In the media: Greenpeace enters race for Vattenfall's coal operations
Bloomberg Business, Greenpeace, Süddeutsche Zeitung
“Greenpeace says can find cash to buy Vattenfall coal assets”
Bloomberg Business reports that Greenpeace has registered its interest in buying Vattenfall’s German brown coal operations, in a bid to keep the fossil fuel resources in the ground. The plants and mines are worth 2 - 3 billion euros, according to an analyst at Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg quoted by Bloomberg. The environmental organisation said it could fund the acquisition with “donor money, crowd-funding and other sources of financing”, and pointed out that the final price may be affected by policies to phase out coal. Vattenfall wrote down the value of its German lignite operations by 1.6 billion in July. Guido Hoymann, an analyst at B. Metzler Seel Sohn & Co. KGaA told Bloomberg Greenpeace’s announcement may be aimed at forcing the government to make a binding statement on the future of brown coal in Germany.
Greenepace Sweden said in a press release that the Swedish government, which owns 100 percent of Vattenfall, had a responsibility to keep the utility’s brown coal assets in the ground. “The Swedish government cannot contribute to an acquisition by a buyer that would continue to burn enormous amounts of coal. This is a signal Sweden cannot give before the Paris climate conference,” Annika Jacobson, Greenpeace Sweden programme manager said in the statement.
In a report for Süddeutsche Zeitung, Michael Bauchmüller said if it was successful in its acquisition, Greenpeace would close the power plants and cease mining operations but it was not clear what it would do with the around 8,000 workers employed there.
See the Bloomberg article in English here.
See the Süddeutsche Zeitung report here.
See CLEW’s factsheet on coal in Germany here.
“Energy 2015: A competitive market design for the Energiewende”
Government plans for the reform of the electricity market carry significant risks, warns the Monopolies Commission, an independent expert committee that advises the German government and legislature on competition policy, law and regulation. In its special report, the commission criticises the capacity reserve for lignite power plants, arguing it will “entail high costs, but not reduce CO2 emissions as these are pre-defined by the EU emissions trading system.”
The commission welcomes a new tender systems for renewables, but criticises that the system continues to differentiate between generating technologies such as wind and solar. It recommends technology-neutral auctions instead. It also advocates examining alternatives to grid extensions, for example by regionally steering renewable installations. "Only the consequent use of competitive instruments for the implementation of the Energiewende can effectively limit the costs of the Energiewende," says the commission’s chair Daniel Zimmer.
The German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) stressed in a press release on the commission’s finding that competition in the German power market has increased significantly over recent years.
Read a summary of the commission’s Special Report in English here.
Read the CLEW factsheet about the government power market reform proposal here.
“The end of the ‘Big Four's energy monopoly’”
The Monopolies Commission’s report is testimony to the rapid changes in the German energy market, which is no longer dominated by large utilities, writes Daniel Wetzel in Die Welt. Only four years ago, the commission had complained of a lack of competition, because E.ON, RWE, Vattenfall and EnBW owned more than 80 percent of German power generation capacity. “Now, the picture has changed fundamentally”, writes Wetzel. According to the new report, the ‘Big Four’ no longer dominate the market. They still own 62 percent of conventional power generation, but that share has lost significance because of the rise of renewables, according to Wetzel. “With its judgement, the guardians of competition declare the effective end of the energy giants’ epoch in Germany,” he writes.
Proponents of green energy have already adapted their rhetoric, writes Wetzel. Instead of the “evil giants”, who nowadays only evoke pity, the “coal lobby” has become the new bogeyman of environmental activists, which also includes employees, unions and regional politicians, according to Wetzel.
Read the article in Die Welt in German here.
See CLEW’s dossier on the energy transition’s impact on utilities here.
German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE)
“BEE Forecast: Renewable surcharge to stay stable or rise slightly in 2016”
The renewable energy surcharge consumers pay with their power bills will stay stable or rise slightly in the coming year, according to the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE). The Federation forecasts a surcharge between 6.2 and 6.5 cents per KWh, up from the current 6.17 cents. The BEE said even if the surcharge rises slightly, consumer power prices should remain stable because of the decrease in wholesale prices. Think tank Agora Energiewende forecast in mid-September that the surcharge would rise to between 6.4 and 6.6 cents per KWh. The surcharge for 2016 will be announced next week, on 15 October.
Read the Agora press release in German here.
Find a CLEW factsheet explaining how the green energy surcharge works here.
Find the factsheet “What German households pay for power” here.
"Promise of turning pollution into cash spurs industry in Germany"
German energy-intensive companies are coming up with ways to turn their efforts to cut carbon emissions into profitable business ideas, in a bid to gain a head start as more than 12,000 firms in the EU carbon market come under pressure to speed up their emissions cuts, Tino Andresen writes for Bloomberg Business. The article cites examples from HeidelbergCement, ThyssenKrupp and Bayer AG's Covestro plastics unit.
“I don’t see a chance for a CO2-intensive industry in Europe if we aren’t able to demonstrate a solution,” Reinhold Achatz, ThyssenKrupp’s head of research and development, told Bloomberg Business in an interview.
Read the article here.
“Underground cables instead of overhead power lines”
In order to strengthen public acceptance of major grid extensions, the government cabinet has decided to put more power cables underground. “Where people live, overhead direct current extra-high voltage power lines will be outlawed in the future. They should be installed underground,” the cabinet said in a press release. Alternating current lines will have to remain mostly overland because there is not enough experience of putting them underground, according to the statement. “But the number of pilot projects in this area will be increased once more.”
Energy minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement: “Now the road is clear for the urgently needed extension of power grids. We need this to make the Energiewende a success.” According to Handelsblatt, the additional cost of burying power cables will amount to between 3 and 8 billion euros.
Read the government press release in German here.
See CLEW's dossier on the German power grid here.
Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI)
“The Burden of Germany’s Energy Transition – An Empirical Analysis of Distributional Effects”
Economists at RWI and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum’s economics department, among others, have suggested cash transfers to support poorer households suffering from rising electricity prices. In a study, the researchers estimate that in 2012 households at risk of poverty allocated an average of 5.5 percent of their income to power, and said targets for the expansion of renewables mean households’ expenditure on power could be expected to rise in the coming years. “This raises the urgent question of how to mitigate the regressive impact of further increasing electricity prices on poor households,” the study says, suggesting that direct cash transfers could ease the burden of high prices on “those endangered by energy poverty.”
See the report in English here.
Read a CLEW article on the power price and their effect on poor people here.
“Hendricks surprises industry with offer”
Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said that everything would be done to ensure industry is not driven out of Europe to regions with less ambitious emissions regulations, including ensuring a sufficient supply of carbon credits for energy-intensive companies. Plans for how the European emissions trading system (EU ETS) will operate beyond 2020 are currently being debated in Brussels, the paper reports. The article says Hendricks’ statement represents a surprising change of direction, given previous signals indicated industry could expect to be hit hard by reform of the ETS.
See the article in German here.
See CLEW’s factsheet on what businesses think of the Energiewende here.