Rhein on Energy and Climate

Energy policy will not be a central issue in the beginning election campaign for the Bundestag. The nuclear question that dominated the 2009 elections has been settled by the decision to close all nuclear reactors by 2022,supported by all parties.

There is an extraordinary level of agreement in German society and consequently among parties on the substance of energy and climate policy. No other population on earth is so convinced of the need to base its energy supply on renewable energies and to encourage the high levels of energy efficiency,whatever the recent controversies about the level of support for solar and wind energy.

Looking at the election platforms of the five parties that are likely to be represented in the next Bundestag one is surprised to see how closely they resemble each other, with the Greens and the Left taking slightly more radical positions than the two parties of the present coalition government.

For all five parties energy security and affordable energy prices rank top.

All of them are very ambitious when it comes to reducing C02 emissions and enhancing the share of renewable energies: by 2050 C02 emissions must be reduced by up to 95 per cent, and the share of renewable energies in electricity consumption must go up to 80-100 per cent until 2030-50.

The parties support the EU-wide cap and trade system as the most suitable instrument, which the Greens want to be straightened.

Saving energy and raising energy efficiency are priorities for all parties, though their respective ambitions and methods differ.

On “fracking” views diverge: the opposition parties reject it, the government parties tend to allow it with appropriate controls The same goes for carbon capture and storage.

All parties put great emphasis on energy storage, though they differ on details.

It is also remarkable that all parties accept exceptions for energy-intensive companies that face international competition on the pace of cutting emissions.

Nor are they far apart when it comes to energy prices that must remain “affordable”.

Only the “left” parties plead for putting an end to German lignite production and the use of coal by 2030. For them gas powered electricity should be no more than a bridge technology.

All parties propose measures for a more efficient use of heat energy and transport, though their ambitions and methods vary. Thus the Greens dream of transport systems completely based on green energy, including bicycles and trains; and the Left wants to get away from cars, including electrically driven ones, and move towards free public transport.

The five platforms reflect a depth of expertise that one would like to find in other EU countries,let alone outside Europe.

Whatever coalition will take the reigns in Germany after September 22, it will have little choice but to continue pushing for sustainable energy. Germany and Europe are fortunate to have such a solid base for future energy and climate policies

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels

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