In the media: Public utilities, lignite, RWE, and Germany's performance in Lima
“Electricity crime story”
Wherever they can afford it, German towns and municipalities have been buying back power grids and gas supply networks and are beginning to generate their own power from solar parks and wind turbines or biomass, Heribert Prantl writes in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. 72 new stadtwerke (public utilities) and almost 1,000 energy cooperatives were founded between 2005 and 2013, while the large utility companies E.ON, Vattenfall, RWE and EnBW lost ground, the article says. This trend is ongoing. But a new interpretation of the energy-economy law - the wording of the law hasn’t changed - has been adopted by a growing number of courts, making it more difficult for municipalities to buy back their energy infrastructure. Municipalities have to issue invitations to tender and then apply themselves alongside the big competitors, Prantl explains. The advantages that municipalities have over the big private utilities - such as citizen participation, environmental concerns, job-creation and regional revenue - are not considered by this process. The Black Forest town of Titisee-Neustadt has filed a complaint over the issue with the German Constitutional Court, in what Prantle says will be a test case for the future of the German energy supply.
taz – die tageszeitung
“Energy transition very popular in North Rhine-Westphalia”
88 percent of people in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) consider the Energiewende to be “entirely right” or “rather correct” even though many jobs in the region still depend on the coal industry, reports the taz, citing a survey by the NRW consumer organisation.
See the article in German here.
“Difficult times for RWE”
In contrast to E.ON, RWE's management is doing nothing to adapt to the Energiewende, writes Frank Dohmen in Der Spiegel. Instead of investing in renewable energy sources and phasing out lignite operations, CEO Peter Terium has promised shareholders 600 million euros in dividends and wants, as far as possible, to avoid lay-offs, Dohmen says. RWE has debts of 31 billion euros.
“Uncertain future for lignite”
In a piece for Tagesspiegel’s “new energy” magazine, Kevin P. Hoffmann and K. Bock-Häggmark write that the announcement by Swedish state-owned utility Vattenfall of the possible sale of its Lausitz lignite operations, have caused great concern in east Germany. In Sweden, the article says, environmental campaigners had little success getting the state’s involvement in German lignite operations onto the political agenda until Vattenfall posted losses as a result of its costly purchase of Dutch utility Nuon, and the Green Party became a minor party in the red-green coalition government in October. Now, there is much speculation over the operations’ future. The authors say Vattenfall’s company policy requires it to turn a profit while promoting a transition to renewable energy but it is not currently achieving either.
See the article in German here.
“Dietmar Woidke interview: ‘Lignite has its drawbacks’”
In an interview for Berlin-Brandenburg radio, Dietmar Woidke, state premier of Brandenburg, where the future of lignite operations has been put in question by their planned sale by Vattenfall, admitted that energy generation from lignite was not a model for the future, saying their environmental impact “could not be argued away.” But he insisted that renewable power also had its disadvantages and, for the time being, lignite would be needed to ensure a stable power supply.
See the interview in German here.
“Merkel demands new power lines”
The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports on Angela Merkel’s appearance at the party conference of the CSU – the sister party to Merkel’s CDU. In a speech, the chancellor referred to the planned grid extension for southern Germany, which has faced opposition from CSU head Horst Seehofer, saying “We need the grid extension and we need sensible solutions for security of supply.” Seehofer said that a single position on the issue needed to be clarified, the newspaper reports.
“SolarWorld revives Bosch factory”
The Handelsblatt reports on plans to revive production at a factory that Bosch sold to SolarWorld six months ago, when the former was ridding itself of its solar operations. The new owners will put the factory to work producing ingots, which are used in the manufacture of photovoltaic cells. The article say that as SolarWorld currently buys ingots on the international market, the move will increase its level of vertical integration.
Read the article in German here.
Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB)
“Climate summit paves the way for a comprehensive climate protection agreement”
The document agreed on at the climate conference in Lima contains the first outline of a climate protection agreement to be finalised in Paris in 2015, reads a press release by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. The countries represented in Lima could not agree on what legal form the agreement will take and it was not decided what share of the necessary greenhouse gas reductions will be taken on by which countries. Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks commented: “All nations have to do their homework now and present their contribution to climate protection in order to make Paris a success. The rigid divide between industrial and developing nations is no longer appropriate to our time. We have seen in Lima that things are moving forward. Developing nations like Peru, Columbia and Indonesia have paid into the Green Climate Fund. When it comes to climate protection, all countries are now demanded to act.”
See the press release in German here.
“Minister Barbara Hendricks has difficulties at the UN climate summit”
The Federal Minister for the Environment Barbara Hendricks has achieved much on German climate policy, ensuring the country had something to show in Lima by leading the cabinet in Berlin to decide on new climate action measures days before the UN conference began. She also added another 50 million euro-contribution to the climate adaptation fund, Der Spiegel reports. But overall, Hendricks' negotiating skills let her down on the international stage in Lima, the Spiegel article says. Her straightforward approach did not work in the world of diplomatic compromise and she left Lima before the final negotiations were finished.