06 Feb 2017, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Paying fossil plants for flexibility?/ Trump's natural gas predicament

Die Welt

Fossil power plants are disappearing from the market too quickly when they are still needed to supply the country with power on days with little sun or wind, writes Daniel Wetzel in Die Welt. “At the moment, the bad economic framework conditions lead to quite a few conventional power plants being registered for decommissioning or taken off the grid,” said Stefan Kapferer, head of utilities lobby BDEW. He proposes to pay fossil plant operators for supplying “system services” like the flexibility with which facilities can be ramped up and down according to the presence of renewable power. “The power plants currently supply contributions to stabilise the grid, which they are not paid for. These must receive a price tag in the future power market,” said Kapferer. State secretary in the federal economy ministry Rainer Baake does not see the need for this. He expects rising power prices on the wholesale market when fossil plants disappear, writes Die Welt. This would in turn provide the incentive to invest in new power plants and the market would solve the problem by itself.

Read the article in German here.

For background read the CLEW factsheet How can Germany keep the lights on in a renewable energy future? and the CLEW dossier The power market and the energy transition.

Die Welt

Donald Trump’s wish for a better relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin could have a big impact on Europe’s natural gas supply, writes Daniel Wetzel in Die Welt. The impact would be felt if the new US president “gave up the Ukraine” and shifted away from previous US policy aiming at freeing Europe from its dependence on Russian natural gas supply, the author writes. Both countries had an interest in selling their fuel to European states, with Russia trying to expand the capacity of its pipeline to Germany (“Nord Stream”), while the US is a global player in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) business. Europe and Germany must decide whether to become part of the new world LNG market, or to “continue to bind themselves” mainly to Russia with the pipeline expansion – “at a time when Moscow pursues an aggressive foreign policy," writes Wetzel.
In a separate article, the head of Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz, Andrij Koboljew, warned the German government over expanding Nord Stream. He said it could make the country susceptible to blackmail. “If the Ukrainian transit dies, Germany becomes virtually the only entry point for Russian natural gas into the EU,” Koboljew told Die Welt.

Read the article in German here and the article on Ukrainian power company’s warning in German here.

For background read the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and its implications for international security.


The transition of Germany’s car industry from combustion engines to electric motors means workers’ representatives in supervisory boards will have to “approve of their own amputation,” Markus Fasse writes in Handelsblatt. Premium manufacturer Daimler, for instance, estimates that six out of seven jobs in engine and gearing production will disappear with the rise of the e-car, Fasse writes. Despite this, “workers in fact call for a more rapid transition to e-cars", he explains. “They know the business figures that management has long played down," which show rising market shares for e-car pioneer Tesla and growing driving bans for diesel cars, Fasse writes. “Employees will pay the highest price in the end if the industry doesn’t accomplish this transition,” he adds.

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

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

The German Green Party’s largest donor, Jochen Wermuth, heads an investment fund focussed on green energy, Ralph Bollmann writes in a profile feature for weekly newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. Wermuth, a trained economist and mathematician, believes the Greens are “the only party competent enough to get us forward,” Bollmann writes. Wermuth donated 600,000 euros to the Greens in 2016 – making the Oxford-graduate the largest private donor of all German parties, the author writes. This raised eyebrows among the Green Party’s members, whose majority is traditionally left-leaning and sceptical of high finance. But Wermuth says his donation could only have a positive effect for disentangling money and politics: If the Greens suddenly get the largest donations, maybe the other parties will agree on introducing a cap for financial contributions, Bollmann writes.

For background, see the CLEW dossier Vote2017 – German elections and the Energiewende.

The compulsory switch to smart meter readers will lead to higher costs and threats to the privacy of power customers “without holding any observable advantages up to now,” Kathrin Emse writes on “Smart grids help grid operators” by allowing them to allocate transmission capacities more efficiently, Emse writes. For this to be made possible, about 50 million meters have to be swapped across Germany by 2032, she explains. But smart meters that now become mandatory for customers consuming more than 6,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year “will allow grid operators to have detailed insight into consumption patterns of individual households,” Emse writes. Consumer protection organisations claim this “forced digitalisation” will bring customers about 100 euros in additional costs per year “without yielding any benefits,” she writes.

Read the article in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier New technologies for the Energiewende.

Sächsische Zeitung

German regions need to intensify their cooperation when it comes to implementing the Energiewende, Roland Jäkel, head of the trade association Lower Silesia in Saxony, said in an interview with Sächsische Zeitung. “Politicians won’t create new jobs in Lusatia,” Jäkel said with regard to a pending end of the traditional mining region’s lignite industry. Policy could only “set the course” for an economic transformation, while it was up to businesses to decide whether to create new jobs, he explained. Regional business associations should therefore strengthen common efforts to manage regional consequences of the national energy transition, Jäkel said.

For more information, read the CLEW factsheet Local stories from Germany’s energy transition and the CLEW factsheet German federalism: In 16 states of mind over the Energiewende.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Exiting coal in Germany is a generational project that takes 30 years, says Helmar Rendez, chairman of Germany’s LEAG, the company responsible for lignite operations in eastern German region Lusatia. Rendez plans to decide by the summer if LEAG will expand existing open pit mines, writes Andreas Mihm in a profile story in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Lignite was a “bridge for the Energiewende,” as renewables were not capable of securing supply by themselves, says Rendez.

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