Clean Energy Wire
Energy state secretary Rainer Baake has quit after four years in charge of Germany’s flagship Energiewende policy at the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Baake, a Green Party politician whose appointment by then economy minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) came as a surprise at the time, criticised the new government’s energy and climate plans in a resignation letter seen by the Clean Energy Wire. The plans for the energy transition (Energiewende) in the new coalition agreement were a “bitter disappointment”, Baake wrote to incoming energy and economy minister Peter Altmaier (CDU). The new government was “missing out on the opportunity to thoroughly modernise Germany’s economy”, Baake said, adding that forces who wanted to preserve old and "climate-damaging” structures had apparently been stronger.
During his time in office, Baake oversaw the reform of the core Energiewende legislation, the renewable energy act EEG, which included the shift from feed-in tariffs to a tender system, a move heavily criticised by the renewable energy industry. Baake, who has been dubbed “Mr. Energiewende” by German media for his expertise and his key role in the country’s energy policy, also repeatedly locked horns with utilities and the coal miners' union. He proposed a “coal levy” in order to cut emissions from coal power plants. Instead, some lignite plants were transferred to a paid “security standby” reserve, before being closed down permanently.
Ever since Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to hand the energy ministry in the coalition government with the Social Democrats to her close ally Altmaier, Baake’s future at the ministry had been uncertain. Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer (CDU) called for Baake’s resignation last week, saying that he was responsible for “ideologically charging up energy policy”.
CDU Economic Council
In a document named Energy Agenda 2030, the Economic Council of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU has issued a “list of demands” for designated economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier. A “readjustment” of Germany’s energy and climate policy “towards more market and more Europe” was necessary to ensure that the energy transition can be continued with success, said the Economic Council’s secretary general, Wolfgang Steiger. The Conservatives’ council says Germany’s energy system needs to become more flexible and innovative, which was being hampered “due to politically imposed high power prices”. The council argues that “no other state in the EU has saved more CO2 emissions than Germany in the past 30 years”, and it was now necessary to “not talk this success down” but rather to strengthen it. The council rejects a carbon floor price in Germany and wants to “strengthen and expand” the EU emissions trading system (ETS) instead. It also argues that Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG) “has fulfilled its purpose” of funding the expansion of renewable energy sources and needed to be “phased out” as wind and solar power have become competitive.
The CDU's Economic Council is no internal party organ but rather a business association positioning itself close to the CDU's economic policy principles.
See the CLEW interview with government energy policy advisor Andreas Löschel for more information.
Federal Motor Transport Authority
The number of cars and trailers in Germany has risen by 1.1 million in 2017 to a total of 63.7 million, the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) says in a press release. The most used brand is VW with 21.5 percent, followed by Opel (9.8 percent) and Daimler (9.4 percent). The most used engine types are petrol with 65.5 percent and diesel with 32.8 percent. The number of electric cars rose by over 58 percent to roughly 53,860 cars, and that of hybrid cars by 43 percent to 236,710, the KBA says.
Germany's total population stood at 82.6 million in 2017.
Read the press release in German here.
The head of Germany’s largest carmaker VW, Matthias Müller, has said his company is of “systemic” relevance for the country and therefore must not be financially overburdened with costs accruing from a retrofitting of manipulated diesel cars, Daniel Delhaes writes in Handelsblatt. Müller said the hardware changes that need to be made in a diesel engine to bring exhaust emissions down to advertised levels would cost between 1,500 euros and 7,000 euros per car, arguing that the 25 billion euros the company had to pay for fraud in the US were enough. “We cannot pay another 17 billion for hardware retrofitting,” Müller said.
Read the article in German here.
See the CLEW article Court ruling opens door for diesel bans in German cities for background.
German utility EnBW has purchased German battery storage provider Senec in a bid to strengthen its position in a decentralised and renewable energy system, pv magazine reports. Senec Managing Director Maximilian von Grundherr said that the move will allow the company to continue to roll out new business models for battery storage. “The strategies and cultures of our companies are a perfect match,” said von Grundherr.
Read the article in English here.
See the CLEW factsheet How can Germany keep the lights on in a renewable energy future? for more information.
The German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) is taking legal action against the controversial natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, which is supposed to connect Germany with Russia via the Baltic Sea. The NGO says the offshore pipeline will cut through several marine protection areas and might lead to “irreversible damage” to the environment. German authorities have given the go-ahead for the pipeline for May 2018 but NABU argues that the licensing did not follow due process. It argues that the project’s management did not publish important data on the operation of its first pipeline project Nord Stream 1 and also did not go through a complete environmental compatibility assessment.
Find the press release in German here.
The growing importance of wind and solar power generation in Germany leads to the shutdown of another coal plant, Jürgen Flauger writes in Handelsblatt. Energy provider STEAG will close the hard coal-fired power plant at its founding location in Lünen in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). STEAG started retiring the first generating units at the location in 2015, as the German power market has been “flooded” with renewable energy sources, Flauger says. “Environmentalists might cheer over the shut-down of the old coal plant,” he writes, adding that “this trend could be dangerous for supply security” in times of little wind and sunshine. The plant in Lünen “was not in operation very often, but it has been recurrently needed during the winter months”.
Read the article in German here (paywall).
See the CLEW factsheet Coal in Germany for more information.
Federal Environment Ministry
The coming EU budget must “lead the way for investments in climate action” and set an example for “steering investments in the right direction”, Germany’s environment minister Barbara Hendricks says in a press release by the environment ministry (BMUB). Together with 13 other environment and climate ministers from EU countries, the so-called Green Growth Group, Hendricks has sent a letter to the EU Commission, arguing that subsidies “not in line with the Paris Agreement should be discontinued as quickly as possible”.
Read the press release in English here.