Grid unprepared for e-car boom / SPD votes for coalition negotiations
Handelsblatt / Oliver Wyman
A large-scale roll-out of electric vehicles in Germany could overstrain the power grid, and the country should invest billions of euros to prevent a breakdown in the future, Jürgen Flauger and Franz Hubik write in the Handelsblatt. According to consultancy Oliver Wyman, an e-car quota of about 30 percent could lead to extensive blackouts in Germany if the grid is not reinforced. “By 2035, one third of all cars on German roads could be electric,” the consultancy says. Regionally limited bottlenecks could already occur in the next five to ten years, “for example in suburban areas with a high affinity to e-mobility.” According to the Handelsblatt, it is not the e-cars’ power consumption as such that is worrisome, but rather the higher peak load, when many e-car owners plug in their cars simultaneously in the evening. Hildegard Müller of energy provider innogy says Germany must invest about one billion euros per year until 2030 to prepare the grid for the expected e-car boom. However, others, such as consultancy Oliver Wyman, argue that the need for investment could be reduced through demand-side management that could better allocate charging cycles during the day.
See the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s power grid for more information.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Electric cars are going to spread in Germany sooner or later, and the country’s infrastructure must be made ready for this boom soon, Hans Riebsamen writes in an opinion piece for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Especially the larger urban areas that are at risk of having to introduce driving bans for polluting diesel cars “should have every reason to increase interest in e-mobility,” he argues. This includes the deployment of e-car charging stations in new housing areas as well as the reinforcement of the grid to prevent blackouts if scores of e-cars are plugged in simultaneously. “Planning must be initiated now,” Riebsamen cautions, adding that utilities should be at the forefront of this investment process to deploy infrastructure that can cope with a huge increase in the number of e-cars.
See the CLEW dossier Cities, municipalities, and the Energiewende for more information.
At their special congress held on 21 January, 56 percent of SPD delegates voted to enter formal negotiations to renew Germany’s grand coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU block, reports Reuters. SPD leaders vowed to improve on the coalition blueprint the three parties had agreed on 12 January. “We will negotiate until the other side squeals,” the party’s parliamentary leader, Andrea Nahles, said at the congress. In a press statement after the SPD vote, Merkel said that “the blueprint from the exploratory talks is the framework in which we will negotiate, and there are still many questions to clear up in detail and that will require intensive talks.” The parties’ leaders will meet on 22 January to discuss the negotiation schedule for the coming weeks, and SPD party members will vote on an eventual coalition deal that may emerge “likely in March,” writes the SPD in a press release.
Addressing the party congress, SPD head Martin Schulz dismissed as "fake news” reports that the possible future coalition would be prepared to scrap the country’s 2020 climate target. “Of course, we do not give up on the climate targets. Quite the opposite: we will have a climate protection law in Germany for the first time,” said Schulz.
The fact that power prices in Germany occasionally turn negative and lead power producers to pay their customers for absorbing excess electricity should be no cause for concern but rather for celebration, energy think tank Agora Energiewende’s* head, Patrick Graichen, writes in a commentary for Die Welt. Providing a good for lower prices or even for free rather than not providing it at all is “a basic principle of macroeconomics, known as ‘avoiding opportunity cost’,” Graichen argues. Some power plant operators figure that it is cheaper to sell their electricity at negative prices than to shut the plant down and turn it back on again a few hours later, he says. The more often this happens, the greater the incentive for operators to invest in flexible plants – which many of them do, Graichen says. He explains that this increase in flexibility is not likely to have happened if there were no negative power prices, and that this also holds true for more flexible industrial plants and the financial attractiveness of power storages. Graichen therefore calls negative prices “the greatest driver of making the energy transition’s power system more flexible”.
Read the commentary in German here.
See the CLEW factsheet The causes and effects of negative power prices for background.
*Like the Clean Energy Wire, Agora Energiewende is a project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.
Clean Energy Wire / German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW)
Germany will need to reform its renewables support system by 2019, said Stefan Kapferer, head of the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW). “I am convinced that, although we may not have a major Renewable Energy Act (EEG) reform already in 2018, in 2019 there will certainly be a need to approach the system in a much more fundamental way,” Kapferer said at a press briefing in Berlin. There is currently no mention of a reform of the EEG in the blueprint for negotiations to renew the country’s grand coalition government between the conservative CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats for another four years. Budget allocation in the blueprint shows that energy and climate policy is “evidently not a focus for the grand coalition,” said Kapferer. The BDEW made a first proposal to reform the EEG with a three-pronged approach: (1) expanding renewables capacity that does not need support; (2) decreasing new additions of renewable energy capacity within the EEG support system through incentives; and (3) harnessing the innovative power of ‘prosumers’ (those who both consume and produce energy).
For more reform proposals, read CLEW’s factsheet Germany ponders how to finance renewables expansion in the future, and for background on the coalition talks, read the article German party leaders agree energy policy blueprint for coalition talks and the coalition watch.
France and Germany aim to renew their seminal Élysée Treaty of 1963, which formally ended centuries of rivalry between the two European powers, and will intensify their cooperation in fields ranging from cultural exchanges through security to climate protection and energy transition, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel say in a joint declaration. “France and Germany strive to further expand Franco-German cooperation in order to meet the political, social, economic, and technological challenges of the coming decades,” the heads of government say. “Our goal is to develop common positions on all of the important European and international topics,” they add.
dena / ADEME
The German Energy Agency (dena) and its French counterpart ADEME welcome the initiative to renew the seminal Élysée Treaty between the two countries, and to intensify cooperation in many areas, including energy policy and climate protection, the dena says in a press release. “The energy transition is a European project of progress, which should be at the centre of Franco-German cooperation,” dena head Andreas Kuhlmann says. He says that technical committees from the two countries should meet to align their positions and push the development of a European energy union. ADEME Executive Director Francois Moisan says cross-border projects, such as the Franco-German smart grid initiative, could serve as examples of cooperation that could be expanded to other European countries as well.
Find the press release in German here.
The transformation of public transport in Germany towards low-emission vehicles is beginning to gain traction, Michael Bauchmüller writes in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Figures compiled by consultancy PwC show that municipalities across the country plan to purchase over 160 e-buses this year, “almost doubling their total number” in German cities, Bauchmüller says. Hansjörg Arnold of PwC says that “we recognise that it starts to get off the ground,” adding that the debate over air pollution caused by diesel cars in German cities has increased pressure on policymakers and the car industry to provide cleaner alternatives. However, “e-buses cost about twice as much as conventional models, infrastructure costs not included,” he says, and in order to replace the country’s entire bus fleet, 3,000 new e-buses would have to be put in circulation each year.
Find the article in German here (paywall).