Germany’s foreign minister and former SPD head Sigmar Gabriel says his party should focus less on environmental and climate protection and instead emphasise topics that concern its traditional voting bloc, such as industrial job security and upholding Germany’s cultural principles. “We Social Democrats have often been culturally at ease in these post-modern liberal debates. Environment and climate protection have sometimes been more important to us than preserving industrial jobs, data protection more important than internal security,” Gabriel says in a guest article for Der Spiegel, according to a report on the magazine’s website. The SPD should rather focus on parts of society “who disagree with the post-modern slogan ‘anything goes’” and who “no longer feel at home, and sometimes even endangered”.
Read the article on Spiegel Online here.
See the CLEW article SPD leader says Germany must exit coal for background.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s assessment of why his Social Democratic party suffered so many losses in recent elections is “hypocritical”, Jörg Staude says in a commentary for klimaretter.info. Gabriel said his party had neglected its voters’ core issues, at times focusing too much on protecting the environment and climate change. Staude says environmental protection almost never played too great a role for the party, which has in fact caused “stagnation and regression” by protecting coal, limiting the expansion of renewables and rejecting stricter emissions limits. Far from neglecting industry, Gabriel “handed out billions in gifts to energy-intensive industries” in his former role as economy minister, Staude argues. The writer says US President Donald Trump’s anti-environmental thinking seems to be spilling over to Germany, and that Gabriel’s article can be seen as an attack on SPD head Martin Schulz, who recently said climate protection necessitated an end to coal-fired power production.
Read the commentary in German here.
German household power prices rose by an average of 3 percent in 2017, price comparison website check24.de says in a press release. “Power customers on average pay 1,426 euros for 5,000 kilowatt hours. At the beginning of the year, the price was 1,387 euros,” the website says, with German power prices now “at a record level” and likely to stagnate “at a very high level” in 2018. Despite a drop in the renewables surcharge and grid fees, power companies are yet to announce lower prices, it adds. Gas prices fell by an average of 1 percent over the same period.
Find the press release in German here.
See the CLEW factsheet What German households pay for power for more information.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The European Commission has rejected to approve exemptions from the renewables surcharge for operators of highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plants in Germany, Andreas Mihm reports for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). Since 2014, operators of such plants had been waived 60 percent of the EEG-surcharge (6.88 cents per kilowatt hour (ct/kWh) in 2017; 6.792 ct/kWh in 2018) on electricity produced for self-consumption. The European Commission’s “surprising” move will push up electricity bills for several thousand businesses, as well as schools, municipal pools and hospitals powered by their own new CHP plants. The German economy ministry confirmed the report and said it would continue to discuss the exemption with the Commission. CDU energy expert Thomas Bareiß told FAZ, “It’s irritating to me that this issue comes up at all. […] The economy ministry assured us in 2016 there was an agreement on this with the EU Commission.” In August last year, the economy ministry said an agreement with the EU Commission had secured, among other things, that highly efficient CHP facilities would continue to pay only 40 percent of the renewables surcharge on power produced for self-consumption.
Read the article in German here.
For background, read the CLEW factsheets What business thinks of the energy transition, Industrial power prices and the Energiewende and Combined heat and power- an Energiewende cornerstone?
The German power market will not be split into two separate price zones, Germany’s council of federal state governments, the Bundesrat, has said in a press release. The council greenlighted a legal ordinance by the acting federal government that prevents a split between a northern German zone with lower power prices and a southern zone with higher power prices, the press release says. The amendment aims to ensure grid operators cannot split the country into several bidding zones or to introduce bottleneck management in grid-overload situations. Electricity is cheaper in northern Germany due to high volumes of wind power that cannot be transported to industrial centres in the south because of lack of transmission lines.
Find the Bundesrat’s resolution in German here.
See the CLEW factsheet Power grid fees – unfair and opaque? for more information.
Institut français des relations internationals (Ifri)
Setting a regional carbon floor price for power generation within the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) would make Germany’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more consistent and contribute to phasing out coal, Felix Matthes of the Institute for Applied Ecology writes in a paper for Institut français des relations internationals (Ifri). “At this point France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and other countries need to work together to introduce a harmonised floor price for power generation in the heavily interconnected Central Western European regional electricity market,” Matthes writes. Germany’s “target-driven” approach to climate policy was increasingly being challenged over its lack of progress on emission reductions, he argues. Changing views on carbon pricing currently created a window of opportunity to make it a more prominent mechanism in German and European energy policy, Matthes says, but stresses that carbon pricing is only part of the solution.
For background, read the news digest entry Five EU countries want to “examine” the option of a CO2 price.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung
The effects of climate change on the yield of European wind turbines are far less clear than suggested by a recent study from the University of Colorado, Piotr Heller writes for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. The study, published Nature Geoscience, argues that more rapid warming of polar regions compared to equatorial regions will reduce differences in air pressure and, consequently, wind speeds. But German scientists say the study lacks sufficient data and fails to account for regional wind peak levels. Daniela Jacob of the Hamburg Climate Service Centre Germany called the study “scientifically inadequate”. The Colorado researchers acknowledged weaknesses in data acquisition and conceded they cannot predict the development of wind yields in Europe, the article says. “Some of the 10 different models used even indicate wind power production will increase,” Heller writes.
See the CLEW dossier Onshore wind power in Germany for more information.
In an opinion piece for Die Welt, Nikolaus Doll says Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller was wrong to attack tax breaks for diesel cars in hope of promoting e-cars. Abandoning diesel in favour of e-cars will not save VW, or take pressure off the wider industry, Doll writes. Those who oppose diesel based on its environmental impacts “ultimately want a car-free city, a country in which your own car and individual mobility are the exception”, Doll argues. Once again, Germany wants to do away with technology “without having an adequate substitute” he says, warning that once diesel is gone, environmentalists will go after petrol engines. As long as there are no clear mechanisms to produce clean batteries for e-cars, “we should let diesel run”, Doll writes.
Read the opinion piece in German here.
See the CLEW factsheet The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany for background.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The US administration has increased efforts to persuade Germany and other EU countries to drop support for the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to connect Russia with Germany, Andreas Mihm reports for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). The US state department’s Acting Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, Sue Saarnio, visited Berlin for talks with the German government and politicians. She told FAZ the pipeline would increase EU dependence on Russia, and that Ukraine, which currently benefits from natural gas transit fees, would lose a lot of revenue. Nord Stream 2 was not just a business project, but had implications for the European security policy, Saarnio said.
For background, read the news digest entry German authorities issue first partial permit for Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the CLEW factsheet Germany’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.