25 Nov 2014, 00:00
Kerstine Appunn Ellen Thalman

In the media: Making sense of the coal "roller coaster"

Dow Jones Newswires

"Gabriel's coal proposal: utilities keep calm"

German utilities are prepared to shut down some power stations, reports Dow Jones Newswires. They agreed to Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel's proposition to cut emissions from the sector by 22 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020. The idea is that every supplier receives an annual CO2 budget but can decide for itself how to achieve emission reductions. After talking to the representatives of large utilities, Gabriel reiterated that power from lignite was going to be needed in the years and decades to come, says the article.



"Bitter fight over coal"

Energy and mining trade union IG BCE opposes Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s plan to shut down a number of coal-fired power stations, write Jürgen Flauger and Klaus Stratmann in the Handelsblatt. The IG BCE worries that shutting down power stations would endanger growth and jobs.  Of the four large utilities, RWE and Vattenfall are the most nervous about the emission caps the minister plans to impose on the power sector. In the case of Vattenfall, which wants to sell its German lignite branch, the debate could make a sale more difficult, the paper reports.

See the article in German here.

"Gabriel’s soft coal turn-around"

Current Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, together with Chancellor Angela Merkel, was the architect of the 40 percent greenhouse gas reduction goal in 2007 – but he recently gave the impression that he would like to abandon it in favour of thousands of jobs in the German coal industry, writes Georg Ismar (dpa). Now Gabriel has decided on a soft coal turn-around (Kohle-Wende) by cutting 22 million tonnes of CO2 from the power sector by 2020. That sounds a lot, but the 500 German power stations emit 341 million tonnes of CO2 per year. If 4.4 million tonnes are avoided annually from 2016 onwards, emissions will decline to 319 million tonnes by 2020, the author calculates.

See the article in German here.



"In the end there will be a deal"

Dagmar Dahmer describes the complex political situation surrounding the debate about coal use in power production in. Big industry in the form of board members from the RWE energy concern has joined forces with unions to protest shutdowns and job losses in the Ruhr Valley, putting Energy and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel in a difficult situation, she argues. Dehmer writes that now may be the time to look for a “pragmatic” compromise. One idea would be for taxpayers to bear the burden of possible insolvencies in the nuclear branch, whose closure the big four utilities are also bearing. This could appease the utilities and make other efforts toward clean energy (like exiting coal) more palatable, she writes.

Read the article in German here.


Frankfurter Rundschau

"Clever Gabriel"

First he portrayed himself as “the friend of coal,” then Sigmar Gabriel shuts down coal power plants, writes Joachim Wille in an opinion piece for the Frankfurter Rundschau. The Economy Minister has presented himself as a man of the middle who keeps the right distance from both the demands of environmentalists, trade unions and utilities. But Gabriel’s plan for coal leaves one question open: the greenhouse gas reductions that are needed to fulfil Germany’s climate target are much bigger than the 22 million tonnes CO2 the minister wants to avoid in the next five years, writes Wille. Gabriel will have to adjust his policy accordingly – if not now, then in the years to come.



Opinion: Gabriel's "shiftiness"

In an opinion piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of its publishers, Holger Steltzner, writes that Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel is showing is propensity for caprice again. First, he spoke up for industry and affordable electricity, saying that any emissions avoided by closing down coal plants in Germany would lead to more emissions abroad, Steltzner writes. Now he wants to legislate emission caps for utilities, obliging them to close down stations after all, he points out. Gabriel is trying to solve a problem no country can solve alone. And now utilities will make sure they are paid handsomely to keep some of their retired power stations on stand-by for days when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, the author writes.

See the op-ed in German here.



"Action programme climate protection 2020: Consequences of potential power station retirement"

In a study for the German industry association BDI, r2b energy consulting and the Hamburger Weltwirtschaftsinstitut (HWWI) show how shutting down around 10 gigawatts of coal capacity in Germany (6.3 in lignite and 3.7 in hard coal) would affect electricity prices and jobs in the power sector and related areas. The researchers found that 59 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved in Germany but calculated that emissions in other parts of Europe would increase by 32 million tonnes. That is because power stations outside Germany would increase generation to make up for power previously imported from Germany. The electricity price on the wholesale market would rise by seven euros per megawatt-hour which would cause a loss of around 40,000  jobs by 2020, the model used by the reserachers shows. An additional 24,000 jobs could be lost in and around the lignite industry. The BDI’s Director General Markus Kerber said: „Our study shows clearly: shutting down power stations damages the competitivenes of German industry without any benefit for the climate.“

A study by the German Institute for Economics (DIW) published last week, showed that consumer prices for electricity would likely remain stable, despite a 13-euro per megawatt-hour rise on the wholesale market. The average wholesale market price in 2013 is 38 euros per megawatt-hour. It was 51 euros in 2011, according to the DIW.

See the BDI study in German here.

See the DIW study in German here.

See a report by FAZ in German here.


Süddeutsche Zeitung

"A question of coal"

The coal exit study by industry association BDI came exactly at the right time, says Michael Bauchmüller in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. It shows how the debate about the future of Germany’s power stations divides the business sector. While manufacturing industries fear rising electricity prices if coal power is phased out, the four large utilities could even benefit from such plan, he says. This is because the retirement of existing over-capacity would increase prices and thereby earnings for the remaining power stations, Bauchmüller explains. Nevertheless, power producers will only agree to an emission cap if it doesn't come with disadvantages, i.e. if they get compensation. Otherwise there might be lawsuits looming, similar to the ones some utilities filed after the nuclear phase-out.

See the article in German here.


Renewables International

“German coal roller coaster”

Recently proposed measures to shut down German coal plants resemble the nuclear phase-out the country initiated in 2002, writes Craig Morris on Renewables International. Back then, nuclear power plants were allocated service lifetimes and a number of kilowatt-hours each plant could still produce. Now, Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel is using the same idea of allotments for carbon emissions for the entire coal sector and plant operators will be able to decide which ones should be switched off and when.

See the article in English here.


Financial Times

"German plea to Sweden over threat to coal mines"

German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel warned in a letter to the Swedish prime minister of “serious consequences” for jobs and the power supply if Sweden fails to expand coal mines in Germany, the FT reports. Vattenfall says it wants to shift its portfolio into renewable energy investments and is considering selling German lignite mines and power plants, which it points out conforms to Germany’s Energiewende, the paper reports. Vattenfall was displeased when Germany decided to shut down nuclear plants in 2011 as part of its transition to clean energy. It is suing the government for €4.7 billion in compensation.

Read the article in English here.

Read a related Clean Energy Wire article from 11 Nov here.


The Milwaukee Sentinel

"In Energy, Germany is ahead of Wisconsin"

The editorial page editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel, David Haynes, opines after returning from a fellowship in Germany that, although he wouldn’t export the Energiewende in its entirety to the US, Germany has likely ushered in a major shift into new technologies and out of “old-line business.” He compares the Germans “ambition and willingness to take on one of the world’s toughest problems” to political decisions in Wisconsin that he describes as “uneven” and likely to stifle the growth of renewable energy in that state.

Read the op-ed in English here.


Spiegel Online

"Germans aren’t afraid of Russian gas boycott"

A majority of 1,005 Germans polled at the end of October by Spiegel Online said they were not worried about gas supplies for the coming winter, despite the political crisis between the Ukraine and Russia, Europe’s largest gas supplier. 68.9 percent of those surveyed said they see little or no reason to be worried, while 16.7 percent said they were a little worried.

Read the article in German here.

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