Germany submits climate plan to EU after six-month wait

The main changes - and, according to the economics ministry, also the reason for the delay - are due to the specifics of the since agreed coal phase-out plan, as well as the climate protection law that was passed in September 2019. EPA-EFE/CHRISTIAN MARQUARDT / POOL [Christian Marquardt/ epa]

With a delay of six months, Germany submitted its national energy and climate plan to the European Commission this week. The plan contains a lot of new, daring and sometimes questionable promises on renewable energies, EURACTIV Germany reports.

The German cabinet passed the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) almost unnoticed on Wednesday (10 June), while it proudly presented its hydrogen strategy to the world.

Still, the formal deadline for submitting the document to the European Commission would have been six months ago. This makes Ireland the only member state that has not yet sent a climate plan to Brussels.

Back in 2018, EU member states had prepared first drafts of their NECPs but had been asked by the Commission to sharpen them up.

This is what Germany has done. The main changes – and, according to the economy ministry, also the reason for the delay – are due to the specifics of its coal phase-out plan and its climate protection law, which were adopted in September 2019.

Numerous measures for transport, buildings, agriculture, industry, energy and waste management had to be incorporated into the ten-year plan.

For the first time, these are framed by a legally-binding carbon budget for each sector, as well as a CO2 price for the transport and building sectors from 2021.

German cabinet agrees CO2 price of €25 from January 2021

Germany’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday (20 May) on changes to the climate package launched last September, and it is now certain that from January 2021, a price of €25 per tonne of CO2 will apply to the heat and transport sectors in Germany. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Loose promises on renewable energies

However, the core figures of the climate plan remain the same.

By 2030, Germany plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990. Already last year, Germany had reduced emissions by 35.7%.

In addition, the share of renewable energies used in energy consumption is to be increased to 30%. Renewables currently represent 17.5% of Germany’s total energy use, although that share reaches 40% in the electricity sector.

For the first time, the NECP contains a quantitative target for energy efficiency. It is derived from Germany’s Climate Protection Law and states that energy consumption is to be reduced by 30% in the coming decade compared to 2008.

Nevertheless, much remains “soft in growth”, said Thorsten Lenck, project manager for renewable energies at the think tank Agora Energiewende. Many sections of the strategy are too daring, he told, referring primarily to renewable energies.

While the plan lays out objectives in this area, it does not go into detail about the measures to attain them. Instead, it refers to the upcoming amendment of the  German renewable energy sources act (EEG), which the grand coalition has promised for late summer.

“Any changes will be announced at the next opportunity, such as in the NECP progress report,” the document states.

According to Lenck, however, this is no solid basis.

“The NECP refers to the climate target of 65% by 2030, but this is not even legally established. The grand coalition must finally deliver on its promise here,” he said.

Instead, he is calling for an urgent and thorough reform of the EEG, in which the expansion paths for renewable energies are adapted to the 2030 target and bureaucratic hurdles are removed.

Germany heading for a huge gap in renewables

Otherwise, the target for green electricity will not be achieved either. After all, wind power, in particular, has come to a standstill in Germany.

“If you look at the expansion figures for wind power, it is frightening how far off the necessary expansion path we are,” said Lenck.

In a study published in March, Agora Energiewende calculated that Germany risks missing its self-imposed target of 65% renewable energies by 10%.

To prevent this, offshore wind power would have to increase to at least 25 GW, although the NECP only plans a 20 GW increase. And onshore wind power would have to regain its old speed.

On top of that, this scenario does not take into account the recently announced hydrogen strategy that was announced this week, which by itself will require electricity demand to increase by 20 TWh by 2030.

Germany plans to promote 'green' hydrogen with €7 billion

The German government adopted its national hydrogen strategy yesterday (10 June), with plans to ramp up production capacity to 5 GW by 2030 and 10 GW by 2040. To achieve this, €7 billion will be invested in new businesses and research. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Only Denmark has Paris-compatible targets

In the coming weeks, the European Commission will examine whether the German climate plan is sufficiently ambitious with regard to the Paris climate targets.

However, two studies commissioned by Germany’s environment and economy ministries raise some doubts. According to them, the measures in the climate law would miss the climate targets for 2030 by three to four per cent – in an ideal situation. Especially in the transport and building sectors, the measures are not sufficient.

In a first evaluation of 15 submitted climate plans, environmental groups concluded that the new NECPs were better than the first drafts of 2018. However, they found that only Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Greece had increased their climate ambitions. And Denmark would be the only country that would reach the targets enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement thanks to its climate programme.

On the other hand, Germany’s climate and energy policy saw many developments recently: the solar cap has been lifted, a bitter dispute over the minimum distance between wind turbines was brought to an end and a hydrogen strategy was published.

There is also more money available. In its stimulus package for the coronavirus pandemic, the German government reserved at least €30 billion for climate protection.

And while the measures promised in there do not appear in the NECP, the money could nevertheless make a difference.

Germany must become climate-neutral by 2038, says government advisory council

The German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) presented on Thursday (14 May) its report on the state of the country’s environmental policy. With Germany’s carbon budget now almost exhausted, researchers urge stronger climate action in all areas. EURACTIV Germany reports.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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