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Green Energy Crisis: German Network Agency Calls For Suspension Of Emission Laws For Old Coal Plants

Old coal power plants need to stay in operation or Germany’s power grid faces collapse. That is the warning of Germany’s national grid agency. Because the danger of blackouts is growing as a result of the shut-down of six nuclear power plants last year, the Federal Network Agency is proposing to suspend legal emission limits for plants.

It sounds paradoxical: The green energy transition in Germany doesn’t seem viable without polluting fossil fuel power stations.

Because the danger of blackouts is growing as a result of the shut-down of six nuclear power plants last year, the Federal Network Agency is proposing to suspend legal emission limits for plants.

Kohlekraftwerk bei Aachen

Coal-fired power plant near Aachen. To ensure power supply, the Federal Network Agency wants to suspend Emissions Laws in order to keep old coal-fired power plants on the grid


Old power stations, which are due to be shut down due to their high environmental impact, should continue to operate. “Closures of more conventional power plants are currently not feasible in Germany,” it says literally in the grid agency’s report: “Given the present and future tense situation, it is necessary to suspend closures due to the emissions reduction law.”

Federal Grid Agency warning

The Federal Network Agency (FNA) is subordinate to the Federal Ministry of Economics. It is regarded as central authority for monitoring and configurating the green energy transition. In its recently published report on the near-blackouts of recent months, President Jochen Homann warns of a further deterioration of the situation next winter. “The power plant situation has developed detrimentally.”

In fact, the number of planned shutdowns of power plants is significantly larger than previously thought, said Homann. The main reason is that the operation of many power plants is no longer profitable because of the priority of renewable energy. An additional burden are emission regulations.

Especially in southern Germany, there is a lack of secured capacity to compensate for the fluctuating wind power and lack of solar power supply this winter. Only last August, the Agency had assumed that conventional power plants with a capacity of 939 megawatts would come online by 2014 and thus would relax the situation.

Meanwhile, however, the situation worsened: instead of adding secure power generation capacity, the closures of approximately 2,600 megawatts of “older thermal power plants” is expected, especially in southern Germany.

The Federal Association of Energy and Water sees its analysis confirmed. “The situation is particularly precarious in Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg,” said Hildegard Müller, Chairman of the Executive Board. “Without further analysis of the situation we cannot afford to simply shut down old plants.”

The middle class fears blackouts

Germany’s Mittelstand warns of dramatic consequences as a result of the green energy transition. They fear “blackouts, because the network expansion is not progressing fast enough,” said the President of the Association of Family Business, Lutz Goebel. In addition, the entrepreneurs are “very concerned that the energy transition will lead to more planning and less competition in the energy policy.”

The Association will therefore hand over a list of energy policy demands to Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) at their meeting this Friday in Berlin. In their paper, the entrepreneurs argue for a change to a market-oriented course in energy policy. State price fixing, as it is contained in the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), should be reduced or completely eliminated. Instead, the market should be allowed to give price signals.

Family-owned companies sharply criticize the “guided development of renewables.” This is pure industrial policy. The promotion of renewable energy sources like solar or wind energy, however, constituted only one way. There must also be measures to increase energy efficiency and to encourage energy savings, according to the list of demands; because, after all, the real goal would be climate protection.

Worries about rising electricity prices

Before additional facilities for renewable electricity generation would be built, it must be ensured by the operators that the electricity actually reaches consumers, family businesses demand. Goebel noted that power outages threaten because network expansion is not happening quickly enough. “The networks must therefore be expanded before even more power is being produced by some new off-shore wind farms on the coast.”

The Association of Family Businesses are also worried about the steadily rising price of electricity. One driving factor is the subsidisation of solar energy. Because of the EEG, the costs are allocated to the electricity price and have therefore to be paid by the consumers. The Association of Family Businesses welcomes the intention of the Federal Government to cut solar subsidies.

The relevant law, however, is stuck in the upper house of the German Parliament where the Government does not have a majority. “The Prime Ministers [of the German states] must take into account the interests of consumers who cannot subsidise an industry via their electricity prices in the long run,” said Goebel. An industry subsidised by industrial policy is also hostile to innovation.

Translation Philipp Mueller

Die Welt, 10 May 2012