05 Jan 2017, 00:00
Sören Amelang Julian Wettengel

Germany subsidises climate damage / Lignite plant “in a coma”

Federal Environment Agency

Germany in 2012 provided 57 billion euros in subsidies that were detrimental to the environment, of which more than 90 percent were harmful to the climate, according to a report by Federal Environment Agency (UBA). “It’s paradoxical: Germany commits itself to more climate protection on an international level. At the same time, in our own country, we reward behaviour that is detrimental to the climate with tax money,” said UBA president Maria Krautzberger in a press release. Transport received the largest share of harmful subsidies with 28.6 billion euros, followed by the energy sector with 20.3 billion euros. UBA criticises that lignite profited from tax benefits despite not facing international competition. UBA for the first time classifies VAT reductions for animal products as subsidies detrimental to the environment. It says that the VAT on those products should be raised from 7 percent to the usual 19 percent, freeing money to make fruits and vegetables or public transport cheaper.

Find the press release in German here and the full report in German here.

Frankfurter Rundschau

Five people are employed around the clock in the control room of the first German lignite plant switched off to protect the climate, according to a feature by Steffen Höhne in Frankfurter Rundschau. They are there to keep the station fit for service but the head of the Buschhaus plant admits it is a challenge to motivate the team to manage a standstill.
In the coming years, seven more plants are to follow Buschhaus into the lignite emergency reserve with a total capacity of 2.7 gigawatts, equivalent to 13 percent of Germany’s lignite capacity. The stations are to remain operational for a period of four years so they can produce power within eleven days’ notice in case of emergency. But many experts doubt that will ever be the case.

Find the article in German here.

Find background material on the lignite emergency reserve in the CLEW factsheet Germany’s new power market design.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The transition to electric and autonomous cars will take much longer than enthusiasts anticipate, writes Holger Appel in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Not a single e-car suitable for the mass-market is available, and the highly anticipated models of 2017 will not change that. “The breakthrough won’t come in 2017, and it won’t come in 2018 either,” writes Appel. Truly autonomous cars also remain a long way off, and will only materialise if cloud-based algorithms will save every movement in back ends vulnerable to hacking. “This raises the question of the year: Do we want that?”

Find more background in the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.

Spiegel Online

Audi, BMW, and Daimler hit the bull’s eye by managing to enlist Intel and Asian investors for their mapping service HERE, which is central to their autonomous driving ambitions, writes Michael Kröger for Spiegel Online. “For the German makers of premium cars, this broad alliance is the beginning of a new era,” writes Kröger. He says carmakers have finally understood that only cooperation can bring the clout necessary to compete with Google and other IT giants in the future mobility race.
BMW, VW subsidiary Audi, and Daimler agreed to buy Berlin-based Nokia mapping unit HERE for almost three billion euros in 2015. Digital maps form the basis for driverless cars, and the carmakers wanted to avoid reliance on Google and Apple mapping services.

Read the article in German here.

For more background on BMW’s and Daimler’s plans, read the CLEW factsheets Reluctant Daimler plans “radical” push into new mobility world and Early e-car starter BMW plans new mobility sprint.


Planning company ILF has managed many difficult projects around the world – from pipelines in Nigeria to an airport in Kazakhstan – but building the electricity superhighway Südlink, which is meant to bring wind power to Germany's industrial south, is one of their greater challenges, reports Axel Höpner in Handelsblatt. The scale of the project is unprecedented and its management so complex because the cable is buried underground in large parts to overcome public resistance. ILF’s experience is useful because there are many similarities between pipelines and the underground cable. The Südlink project comes just in time for ILF, because the oil and gas sector is holding back investments, according to the report.

Read the article in German (behind paywall) here.

Find background in the factsheet Re-dispatch costs in the German power grid.

Frankfurter Rundschau

It is high time for a finance transition - in addition to the energy, transport and agricultural transformations - to protect the climate, write Green Members of the German Bundestag Annalena Baerbock and Gerhard Schick in a guest commentary in Frankfurter Rundschau. “The profits in the old energy industry directly contradict the preservation of our planet,” write Baerbock and Schick. The German government had failed to implement the EU directive on corporate social responsibility into national law on time and the current draft was not ambitious enough. Many German cities, federal states or public institutions did not know what companies they invested in owned or did, according to Baerbock and Schick.

Welt Online

The northern German city of Hamburg hopes for a “Silicon Valley for renewable energies” as Siemens is testing a new energy storage system, writes Olaf Preuß for Welt Online. The system would heat up rock fill with excess wind power, which a turbine later converts back into electricity. “Rock as storage medium promises far greater performance potential than battery storage,” Till Barmeier, project leader at Siemens, told Die Welt. Siemens had announced last September that it would start constructing a full-size facility for Trimet’s aluminium smelter in Hamburg in spring 2017. It will be able to store around 36 megawatt hours in a container with around 2,000 cubic meters of rock, according to Siemens.

Read the article in German here.

For background read the CLEW dossier New technologies for the Energiewende.

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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