acquire a first stake in 50Hertz earlier in 2018, raising concerns in Germany over foreign influence on critical infrastructure and technology.

Find the BMWi press release in English here, the Elia press release in English here, the KfW press release in English here, and a Reuters article on the topic in English here.

For background, read the CLEW news piece German politicians closely watch Chinese company’s plans to buy share in German grid operator, the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s power grid and the article Sino-German tandem: Export champions promote global energy transition for background.

Die Welt

Several German power plants have reduced production as the ongoing heat wave limits the amount of cooling water, writes Daniel Wetzel in an article in Die Welt. With air temperatures of more than 30 degrees across Germany, water in cooling towers becomes too hot itself, and the use of river water is limited by environmental regulation stipulating that the river temperature increase through added cooling water must not exceed a certain level. So far, only coal power plants are affected, but nuclear power plants might have to reduce production as well if the heat wave continues, writes Wetzel. However, serious supply bottlenecks or power outages in Europe are not to be expected in the short term, writes Wetzel. Lignite power plants are often not as affected by the heat wave, because many are cooled with mine water, which has a stable temperature all year round, he writes.

Read the article in German here.

With anti-coal protests in the state of Saxony, environmental NGO Greenpeace says that the German government’s policy on coal fuels weather extremes. “The current heat wave is a taste of what awaits us if the CO₂ emissions are not decreased fast,” said Jannes Stoppel, climate expert at the NGO, in a press release. Greenpeace calls for a socially responsible coal exit by 2030.

Read the press release in German here.

For background, read the article Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out and the factsheets Coal in Germany and Germany’s coal exit commission.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Germany could import liquefied natural gas (LNG) via its neighbouring countries, but this depends on the wholesale market prices of both LNG and pipeline gas, said Stefan Kapferer, head of utilities association BDEW, writes Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). “At the moment, pipeline gas is often much cheaper in Europe,” he said. Kapferer added that LNG can contribute to a further diversification of natural gas import sources in Europe. German energy company Uniper said: “As the European gas market is the cheapest-to-reach sales market for American LNG due to the relatively short transport routes, it will be of particular importance in Europe in the future.” Uniper has already signed a 20-year contract for US LNG, writes FAZ. During a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Europe would import more LNG from the US in the future.

Read the article in German here.

For background, read the news digest item Trump lashes out at Nord Stream 2, says Germany is “totally controlled” by Russia and the factsheet Germany’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.


German transport minister Andreas Scheuer reiterated his opposition to labelling older diesel cars with a sticker (“blue badge”) to better be able to enforce possible driving bans, reports news agency dpa. “I continue to reject the blue badge and thus general driving bans,” Scheuer told journalists in Berlin. The federal state of Baden-Württemberg is currently holding talks with the federal government in preparation for driving bans for older diesel cars in the city of Stuttgart.

Find the article (behind paywall) in German here.

For background, read the factsheets Diesel driving bans in Germany – The Q&A and “Dieselgate” – a timeline of Germany’s car emissions fraud scandal.

Wall Street Journal

German foreign minister Heiko Maas and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono said they would aim to carry out the Paris Climate Agreement, from which the United States withdrew last year, promote free trade, and seek to address issues through multilateral organisations, reports the Wall Street Journal. The announcement followed  a meeting in Tokyo.

Read the article in English here.

For background, read the CLEW articles Merkel pledges stronger climate action globally and at home and German government looks ahead as Bonn climate talks leave much to do.

Clean Energy Wire

 Cartoon showing a ship sailing to sustainability island, guy with coal and oil as luggage arrives at pier too late. Illustration - Mwelwa Musonko.

A large majority of the German public supports the transition to a low-carbon and nuclear-free economy. Our visiting cartoonist Mwelwa Musonko (@MwelxTax) says some might miss the boat.

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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