Grid expansion impasse in Bavaria/ Coal states reject commission draft
The Free Voters, new coalition partners in Bavaria, Germany’s southern economic powerhouse state, reject important grid expansion plans that are meant to improve the distribution of electricity from renewable power sources across the country, Claudia Henzler writes in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “We need to re-launch the Energiewende [Germany’s energy transition]” and “make it a top priority to avoid grid expansion so that we’ll need as little new lines possible,” said Free Voters head and new Bavarian economy minister Hubert Aiwanger during a visit by federal economy minister Peter Altmaier to one of the planned construction sites for new power transmission lines in Bavaria. The Free Voters party leader said that grids had to become more flexible through digitalisation and called for expanding decentralised power production with more renewable sources built near where it is consumed. This clashes with policies of the Free Voters’ bigger coalition partner CSU, which had introduced greater minimum distances from residential areas for new wind turbines, thereby keeping wind power expansion down in the state. Federal minister Altmaier argued that while more renewable capacity was desirable, the construction of major power lines could not be avoided.
Find the article in German here.
Find background in the article New “Power Grid Action Plan“ to accelerate network development, the dossier The energy transition and Germany’s power grid and the factsheet Facts on the German state elections in Bavaria.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung
The governments of Germany’s eastern coal mining states have criticised a draft proposal by the country’s coal exit commission for focusing too much on emissions reduction and too little on the economic prospects of people living in mining regions, the weekly newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reports. Reiner Haseloff and Michael Kretschmer, the conservative CDU state premiers of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony, respectively, said the commission’s proposals could not be accepted as they stand. Haseloff added that Germany’s federal government “does not seem to understand” the costs of creating new economic prospects in coal regions and renewed his conclusion that “we don’t need 1.5 billion but 60 billion euros.”
Find the article in German here (paywall).
See the CLEW article German commission draft suggests coal exit with compensation and the CLEW factsheet Germany’s three lignite mining regions for more information.
Verivox / Tageszeitung
Germany’s power and natural gas customers face “considerable” price rises in 2019 as more than 200 suppliers have announced to charge 4.4 percent more for energy, the price comparison website Verivox says in a press release. For a household with an annual consumption of 4,000 kilowatt hours (kWh), this would mean an additional cost of about 55 euros, Verivox says. Energy companies say rising costs on the electricity wholesale market are the reason for the price increase, whereas the renewable energy surcharge will fall next year. Moreover, more than 100 gas suppliers said they will increase prices by 8 percent in the coming months.
In a separate article in the Tageszeitung (taz), Bernward Janzing points out that while nominal power prices in Germany are high at 30.5 eurocents per kWh, the country actually ranks in the middle field compared to fellow EU states in real terms. In Bulgaria, for example, power prices are only one third of those in Germany. But power outages are not only much more common, Bulgarians also on average earn only a ninth of what people earn in Germany. Moreover, “power prices in the last years have risen slower than wages,” Janzing writes, adding that power has effectively become cheaper that way in relative terms.
Germany’s agriculture ministry plans to boost sustainable forestry and sees the need for more climate-friendly livestock farming in order to achieve the agricultural sector’s emission reduction targets, federal agriculture minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) told the Rheinsche Post in an interview. A 10-point plan drafted by her ministry would ensure that the sector cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 14 million tons by 2030, she said. And this “without a carbon tax, which the environment minister has proposed and now obviously does not pursue further. That tax is unnecessary,” Klöckner said. Forestry was one of the key levers for climate protection. “Put simply: the use of wood from sustainable forestry qualifies as active climate protection.”
Read her interview here and get the background on emissions in farming and forestry in the CLEW dossier on the wicked task of feeding 83 million in a climate-friendly way.
The German system of taxes and levies needs a comprehensive reform to allow for the introduction of an effective carbon price without creating a major burden for power customers, think tank Agora Energiewende has found in an analysis. The think tank says “many arguments have been exchanged many times: it’s time for a decision” on a price scheme for CO2 emissions. While such a reform would have to “inevitably entail higher prices for diesel, petrol, heating oil, and natural gas,” it can be made “cost-neutral” for citizens by lowering their expenses elsewhere in the system of taxes and levies. A comprehensive reform “has remained wanting for years now but can be implemented quickly.” Agora says Germany will not be able to reach its 2030 emissions reduction target without carrying out reforms soon and warns that such a policy’s “potential for antagonistic media propaganda” must not deter policymakers from pursuing it.
Find the analysis in German here.
For background, read the CLEW article German env minister plans CO₂ price concept to boost climate action, and the factsheet Germany’s Climate Action Plan 2050.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Germany’s economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier has urged the country’s mighty carmakers to finally “build an e-car that’s at least half as sexy as a Tesla,” the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. At a high-level debate with Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, Altmaier said that “German cars always used to be sexy” and that he finds himself asking if this would continue to be the case in light of the shift to e-cars. “You could definitely come up with a few fresh ideas as far as the attractiveness of your e-cars goes,” Altmaier said. He added that German carmakers were still “absolutely great in developing, building, and selling high-class vehicles,” and could catch up with competitors from the US or Asia.
Find the article in German here.
See the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers for more information.
The Volkswagen Group has announced investments of nearly 44 billion euros in e-mobility, autonomous driving, digitalisation, and other modernisation measures. In a press release, Germany’s biggest carmaker says it wants to “speed up the pace of innovation” and “make the electric car an affordable option for millions of people.” The company also says it will review its participation in battery production to reduce reliance on Asian suppliers, and mulls cooperation with US carmaker Ford in commercial vehicle development.
In a separate press release, the company says that the switch to the new WLTP fuel economy test cycle continues to impede on Volkswagen’s sales. In October, it delivered 10 percent fewer vehicles that a year before due to difficulties in complying with the test cycle’s requirements on time.
The French government’s decision to increase the price of diesel fuel has sparked heavy protests across the entire country, but more such “unreasonable demands” are necessary in France and elsewhere if Europe wants to succeed in drastically reducing its carbon footprint, Kai Schöneberg writes in the Tageszeitung (taz). “We can only wish [French President Emanuel] Macron a lot of stamina in this matter,” Schöneberg says, arguing that politicians in Germany “just bow to industry and the conservative media to avoid a revolt at all costs.” One example is transport minister Andreas Scheuer, who tries to delegitimise a court ruling that imposes the first diesel driving ban on a highway by calling it “out of proportion.” Schöneberg says that in spite of all the talk about sustainability taking a root in society, it is called into question very quickly once it produces actual consequences for people.
Read the commentary in German here.
See the CLEW interview with government advisor Löschel on the crucial question of the energy transition’s acceptance for background.