The ‘Trump effect’ of right-wing populism and climate change scepticism could become an obstacle for the world's most advanced energy revolution in Germany, writes Aaron Wiener in the US magazine Mother Jones. Germany’s broad consensus on the shift to clean energy could face a significant test at this year’s national election due to the recent success of the right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD). “In an effort to slow the AfD's rapid rise, the country's mainstream parties could be poised for a step back in the fight against global warming,” writes Wiener.
Find the article in English here.
For background on the elections and other energy policy issues Germany will face this year, read our Preview2017 – Elections, G20 set to dominate Energiewende policy.
High wind power production during a storm led to a total of 35 hours of negative wholesale power prices over the holidays in Germany, writes Daniel Wetzel for Welt Online. “Because of the holidays, industry did not need the power,” and grid operators at times paid consumers to use electricity, writes Wetzel. “Owners of pump storage facilities in the alps, for example, used the free energy to fill their reservoirs” and could later sell the power back to Germany for a high price at times of low renewable production, writes Wetzel.
Negative power exchange prices occur when high and inflexible power generation coincides with low electricity demand. Heavy winds, for example, lead to a glut of renewable power. Under Germany's renewables law, grid operators must take all renewable power produced. If conventional power plants keep running, this can lead to a situation where grid operators sell excess power at low prices on the market - even paying consumers to buy it. This is often the case on public holidays.
Read the article in German here.
For background read the CLEW factsheet Why power prices turn negative.
Power prices for an average German four-person-household will be about one percent higher in January 2017, compared to the same month last year, according to price comparison website verivox. That would lead to an annual total of 1,111 euros. “Following a price decrease of about two percent over the past three years, the trend will be reversed at the beginning of the year,” said Jan Lengerke, a member of the management at verivox. Regional differences are big and some suppliers increased prices by up to 15 percent, writes verivox in a press release. The suppliers passed higher costs for levies and fees on to the customers, such as the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) surcharge and grid fees. About a third of suppliers had raised prices throughout 2016 and 350 companies announced higher prices for the start of 2017, according to verivox.
Read the Verivox press release in German here.
For background read the CLEW factsheet What German households pay for power.
Handelsblatt Global Edition
Influential municipal shareholders are threatening to pull out of Germany's largest electricity provider, RWE, unless the company's prospects brighten, reports Jürgen Flauger in German business daily Handelsblatt Global Edition. Guntram Pehlke, who runs RWE’s single-largest municipal shareholder, Dortmund’s utility company DSW21, told Handelsblatt he expects a 2016 dividend and warned that RWE needs to demonstrate its outlook is improving. “Otherwise, the municipal shareholders will have trouble explaining why they are engaged in RWE,” Pehlke said. RWE’s decision last year to cancel dividends for the first time since the 1950s cost already-strapped municipal shareholders 150 million euros, according to the report. A spokeswoman for RWE told Handelsblatt the company had not decided whether or not it will pay out dividends for 2016.
Find the article in English (behind a paywall) here.
The city of Essen in western Germany used to be one of the country’s most important coal centres, but has been awarded the title of Europe’s green capital by the EU Commission, writes Peter Koekoek in the Daily Planet. According to the Commission, Essen demonstrates a strong overall performance across many areas including climate change, green urban areas, air quality, waste management and energy.
Find the article in English here.
One year after its split, renewables utility E.ON needs to lower costs and is eyeing cuts in administrative jobs at its headquarters in Essen, CEO Johannes Teyssen told the Rheinische Post in an article by Antje Höning. The extent of the job cuts remains unclear, the CEO said. Renewables rival innogy, born from the split of utility RWE in 2016, also plans to cut costs, the paper writes, citing an innogy spokesman. He said the company currently did not plan any job cuts, but also did not rule them out in the future. E.ON employs 43,000 people around the world, and innogy 42,000, according to the article.
Read the report in German here.
Federal environment minister Barbara Hendricks criticised Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán’s plans for a law that would allow his government to ignore the national nuclear regulating institution when constructing new reactors, write Michael Bauchmüller and Cathrin Kahlweit in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “I find Hungary’s decision to curtail the rights of the atomic supervision body highly alarming,” Hendricks told the newspaper. For nuclear safety, it is “essential that the operation of nuclear power plants is not judged according to political opportunities, but monitored by an independent regulatory authority capable of acting,” said Hendricks. Orbán plans the construction of two new reactors for the country’s sole nuclear power station Paks, and the proposed law would enable his government to issue decrees that decide on “deviations from the authority’s permissions and the conditions for a nuclear facility that is being built,” write Bauchmüller and Kahlweit.
Read the article in German here.
EnergyComment / dpa
Even though international wholesale prices for natural gas prices fell in 2016, suppliers did not fully pass this decline on to consumers, according to a study by consultancy EnergyComment, commissioned by the Green parliamentary group in the German Bundestag. “The trend of falling prices over the past two years is pleasing and a start,” said Green politician Bärbel Höhn in a dpa article. She noted that the lower prices had not yet fully benefitted German households, according to the article. However, final prices for consumers depend much more on external costs like grid fees, taxes and levies than on the cost of procuring power itself, said Stefan Kapferer, head of utilities lobby German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), dpa reports.