No grid fee alignment across Germany / Automated driving reform
Economy and energy ministry (BMWi)
There will be no nationwide grid fee alignment in Germany according to a proposal by the economy ministry approved by the government cabinet, contrary to earlier press reports. However, the proposal for a grid fee reform will gradually abolish payments to decentralised power generators. Outgoing minister Sigmar Gabriel said the law was a further step to distribute costs more justly. These currently receive compensation because they don’t require long-distance transmission grids, lowering costs. Grid fees across Germany vary significantly.
Find the press release in German here.
For background, read the CLEW factsheet Power grid fees – Unfair and opaque?
Outgoing economy minister Sigmar Gabriel runs an election campaign at the expense of eastern German power consumers, some of whom pay grid fees twice as high as consumers in the west, writes Norbert Block in a commentary in Thüringische Landeszeitung. He says Gabriel broke his promise to align grid fees across the country in his reform proposal because it might have cost his party votes in the upcoming elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, where power prices would have risen.
Read the comment in German here.
The grid reform proposal threatens to undermine the economics of decentralised power stations, according to utility association BDEW. “The government risks that controllable and flexible decentralised power generators are pushed out of the market,” said association head Stefan Kapferer in a press release, adding that combined heat and power systems, run-of-river and storage installations, as well as some conventional plants, would be affected.
Municipal utility association VKU said a reform was needed to distribute the costs of the Energiewende more evenly. Association head Katherina Reiche said the current proposal would weaken combined heat and power systems essential for reaching Germany’s climate targets.
For background, read the CLEW factsheet Combined heat and power – an Energiewende cornerstone?
Federal government / Transport ministry
The government cabinet has approved a law proposal to enable highly automated driving on German roads. “We are enabling drivers to take their hands off the wheel during highly automated driving, to surf the internet or check e-mails, for example,” said transport minister Alexander Dobrindt.
The law states that human drivers remain fully liable, however. It also stipulates that it must be possible to deactivate automated systems at all times and will require a “blackbox” to help determine whether an accident was caused by a human or technical error. “This means the driver is not replaced by the system while driving,” according to a press release.
For background, read the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.
The law for automated driving is not detailed enough and creates legal insecurity for drivers, according to critics. Green party transport expert Stephan Kühn told Spiegel Online that it lacks a definition of what drivers are allowed to do while their car is on autopilot. The law implies that the driver has to keep an eye on traffic at all time, according to the article. Consumer group vzbv said carmakers should be made responsible for autopilot accidents.
Read the article in German here.
Carmakers’ claims about the pending transport revolution are overblown, writes Stefan Voswinkel in mass-tabloid Bild. Whereas the companies promise realistic e-car driving ranges of 500 kilometres, that distance shrinks dramatically under adverse circumstances. Only a new generation of batteries will solve the problem, but these won’t hit the market before 2025. “So e-mobility will remain what it is today: Expensive and interesting only for short distances,” according to Voswinkel. He adds that fully autonomous driving won’t be possible in inner cities within the next 20 years. “The car of tomorrow is today’s car. The future won’t begin before the middle of the next decade.”
Read the article in German (behind paywall) here.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Germany’s Energiewende might not be an export hit but it helps other countries questioning their own energy policy, Giorgio V. Müller writes in Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ). According to figures from the World Energy Council, a majority of 42 surveyed countries do not consider the German energy transition as a role model; many countries outside of Europe do not even take note of it, Müller explains. “But generally, Germany’s Energiewende has gained in relevance around the world – although more as a warning example,” he writes. High costs and lacking integration into international structures are the main reasons others do not want to follow Germany’s climate protection approach and instead favour more energy efficiency and a global price for CO2 as more efficient measures to mitigate climate change, Müller writes.
For background on the cost debate, see the CLEW article Government lacks overview of Energiewende costs – auditors and the CLEW dossier Germany's energy transition in the European context for more information on international integration.
Clean Energy Wire
The G20 Sustainability Working Group under German leadership aims to develop a ‘G20 Climate and Energy Action Plan’ in the run up to the Hamburg summit in July, Eva Kracht of the German environment ministry (BMUB) said at an event by Climate Transparency in Berlin. “Issues of climate and energy are an integral part of the broader G20 agenda. To align our economies with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement could be a major innovation programme,” said Kracht. Details of a possible action plan will be discussed at future working group meetings. The outcome of the talks was unclear and depended in part on the policy of the incoming U.S. government, Kracht told Clean Energy Wire.
Germany’s environment minister Barbara Hendricks regards the new US administration’s sceptical view of climate protection as a monition for Germany and Europe to foster international efforts to curb global emissions, Dana Heide writes in Handelsblatt. “Europe should carry on together with China and other industrialised and transitioning countries,” Hendricks said. The environment minister said she was “very confident” that Europe and China’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) could be combined in the near future. “Maybe in five years, maybe in ten years, maybe even earlier than in five years,” she explained.
Read the article in German here (behind paywall).
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Feri / WWF
In spite of the Trump administration’s apparently benevolent stance towards fossil fuel companies, the persisting “carbon bubble” continues to pose a risk to capital markets, Markus Frühauf writes in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). According to a study conducted by German fund manager Feri together with environmental organisation WWF, a resolute implementation of the Paris Agreement’s climate protection targets could force investors to reconsider their stakes in companies dealing in oil, natural gas and coal, he explains. “The cogwheels of regulation with respect to climate protection are beginning to interlock on capital markets,” Feri’s founder Heinz-Werner Rapp told FAZ. The carbon bubble’s threat was still “considerably underestimated especially by German investors,” the study said. But since several countries, such as France, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, were starting to make a disclosure of climate risks in investment portfolios compulsory, many stocks could face “a devaluation of 40 to 50 percent,” Rapp warns. Feri points at the example of German utilities E.ON and RWE, which in the course of the Energiewende experienced a major drop in value.
For background, read the CLEW dossier Utilities and the energy transition.
Germany can meet its energy sector climate goals with a CO2-price floor between 50 and 75 euros, write Fabian Huneke, Carlos Perez Linkenheil and Simon Göß from the Berlin-based independent energy market specialist Energy Brainpool, in a contribution for energypost. But if neighbouring countries don’t take similar measures, more than half of the reduced CO2- emissions would be shifted abroad, lowering the effect from a European perspective.
Read the contribution in English here.
For background, read the CLEW dossier The energy transition and climate change.