22 Apr 2024, 13:43
Benjamin Wehrmann

Scholz lauds Norway as energy partner, defends government’s energy policy at industry fair

Clean Energy Wire / Süddeutsche Zeitung

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has praised the role of Norway in Germany’s energy supply, lauding the country as a reliable partner both during the energy crisis and in its plans for transitioning towards a climate-neutral energy system. Norway “has helped us in the energy crisis with natural gas supplies and it will be our partner for the future, for example regarding hydrogen,” Scholz said at the Hannover Fair in northern Germany, one of the world’s largest trade fairs for industrial companies. Scholz opened the fair alongside Norway’s prime minister Jonas Gahr Store, who represented this year’s partner country at the fair. At the event’s opening ceremony on Sunday (21 April), the chancellor thanked Norway for expanding its gas production capacity to help Germany replace its supplies from Russia. “This is necessary for the supply security of Germany and Europe,” even if “the fossil energy age is coming to an end,” he argued.

Germany’s industry would be a reliable buyer of both natural gas and of clean energy in the future, Scholz added. Moreover, Norway would be an important partner for Germany’s plans to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to achieve its climate neutrality targets. “We need to make sure that man-made climate change is halted and this will only work with economic growth, prosperity and technological innovation,” the chancellor said. One example would be the planned joint German-Norwegian production of carbon-neutral ammonia by 2026, which the two countries want to use to power novel cargo vessels that transport goods across the North Sea.

Scholz also responded to criticism by the head of the German Industry Federation (BDI), Siegfried Russwurm, who said in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the chancellor’s government had caused Germany’s industry “two lost years”. Scholz insisted that Germany could be proud of “two turnaround years”, in which the government successfully navigated challenges caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We’ve addressed the necessary change in our energy supply,” Scholz said, conceding that current economic indicators still give reason for concern.

Last year’s Hannover Fair was dominated by debates over a state-funded power price for industry, but wholesale prices for gas and electricity in the interim dropped back to pre-crisis levels, making the country as competitive regarding energy prices as it had been “for decades”. At the same time, his coalition would also work towards reducing bureaucracy, which industry representatives have repeatedly identified as a main obstacle for doing business in the country. Scholz stressed that value creation in Germany’s industry sector has remained stable despite inflation and temporary production cuts, adding that a readiness for change will be crucial for prosperity in the future. “Germany’s industry does not survive on building the same cars or machinery as we did 20 or 30 years ago,” he added.

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