29 Jun 2017, 00:00
Sven Egenter Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Merkel determined to defend Paris deal at G20 / "Fossil surcharge"

Clean Energy Wire

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is determined to lead the climate negotiations at the G20 summit in Hamburg “in a way that they serve the content and goal of the Paris Agreement”, she said in a government declaration before the federal parliament. After the US’s withdrawal from the accord, “we cannot expect easy negotiations in Hamburg. The dissent is obvious, and it would be insincere by us to whitewash it. I will not do that”. “We want to and must cope with the existential challenge posed by climate change, and we cannot and will not wait until the last person on the planet can be convinced of the scientific knowledge of climate change,” said Merkel. Merkel today hosts a meeting of the European leaders who will take part in the Hamburg summit.

Find a video of the speech in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet German reactions to US decision to withdraw from Paris Agreement and the CLEW article Merkel vows to convince climate sceptic “elephant in the room”.

The ongoing cost debate over Germany’s transition from fossil to renewable energy sources could give the impression that the “Energiewende means saying farewell to super-cheap energy”, reports. “But that is not the case,” the article says. While Germany’s renewables surcharge transparently fixed the price for green energy expansion at 6.88 cents per kilowatt hour, “old energy sources receive state subsidies, tax allowances and only have to pay for a fraction of the environmental and health costs they cause,” the article says. NGO Green Budget Germany (FÖS) puts these “hidden costs” of fossil fuels for the taxpayer somewhere between 33 billion and 38 billion euros in 2017, while about 25 billion euros went into renewables. If the costs were included in the power price, it would jump from 29 to 39 ct/kWh, making a hypothetical “fossil energy surcharge” almost 50 percent higher than that for renewables, says.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW factsheets What German households pay for power and Germany ponders how to finance renewables expansion in the future for additional information.

Clean Energy Wire

A plan for an exit from coal-fired power generation in Germany will not necessarily be the result of the structural commission agreed by the current government in the country’s climate action plan 2050. That was the claim made by Michael Vassiliadis, head of miners’ union IGBCE, as well as Green member of parliament Oliver Krischer at a conference of the Boell Foundation, which is linked to the Green Party. “Let’s see how the election turns out,” he said with respect to the set-up of the government after September's federal vote. Vassiliadis said he opposed a planned coal exit, especially as lignite mining and use would come to an end by the middle of the century anyway. Germany’s environment ministry had originally put a commission to deal with the details of a coal exit into the country’s long-term strategy plan to decarbonise the economy. But the mandate of the commission for “Growth, Structural Change and Regional Development” to be set up in 2018 was broadened without explicitly mentioning coal at all.

Find details on how green pioneer Germany struggles to meet its own climate targets in a CLEW dossier, including factsheets on the Climate Action Plan 2050 and the question “when the country might ditch coal”.

Nature / Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

The former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, and a group of scientists including Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) set out a six-point plan for turning the tide of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, the PIK said in a press release. The group’s proposals in an article for the scientific journal Nature include: pushing renewables to 30 percent of total electricity supply, electric vehicles making up 15 percent of new car sales globally, and mobilising 1 trillion US dollars a year for climate action. Ahead of the summit in Hamburg next week, the authors call on the member states to highlight the importance of the 2020 climate turning point for greenhouse-gas emissions.

Find the PIK press release in English here and find the article in Nature in English here.

See the CLEW dossier The energy transition and climate change for more information.

Green Budget Germany

The fraction of Germany’s budget generated by taxing economic activities harmful to the environment and the climate is declining, according to calculations by NGO Green Budget Germany (FÖS). Just 4.3 percent of the public budget - less than the EU-average of 5 percent - stem from this source, “providing few incentives to reduce pollution or resource consumption”, FÖS says in a press release. Germany’s former finance minister Hans Eichel, member of the FÖS board, says the country had to “come back to a constructive budget and tax policy to reach its self-imposed goals in line with the Paris Climate Agreement”. FÖS director Björn Klusmann says Germany should bring the share of sustainability taxes up to 10 percent and introduce a CO2 price of 30 euros per tonne to complement the “insufficient” European Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Read the press release in German here.

See the CLEW factsheet How Energiewende policy is shaped for more information.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

German car supplier Schaeffler’s lower profit expectation might herald a watershed for the country’s entire automotive industry, Max Hägler writes in Süddeutsche Zeitung. The supplier’s plunge in the stock market could be a “warning shot” that electric mobility “will make earning money more difficult” both for carmakers and their suppliers, Hägler argues. “Roughly speaking, an electric car is not half as complex as a car with a combustion engine,” he says, meaning that suppliers can sell fewer components. The Centre Automotive Research (CAR) of Duisburg-Essen University estimates that half of Schaeffler’s turnover is made with combustion engine parts, Hägler says. The supplier from Bavaria is therefore especially susceptible to changes brought about by the e-car, but “other suppliers like Bosch or Continental will also suffer”, he says.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers for background.

Zeit Online

Mobility in Germany used to be equated with auto-mobility but an increasing number of young people never own a car or even get a driving licence, Green Party MP Matthias Gastel writes in a guest article on Zeit Online. Young Germans preferred to use a combination of options to get around, including  shared driving, train, bus or bicycle. “Policy has to pick up this societal change” and work towards a better connection of different means of transportation, Gastel says. This would at once improve the tansport sector’s sluggish emissions reduction, abate congestion problems and protect natural resources, he argues. “But the decisive argument is that unnecessary waiting threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he says. The end of the combustion engine will come one way or another and Germany risks losing market share “if we cling to old transport concepts”.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s transport sector for background.

Spiegel Online

The growing reliance of Germany’s power system on renewable energy sources means the country will have to increase efforts to find viable long-term power storage solutions, Stefan Schultz writes on Spiegel Online. The German government has no sound concept of how to counter the threat posed by so-called “Dunkelflaute” - periods with very little sun and wind that usually occur in winter, Schultz says. Instead, it merely ponders importing more electricity from abroad in times of need. But Greenpeace Energy says this won’t work because “Dunkelflaute” usually happens in many European countries at once. Germany’s planned nuclear exit and contemplated coal exit were going to reduce conventional power fall-back options, making progress in expanding hydropower storage and power-to-gas technologies more important, Schultz writes.

Read the article in German here.

See the CLEW factsheet How can Germany keep the lights on in a renewable energy future? for background.

German Parliament

Germany’s parliament (Bundestag) has voted to allow tenants to directly source their electricity from solar panels on their roofs, the parliament has said in a press release. The so-called “tenant electricity” concept says that landlords receive a premium when they provide solar power directly to the residents or neighbours of a house and do not use the grid to sell the power elsewhere. About 3.8 million households could benefit from the new rules, according to a study by the economy ministry (BMWi), the Bundestag says. “We’re increasing the Energiewende’s impact in the cities,” the governing conservatives (CDU/CSU) said. The opposition Left Party and Green Party claimed that taxation considerations might keep landlords from selling their solar power this way. They also argued the limitation of premiums to 500 megawatt per year was far from exploiting tenant electricity’s full potential.

Read the press release in German here.

See the CLEW dossier Cities, municipalities, and the Energiewende for more information.

Spiegel Online

Solar modules provided about one-third of Germany’s power in June but fell short of reaching record output volumes despite seemingly perfect weather conditions, Ralph Diermann writes on Spiegel Online. The country’s 1.6 million PV modules produced 30.6 gigawatt (GW) on 30 April, almost as much as on the current peak day 27 May, when solar power systems generated 30.7 GW and solar radiation on average is much stronger, Diermann says. “Solar modules lose electric tension when they become hot,” which brings down their capacity, explains Fraunhofer ISE researcher Ralf Preu. At 35 degrees Celsius, their capacity is roughly six percent below what they produce at 20 degrees, he says. “This nullifies the advantage of stronger solar radiation,” Diermann writes.

Read the article in German here

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