September 13, 2010
After months of internal controversy focused on the future of nuclear power the German government has adopted a nine-point strategy for making its energy supply secure and essentially C02 free by 2050.
It is the first EU country to do so setting an example for all EU countries to follow.
The strategy fixes the targets to be achieved on the path towards 2050.
• C02 emissions are to be reduced by 40 percent until 2020 and 80 percent until 2050, compared to 1990. For 2020, the German target is twice as ambitious as the one for the EU! It should therefore be possible for the EU to be more ambitious for 2020.
• The share of renewable energies in gross energy consumption is to reach 18 percent by 2020, 30 percent until 2030 and 60 percent until 2050.
• The share of renewable energy in gross power consumption is targeted to rise to 35 percent until 2020 and 80 percent until 2050.
• Energy efficiency is the central element in the German strategy: Until 2050, electricity consumption should decline by 50 percent below 2008 levels, heating consumption in buildings by 80 percent and the energy input in the transport sector by 40 percent.
These are ambitious objectives. To implement them the strategy contains panoply of instruments, many of which still require more precise formulation.
To increase energy efficiency in business and households the government trusts common sense and personal initiative. It estimates the annual savings potential, only for industry, at € 10 billion.
To spread information on the energy saving potential, e.g. by improved labelling of energy consumption of appliances, the government will create an “energy efficiency fund”, endowed with € 500 million per year.
A complete energetic overhaul of the stock of residential and other buildings will be crucial for reducing gas/fuel consumption for heating, which presently accounts for one third of German C02 emissions! The government considers that by 2050 all buildings should have reached zero-C02 emissions, through a combination of perfect thermal insulation and renewable heating. No other country has so far dared to be so bold.
To that end, the government aims at doubling the annual rate of energetic renovation from one to two percent of the building stock. It will fix increasingly stricter “energy consumption standards” and launch a massive renewal programme for 2020-50. Financial incentives will be offered to owners who will respect stricter consumption standards ahead of schedule.
In view of overcoming the clash of interests between house owners and tenants the government plans to reform the rental code, which is crucial for a balanced sharing of the benefits of better insulated apartments.
Last not least, the KfW will be invited to re-launch its programme for energetic improvements in municipalities.
In the transport sector, the government aims at having a stock of five million electric vehicles on the roads, roughly 10 percent of the stock of vehicles, as early as 2030.Progress will essentially depend on rapid technological advance and competition within the industry, supported by much stricter C02 emission standards after 2020. The strategy mentions a fleet average of 35 g/km by 2040, compared to 160/g presently
For expanding renewable energy the government relies on the proven system of advantageous feed-in tariffs. In addition it will support the huge programme for off-shore wind parks in the North Sea (25 GW until 2030, requiring an investment of €75 billion) with a € 5 billion KfW credit.
But the most important aspect is the emphasis of rapidly improving the transmission network. The government determined to accelerate the construction of a long-distance grid is transport the wind power in the north to the consumption centres in the south, which should be integrated in a European-wide grid. In order to ensure long-term consistency it will elaborate a vision for a “2050 network”, which should have the flexibility (smart grid and storage) to respond to the wide fluctuations of wind and solar inputs.
Last not least, the government has finally come to terms on the future of nuclear electricity and reversed the 2000 decision of the social-democratic/green coalition to close all nuclear reactors by the early 2020s. The new government has decided to extend the lifeline of nuclear power plants by an average of 12 years. Even if this decision, which will most likely require parliamentary approval by both chambers, has been taken under pressure from utilities, it also reflects the growing realisation that it will be very tough to replace some 20 GW nuclear capacity by wind power within less than 15 years, while ensuring safe supply around the clock through long-distance direct current transmission lines.
To sum up, the German government has taken right and forward looking decisions, even if the opposition and environmental groups are not happy with them. Being surrounded by countries that continue or rediscover nuclear power generation it does not make much sense for the biggest and one of the most densely populated countries in the EU to renounce nuclear technology for basically ideological reasons.
But nuclear power generation should no longer receive any direct or indirect subsidies. It is equally essential to guarantee highest safety standards and rapidly decide, jointly with all other EU nuclear countries, to build underground facilities for eternal safe storage of nuclear waste.
The presentation of the German energy strategy, combined with the submission of national programmes for 2020 by all member states in June, should be an opportunity for creative stocktaking of where the EU stands with its climate policy. Such stocktaking would be most opportune to prepare for the Cancun Climate Conference next December, where the EU must act in unity.
Brussels 10.09.2010 Eberhard RheinAuthor : Eberhard Rhein