15 Oct 2018, 02:31 pm | Benjamin Wehrmann, Julian Wettengel

Green Party celebrates huge gains in Bavaria / RWE vows to "fight on"

Deutsche Welle / ARD / ZDF

Merkel's conservative allies battered in Bavaria, Greens gain big

In a further erosion of Germany's political mainstream, the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) has lost its absolute majority in Bavaria’s state elections, while the Greens have become the second largest political force there, writes Deutsche Welle. The CSU secured 37.2 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results, while the Green Party won 17.5 percent. The Social Democrats (SPD) dropped dramatically to 9.7 percent, and the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 10.2 percent. While the results mean that the CSU is set to continue to govern the prosperous state, it will need a coalition partner.
In an interview with public broadcaster ZDF, state premier Markus Söder (CSU) said he would “clearly prefer” a coalition with the conservative Free Voters, which won 11.6 percent of the vote. “The Greens’ programme is hardly coalition-compatible,” said Söder.

Note: The Clean Energy Wire will publish an article on the Bavarian elections' political consequences later today.

Find the DW article in English here and the ZDF interview in German here.

Also read the CLEW election preview Shake-up in Bavaria's election may impact German energy policy and the factsheet Facts on the German state elections in Bavaria.

 

Mittelbayrische Zeitung / Volksstimme Magdeburg

Forming a CSU-Greens coalition “difficult” – opinion

Several German newspapers discuss the option of a possible regional government coalition between the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Green Party after the Bavaria state elections. In an opinion piece in the Mittelbayrische Zeitung, Claudia Bockholt writes that both parties would have to make “indigestibly big” concessions, for example regarding the minimum distance between a wind turbine and the nearest settlement. Forming a coalition with the Greens would thus be “difficult”.
The Volksstimme of Magdeburg takes a different view: “A coalition with the Greens is not only mathematically obvious. They have also won over 200,000 CSU votes,” writes the newspaper. In the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg, the combination of conservatives and Greens is “quite successful” after their initial quarrels. “This could be a role model for Bavaria.”

Find the Mittelbayrische piece (behind paywall) in German here.

Also read the CLEW election preview Shake-up in Bavaria's election may impact German energy policy and the factsheet Facts on the German state elections in Bavaria.

 

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Rheinische Post

RWE head Schmitz vows to “fight on” for clearing of Hambach Forest

In two separate interviews, the CEO of energy company RWE, Rolf Martin Schmitz, has vowed to continue contending for the clearing of the embattled Hambach Forest, which a court ordered to halt on 5 October. In an interview with the Rheinische Post, Schmitz called the court’s decision “a blow to the Rhenish coal mining area” that threatened many jobs, and said that “the fight will go on” to put an end to the anti-coal protesters’ activities there.
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Schmitz said the court decision to halt the forest’s clearing “completely surprised” his company, adding that he is confident that RWE will eventually prevail in court and be allowed to expand its coal mine. “The Hambach Forest has to go, one way or another,” Schmitz said. He argued the Hambach mine would have to completely cease operations if RWE does not fell the trees before the 2021-2022 season, and that it would have to reduce the amount of coal mined there by five million tonnes per year even if RWE resumes full operation due to static safety considerations at the mine. The energy manager said the final date for Germany’s coal exit was merely “a symbol” and the true challenge would be to quickly bring up the share of renewables in the power mix. “We cannot phase out [coal] before that,” he said.

Read the Rheinische Post interview in German here and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung interview in German here (paywall).

See the CLEW article Court’s halt to forest clearing fans talk of easier German coal exit for background.

 

E3G

Germany worst-performing western G7 nation in coal exit ranking

When it comes to progress in phasing out carbon-intensive coal from the national power mix, Germany is the worst performing western country in the industrialised nations’ G7 club, only trailed by Japan but outperformed by the US and its pro-coal administration, climate NGO E3G has found in its annual ranking of the G7 club’s climate action performance. “Our review of the coal phase-out debate in Germany highlights that it scores poorly due to entrenched opposition from major utility companies and coal sector interests,” the NGO says in a press release, adding that “years of denial and delay” on coal now ensued in a hasty and difficult phase-out preparation that Germany’s coal exit commission has to carry out.

Read the press release in English here.

See CLEW’s Commission watch for updates on Germany’s coal exit commission.

 

Welt am Sonntag

Wintershall and DEA merger creates German oil and gas “giant” amid warning calls for decarbonisation

The merger of German energy companies Wintershall and DEA creates Europe’s biggest private oil and gas company at a time when international climate researchers urge industrialised countries to tame their appetite for carbon-intensive energy generation, Daniel Wetzel writes in the Welt am Sonntag. However, Lord Browne of Madingley, head of DEA’s owner L1 Energy, says the new company called Wintershall DEA will “rather be a company for gas and oil than for oil and gas,” since 70 percent of its output will be natural gas, which is considered an important bridge fuel in the energy transition due to its comparatively low CO2-intensity. Natural gas might “become part of the problem in 50 years – but over the next decades, it will be part of the solution for climate protection,” Browne said. 

Find the article in German here.

Find background in the CLEW dossier The role of gas in Germany’s energy transition.

 

Focus Online

German conservatives say coalition partner SPD must accept difficulties of renewables expansion

Germany’s ruling conservative CDU party says its coalition partner Social Democrats (SPD) have to acknowledge that the expansion of Germany’s renewable energy capacity will be more difficult than initially thought, Focus Online reports. So far, the SPD “has refused to accept that we have massive problems with our grid expansion,” said Joachim Pfeiffer, the CDU’s energy politician. Grid capacity must be commensurate with the added renewable power capacity, Pfeiffer said, adding that the SPD’s insistence on fulfilling climate targets did nothing to overcome this obstacle. He argued that storage solutions and more competition had to be emphasised more to make sure that new wind turbines do not have to be throttled down due to lacking grid capacity. 

Find the article in German here.

See the CLEW article Germany sets deadline for grid expansion plans and the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s power grid for more information.

 

Tageszeitung

German army caused over 30 wildfires during target practice in summer heat wave

The German army (Bundeswehr) has caused 32 wildfires during target practice in this year’s exceptionally hot and dry summer, the Tageszeitung (taz) newspaper reports. According to an analysis conducted by Germany’s ministry of defence (BMVg) for the federal parliament, apart from a large-scale fire under a northern German moorland, which is said to have released hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2, the Bundeswehr has had to put out fires at 31 other locations, the article says.

Find the article in German here.

For background, read the CLEW news item Moorland fire caused by German army releases over 500,000 tonnes of CO2 – NGO.

 

Der Spiegel

German carmakers produce “polluters without exhaust” as they enter e-car market

German carmakers Mercedes and Audi enter the e-car market with two e-SUVs, but instead of contributing to reducing emissions in the country’s transport sector, these big and heavy vehicles might even worsen the sector’s climate impact, Christian Wüst writes in Der Spiegel. Audi’s parent company Volkswagen might be proud to have developed an e-car with an acceleration greater than a Formula 1 car, but “it hasn’t understood what an ecologic transformation of the transport sector is all about – a shortcoming that could be extended to the rest of the industry,” Wüst says. “Strong, fast, and heavy” seems to be the dictum for German carmakers, who are fixated on toppling US competitor Tesla in the luxury e-cars segment. Furthermore, “cars without exhaust can be climate polluters,” he writes. As battery production still is very energy-intensive and causes a lot of emissions if powered with fossil fuels, only smaller cars with smaller batteries will bring a benefit compared to combustion engines until more sustainable ways of battery production are found, Wüst says.

Find the article in German here (paywall).

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

 

Federal Ministry for the Economy and Energy

German government vies for headquarters of European battery cell production

The German government tries to bring the headquarters of the envisaged European joint venture for battery cell production to Germany, a press release by Germany’s economy and energy ministry (BMWi) says. At a meeting of the European Battery Alliance in Brussels, state secretary Claudia Dörr-Voß said the government supported research institutions and private companies in order to make Germany a top location for future battery cell production. “Batteries and battery cells are key for many new products – from smart watches over e-cars to electric aviation,” which is why Germany had to make sure it is capable of producing the technology itself, Dörr-Voß said.

Find background in the new CLEW dossier Energy storage and the Energiewende and the article Chinese-German battery cell deal key step for mobility transition.

 

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Germany’s technology scepticism inhibits progress in emissions reduction

For a long time, Germany had been confident it was on the right track when it comes to climate action, but scepticism and resistance towards low-emission technologies are on the rise in the country today, Niklas Zaboji writes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Despite a general approval of climate targets in Germany, problems often arise when it comes to implementation” and the situation is aggravated further by a reluctance to embrace potentially beneficial technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), the article quotes Hans-Joachim Kümpel of the National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech) as saying. “Completely unfounded” fears often prevent reasonable policy and lead to “prohibitive laws,” Kümpel says. But even if environmental organisations like WWF Germany say that technologies like carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) could be tried out in the future under the condition that they are not used as an excuse for not lowering emissions ambitiously, other policies are also needed to sufficiently cut CO2 output levels. Zaboji says that apart from a carbon floor price, ideas like genetically modified food, extended nuclear power generation or fracking all are viable options for emission reduction. However, these are all taboo in Germany, regardless of their potential benefits.

See the CLEW articles Call for open debate on CCU and CCS to save industry emissions and Norway bets on gas and CCS to complement Europe’s energy transition for more information.

 

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