Putin & Merkel to talk gas / Thousands relocated due to mine expansion
New York Times
Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Germany on Saturday, 18 August to discuss the controversial gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the New York Times reports. Apart from talks about the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and in Syria, the Russian and the German heads of government will discuss the future of the pipeline project, which is heavily opposed by eastern European states that fear being circumvented in energy policy. In April, Merkel called on Putin to guarantee that Ukraine will continue to be a transit country for Russian gas and retain its transit charges. U.S. President Donald Trump has criticised the project, which is being developed in spite of economic sanctions on Russia by many NATO countries, saying Russia “totally controls” Germany due to the latter’s energy imports.
Read the article in English here.
For background, read the CLEW news digest item Trump lashes out at Nord Stream 2, says Germany is “totally controlled” by Russia and the factsheet Germany’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.
Thomson Reuters Foundation
More than a dozen villages are to be demolished and thousands of families relocated to make way for the expansion of Garzweiler opencast lignite mine, Stefanie Glinski reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Located in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the lignite mine is operated by Essen-based utility RWE. Villages across Germany are being bulldozed to make way for the mining of lignite, which RWE admits is a particularly environmentally harmful fuel source, Glinski writes. "Our expectation is that Garzweiler will be open until the middle of the century," Guido Steffen, RWE press officer, told the Thomas Reuters Foundation. "Germany is making radical changes, but even in the long run, in order to provide energy, we can't forgo conventional power plants."
Read the article in English here.
For background, read the article Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out and the factsheets Germany’s coal exit commission and Germany’s three lignite mining regions.
Low wholesale power prices and higher prices for CO2 emission allowances are weighing on Germany's lignite plant operators’ balance sheets, according to an evaluation of the energy information service Tagesspiegel Background, Der Tagesspiegel reports. A database from Aurora Energy Research formed the basis of the analysis. Total losses suffered by all lignite power plant operators surpassed 2 billion euros from the beginning of 2016 to July 2018, the article says. However, Germany’s largest lignite-fired power plant operator, Essen-based RWE, denied losing money on its facilities, according to the article. Other operators declined to comment.
For background, read the factsheet Understanding the European Union’s Emissions Trading System and the article Wrangling over German coal exit talks reveals difficult task ahead.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Germany's Council of State Governments (Bundesrat) has expressed fears that lignite mine operators have not set aside enough money to cover the future costs of decommissioning, demolishing, and renaturing mined land, spurring more widespread concern, particularly among Green Party politicians, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. Lignite mine operators also fear their liabilities could be comparable to those of nuclear power plant operators, the article says. RWE has set aside money for clean-up and restoration but warned against making its obligations to do so stricter. “This would mean that we would no longer be able to make entrepreneurial investments in renewable energies,” company spokeswoman Stefanie Schunck said. “That will harm not only RWE, but the entire energy transition,” she said.
For background, read the factsheet When will Germany finally ditch coal?
The launch of the coal-exit commission has raised expectations that Germany’s – and by extension, Europe’s – commitment to a low-carbon future could shift from rhetoric to reality, Nick Butler writes in an opinion piece for the Financial Times. However, if the task force fails to present an early phase-out date for coal-fired electricity generation, Chancellor Angela Merkel “will be facing further humiliation” and “Germany will be in no position to tell others in Europe or elsewhere what to do about energy or emissions,” he writes.
Read the opinion piece (behind paywall) in English here.
For background, read the article Hot summer turns up the heat on Germany’s coal commission and the factsheet When will Germany finally ditch coal?
Clean Energy Wire
In the fight against pollution from diesel cars and with EU fines looming, five German model cities want to make their public transport systems better and cheaper. At a press conference with transport minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) and environment minister Svenja Schulze (SPD), the cities’ mayors also presented plans to cooperate with the largest local employers to motivate employees to commute using means of transport that are more environmentally-friendly than private cars. Additionally, the cities announced plans to build new bicycle lanes, shift local freight transport to electric bikes and cars, and improve the flow of traffic.
The five model cities are part of the government’s “Ad-hoc programme for clean air” that is meant to avoid diesel driving bans. They were chosen because they have different levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution and therefore could serve as showcases for improving air quality in some 70 German cities that grapple with excessive pollution levels, according to the government. The federal government has set aside 130 million euros to support initiatives that can be implemented in the short term “and have a measurable positive effect on air quality”.
Read the transport ministry’s press release here.
Read the article One year after German “diesel summit,” air quality challenge remains for background.
As Germany’s coal exit commission uses the summer to devise a plan for the end of coal-fired power production in the country, eastern German lignite mining company MIBRAG has welcomed its 1,000th trainee since the company was formed in 1995. “We need committed and motivated future specialists to master the challenges posed by the energy transition for our company and for all of central Germany,” MIBRAG says in a press release. In total, 41 trainees started their apprenticeship as mechanics, electricians or clerks at the company on 13 August and will be offered “a solid foundation for their future career,” MIBRAG says.
Read the press release in German here.
See the CLEW factsheet Germany’s three lignite mining regions for more information.