Nuclear exit ruling snubs utilities and Merkel / Coal to curb AfD?
The German constitutional court’s judgement on the country’s accelerated nuclear exit in 2011 has dashed hopes of the affected nuclear plant operators to cash in on an assumed violation of the constitution, Varinia Bernau writes in Süddeutsche Zeitung. The country’s highest court ruled that the utilities’ property rights had been violated by cutting short the service life of their reactors, but the compensation payments by the state are likely to be far lower than the companies’ billion-euro claims, according to Bernau. She argues that the utilities ignored seminal changes in the electricity market and now face more independent consumers, a looming nuclear exit including clean-up costs, and a restructuring of their business at the same time.
Read the article in German here.
Read the CLEW article on the court’s nuclear exit ruling here.
For background on juridical aspects of nuclear exit, read the CLEW factsheet Legal disputes over the nuclear phase-out.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel likes to think of herself as a politician who “thinks things through to the end” – but the constitutional court’s judgement on the hasty 2011 nuclear exit suggests otherwise, writes Thorsten Knuf in a commentary for Berliner Zeitung. Merkel’s governing conservative-liberal coalition at the time “has to put up with accusations of violating corporate property rights” because “everything had to be done quickly” after the Fukushima disaster, according to Knuf. “Taxpayers now will have to shoulder the bill of this fickleness” when the state compensates nuclear plant operators for their losses, he argues. The decision to phase-out nuclear power production remained the right thing to do but “the way it has been brought about was adventurous and had nothing to with the art of governing”.
Read more on Angela Merkel’s party positions on climate and energy for 2017 in this CLEW article.
With Germany’s constitutional court backing the country’s speedy nuclear phase-out, the “inflated” compensation claims of nuclear plant operators have “vanished into thin air”, says Green Party politician Jürgen Trittin in an interview with Frankfurter Rundschau. Trittin, who as Minister for the Environment played a central role in brokering Germany’s initial decision to exit nuclear power production in 2002, says Chancellor Angela Merkel is to blame for the utilities even having had a chance to sue the government. “I’m outraged by the technical mistakes the Merkel government made as well as by the political tactics surrounding the nuclear exit,” Trittin says. If Merkel’s conservative-liberal coalition had not extended the plants’ lifespan in 2010 and “if it had not botched up revoking this decision” a few months later, there would have been no case for the utilities to ask for compensation in the first place, Trittin argues.
Read more on the Green Party’s stance on the future of energy transition in this CLEW article.
The joint effort of Germany’s coal mining states against enshrining a definitive date for ending coal-fired power production may help curb support for the right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), writes Jens Tartler in Tagesspiegel. Politicians in the affected states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg and Saxony professed to be concerned with securing Germany’s power supply – but in reality are concerned “primarily with the workers in coal-mining areas, who also are voters”, Tartler argues. If people in these areas were given a date for coal exit without a plan for restructuring their regions economically, “you might as well send them to the AfD right away”, according to Hubertus Heil, vice chairman of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary group. The coal states ensured that the ministry for the economy and not for the environment will now handle the regions’ transition – “and that it will start its work only after the 2017 general elections”,Tartler writes.
Read more on regional peculiarities of energy transition in the CLEW factsheet German federalism: In 16 states of mind over the Energiewende.
For background on the development of Germany’s Climate Action Plan 2050, read this CLEW factsheet.
The expansion of wind power capacities will slow down significantly in Germany’s coastal state Schleswig-Holstein, writes Matthias Popien in Hamburger Abendblatt. The state government recently announced that 1,300 of the current 3,100 windmills in the state will be removed once they have reached the end of their service life. At the same time, space to build only 500 new windmills will be allotted, Popien writes. “Of course, there will be protests,” state Premier Torsten Albig said, although 98 percent of the state’s territory will remain windmill-free. According to Popien, Schleswig-Holstein is now “stuck between a rock and a hard place”. Protests against the ever-bigger windmills is growing but, at the same time, the state’s wind industry employs around 16,000 people and the renewables surcharge has earned the state around two billion euros, Popien argues.
Read more about regional aspects of the Energiewende in the CLEW factsheet Local stories from Germany's energy transition.
A new emissions test by German car club ADAC shows that most diesel engines meet legal standards level only on the test bench – falling short on the road, Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. The biggest problem for most diesel engines was high nitrogen oxide. Of the 26 diesel vehicles underwent the new test, only two passed: the Mercedes E 220 d 9G-Tronic and the BMW 118d Urban Line Steptronic, which made it into the top ten of all 45 cars tested, including petrol vehicles. Electric and hybrid cars took the top spots in the test rankings.
See the article in German here.
See the ADAC’s test results in German here.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports on a study by the German Research Institute for Energy Technology and Combustion Engines (FEV) looking at the future costs of electric vehicles. The president of the German Carmakers Association recently predicted 15 to 25 percent of new cars registered in 2025 would be electric vehicles. With electric vehicles requiring fewer parts than combustion engines and relying on different manufacturing processes and materials, the industry will be seeing structural change. The industry is likely to see a shift away from mid-sized manufacturing firms towards a concentrated, capital-intensive supply sector. How many jobs will be lost remains to be seen, Johannes Winterhagen writes.
For more information on Germany’s car industry and energy transition, see the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.