Germany’s energy and climate policy is taking shape

A power socket of an electric car of the mail service is seen open in Paussau, Germany, 10 May 2016. The German Postal Service (Deutsche Post) is now using custom electric cars for the first time in Bavaria. [Armin Weigel/EPA]

The coalition agreement between the German Conservatives and the Social Democrats outlines a relatively ambitious energy policy. EURACTIV’s partner Le Journal de l’environnement reports.

On 7 February, German Conservative (CDU / CSU) and Social Democrat (SPD) leaders presented their thorough coalition contract. With some 179 pages, the document presents the priorities of the next coalition government and appoints some ministerial positions.

No later than

Energy and climate policy is a subject of great importance, and is evidently the result of a compromise in the coalition government, as the content is unclear. According to the agreement, Germany will continue to respect the goals set out by Europe for 2020, 2030 and 2050.

Germany will have to be carbon neutral “no later than by the second half of the century”. As a new addition, the parliament will vote on a law project next year so that all sectoral objectives are reached by 2030. Research programmes will be increased to allow the German industry to maintain its leader status.

A coal commission

An independent commission will be created to find a way to end the use of coal. One of its main tasks will be to set a timetable and the measures to be taken to reduce the impact on users (electricity generators in particular) and on coal and lignite producers.

Rather than acting alone, the coalition is calling for an international pricing system for CO2 that concerns the heavy industries of the G20 countries. This is not as utopian as it may seem.

Ten of the 20 richest countries have already set a price for CO2, or are about to do so (Germany, France, Italy, the European Union, Canada, the United States, Mexico, China, South Korea, Japan).

More money is due to be set aside for those countries that are vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. In 2016, Germany earmarked €8.5 billion for this purpose.

Brussels muddies waters on state aid for coal power

A European Commission decision on Wednesday (7 February) to approve state aid for emergency power plants – often gas or coal-fired – has been accused of complicating ongoing negotiations in the European Parliament.

Germany will “strive” to accelerate the development of electric renewable energies. By 2030, wind and solar power will have to account for 65% of the electricity consumption (compared to 36% now). An objective made possible by significant investments in terms of network and energy efficiency, which will help halve energy consumption by 2050.

The transport, construction and manufacturing industry will also try to integrate renewable alternatives, as these are the three weak links in energy transition, Dimitri Pescia of the Agora Energiewende think-tank said on 8 February.

Individuals will also be encouraged to invest in their own electricity storage systems, available through electric cars or stationary storage systems.

Batteries and electric transportation

Angela Merkel’s future team will set up a commission in charge of envisioning sustainable mobility. At its basis: electric transport (such as cars and trucks), the development of the rail industry (of which 70% will be electrified by 2025), and more efficient thermal engines.

More extensive efforts will also be undertaken to improve air quality without reducing car traffic. It is, after all, home to the likes of BMW, Daimler, Porsche and Volkswagen.

Diesel to petrol shift poses ‘serious challenge’ to CO2 reduction

Falling demand for diesel-powered cars is having a “brutal” impact on carmakers while the EU’s CO2 reduction policy is jeopardising a fragile recovery in sales, the president of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) told reporters on Wednesday (31 January).

Monitoring emissions

Nevertheless, the coalition agreement announces that decisions to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from road traffic will be made in the course of the year.

Some are already under discussion: such as the creation of an institute responsible for evaluating car emissions and penalising car manufacturers that do not meet the standards; tightening emission standards for public transport fleets; lowering taxes for users with electric or hybrid vehicles; and the rollout of 100,000 charging stations (of which one-third will be fast charging) by 2020.

Hydrogen too

Ship owners will also be encouraged to use more environmentally friendly fuel for their vessels by switching to liquefied natural gas (LNG) or even hydrogen.

Before being implemented, the coalition contract will still have to be validated in the coming weeks by members of the Social Democratic party,  many of whom oppose the formation of this third coalition between social democrats and conservatives.

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