Germany’s National Election Sheds Little Light on Energiewende Future

A federation of Germany’s biggest companies last week called for urgent reforms to the country’s renewable energy strategy within the first 100 days of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s newly elected government, including abolishing feed-in-tariffs (FITs) that they say have sent power prices in the country soaring.

Key points of the 19-page reform proposal submitted by the 38-member BDI (Bundesverband der Deutschen Industries) just days before the national election also call for setting up a strategic reserve of fossil fuel–fired power, which the commerce association says is needed to balance power from intermittent renewable sources.

Germany’s Energiewende, or energy transition, foresees the permanent shutdown of the last remaining nine of 22 reactors by 2022 and an expansion of the share of renewables in the country’s power profile to 80% by 2050. But though designed to promote renewables, the renewable energy levy (EEG-Umlage) has risen dramatically this year, sending already steep power prices soaring higher. For more on Energiewende, see “Germany’s Energy Transition Experiment in POWER’s May 2013 issue.

Like industry groups, European Union (EU) Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has called on Germany to reform its renewable energy law following the elections, noting that feed-in-tariffs for photovoltaics, wind, and biomass are responsible for an unsustainable surge in electricity costs for households in Germany. Oettinger, the former head of the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg, has also voiced support for a single integrated EU-wide market, saying it is the only way to ensure the transformation will be a success.

Germany’s federal election on Sept. 22 saw Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) emerge as the biggest winners, garnering 41.5% of the vote. The Social Democrats (SPD), the largest opposition party, garnered 25.7% of the vote, while The Green Party, SPD’s ally got 8.4%. The Left Party (Die Linke) took 8.6% of the vote.

According to Dusseldorf-based lawyer Dr. Matthias Lang, the CDU/CSU endorsed a single European market (rather than one limited to Germany) so that Germany can benefit from hydro storage in northern Europe and photovoltaic installations in southern Europe. Lang said in his German Energy Blog that SPD also backed a single European market and supports Energiewiende, but considers the current European Trading System inefficient.

During the run-up to the election, SDP party candidate Peer Steinbrück also pledged to cut the EEG-Umlage by 25% to stabilize soaring power prices and to reduce the fiscal burden on consumers by $2.1 billion.

However, “with Social Democrats, Greens, and Left having a mathematical majority [in the Bundestag, Germany’s legislature], we presently have limited visibility as to where the German Energiewiende will turn in the next four years,” Lang said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)



SHARE this article