23 Mar 2018, 00:00
Sören Amelang Sven Egenter Benjamin Wehrmann

Germany must reclaim climate pioneer role - new env min

Clean Energy Wire

Germany’s new environment minister, Svenja Schulze, says Germany must regain its leadership position in the international effort to reduce carbon emissions. “Germany quickly has to restore its pioneering role in climate action,” Schulze said during her inaugural speech in parliament, adding that this will require a “big transformation” in all sectors and a combined effort by all ministries, the federal states, and the country’s companies. Schulze said she would work to close the gap to Germany’s 2020 climate target “as much as possible” through additional renewables auctions and other measurers, and that she has already called on all relevant ministries to coordinate their emissions reduction efforts. She said that a climate action law will be adopted by 2019 to ensure that the country’s 2030 climate target is met. Schulze said the commission that will be charged with planning Germany’s coal exit will start its work soon, and determine an end date. “But we all know that a mere date is not enough,” she said, adding affected regions need an economic perspective.

She said Germany was “a case in point” that economic success and ecological policies do not contradict each other, adding that the Paris Climate Agreement will boost international demand for green technologies made in Germany. Regarding the ongoing dieselgate affair and the looming EU lawsuit over air pollution in German cities, Schulze said she is “no big fan” of diesel driving bans, and that innovative solutions are needed to prevent them. She said carmakers were responsible for ensuring that vehicles obey emissions rules, adding she endorsed mandatory mechanical diesel retrofitting.

Find background in the article New German environment minister faces steep uphill battle on climate

Clean Energy Wire

Germany’s new transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, has signalled that he does not plan a sharp departure from the previous government’s approach to reducing diesel engine pollution in cities, which had been sharply criticised by environmentalists as being too slow. “My motto: no panic, no bans, but incentives and concrete measures instead,” Scheuer told parliament in his first address to the new legislature, adding that he wanted to “energetically continue” his predecessor’s policies. He said that Germany should find innovative solutions for improving air quality that could also be applied in other countries. “Our goal has to be to make clean air an export hit.”

Scheuer said the government was on track to speedily implement the measures agreed at last year’s diesel summits, and thereby to avoid looming driving bans, which many consider the only option to prevent hefty EU fines for excessive pollution levels. Scheuer said German cities should push nitrogen oxide pollution below EU limits by 2020. He praised the effectiveness of software updates for older diesel cars, considered insufficient by many experts, and said the government would provide 107 million euros to make inner city diesel buses cleaner.

Scheuer’s predecessor, Alexander Dobrindt, was under constant fire from clean mobility proponents for his inaction over the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, and also for his one-sided defence of the car industry.

Find background on Andreas Scheuer and the tasks ahead for him in the article Germany’s car-loving transport minister faces clean mobility challenge and the factsheet Diesel driving bans in Germany – The Q&A.

Sustainable transport association (VCD)

Germany’s new transport minister, who did not mention climate protection and the transition to a sustainable transport system in his maiden speech to parliament, has not understood the signs of the times, according to sustainable transport association VCD. “A continuation of the previous government’s policies would be a heavy blow to climate protection in transportation,” said VCD head Wasilis von Rauch. “We need a U-turn, instead of preserving the status quo.” He added that it was cynical to promise “clean air as an export hit,” while cosying up to the car industry and omitting to say who should pay for the necessary hardware retrofits of diesel cars. On social media, Scheuer was instantly criticised by other environmentalists as “minister for hot air.”

Find the VCD statement in German here.

Find background on Andreas Scheuer and the tasks ahead for him in the article Germany’s car-loving transport minister faces clean mobility challenge and the factsheet Diesel driving bans in Germany – The Q&A.

dpa / Westfälische Nachrichten

Under a ruling by a regional court in Germany in favour of the country’s grid operators, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) cannot cut the guaranteed rate of return on power and natural gas grids, meaning that customers’ hopes for lower power prices will be dashed, the news agency dpa writes in an article carried by Westfälische Nachrichten. The higher regional court in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) agreed with a complaint lodged by more than 1,100 grid operators, and ruled that the guaranteed rate of return for German grid operators had been “unlawfully undervalued” by the BNetzA, which wanted to achieve a decrease to the tune of two billion euro over five years, the article says. Grid costs account for roughly a quarter of the power bill of German households, and the ruling’s effects on private customers’ energy bills are still difficult to gauge, the article says. “According to estimates, the average household could have saved about ten euros per year under the BNetzA’s original scheme,” it states. The court said the agency will have to recalculate the rate of return, but did not indicate how high it ought to be. The ruling is not binding yet, and the BNetzA can still appeal to the Federal Court of Justice to repeal, the dpa says.

Read the article in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheets Re-dispatch costs in the German power grid and Power grid fees – unfair and opaque?

BDEW / bne

The German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) says the ruling by a German court blocking a significant decrease in grid operators' guaranteed returns will boost necessary infrastructure investments. “The rate determined by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) in 2016 is one of the lowest in Europe – while Germany is among the EU countries with the greatest need for grid expansion,” BDEW head Stefan Kapferer says in a press release. Kapferer says the higher rate of return allows grid operators to accelerate grid expansion and to prevent costs caused by grid bottlenecks. The BDEW says Germany’s grid operators face the “triple challenge” of revamping the country’s grid to cope with more intermittent renewable energy sources, the expected rise in the number of e-cars, and the electrification of the heating sector.
By contrast, the Association of Energy Market Innovators (bne) says the lower rate of return that the BNetzA had aimed for would have meant an “appropriate” financial relief for power customers. The guaranteed rate of 6.91 percent “would still have allowed for more than just acceptable returns,” bne head Robert Busch says in a press release. Busch argues that grid fees have been rising constantly in recent years, while investments in the grid remained wanting in many places. Customers now face additional costs of up to one billion euros, he says. With regard to the planned “giant merger” of grid operators E.ON and innogy, Busch says that “we need effective regulation that considers the interests of everyone and is transparent.”

Read the BDEW’s press release in German here, and the bne’s press release in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheets Re-dispatch costs in the German power grid and What German households pay for power.

Spiegel Online

Electric car batteries could become twice as efficient as they currently are by 2025, researcher Martin Winter of the University of Münster says in an article written by Jürgen Pander on Spiegel Online. This means that e-cars could soon have a standard range of up to 600 kilometres, rendering void a key argument of e-car critics, Pander writes. Research on new battery types like sodium-oxygen models, rather than the current standard lithium-ion model, shows that the range can be expanded even further in the near future, although development here still has to overcome several hurdles associated with the batteries’ weight and lifespan, he says. More thoroughly researched battery technology, such as solid state models that are already tested by carmakers VW or Toyota, could also bring “a substantial improvement to the current state of technology,” Winter says. According to Pander, the competing technologies make it difficult for German carmakers to decide on investments in in-house battery development, meaning that dependence on Asian battery cell manufacturers is likely to persist for some time to come.

Read the article in German here.

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

Dow Jones Newswires

German utilities “have fallen far behind their competitors in Europe and the US,” according to Johannes Teyssen, CEO of German utility E.ON. The companies’ meagre performance over the last decade has meant investments in research and development are lower than they should be, and German companies have “generally failed to become innovation engines” in the energy sector, Teyssen told Dow Jones Newswires. He argued that the carve-up of innogy, a spin-off of utility RWE, is an appropriate reaction to the current state of the German energy industry, and would enable E.ON and RWE to catch up with their international competitors.

For background, read the CLEW article RWE and E.ON overhaul power sector - German reactions to innogy deal and the dossier Utilities and the energy transition.

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