VW CEO Diess under fire for suggesting postponing nuclear exit in Germany
Clean Energy Wire
VW CEO Herbert Diess has drawn heavy criticism for suggesting that Germany should first exit coal instead of nuclear power in order to protect the climate. Environment state secretary Jochen Flasbarth wrote on Twitter that Diess should focus on “a progressive transport policy and clean, climate-friendly cars for all budgets” instead of “coming out in favour of a retrogressive energy supply with nuclear power”.
Dies told mobility newsletter Tagesspiegel Background that German energy policy had got its priorities wrong. “We should have exited coal first and then nuclear,” Diess said. “If we give high priority to climate protection, nuclear power stations should operate for longer.”
The president of Germany’s Renewable Energy Federation (BEE), Simone Peter, warned that questioning the nuclear exit would revive Germany’s massive anti-nuclear movement. Diess had said in a previous interview that a postponement of the nuclear exit would pose large political problems, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Renewable energy researcher Volker Quaschning said on the messaging service that nuclear power plants are unsuitable as a backup for renewable power and would therefore “block the energy transition”.
The head of utility association BDEW, Stefan Kapferer, said in an e-mailed statement Diess should “do his own environmental policy homework and contribute effectively to climate protection" instead of pointing to the energy sector which will manage to reduce its CO2 emissions by almost 40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990, in sharp contrast to the transport sector. “The coal compromise also ensures that the energy industry achieves its 2030 [climate] target. This does not require a longer operating life for nuclear power plants or the unravelling of the coal compromise, but a committed expansion of renewable energies.”
Germany plans to phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022. The country’s coal exit commission proposed to exit coal by 2038 at the very latest, but the government has yet to turn the panel’s recommendations into official policy. Under Diess’ leadership, the world’s largest carmaker has bet heavily on electric cars by investing billions of euros into their development and production. Diess has previously criticised that electric cars can only become environmentally friendly when charged with renewable power instead of Germany’s current electricity mix, which still includes a large share of coal power.