09 Mar 2018, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

New environment minister member of miners' union & environmental NGO

Clean Energy Wire

Germany’s new minister for the environment and nuclear safety will be Svenja Schulze from the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The 49-year old, from the country’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), will be “an excellent minister” who supports climate action and environmental protection “with her whole heart”, SPD party head Olaf Scholz said at a press conference. Schulze was previously general secretary of the regional SPD group in NRW and served as the state’s science minister from 2010 to 2017. She follows fellow SPD politician Barbara Hendricks, who had served as environment minister since 2013.

Born 29 September, 1968 in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW)

Political & Vocational Career

  • 1988: Joins the Social Democratic Party (SPD); studies German philology and political science
  • 1993 to 1997: leads the SPD youth organisation Jusos in NRW
  • 1996: Joins SPD party executive committee in NRW
  • 1997: Becomes youngest member of NRW state parliament
  • 2000: Leaves parliament to work as a business consultant (BBDO, booz&co.)
  • 2004-2010: Re-enters NRW parliament, serves as SPD environment policy spokeswoman
  • 2010-2017: NRW state minister for innovation, science and research
  • 2017: SPD secretary general in NRW, joins national SPD party executive committee
  • 2018: Joins Cabinet Merkel IV as federal environment minister for the SPD

Memberships & Trivia

  • Member of IG BCE, Germany’s Trade Union for mining, chemicals and energy industries – which is staunchly opposed to a quick end of coal-fired power production in Germany
  • Member of NABU, the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union – to “exert pressure” and push environmental protection, she says
  • In 2011, Schulze warned the public as science minister in NRW that fuel elements from the nuclear research facility in Jülich went missing, causing a major media response. It later turned out that the fuel elements’ storage was not documented properly by the facility.

Find background information in CLEW’s coalition watch.

Der Tagesspiegel

The opening of the low and medium-level nuclear waste final storage facility in the retired iron ore mine Schacht Konrad, near the German town of Salzgitter, will be postponed to 2027, writes Susanne Ehlerding in an article in Der Tagesspiegel. It was originally supposed to be loaded for 30 years from 2022 onward. The delay is due to administrative and regulatory changes, meaning construction company contracts had to be re-negotiated, among other things. State secretary in the environment ministry Jochen Flasbarth said that while the start would be postponed, loading would be accelerated. The facility will be used to store low and medium-level nuclear waste from decommissioned nuclear power plants, such as parts of the building structure.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet What to do with the nuclear waste – the storage question and the dossier The challenges of Germany’s nuclear phase-out.


E.ON should have never begun building the long-delayed hard coal power plant in Datteln, because the energy transition was already in full swing at the start of construction in 2007 and coal “a phase-out model”, writes Jürgen Flauger in an opinion piece in Handelsblatt. “The facility is a symbol for the arrogance with which the established energy industry has ignored the boom of renewable energies for way too long – and had brought onto itself the problems,” writes Flauger. Uniper had said that it cannot rule out further delays to the start of its new hard-coal power plant Datteln 4, “given pending lawsuits”. It was originally scheduled to start operation in 2011.

Find the opinion piece (behind paywall) in German here.

For more information, see the CLEW factsheet When will Germany finally ditch coal?

Spiegel Online

Seven German universities have teamed up to develop an autonomous e-car, competing with automakers and tech giants such as Google and Apple, reports Spiegel Online. RWTH Aachen University – which already developed the successful Streetscooter delivery van for the German postal service, and the small city car e.Go – and six other universities, as well as industry partners, aim to develop a “new disruptive, modular and agile vehicle architecture and platform”, including a prototype for an autonomous family taxi, according to a press release. The four-year project UNICARagil is funded by the federal government.

Read the article in German here and the press release in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The current passionate discussions about diesel cars, air quality and driving bans should be used to kick-start a wide mobility transition dialogue between politicians, the car industry, citizens and environmentalists, writes Martin Gropp in an opinion piece in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This dialogue should be held objectively and without favouring any one technology, to find solutions tailormade for individual municipalities while sharing best practices, writes Gropp. “The discussion must lead to clear solutions fast,” he writes.

For background, read the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s transport sector and the factsheet Diesel driving bans in Germany – The Q&A.

energate messenger / European Commission

The European Commission attests Germany “serious deficits” in certain areas of the energy transition, writes Gerwin Klinger for energate messenger. In the 2018 country report on Germany, the Commission says that Germany is on track to meet its Europe2020 renewables expansion target, but criticises lagging power grid expansion, little energy efficiency achievements, and slow progress on emissions reduction, especially in the transport sector.  

Find the report in English here (energy from p. 49), and the energate article in German here.

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