21 Jun 2017, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Merkel focusses on power grid / Germans back diesel bans

Clean Energy Wire

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the parliament (German Bundestag) to find an agreement on national power grid fee alignment before the summer break, said economy minister Brigitte Zypries at the German energy industry conference BDEW Congress in Berlin. “We have to manage that now,” Zypries quoted the chancellor saying after today’s cabinet meeting. The parliament only has two weeks of sessions left before the summer break.
The grand coalition’s (CDU/CSU, SPD) federal cabinet had introduced a draft for a grid fee reform in January without provisions to standardise fees, because of the state elections in North Rhine Westphalia. After the elections, Social Democrat energy politician and member of the Bundestag Hubertus Heil told news agency Dow Jones that his party wants a nationwide alignment.

See the CLEW factsheet Power grid fees – Unfair and opaque? for more information.

German Federal Government

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the expansion of the country’s power grid an “absolute priority” for the next legislative period. At a convention of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Merkel said Germany was “lagging behind on all fronts” in ensuring that power is being transmitted to where it is consumed, thereby impairing the marketability of renewables. Merkel acknowledged the role of the European Union in advancing Germany’s switch to renewables, saying the switch to auctions might not have been achieved without European pressure and calling for the creation of a common European energy market. The Chancellor also told industry representatives that “we’ve bargained very intensively for industry rebates in Brussels". She said her government would seek to ensure that rebates will persist, adding that ongoing low investments by energy-intensive enterprises were a cause for concern.

See the CLEW dossier Vote2017 – German elections and the Energiewende for more information.

Banning diesel cars from entering inner cities at times of high air pollution is the right way to protect public health, a majority of Germans says according to a representative survey commissioned by the Stern magazine. While 59 percent of respondents said they backed the bans for cars not fulfilling the new Euro 6-emissions norm that is currently discussed in cities like Munich, Stuttgart or Hamburg, 38 percent said they rejected them. Asked about the technology’s commercial future, 38 percent said diesel engines would probably effectively disappear from the market in the medium-term due to the pressure caused by possible driving bans. But 54 percent said the technology would survive. At the same time, only 18 percent said they would opt for a diesel if they were to buy a new car today.

Find the article in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier BMW, Daimler, and VW vow to fight in green transport revolution.

Federation of German Industries (BDI)

Germany’s most powerful industry federation BDI regards a fundamental reform of the country’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG) as necessary to ensure competitiveness, BDI president Dieter Kempf said in a press release. Kempf said energy policy should be made a focus for political parties in the next legislative period, where “cost cuts” were a necessity for industry. Kempf said cutting energy taxes was “totally ineffective” and would not increase competiveness, whereas the “cost burden” from the EEG levy, which is paid by 96 percent of industrial companies, was “a top priority” for reform.

Find the press release in English here.

See the CLEW dossiers The reform of the Renewable Energy Act and Energiewende effects on power prices, costs and industry for background.

Clean Energy Wire

The planned Russian-German natural gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2 is currently the “most controversial and difficult question of EU energy security”, said Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), at the German energy industry conference BDEW Congress in Berlin. Ischinger supported foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel’s criticism that US Senate plans to further tighten economic sanctions on Russia could threaten Europe’s energy security. “But don’t think for one second that we will have the support from our Polish, Baltic or other partners on this issue,” said Ischinger. If the EU wanted a common foreign policy “which deserves that name and will be respected by Washington, Moscow and Beijing”, it needed a “credible common energy policy”, said Ischinger. Otherwise, it would be easy for other powers to “plant discord” within the EU.

See the CLEW dossier The Energiewende's implications for international security for background.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) has annoyed its traditional allies the Green Party by rejecting the construction of the SuedLink and SuedOstlink power transmission highways, Christian Sebald writes in Süddeutsche Zeitung. BUND “firmly believes in a decentralised energy transition” and therefore challenges a national compromise that wants to minimise the transmission highway’s impact by laying them underground, Sebald says. The Greens regard construction of the transmission highways as inevitable and fear that the BUND’s adamant rejection might alienate political supporters. Eike Hallitzky, head of the Bavarian Greens, says his party’s conflict with the BUND was “painful”. “It’s as though your wife is berating you. Nobody likes that.”

Read the article in German here.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Heat pumps as an alternative to fossil fuels for heating could be a viable option for northern German regions but less so in the country’s south, Harald Czycholl writes in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Northern German regions, like neighbouring Denmark, can use excess wind power capacities for heating purposes and replace gas and oil systems, Czycholl says. But given the low output of solar plants in southern Germany during winter and the relatively low number of wind turbines there, heat pumps currently would be “counterproductive” as electric heating elements would only put further strain on local grids, he writes. However, “there will be no way around using power as a primary energy vector” in the long run, Czycholl says.

See this short CLEW interview with BNE director Robert Busch for background.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Central German federal state Hesse is about to inaugurate its 1,000th wind turbine, putting it firmly on its way to ending the state’s reliance on nuclear power, Hesse’s economy minister Tarek al-Wazir told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “We’ll tear [nuclear plant] Biblis down, and have saved as much CO2 between 2014 and 2016 as 550,000 cars emit [with the new wind turbines],” Green politician al-Wazir said. The Energiewende’s costs had to be contrasted with “900 reportable events” in the now decomissioned nuclear plant, “1,800 tonnes of radioactive waste and estimated disposal and storage costs of about 2.5 billion euros,” according to al-Wazir.

See the CLEW dossier Onshore wind power in Germany for background.

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