Siemens lashes out at Energiewende policy / Big biogas potential
In response to accusations that Siemens’ job cuts in its fossil power business are “antisocial” and caused by bad management, company CEO Joe Kaeser says the Energiewende is right in principle but is poorly managed. In an open letter addressed to SPD head Martin Schulz, who had voiced the criticisms, Kaeser writes that “generous subsidies” have created jobs mainly in China’s solar industry, while the German government’s refusal to provide risk coverage to nuclear or coal-fired power plants was a competitive disadvantage for Siemens in export markets. “In Germany, there is hardly any demand for gas and coal plants.”
Kaeser argues that it is wrong to accuse his company’s management of having missed the boat on the energy transition. He says that Siemens is “the world’s renewable market leader in terms of installed capacity”, and that its wind power business, Siemens Gamesa, is “the leading producer of renewables”.
Kaeser stresses that his company is rapidly increasing the number of its employees both in Germany and abroad, while shedding jobs in its turbine business. Siemens hired 38,000 people last year, 5,200 of them in Germany, and plans to do likewise in the coming years. “This would mean that we hire around 16,000 people in Germany, while those 2,900 jobs are lost” in the German power plant division.
On 16 November, Siemens announced its intention to cut about 6,900 jobs globally, mainly at its power and gas division hit by rapid renewables growth.
Read the open letter in German here.
See the CLEW dossier The energy transition’s effect on jobs and businesses for more information.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Politicians have to take responsibility for the fact that the recently announced layoffs at Siemens are the consequence of wrong Energiewende policies, argues Carsten Knop in an opinion piece for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “It is a structural change intended by policy that managers now have to take responsibility for, and that employees have to suffer from”, writes Knop.
Read the commentary in German here.
Even if the job cuts in Siemens’ fossil turbine division are not caused by management mistakes, the company handles the situation badly, writes Detlef Esslinger in a commentary in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Siemens not only announced layoffs and plant closures earlier this month, but also huge profits and a higher payout to shareholders. “Whoever makes a profit of six billion euros and raises the dividend should have more ideas than simply closing plants”, writes Esslinger. “If you want people to despair over the market economy, capitalism, and globalisation, you have to behave like [Siemens CEO Joe] Kaeser & Co.”
Germany could ramp up its biomethane production from the current 9 terawatt hours (tWh) per year to 100 tWh by 2050, the German Energy Agency (dena) says in a press release. “Biomethane can contribute significantly to the energy transition without any conflict of interests with respect to food and animal fodder production”, says dena head Andreas Kuhlmann. Biomethane is produced from biogas, and can be used and stored in the same way as natural gas, the dena explains. The gas could be used in integrated power, gas, and heating grids, and serve as “an ideal supplement to intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar power”, Kuhlmann says.
Find the press release in German here.
See the CLEW dossier Bioenergy in Germany for more information.
The European Commission pressures Germany to make progress on expanding its power transmission grid and the important north-south SuedLink and SuedOstLink power lines, Michael Bauchmüller and Thomas Kirchner write in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The 700-kilometre lines are designed to deliver renewable power from Germany’s windy north to industrial centres in the south. They are meant to prevent the system from shutting down wind turbines in periods of excess power production, and to avoid having to fall back on conventional plants because wind power cannot reach the south. The Commission has identified the power lines that are slated for completion by 2025 as a “project of common European interest”, which allows Germany to draw on EU funds to cover construction costs and to benefit from quicker licensing procedures, the authors say. Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) says that preparations continue “according to plan”, but given the sustained resistance to the massive infrastructure project by affected residents, completion by 2025 might turn out to be “an optimistic target”, the authors write.
See the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s power grid for background.
The EU should quickly introduce a minimum price to the Emissions Trading System (ETS), because the current prices do not create the necessary incentives for low-carbon assets, according to a policy paper published jointly by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and the European Climate Foundation (ECF). “The quick introduction of a price floor to the EU ETS would also make it more likely for Germany to reach its 2020 climate targets—which the country is about to miss if emissions do not fall sharply within the next two years”, according to a press release.
Find the press release and policy paper in English here.
The future power market will be dominated by decentralised energy generation and storage technologies, and new business ideas to control those installations and run them profitably will become increasingly important, says a study compiled by management consultancy pwc. “It’s not the installation or operation of [decentralised renewable power arrays] that will cause difficulties, but the logic of their integration.” The study also says that the electrification of transport will be one of the biggest challenges in the years to come. While large utilities already have many digital business models, those pose great challenges for smaller rivals that lack the necessary organisation and skills.
Find the study in German here.
A long-term policy approach to achieving the climate protection effects required by the Paris Agreement is crucial for the successful transformation of the affected economic sectors, but progress in this field varies considerably across different countries, a study drafted by the environmental research organisation ecologic has found. The policy frameworks “chart pathways” and “identify necessary policies” for the Paris deal’s aims, but also “help build political support, engage stakeholders and expert advice, and create accountability”, ecologic says.
Find the study in English here.
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
The switch from conventional lightbulbs to more energy-efficient LEDs is likely to lead to greater light pollution, meaning that the nights in urban areas appear less dark than they would under natural circumstances, the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam research institute says in a press release. Light pollution is understood to have adverse effects on plants, animals, and humans alike. “Both the intensity of artificial light and the area covered by it have increased by two percent annually since 2012”, the Helmholtz Centre says. The researchers also argue that the energy and money saved by replacing conventional lamps with light-emitting diodes (LED) could lead to a “rebound effect”, leading consumers to invest extra money in even more lamps.
Germany’s Green Party has made the closure of seven gigawatts (GW) of coal power a deal-breaker if it is to enter government, Arthur Neslen writes for online climate news site Climate Home, citing an interview with the Green Member of European Parliament, Reinhard Bütikofer.
Read the full story here.