03 Sep 2015, 00:00
Sören Amelang Kerstine Appunn Ellen Thalman

In the media: Germany to block utilities' escape from nuclear clean-up costs

Die Zeit / Spiegel Online / Reuters

Utilities must remain liable for nuclear clean-up costs

Energy companies are to remain liable for the cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants and storing radioactive waste, even if they spin off nuclear operations into a different company and cease to own a majority share, according to a new draft law, seen by Die Zeit. Current rules limit the liability of the parent company for former subsidiaries to five years. E.ON’s announcement to split into two companies in 2016 and Vattenfall’s separation of Swedish and German operations have raised concerns that utilities might break up their operations just to avoid paying.
E.ON said it would take legal action against the law, Spiegel Online reports. Government departments are currently discussing the draft law.

Read the Spiegel Online article in German here and a short Reuters report in English here.


Frankfurter Rundschau

“Gabriel has to remain tough”

Economy and energy minister Sigmar Gabriel, who has launched a draft law that would hold utilities liable for the nuclear clean-up (see above), has opted for tough action vis-a-vis power companies, writes Thorsten Knuf in an op-ed for the Frankfurter Rundschau. His move comes just as E.ON is preparing to split its conventional and renewable operations next year. This time, Gabriel has to remain staunch and not give in to the utilities like he did with the climate levy. Nuclear power plants used to be “true money-printing machines”, and it would be a “moral scandal” if the taxpayer, rather than plant operators, had to pay for the nuclear clean-up, Knuf says.



“Offshore windparks: Windmills are firing on all cylinders”

A number of offshore windparks are hooking up to the grid, with the largest park this year coming on line Wednesday, writes the Handelsblatt. Hamburg Global Tech 1, with 80 windmills and a capacity of 400 megawatts, will supply around 445,000 households with power. The 1.8 billion-euro project is one of several large offshore parks to go live this year, after some hiccups led to costly start-up delays, the Handelsblatt says.  According to an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the park could save Germany up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Read the Handelsblatt article in German here.

Read the FAZ article in German here.



“Berlin introduces world’s first wirelessly charged electric bus in a capital city”

The Berlin Transport Authority has introduced 12 electric buses , expected to save around 260 tonnes of C02 emissions in one year, covering around 200,000 kilometres, writes Katie Sadler for Eurotransport. Rainer Bomba, state secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport says the government is injecting 4.1 million euros into the project to promote electric mobility, the author writes.

Read the article in English here.


Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy

“Pathways to deep decarbonisation in Germany”

Drastically cutting CO2 emissions in Germany in order to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius requires a sustained commitment of politics and society over decades, according to a new study by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. This should be feasible, but only if the public debate is less fixated on potential short-term disadvantages of the transition to a low-carbon future, says Manfred Fischedick, the institute’s vice-president. “We need to emphasise the fact that the implementation of decarbonisation … also leads to significant additional advantages for society in other areas,” says Fischedick, citing better air quality, increased innovation dynamics and export opportunities for companies as examples.
According to the study, there are three “key strategies” that strongly contribute to emissions reduction: strong efficiency improvements, increased use of domestic renewable energy sources, and extensive electrification of processes, such as electricity-based heat supply and electric vehicles, as well as the use of renewable electricity-based synthetic gases/fuels (power to gas/fuels) in the medium-to-long term. “In the last two decades, Germany has proven quite successful in the dissemination of renewable energy sources. This momentum needs to be maintained and further progress achieved. In contrast, energy efficiency improvements have so far fallen short of their potentials”, the press release states.
To achieve emissions cuts of at least 90 percent by 2050 will require additional strategies, such as cutting energy demand through behavioural changes, use of carbon capture and storage technology (CCS), as well as a reduction in non-C02 emissions, especially in agriculture and industry, according to the study.   

Read a summary in English here and the full study here.

“28 billion annually for the Energiewende?”

Calculations that put a very high price tag onto the Energiewende, such as the recent estimate by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW), citing annual costs of 28 billion euros in the power sector alone,  fail to consider subsequent savings, argues Craig Morris on “In 2014, Germany earned 1.75 billion euros from power trading, primarily because low wholesale prices (partly brought about by renewables) have led to record power exports,” says Morris. He also cites a study by Siemens that found renewable energy offset 31.6 billion euros in conventional electricity in 2013. Thus, according to these estimates, savings would amount to around 33 billion euros, says Morris. “Subtract that from 28 million, and the Energiewende saves Germans around 5 billion annually. Likewise, the estimates of external costs (health impacts, etc.) would make the savings even greater.”

Read the analysis in English here.



“Transport sector requires fundamental change”

Germany’s energy transition hasn't made a dent in the transport sector yet, according to a study by management consultancy pwc. “This is true both for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a press release. The study investigates various scenarios for an Energiewende in transport. “Only in a single scenario, that of electro mobility, it is possible to reduce final energy consumption by 40 percent by 2050. To achieve this, the share of electric vehicles would have to increase from almost zero to 39 percent, and the share of hybrid vehicles from 0.2 to 23 percent.” Hybrid cars have the best chance for a breakthrough in the market, as opposed to purely battery-powered e-cars, which can run for much shorter distances.

Find the study (which was first published in June) in German here.


Arne Jungjohann/Natascha Spörle

“Sticks and Carrots: Germany’s approach to renewable heating”

The heating sector is the Energiewende’s sleeping giant, but the sector is slow to change and the share of renewables in heating is stagnating, according to a short policy paper by researchers Arne Jungjohann and Natascha Spörle. The authors analyse the policy framework at EU and national level, as well in two German frontrunner states. The paper concludes that Germany’s renewable heating market is set to grow in the short term because of fresh financial support, but might subsequently run into trouble because of funding uncertainty. The authors also believe impulses from the EU will improve the federal policy framework in the medium term. Lastly, the study finds that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for renewable heating policies, as new technologies need to adapt to local and regional structures.  

Read the study (first published in June) in English here.

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