Skip to content

As Doubts Grow, Merkel Promises Green Energy Transition Will Succeed

The German Social Democrats (SPD) are calling for the construction of new coal-fired power plants, provoking the Greens with their demand. In the meantime, German industry president Keitel warns of blackouts.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democrats; CDU) has rejected doubts about the success of the green energy transition within her government coalition. “As we have decided a year ago, the green energy transition is feasible,” she said during a visit to the Federal Network Agency in Bonn. The Federal Government would feel absolutely committed to the goals. The phase-out of nuclear power would happen by the year 2022.

Kanzlerin Angela Merkel lässt sich die Stromüberwachung bei Amprion in Brauweiler zeigen

Chancellor Angela Merkel on visit to electricity network Amprion in Brauweiler

In recent days, politicians both from the ruling CDU and the Free Democrats (FDP) have expressed concerns. The goal to increase the share of renewable energy to 40 percent by the time of the shutdown of the last nuclear power plants in Germany was “a very ambitious goal,” said the FDP parliamentary leader Rainer Brüderle the “Welt am Sonntag”. “We will have to build a range of gas-and coal-fired power plants – perhaps more than we first thought.” The deputy leader of the CDU parliamentary group, Michael Fuchs, speculated about a delay of the nuclear phase-out earlier in the week.

Doubts about the feasibility of the green energy transition are now also growing within the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In addition to an accelerated expansion of the electricity network, “investments in modern and highly efficient gas-and coal-fired power plants” are necessary, says the deputy SPD chairman Hubertus Heil. He called the energy revolution an “open-heart surgery of the industrial society.” If you fail here, you threaten jobs and take into account “a massive increase in energy costs”.

The deputy chairman of the Green parliamentary group, Baerbel Hoehn, disagrees. A reserve function could only be “met by efficient gas-fired power plants, not by expensive and inflexible coal power plants.” Hans-Josef Fell, energy spokesman for the Green Party parliamentary group criticized the SPD: “The statements by Hubertus Heil show that some of the old coal lobby is still alive in the SPD.” If the policy framework was correct, renewable energy sources could provide up to 100 percent of the total electricity demand.

Germany industry fears power outages as a result of the green energy transition. “There have been problems with power outages on several occasions. This leads to resentment and a loss of production,” said German Industry President Hans-Peter Keitel.

Some companies – such as in the paper industry – are reliant on stable electricity frequency. “The grid has become clearly unstable due to the strong increase of the generation capacity without a corresponding increase in power lines,” said Keitel. “The politicians have intervened far too much into the energy industry.”

According to calculations by the transmission system operators, a total of 3,800 kilometres of new power lines have to be built as part of the green energy revolution. In addition, approximately 4000 km of existing routes will have to be upgraded by 2022. The total cost amounts to some 20 billion Euros. This is suggested by a draft of the first national network development plan.

Translation Philipp Mueller

Die Welt, 30 May 2012