16 Jun 2017, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

NRW to curb wind power/ Germany criticises US Russia sanction plans

CDU and FDP, North Rhine-Westphalia

The future government coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Free Democrats (FDP) in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) wants to slow down wind power expansion and keep energy generation from fossil fuels as “bridging technologies for the foreseeable future”, according to the new coalition agreement presented on 16 June. “We want to reconcile ecology and economy”, said CDU State Chairman Armin Laschet at a press conference. Christian Linder, state chairman of the FDP said that a hundred days before the federal elections, forming a CDU-FDP coalition had “significance beyond the state’s borders". The two parties aim to “initiate a restart of energy policy from North Rhine-Westphalia”, and develop an “energy supply strategy” for the state. The agreement states that the coalition aims to "rid" the state's climate protection law off all regulations that go beyond goals and measures of the European Union. The new government will stand by existing plans for lignite mining in the state, and support “structural transition” in the affected regions. Renewables expansion will not prefer any one technology, and there will be no “planning economy expansion corridors”. The coalition plans to prescribe a minimum distance of 1,500 metres between new wind turbines and residential areas. “Economic growth is possible while preserving natural resources; and one can protect the environment without putting chains on economic power”, said Lindner. The leaders will now present the agreement to their respective parties for approval.

Find the coalition agreement in German here.

Find background in the CLEW factsheet Facts on the German state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia,  and the article Coal exit: elephant in the room at vote in German industry heartland.

Federal Foreign Office / Financial Times / Reuters

A new draft US Senate bill that is meant to tighten economic sanctions on Russia could threaten Europe’s energy supply security, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern have said in a joint press release. “The threat of illegal extraterritorial sanctions” on European companies “that participate in the development of European energy supply” could not be accepted, the politicians said. The bill’s actual aim was “selling American liquefied natural gas and ending the supply of Russian natural gas to the European market” in order to “protect US jobs in the natural gas and petroleum industries”. Threatening to impose penalties on companies from Germany, Austria, and other European countries for participating in or funding “natural gas projects involving Russia, such as Nord Stream 2, impacts European-American relations in a new and very negative way”. Europe’s energy supply was “Europe’s affair,” they said, urging the US State Department to continue efforts to amend the draft bill.
The Financial Times called the joint statement “unusually strongly worded”, adding that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was “likely to be more cautious” of criticising US lawmakers, as she had “long been wary of the Nord Stream project, which is strongly opposed by Poland and other eastern European EU allies”.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Chancellor Angela Merkel shared the concern expressed in the joint statement, reports Reuters in a separate article.

Read the press release in English here and the Financial Times article in English here (behind paywall) and the Reuters article in English here.

See the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and its implications for international security.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The European Commission wants to directly negotiate with Russia a skeleton agreement on the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. Otherwise, the project would “end up in court”, Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said. He added that it would be against Russia’s interests if Nord Stream 2 was thwarted by Polish courts, as was the case with the OPAL pipeline. According to the newspaper, neither Russia nor the European-Russian consortium funding the pipeline were interested in negotiating an agreement with the European Commission, arguing that the same had not been necessary for Nord Stream 1. The Commission, however, says that “political and legal conditions have changed”. 

See the CLEW factsheet Germany’s dependence on imported fossil fuels for background.  

European Commission

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules the transfer of radioactive waste liabilities to a new public fund in return for the payment of about 24.1 billion euros by nuclear power plant operators in Germany, the Commission said in a press release. The Commission concluded that the state support is proportionate to the objective.

Find the press release in English here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet Securing utility payments for the nuclear clean-up and the CLEW dossier The challenges of Germany’s nuclear phase-out.


Solar power costs are falling so rapidly that the technology will replace fossil fuels like coal much faster than previously forecast, Jess Shankleman and Hayley Warren say in an article for Bloomberg. According to an outlook by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), solar power already has an edge over coal power in Germany and the US, and a similar development is expected in rapidly growing China and India by 2021. “It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency’s central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come”, they write.

Read the article in English here.

See the CLEW article Last major German solar cell maker surrenders to Chinese competition for more information.

Hamburger Abendblatt

A boat lift near Hamburg could be extended to become a pumped storage facility, Hamburger Abendblatt reports. In times of excess wind power production, water could be pumped to the upper part of the Elbe Lateral Canal, and drained through electricity turbines in times of power scarcity, the article says. Green MP Julia Verlinden has encouraged local initiators of the project in Scharnebeck to pursue it, since “the energy transition needs innovative ideas all over the country”.

See the CLEW dossier New technologies for the Energiewende for more information.

Handelsblatt Online / BMUB

The devastating fire in London’s Grenfell Tower has sparked a debate over the risks of insulating materials in buildings - a key component of Germany’s energy transition in the construction sector - Silke Kersting writes on Handelsblatt Online. “There are constant suspicions that these materials pose a great fire hazard”, Kersting says. Kai Warnecke, head of real estate owners’ association Haus & Grund, said it was likely that “polystyrene-like insulants” played a decisive role in spreading the fire so quickly, leading him to call for an immediate ban on the material.
Germany’s Environment Ministry (BMUB) published a factsheet on insulating materials in the wake of the incident, saying that “as far as anyone can judge, such a catastrophe cannot occur” if existing security standards are respected. BMUB said only non-inflammable materials are allowed to be used in buildings higher than 22 metres in Germany. 

Find the article in German here and the BMUB factsheet in German here.

Economic Council (CDU Wirtschaftsrat)

Members of the German business association Economic Council, associated with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), want an end to the grand government coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), and call for a “realignment” of the country’s climate and energy policy. In a survey among the association’s 12,000 members, 72 percent of respondents said they would prefer a coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP), says their press release. Eighty percent say that support for renewables expansion should be gradually phased out, and 69 percent agree that Germany should not have more ambitious CO₂ reduction targets than the EU goal for 2030.

Find the press release in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Considerable discrepancies between the German Green Party’s draft election programme and the ’Ten-point plan for Green governance‘ it published in May will make this weekend’s federal party conference difficult, writes Henrike Roßbach in an opinion piece in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. For example, the two documents refer to different coal-exit dates, and only the draft programme says that from 2030 onward, only emission-free cars should be produced. In light of the weak polling results three months before the elections, the Greens “must not make any more mistakes”, writes Roßbach.

For background, read the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende and the factsheet The Green Party's draft election programme - a first look.

Greenpeace Germany

Protesting for global climate protection efforts and against the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Greenpeace Germany has projected a heart-shaped map of the world and the words “Planet Earth first” onto the Elbphilharmonie building, the new concert hall in Hamburg, where leaders of the Group of Twenty (G20) will attend a concert on the sidelines of their summit in July. “The heads of state and government must prove that the planet’s protection is of utmost importance – also without Trump”, said Anike Peters, Greenpeace’s energy expert, in a press release.

Find the press in German here.

For background, read the CLEW articles German reactions to US decision to withdraw from Paris Agreement and Germany, China urge US to remain in climate agreement.

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